The Story of Sri Rama – II

Continued from here

Just when he’s looking forward to heading back home and take his place as the king of Ayodhya, the world around him begins to crumble.

On a beautiful day, his beloved wife asks him to chase a pipe dream, forcing him to go after a golden deer. Rama knows it’s an aberration. He’s living in that jungle for several years and knows the woods, the kind of surrounding wildlife. He knows this is probably some kind of trickery. He knows this may lead to something bad. In the world of probabilities, he possibly played all the scenarios in his head. And every one of them had a disastrous outcome.

Yet, he goes after it. Because his primary dharma as a husband was to make the wife happy. He makes his brother responsible for the sister-in-law, and goes after the deer, probably knowing well that something bad may yet befall them.

Immediately after Sita gets abducted, he had two choices: berate his brother for shirking his primary responsibility, or sympathize with him for the obvious repentance. He chose the latter, and probably said something like, “Well, this is a shitty situation for the both of us. Let’s fix it”, and set out to find his wife.

As he progressed searching for her, he had to make some tactical decisions. The Vali vs Sugreeva story is a lesson. A leader must maximize her/his chances for success, and any decision they take towards that is a good decision. In the grand scheme of things, this man set out to right a wrong. We can argue all we want about animal rights and the ethics of overthrowing Vali. But in the end, Rama extracted what he wanted from the Vanara Sena, their unflinching loyalty. And that was possible by backing Sugreeva against Vali.

Even at the tip of the subcontinent, waiting to launch the final attack on the Lankan kingdom, he made another strategic pact. He needed to find a chink in the enemy’s armor. And he found Vibheeshana. As a military general, he made the biggest catch yet – the defection of one of the enemy’s family members. As they say, all is fair in love and war. In this war, Vibheeshana’s knowledge of the city, Ravana’s army, and some military secrets eventually proved vital to Rama’s success.

The one aspect I struggled with, in all my grown life, was the entire episode of Sita having to prove her chastity, after the defeat and eventual death of Ravana. Maybe because as humans we seek logic and explanation for everything. For all we know, he probably simply asked a very ‘human’ question, “Did you sleep with him?”, to which she probably answered, “Are you kidding me? I’m like fire. He didn’t even touch me”. It’s possible that over the years the story snowballed into ‘proof of chastity’. I don’t know. I don’t have a good explanation. In today’s world, it’s a blotch on the story.

While all this was happening, he was keeping time. He remembered that his own brother Bharata vowed to kill himself if he didn’t return on time. So he used technology to catch a redeye back to Ayodhya. BTW whatever happened to that Pushpaka Vimana?

And finally, his sending away of Sita when she was pregnant. In my opinion that was the other blotch, until I saw a video last week of Sadguru, clarifying the situation.  Now, we still don’t know if he sent her away, or she left him (see my post here). But, I am now led to believe that if he indeed sent her away, there was probably a reason behind it, however flawed it may seem to us, living in the modern world.

As a ruler, a king, he had to ensure his people had full confidence in him and his abilities: absolute confidence and unrelenting devotion. In order for that to happen, he needed to make personal sacrifices. This was his supreme, letting his wife go. I didn’t truly buy it. But again, who knows what the norms were ten thousand years ago.

This is the story of Sri Rama, and why even today a billion people worship him. The story of confidence, of obedience, of sacrifice, of valor, of strategy, and of what was supposed to be a perfect man.

The Story of Sri Rama – I

Recently, we had the Sri Rama Navami festival at our local temple. This is a special day for Hindus, as it is the birthday of Sri Rama. It is an important day, festivities cut across the length and breadth of India.

Rama was a very late child of Dasaratha, who had 3 wives. None of them bore him a child. After seeking several remedies, they came upon a procedure that he shared with his two favorite wives Kausalya (who gave birth to Rama) and Kaikeyi (Bharata). Why he didn’t share it with Sumitra is besides the point. Maybe he didn’t know how to divide by 3, who knows.

Polygamy was accepted in those days, and consorts had a good relationship amongst themselves. Bearing a child was (still is) deemed a very rewarding and fulfilling experience for a woman. To that effect, the two wives shared the procedure with Sumitra, the third wife, who ends up bearing twin boys Lakshmana and Shatrughna because of that.

It is worthy to note that almost 10,000 years ago (Rama was supposed to have been born circa 7300 BCE), someone knew of a procedure by which childless parents could bear children, AND, they could choose the gender; male in this case as Dasaratha needed a crown prince. 

Coming back to Rama, why do we celebrate his life? This man, on the face of it, was the picture boy for hardships. From the time Vishwamitra asks Dasaratha to have his first born accompany him on a deadly quest, until his own estranged sons frustrate his forces in a battle, his life was filled with hardships and sadness. Yet, that is precisely what makes him God.

When he was barely 16, an unknown sage waltzes in, asks his dad to send Rama on a quest that could easily have killed him. Yet, he obliges, as much for paternal reverence as it was for the explorer and warrior in him. He uses all his skill and power to defeat the demons and learn archery and war strategy from Vishwamitra. He is unfazed by the challenges thrust upon him and makes the best of the situation. That’s leadership.

When he was around 24 years old, he sees a beautiful maiden and does what most men do, fall hopelessly in love at first sight. He then proceeds to use his skill and willpower to win her (and her father) over, by accepting, and then defeating the challenge her father puts forth. That’s determination.

Hours before coronation, he is told that he has to 1) abandon the throne and 2) go away for 14 years. Doesn’t put up a fight. Doesn’t complain. Does as he’s told. It takes a lot of courage to dramatically alter the course of one’s life. This man backed his ability, and decided to go into the woods by himself. And then he learns his wife and brother will accompany him, which now makes him responsible for them. He doesn’t flinch, and sets out to fulfill his father’s promise. That’s composure.

Continued here