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In defence of Sri Rama
A study of the greatness of Sri Rama
D. Harish Kumar
Copyright The contents of this book can be freely distributed as long as the original source is mentioned.vaishnavism.org . 2 www.
Sri Aurobindo himself enters into a spirited defence of Rama in his characteristic fashion.Preface This work was compiled to clarify certain questions raised by the secularists concerning the epic Ramayana and the noble character of Sri Rama. and present a caricature of hindu religion and culture to its ardent lovers and admirers. In fact. the killing of Vaali/Bali and Shambuka.vaishnavism. which is taking things out of context. this trend needs to be countered by the right thinking members and this work is an effort in that direction. and view the events of yore through the prism of modern values/sensibilities. Their aim is to systematically degrade heroes whom the hindusamaj has held in high esteem. I present some of the topics raised by the anti-hindu forces to “prove” Sri Rama was less than noble and in the process attack the foundations of our dharma. He does an admirable job of knocking down the debunkers. These mainly relate to the incidents of Agni Pariksha of Sita.co. The author can be contacted at harishkumar09@yahoo. revered by millions of devout hindus has been the target of periodic attacks by secularists and other anti-hindu forces who are out to defame hindu heroes. and expose the tactic of the secularists.in 3 www. hindu history and hindu mythos. I present the counter-arguments. inject feelings of guilt. Clearly. to debunk them and demoralize the hindu society. combining yogic insight with plain commonsense. amongst the modern exponents. In this brief work. among the traditional Vedantic exponents and Sri Aurobindo. I have primarily relied on the exposition of the Epic by Madhva.org . This great Indian figure.
org .Contents COPYRIGHT PREFACE CONTENTS INTRODUCTION THE AGNI PARIKSHA OF SITA HIS TREATMENT OF BALI THE SLAYING OF SHAMBUKA EPILOGUE GLOSSARY 2 3 4 5 5 8 10 14 16 4 www.vaishnavism.
His killing of Shambuka who was doing penance and lastly. one who keeps the feelings of the public in mind. quite unlike today’s elected democratic rulers whose misdemeanor we have come to expect.org . Neither can Sita be touched by any mortal or immortal.In defence of Sri Rama Introduction I find that as far as the Ramayana is concerned there are three points that are repeatedly raised to prove that Lord Rama was not infallible and had many faults and many of his actions are not acceptable to modern sensibilities. His suspecting of his wife’s chastity. 3. As the omnipotent Lord . All these are given as examples of his less than noble conduct and are often compared with Ravana’s noble character. 2. We must realize that in those days much was expected of kings. 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. asura or rakshasha or man as she is the adhipathi of this universe. Clearly Rama was eager to establish that his wife was pure and fit for the throne of Ayodhya. his consort Sri Lakshmi also descends to aid the Lord in his divine works. Thus he actually shows how an ideal King should be. The Agni Pariksha of Sita The First one is of course regarding the Agni Pariksha. for he never violated Sita when she was in his custody. They are: 1. Rama is the avatar of Lord Vishnu and he came to this world as Rama to set an example to human kind. His deceitful killing of Vaali. Before we go further we should know the story of Ramayana. And in the case of the Avatar. Thus the concept of his suspecting is wife here is a meaningless one. 5 www. Rama certainly knows that Sita was untouched.vaishnavism. She had incarnated as Sita to fulfill His plan. Rama has thus established the code of conduct for an ideal king and by his act becomes flawless and worthy of respect.
Aurobindo commenting on Lord Rama: It was his business to be not necessarily a perfect. Greeks. Sugriva. it was his business to typify and establish the things on which the social idea and its stability depend. though at variance with the later romantic individualistic sentimental morality of the modern man who can afford to have that less stern morality just because the ancients sacrificed the individual in order to make the world safe for the spirit of social order. But most of all. All that he was in a brilliant. the Lord of the Heavens.vaishnavism. Romans. not with forcing of this note or that like Harishchandra or Shivi. not the separate development and satisfaction of the individual was the pressing need of the human evolution) he sacrificed his own happiness and domestic life and the happiness of Sita. father. public spirit and the sense of order. it was Rama's business to make the world safe for the ideal of the sattwic human being by destroying the sovereignty of Ravana. the soul of Lakshmi Devi left her body and it was occupied by Indra. friend of the vulture Jatayu. to truth and honour. Agni Pariksha was used as an opportunity to burn down the temporary body of Sita. but with a certain harmonious completeness. a tender and perfect brother. Finally. truth and honour. All this he did with such a divine afflatus in his personality and action that his figure has been stamped for more than two millenniums on the mind of Indian culture. for at that time the maintenance of the ordered community. but a largely representative sattwic Man. striking but above all spontaneous and inevitable way. friend of even Rakshasa Vibhishana. In that he was at one with the moral sense of all the antique races. a faithful husband and a lover. After the return of Sita. which was then replaced by the permanent one. and what he stood for has dominated the reason and idealising mind of 6 www. To the first. friend of the Animal leaders. Hanuman. To his public spirit and his sense of public order (the great and supreme civic virtue in the eyes of the ancient Indians. the Rakshasa menace. the sense of Dharma. friend—he is friend of all kinds of people.org . friend of the outcast Guhaka.In defence of Sri Rama Madhva states that at the time of abduction. a loving and obedient son. much more than to his filial love and obedience to his father—though to that also—he sacrificed his personal rights as the elect of the King and the assembly and fourteen of the best years of his life and went into exile in the forests.
because He and His people sacrificed their rights and freedoms to create a stable society. In Aurobindo’s view Rama came to complete an evolutionary task . owe a debt of gratitude to Sri Rama. they have to thank Rama first for creating the stable society. When I spoke of the gap that would be left by his absence.org . Modern women. The vitalisic part of the being was the most dominant. he had the task of bringing in order and discipline. for he created a stable society which gave the modern races the confidence to experiment with new ideas such as women’s liberation.vaishnavism. but a gap in the scheme of Avatarhood—there was somebody who was the Avatar of the sattwic Human as Krishna was the Avatar of the overmental Superman—I can see no one but Rama who can fill the place. The society was dominated by rakshasic people whose primary aim in life was self-gratification. In such society characterized by disorder. And you say in spite of all these that he was no Avatar? If you like—but at any rate he stands among the few greatest Vibhutis.In defence of Sri Rama man in all countries. gender equality and other such ideals. today we can afford to have all the freedoms and rights. I did not mean a gap among the prophets and intellectuals. So that on this stable foundation future races can enjoy individual freedom (with which they criticize Rama himself). One should understand the circumstances in which Rama came to this world. is likely to continue to do so until a greater ideal arises. You may dethrone him now—for man is no longer satisfied with the sattwic ideal and is seeking for something more—but his work and meaning remain stamped on the past of the earth's evolving race. modern women have the freedom to live as they want and criticize Rama for his treatment of Sita. the establishment of an orderly society where a sattwic type was established firmly over and above the Rakshashic type. If today. And also social order and ethics were more important than the individual freedom. and in spite of the constant revolt of the human vital. It is thanks to His work. more than anybody else. which enabled the future races to focus on individual development and give freedom of speech/action to one and all. 7 www.
indru poi naalaivaaendruvittane” (Ravana felt humiliated. He was the monkey king who usurped the throne of Sugriva. Madhva lays great emphasis on yogyata or deservedness of individuals. Madhva states that it is adharmic to kill sinners in a dharmic fashion. It is dharmic to kill a sinners in an adharmic fashion. Sinners don’t deserve a dharmic death. When the Avatar descends. Page: 495 Ravana's mind thought it was hungering after universal sovereignty and victory over Rama. Therefore. Vaali was a sinner so he did not deserve to be killed from the front. it hurled itself against God in a furious clasp of enmity.org .vaishnavism. when Rama asked him to return „morrow armed with better weapons). It is a sin to kill a sinner dharmically. 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. Aurobindo on the killing of Vaali/Bali by Rama: Volume: 12 [CWSA] (Essays Divine and Human). But an asuric or a Rakshashic individual cannot claim similar status. 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. it first of all frees the earth of all evil doers and creates an atmosphere suitable for Yoga. 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 God's menial. 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 . A deva or a daivic person has the yogyata to be treated respectfully or fairly especially at the time of his death.In defence of Sri Rama His treatment of Bali The Second issue on which Rama is criticized is his treatment of Vaali/Bali. He was therefore killed from behind. as the shortest way. 8 www.
in other words. the sense of domestic and public order. an establisher—not of outward things only. obedience. Volume: 22-23-24 [SABCL] (Letters on Yoga). co-operation and harmony. If we judge Rama by our human standards. the two are not equal (never equal according to Madhva) and the treatment is different for both of them. such as truth. to fix for the future the possibility of an order proper to the sattwic civilised human being who governs his life by the reason. It was not his business to play the comedy of the chivalrous Kshatriya with the formidable brute beast that was Bali. Vishnu as both Rama and Krishna upheld the divine law.vaishnavism. the Animal mind and the powers of the vital Ego making its own satisfaction the rule of life. Page: 415 No.In defence of Sri Rama At any rate Rama has proved his bravery in his fight against Ravana and also in his fight against the demons who tried to thwart the yajna of Vishwamitra. But Rama belongs to the divine world and in that world there is a difference between divine and demonic.org . but. it was his business to kill him and get the Animal under his control. though he does realise something in the outward also. certainly not—an Avatar is not at all bound to be a spiritual prophet—he is never in fact merely a prophet. There was no need to prove it against an underserving infra human like Vaali. His business was to destroy Ravana and to establish the Rama-rajya—in other words. he is a realiser. of something essential and radical needed for the terrestrial evolution which is the evolution of the embodied spirit through successive stages towards the Divine. as I have said. or at least moral ideals. As Rama he upheld it by his actions and as Krishna he did not directly participate in the wars but he always advised his servants to 9 www. the finer emotions.—to establish this in a world still occupied by anarchic forces. Rama certainly does not come out very well. bullets for karsevaks and biriyani for terrorists . It was not at all Rama's business to establish the spiritual stage of that evolution—so he did not at all concern himself with that. This is the meaning of Rama and his life-work and it is according as he fulfilled it or not that he must be judged as Avatar or no Avatar. morality. the Vanara and Rakshasa.
The killing of Shambuka appears in the Valmiki Ramayana. the 'Uttarakanda' [Final Chapter]. sargas 73-76. he deserves to be torn apart and scatterd in the battlefield and not given a decent treatment. or the birth based caste system. and then the crucial one is presented in full: (73) When Rama is reigning as a virtuous king. and once inside the trap . (74) The sage Narada explains to Rama that a Shudra is 10 www. We are told that Shambuka was a shudra who was doing penance and Rama did not like a shudra performing tapasya. after killing Dushashana tears up his body to pieces. The Slaying of Shambuka The Third issue on which Rama is often attacked is his slaying of Shambuka. so he was killed off. He says that Rama must have committed some sin. or else his son would not have died.org . Again Bhimasena.Arjuna dresses as a lady to seduce the rakshasha. the reincarnation of Ravana . weeping. with his dead son in his arms. Book 7. a humble aged Brahmin comes to him. Krishna allows him to abuse him a hundred times and after that kills him with his Chakra. and we will study this elaborately. The shudra is prohibited from doing tapasya/asceticism. 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. and he should only follow his caste duties. 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. But when it came to Shishupala. due to caste prejudice. Also when killing Keechaka .vaishnavism. in which shudras are prohibited from performing penance. The reason for the tapasya is given by Shambuka himself.In defence of Sri Rama kill the asuras by deceit and trickery. or more precisely the dvarapalaka . Three scene-setting sargas are paraphrased. he is eliminated by Bhima . The secularists maintain that Rama killed Shambuka to uphold varnashrama dharma. But they do not tell you why Shambuka was doing tapasya.
One is allowed into heaven only in their spiritual bodies and not material bodies. cried out. this Shudra will not be able to attain heaven!'" (583-84) The Ramayana of Valmiki trans. (75) Rama goes on a tour of inspection in his flying chariot. but to enter into Indra’s domain. not just a shudra. It is performed with good and pure intentions in the mind. all the Gods and their leaders with Agni's followers. In their supreme satisfaction. Madhva maintains that he was actually an asura. Destroyer of Thy Foes. which has an evil motive. Know that I am a Shudra and my name is Shambuka. Shambuka makes no attempt to hide the real reason for his tapasya (unlike the secularists). Now it is clear from the above verses that Shambuka was not performing penance to attain moksha. who was attempting to usurp Indra’s heavenly position. cut off his head. now ask a boon. He is very clear that he is not aiming for spiritual cleansing or moksha. his head still hanging downwards [as part of his austerities] answered:— 'O Rama. 'Well done! Well done!' overwhelming Rama with praise. and asks who he is. that ascetic. Raghava [Rama]. The Shudra being slain. Rama: — 'Thou hast protected the interests of the Gods. and a rain of celestial flowers of divine fragrance fell on all sides. "(76) Hearing the [inquiring] words of Rama of imperishable exploits. I wish to attain the Celestial Region. and finds an ascetic doing austerities. O beloved Offspring of Raghu. 1970): 3:579-85. O Rama. I am not telling a lie. The type of tapasya that shambuka was performing was tamasik tapasya. scattered by Vayu. Rajasik tapasya is what we perform to obtain material benefits. 11 www. Rama slayed shambuka to protect the devas from the asuras. by unnatural methods. By thy grace.org .vaishnavism. I was born of a Shudra alliance and I am performing this rigorous penance in order to acquire the status of a God in this body. but to enjoy heavenly benefits in the material body. O Highly Intelligent Prince. in this material body. the Gods said to that hero. Now this is prohibited for anybody. drawing his brilliant and stainless sword from its scabbard. and this is the cause of the child's death. Satvik tapasya leads us to moksha.' As he was yet speaking. Hari Prasad Shastri (London: Shanti Sadan.In defence of Sri Rama practicing penances.
because he was a Kshatriya. the King Trishanku started ascending to heaven. Trishanku was forced to leave his country and wander the lands. It is as follows: Trishanku. Upon refusal.and requested his Guru Vasishta to perform the needful rites to achieve this goal. Vishwamitra. to get the better of Vashista.org . Vasishta refused for it was against the laws of nature for someone with a mortal body to enter heaven.In defence of Sri Rama Prior to Shambuka. the same dynasty as Sri Rama. The request of Trishanku in spite of the refusal by their father angered the sons of Vasishta and they cursed Trishanku with a debilitating disease. was a king in the Solar Dynasty. Trishanku. Trishanku wished to ascend to heaven in his mortal body -. attempted the same endeavor. Trishanku met sage Viswamitra. The story is mentioned in the same Valmiki Ramayana. with whom he had a running feud. The Gods who rejoiced at the slaying of Shambuka. (excerpted from Wikipedia. The yagnas (rituals) began and by the power of the great sage. Guru Vishwamitra who was a rival of Guru Vasishta accepted Trishanku's request and agreed to perform the rites required to send Trishanku to heaven with a mortal body.just like Shambhuka -. thereby not superseding the heaven created by Indra. the son of Prithu. Trishanku approached the sons of Vasishta to help him. During his wanderings. 12 www. one more person. Indra using his powers caused Trishanku to fall back to earth. and corroborated by other hindu sources) No concession was shown to Trishanku. created a parallel heaven for Trishanku to reside in. There was no caste based discrimination by the Devas under the leadership of Indra. kicked out the Kshatriya who attempted a similar exercise. Later. The Devas were alarmed by this unnatural occurrence and under the leadership of Indra decided to not let Trishanku enter through the gates of heaven in this mortal self. in the Bala Kanda.vaishnavism. Upon hearing the plight of the king. but ensured that he would reside in it upside down.
In defence of Sri Rama Throughout hindu puranas we find recorded innumerable attempts by all kinds people.org . why did he eat the half-eaten fruits. Again if Rama disliked shudras.vaishnavism. humans. 13 www. and belonged to the topmost caste. asuras and Rishis to ascend to heaven in their material bodies and they have belonged to all the castes and they have all been punished for their endeavors. who is below the shudras in the caste hierarchy? Why did he bless Guha. tasted and given to him by the tribal like Shabari. But he killed him nevertheless for his evil deeds. who was an outcaste? Rama also slew Ravana who was Brahmin.
and they are not concerned with morality or immorality. perfection or imperfection according to small human standards or setting an example to men or showing new moral attitudes or giving new spiritual teachings. Iliad. I do not consider your method of dealing with the human personality of Rama to be the right one. one a furious egoistic savage. These may or may not be done. significance. deeds and works. Also.In defence of Sri Rama Epilogue I cannot think of a better closing than quoting Aurobindo: Volume: 22-23-24 [SABCL] (Letters on Yoga). Krishna so treated becomes a debauchee and trickster who no doubt did great things in politics—but so did Rama in war.org . But from the point of view of Avatarhood I would no more think of defending his moral perfection according to modern standards than I would think of defending Napoleon or Caesar against the moralists or the democratic critics or the debunkers in order to prove that they were Vibhutis. Achilles and Odysseus pulled out of their setting become. Page: 413 I have no intention of entering into a supreme defence of Rama—I only entered into the points about Bali etc. Ramayana and identify myself with their time-spirit before I can feel what their heroes were in themselves apart from the details of their outer action.vaishnavism. It has to be taken as a whole in the setting that Valmiki gave it (not treated as if it were the story of a modern man) and with the significance that he gave to his hero's personality. it loses all its significance at once. atmosphere of the Mahabharata. I consider myself under an obligation to enter into the spirit. Vibhuti. and the other a cruel and cunning savage. Avatar are terms which have their own meaning and scope. If it is pulled out of its setting and analyzed under the dissecting knife of a modern ethical mind. As for the Avatarhood. but they are not at all the essence of the matter. because these are usually employed nowadays to belittle him as a great personality on the usual level. I accept it for Rama because he fills a place in the scheme—and seems to me to fill it rightly—and because when I read the Ramayana I feel a great afflatus which I 14 www.
since the standard changes according to clime or age. necessarily from the point of view of the antique dharma—not from that of any universal moral standard—which besides does not exist. and in spite of the opinion of Rama's relatives. There was somebody there.org . if anybody does not see as I do and wants to eject Rama from his place.In defence of Sri Rama recognise and which makes of its story—mere faery-tale though it seems—a parable of a great critical transitional event that happened in the terrestrial evolution and gives to the main character's personality and action a significance of the large typical cosmic kind which these actions would not have had if they had been done by another man in another scheme of events. afterwards retracted. even taken as a piecemeal criticism. but he is bound to give his acts or his work or what he is—any of these or all—a significance and an effective power that are part of something essential to be done in the history of the earth and its races. I have no objection—I have no particular partiality for Rama—provided somebody is put in who can worthily fill up the gap his absence leaves. Also I do not mean that I admit the validity of your remarks about Rama. belittle and brush out all the lights to which Valmiki gave so much value and prominence and hammer always at some details and some parts of shadow which you turn into the larger part of Rama. Volume: 22-23-24 [SABCL] (Letters on Yoga). I maintain my position about the killing of Bali and the banishment of Sita in spite of Bali's preliminary objection to the procedure.vaishnavism. Page: 419 I am afraid your picture of him is quite out of focus—you efface the main lines of the characters. That is what the debunkers do—but a debunked figure is not the true figure. The Avatar is not bound to do extraordinary actions. but that I have no time for today. All the same. Valmiki's Rama or another Rama or somebody not Rama. 15 www.
org . Sattwic– Pure. intrinsic quality Deva – A divine being Daivic – of a divine nature Dvarapalakas– door keepers Kshatriya – One who defends the divine law with his physical and administrative strength Karsevak– One who offers worship prior to the construction of a temple Rama-rajya– Rule of Rama. the residence of Vishnu Yogyata – deservedness Yoga – Union (with the divine) Yajna – worship.vaishnavism. Vanara– of the type of an ape Vibhuti – A great achiever or realiser. considered the ideal rule Rakshasha – A being which operates in the lower vital planes and is prone to lust. anger and violence. One of the three modes of nature. also a particular ritual of worship. the other two being passion and inertia. involving offering ghee into a fire-altar 16 www. Vaikuntha – literally. Refers to the descent into earth plane of the Supreme Godhead Vishnu Adhipathi– One who owns and presides Dharma – Law (of nature).In defence of Sri Rama Glossary Asura – A being which distorts the truth and projects falsehood in the mental plane Agni Pariksha – Trial by fire Avatar – Descent. no anxiety.
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