In Defence of Sri Rama


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A defence of Sri Rama and his conduct in Ramayana

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In Defence of Sri Rama

  1. 1. WWW.VAISHNAVISM.ORG In defence of Sri Rama A study of the greatness of Sri Rama D. Harish Kumar1
  2. 2. CopyrightThe contents of this book can be freely distributed as long as the original source is mentioned. 2
  3. 3. PrefaceThis work was compiled to clarify certain questions raised by the secularists concerning the epicRamayana and the noble character of Sri Rama. This great Indian figure, revered by millions ofdevout hindus has been the target of periodic attacks by secularists and other anti-hindu forceswho are out to defame hindu heroes, hindu history and hindu mythos. Their aim is tosystematically degrade heroes whom the hindusamaj has held in high esteem, to debunk themand demoralize the hindu society, inject feelings of guilt, and present a caricature of hindureligion and culture to its ardent lovers and admirers. Clearly, this trend needs to be countered bythe right thinking members and this work is an effort in that direction.In this brief work, I present some of the topics raised by the anti-hindu forces to “prove” SriRama was less than noble and in the process attack the foundations of our dharma. These mainlyrelate to the incidents of Agni Pariksha of Sita, the killing of Vaali/Bali and Shambuka. I presentthe counter-arguments, and expose the tactic of the secularists, which is taking things out ofcontext, and view the events of yore through the prism of modern values/sensibilities.I have primarily relied on the exposition of the Epic by Madhva, among the traditional Vedanticexponents and Sri Aurobindo, amongst the modern exponents. In fact, Sri Aurobindo himselfenters into a spirited defence of Rama in his characteristic fashion, combining yogic insight withplain commonsense. He does an admirable job of knocking down the debunkers.The author can be contacted at 3
  5. 5. In defence of Sri RamaIntroductionI find that as far as the Ramayana is concerned there are three points that are repeatedly raised toprove that Lord Rama was not infallible and had many faults and many of his actions are notacceptable to modern sensibilities. They are: 1. His suspecting of his wife’s chastity, 2. His killing of Shambuka who was doing penance and lastly, 3. His deceitful killing of Vaali. All these are given as examples of his less than noble conduct and are often compared with Ravana’s noble character, for he never violated Sita when she was in his custody.The Agni Pariksha of Sita The First one is of course regarding the Agni Pariksha. Before we go further we should know the story of Ramayana. Rama is the avatar of Lord Vishnu and he came to this world as Rama to set an example to human kind. And in the case of the Avatar, his consort Sri Lakshmi also descends to aid the Lord in his divine works. She had incarnated as Sita to fulfill His plan. As the omnipotent Lord , Rama certainly knows that Sita was untouched. Neither can Sita be touched by any mortal or immortal, asura or rakshasha or man as she is the adhipathi of this universe. Thus the concept of his suspecting is wife here is a meaningless one. Clearly Rama was eager to establish that his wife was pure and fit for the throne of Ayodhya. And it was to this end that he asked her to undergo the Agni Pariksha which was meant to elevate the status of Sita amongst his subjects. Thus he actually shows how an ideal King should be, one who keeps the feelings of the public in mind. We must realize that in those days much was expected of kings, quite unlike today’s elected democratic rulers whose misdemeanor we have come to expect. Rama has thus established the code of conduct for an ideal king and by his act becomes flawless and worthy of respect. 5
  6. 6. In defence of Sri RamaMadhva states that at the time of abduction, the soul of Lakshmi Devi left her body and it wasoccupied by Indra, the Lord of the Heavens. After the return of Sita, Agni Pariksha was usedas an opportunity to burn down the temporary body of Sita, which was then replaced by thepermanent one.Aurobindo commenting on Lord Rama:It was his business to be not necessarily a perfect, but a largely representative sattwic Man, afaithful husband and a lover, a loving and obedient son, a tender and perfect brother, father,friend—he is friend of all kinds of people, friend of the outcast Guhaka, friend of the Animalleaders, Sugriva, Hanuman, friend of the vulture Jatayu, friend of even Rakshasa Vibhishana.All that he was in a brilliant, striking but above all spontaneous and inevitable way, not withforcing of this note or that like Harishchandra or Shivi, but with a certain harmoniouscompleteness. But most of all, it was his business to typify and establish the things on whichthe social idea and its stability depend, truth and honour, the sense of Dharma, public spiritand the sense of order. To the first, to truth and honour, much more than to his filial love andobedience to his father—though to that also—he sacrificed his personal rights as the elect ofthe King and the assembly and fourteen of the best years of his life and went into exile in theforests. To his public spirit and his sense of public order (the great and supreme civic virtue inthe eyes of the ancient Indians, Greeks, Romans, for at that time the maintenance of theordered community, not the separate development and satisfaction of the individual was thepressing need of the human evolution) he sacrificed his own happiness and domestic life andthe happiness of Sita. In that he was at one with the moral sense of all the antique races,though at variance with the later romantic individualistic sentimental morality of the modernman who can afford to have that less stern morality just because the ancients sacrificed theindividual in order to make the world safe for the spirit of social order. Finally, it was Ramasbusiness to make the world safe for the ideal of the sattwic human being by destroying thesovereignty of Ravana, the Rakshasa menace. All this he did with such a divine afflatus in hispersonality and action that his figure has been stamped for more than two millenniums on themind of Indian culture, and what he stood for has dominated the reason and idealising mind of 6
  7. 7. In defence of Sri Ramaman in all countries, and in spite of the constant revolt of the human vital, is likely to continueto do so until a greater ideal arises. And you say in spite of all these that he was no Avatar? Ifyou like—but at any rate he stands among the few greatest Vibhutis. You may dethrone himnow—for man is no longer satisfied with the sattwic ideal and is seeking for somethingmore—but his work and meaning remain stamped on the past of the earths evolving race.When I spoke of the gap that would be left by his absence, I did not mean a gap among theprophets and intellectuals, but a gap in the scheme of Avatarhood—there was somebody whowas the Avatar of the sattwic Human as Krishna was the Avatar of the overmentalSuperman—I can see no one but Rama who can fill the place.In Aurobindo’s view Rama came to complete an evolutionary task , the establishment of anorderly society where a sattwic type was established firmly over and above the Rakshashictype. And also social order and ethics were more important than the individual freedom. Sothat on this stable foundation future races can enjoy individual freedom (with which theycriticize Rama himself).One should understand the circumstances in which Rama came to this world. The society wasdominated by rakshasic people whose primary aim in life was self-gratification. The vitalisicpart of the being was the most dominant. In such society characterized by disorder, he had thetask of bringing in order and discipline. It is thanks to His work, today we can afford to haveall the freedoms and rights, because He and His people sacrificed their rights and freedoms tocreate a stable society. If today, modern women have the freedom to live as they want andcriticize Rama for his treatment of Sita, they have to thank Rama first for creating the stablesociety, which enabled the future races to focus on individual development and give freedomof speech/action to one and all. Modern women, more than anybody else, owe a debt ofgratitude to Sri Rama, for he created a stable society which gave the modern races theconfidence to experiment with new ideas such as women’s liberation, gender equality andother such ideals. 7
  8. 8. In defence of Sri RamaHis treatment of Bali The Second issue on which Rama is criticized is his treatment of Vaali/Bali. He was the monkey king who usurped the throne of Sugriva. Madhva states that it is adharmic to kill sinners in a dharmic fashion. It is a sin to kill a sinner dharmically. It is dharmic to kill a sinners in an adharmic fashion. Sinners don’t deserve a dharmic death. Madhva lays great emphasis on yogyata or deservedness of individuals. A deva or a daivic person has the yogyata to be treated respectfully or fairly especially at the time of his death. But an asuric or a Rakshashic individual cannot claim similar status. Vaali was a sinner so he did not deserve to be killed from the front. He was therefore killed from behind. But on the other hand Ravana was one of the dvarapalakas of Vaikuntha who was cursed thrice to be born on earth and battle the Lord so he was basically of a divine nature. So Rama faces him squarely and defeats him and disarms and even asks him to come back tomorrow well armed. The humiliation of Ravana is recorded by the tamil poet Kambar “ Kadanpattarnenjam pol kalanginaanyelangaivendhan , indru poi naalaivaaendruvittane” (Ravana felt humiliated, when Rama asked him to return „morrow armed with better weapons). When the Avatar descends, it first of all frees the earth of all evil doers and creates an atmosphere suitable for Yoga. Vishnu also uses this opportunity to take back all his closest devotees and especially the great souls who had been cursed to be born on earth to fulfill his plan for the cosmos. Aurobindo on the killing of Vaali/Bali by Rama: Volume: 12 [CWSA] (Essays Divine and Human), Page: 495 Ravanas mind thought it was hungering after universal sovereignty and victory over Rama; but the aim his soul kept its vision fixed upon all the time was to get back to its heaven as soon as possible & be again Gods menial. Therefore, as the shortest way, it hurled itself against God in a furious clasp of enmity. 8
  9. 9. In defence of Sri RamaAt any rate Rama has proved his bravery in his fight against Ravana and also in his fightagainst the demons who tried to thwart the yajna of Vishwamitra. There was no need to proveit against an underserving infra human like Vaali.Volume: 22-23-24 [SABCL] (Letters on Yoga), Page: 415 No, certainly not—an Avatar is notat all bound to be a spiritual prophet—he is never in fact merely a prophet, he is a realiser, anestablisher—not of outward things only, though he does realise something in the outward also,but, as I have said, of something essential and radical needed for the terrestrial evolutionwhich is the evolution of the embodied spirit through successive stages towards the Divine.It was not at all Ramas business to establish the spiritual stage of that evolution—so he didnot at all concern himself with that. His business was to destroy Ravana and to establish theRama-rajya—in other words, to fix for the future the possibility of an order proper to thesattwic civilised human being who governs his life by the reason, the finer emotions, morality,or at least moral ideals, such as truth, obedience, co-operation and harmony, the sense ofdomestic and public order,—to establish this in a world still occupied by anarchic forces, theAnimal mind and the powers of the vital Ego making its own satisfaction the rule of life, inother words, the Vanara and Rakshasa. This is the meaning of Rama and his life-work and itis according as he fulfilled it or not that he must be judged as Avatar or no Avatar. It was nothis business to play the comedy of the chivalrous Kshatriya with the formidable brute beastthat was Bali, it was his business to kill him and get the Animal under his control.If we judge Rama by our human standards , bullets for karsevaks and biriyani for terrorists ,Rama certainly does not come out very well. But Rama belongs to the divine world and in thatworld there is a difference between divine and demonic , the two are not equal (never equalaccording to Madhva) and the treatment is different for both of them.Vishnu as both Rama and Krishna upheld the divine law. As Rama he upheld it by his actionsand as Krishna he did not directly participate in the wars but he always advised his servants to 9
  10. 10. In defence of Sri Rama kill the asuras by deceit and trickery. Thus Bhimasena was advised by Krishna to hit Duryodhana below the waist and kill him which also helped fulfill Bhimasena’s vow that he would shatter the sinner’s thighs. Also when killing Keechaka ,Arjuna dresses as a lady to seduce the rakshasha, and once inside the trap , he is eliminated by Bhima . Again Bhimasena, after killing Dushashana tears up his body to pieces. When Bhishma objects to this as an act of barbarism Krishna comes to the defence of Bhima and states that a sinner like Dushashana only deserved that kind of a death, he deserves to be torn apart and scatterd in the battlefield and not given a decent treatment. But when it came to Shishupala, the reincarnation of Ravana , or more precisely the dvarapalaka , Krishna allows him to abuse him a hundred times and after that kills him with his Chakra.The Killing of Shambuka The Third issue on which Rama is often attacked is his killing of Shambuka. We are told that Shambuka was a shudra who was doing penance to attain salvation and he did not like the shudra aspiring for salvation so he was killed off. But the real reason was that Shambuka was an asura and he was aspiring for Indra’s position and he was doing penance for that. It was to protect devas from the asura that Rama destroyed his penance. Also let us not forget Rama ate the half-eaten fruits given to him by Shabari who was aspiring for salvation. Do you mean to say Rama loves Scheduled Tribes but hates Shudras? This is really funny to say the least ! 10
  11. 11. In defence of Sri RamaEpilogueI cannot think of a better closing than quoting Aurobindo:Volume: 22-23-24 [SABCL] (Letters on Yoga), Page: 413I have no intention of entering into a supreme defence of Rama—I only entered into the pointsabout Bali etc. because these are usually employed nowadays to belittle him as a greatpersonality on the usual level. But from the point of view of Avatarhood I would no more thinkof defending his moral perfection according to modern standards than I would think of defendingNapoleon or Caesar against the moralists or the democratic critics or the debunkers in order toprove that they were Vibhutis. Vibhuti, Avatar are terms which have their own meaning andscope, and they are not concerned with morality or immorality, perfection or imperfectionaccording to small human standards or setting an example to men or showing new moralattitudes or giving new spiritual teachings. These may or may not be done, but they are not at allthe essence of the matter.Also, I do not consider your method of dealing with the human personality of Rama to be theright one. It has to be taken as a whole in the setting that Valmiki gave it (not treated as if it werethe story of a modern man) and with the significance that he gave to his heros personality, deedsand works. If it is pulled out of its setting and analyzed under the dissecting knife of a modernethical mind, it loses all its significance at once. Krishna so treated becomes a debauchee andtrickster who no doubt did great things in politics—but so did Rama in war. Achilles andOdysseus pulled out of their setting become, one a furious egoistic savage, and the other a crueland cunning savage. I consider myself under an obligation to enter into the spirit, significance,atmosphere of the Mahabharata, Iliad, Ramayana and identify myself with their time-spiritbefore I can feel what their heroes were in themselves apart from the details of their outer action.As for the Avatarhood, I accept it for Rama because he fills a place in the scheme—and seems tome to fill it rightly—and because when I read the Ramayana I feel a great afflatus which I 11
  12. 12. In defence of Sri Ramarecognise and which makes of its story—mere faery-tale though it seems—a parable of a greatcritical transitional event that happened in the terrestrial evolution and gives to the maincharacters personality and action a significance of the large typical cosmic kind which theseactions would not have had if they had been done by another man in another scheme of events.The Avatar is not bound to do extraordinary actions, but he is bound to give his acts or his workor what he is—any of these or all—a significance and an effective power that are part ofsomething essential to be done in the history of the earth and its races.All the same, if anybody does not see as I do and wants to eject Rama from his place, I have noobjection—I have no particular partiality for Rama—provided somebody is put in who canworthily fill up the gap his absence leaves. There was somebody there, Valmikis Rama oranother Rama or somebody not Rama. Also I do not mean that I admit the validity of yourremarks about Rama, even taken as a piecemeal criticism, but that I have no time for today. Imaintain my position about the killing of Bali and the banishment of Sita in spite of Balispreliminary objection to the procedure, afterwards retracted, and in spite of the opinion ofRamas relatives, necessarily from the point of view of the antique dharma—not from that of anyuniversal moral standard—which besides does not exist, since the standard changes according toclime or age.Volume: 22-23-24 [SABCL] (Letters on Yoga), Page: 419I am afraid your picture of him is quite out of focus—you efface the main lines of the characters,belittle and brush out all the lights to which Valmiki gave so much value and prominence andhammer always at some details and some parts of shadow which you turn into the larger part ofRama. That is what the debunkers do—but a debunked figure is not the true figure. 12
  13. 13. In defence of Sri RamaGlossaryAsura – A being which distorts the truth and projects falsehood in the mental planeAgni Pariksha – Trial by fireAvatar – Descent. Refers to the descent into earth plane of the Supreme Godhead VishnuAdhipathi– One who owns and presidesDharma – Law (of nature), intrinsic qualityDeva – A divine beingDaivic – of a divine natureDvarapalakas– door keepersKshatriya – One who defends the divine law with his physical and administrative strengthKarsevak– One who offers worship prior to the construction of a templeRama-rajya– Rule of Rama, considered the ideal ruleRakshasha – A being which operates in the lower vital planes and is prone to lust, anger and violence.Sattwic– Pure. One of the three modes of nature, the other two being passion and inertia.Vanara– of the type of an apeVibhuti – A great achiever or realiser.Vaikuntha – literally, no anxiety, the residence of VishnuYogyata – deservednessYoga – Union (with the divine)Yajna – worship, also a particular ritual of worship, involving offering ghee into a fire-altar 13