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