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Exceprts from the book Sita – Ramayana by Devdutt Pattanaik – Part II

Posted on: December 27, 2013


Here are some excerpts that appealed to me from the book Sita – Ramayana by Devdutt Pattanaik.

Dialogue between Rama and Parashuram after Rama breaks the bow

Parashurama: “When a warrior breaks a bow when asked to bend it, it indicates a mind that does not know when to stop, like my mother’s who could not control desire and like Kartavirya’s who could not control his greed”
Rama: “What kind of a mind cannot overcome rage and keeps killing king after king, in clan after clan, generation after generation, in the hope that repeated punishment will create a perfect world?”

Parashurama: “Are you saying control is bad?”

Rama: “Control creates domesticated animals. The purpose of society is to inspire humanity, not tame them”.

Parashurama: “What then will create culture? Why not live like rakshasas? Without rules, the strong will dominate the weak and no one will help the helpless”.

Rama: “Rules cannot be used to compel people to care. It will only amplify fear. The whole purpose of sanskriti is to outgrow fear so that we do not feel the need to grab, control or dominate. Your mother was beheaded not because she desired another, but because your father felt inadequate. Your killing of Kartavirya only sowed seeds of vengeance in his sons, just as their killing of Jamadagni sowed the seeds of vengeance in you. You call it justice, but how much punishment is adequate – when is it fine to forgive and move on? A society that does not make room for imperfection can never be a happy society”

Rama’s address to the citizens of Ayodhya when they ask him to revolt against the kings order and continue in Ayodhya

Know this, Ayodhya is not mine to give or Bharata’s to take; Ayodhya is the responsibility of the Raghu clan, not our property. It will be injustice if the kings of the Raghu clan do not keep their word, it will be injustice if the wishes of Kaikeyi are not fulfilled. My father promised to fulfil her wishes and he is obliged to fulfil them, as am I. Do not blame her for asking what is due to her. Yes, the event is unfortunate, but it is but one event in our lives; we can call it a tragedy if we wish. Blaming helps no one; let us take responsibility for it. For nothing in life happens spontaneously: it is the result of our past actions. This moment is as it is supposed to be. I am repaying the debt of the past and so are you. We cannot choose the circumstances of our life, but we can make our choices. I have chosen to be true to my clan. My wife has chosen to be true to her role as my wife. My brother has chosen to be true to his feelings. Allow us our choices. Come to terms with our decisions. You are angry not with the queen or her son, or the king, you are angry that life has not turned out the way you thought it would. In a moment the world you so took for granted has collapsed. Expand your mind and understand that the pain comes from your assumptions and expectations. Choose love over hate, by accepting the fears and outcome of some curse, or maybe it is a boon in waiting. Who knows? Varuna has a thousand eyes, Indra a hundred, you and I, only two.”

Rama’s reply when Jabali advises Rama to return back to Ayodhya and enjoy a royal life

You crave for a king’s life that you see me being denied. You see me as a victim, stripped of a wonderful life that should be mine. You see me as a fool for submitting to the will of my father, and for not looking at life the way you do. You feel all that I value is false and all that you Value is true. But what you value and what I value are both imaginary. The difference is you seek to change the way I see things, you want me to subscribe to the way you see things, while I seek to understand why others do not see things the way I do. I don’t see myself as a victim. I don’t crave for the king’s life. I don’t feel living in the forest, bereft of royal comfort and authority, is a tragedy. I see it as an opportunity and wonder why others do not think like me. I want to understand what is so wonderful about a kingdom that Kaikeye craves for it and what is so terrible about a forest that Kaushalya fears it. Away from society, away from responsibilities, I will finally have the opportunity to do tapsya so that when I return I can be better at conducting yagna”

Discussion between Sita and Rama in the forest

Sita: Flowers make themselves fragnant and offer nectar, why? To nourish the bee or to get themselves polinated? or both? In nature, to get you have to give. There is no charity. There is no exploitation, neither selfishness nor selflessness. One grows by helping others grow, is that not a perfect society?

Rama: I see things differently. I see plants feeding on elements, animals feeding on plants, and animals feeding on animals that feed on plants. I see those that eat and those that are eaten. Those who are eat are afraid that they may not get enough. Those who can be eaten are afraid that they will be consumed. I see fear everywhere. In a perfect society there should be no fear. To achieve that is dharma.

Sita saw a berry tree next to a banana plant. The wind blew hard and the sharp thorns of the berry tree tore the smooth leaves of the banana plant. “Who is the victim here? Who is the villain?” asked Sita.
Rama: “Neither. It is the human eye that gives value to things, turning natural events into epic adventure full of conflict and resolution. That is maya, delusion born of measuring scales.”
Lakshman: “Surely the tigress is the villain when it kills the pregnant doe”
Rama: “Would you rather the tigress starve and die? Who will feed the cubs then? You? This is how nature functions: there are eaters and the eaten. The tiger does not resent the deer that gets away. The doe does not resent the tiger that captures her fawn. They are following their instincts. Plants and animals live; humans need to judge, for we need to feel good about ourselves. That is why we create stories, full of heros and villains, victims and martrys.”
Lakshman: “Our anscestor Dilip was willing to sacrifice himself to save the cow from a lion. Surely he is a hero?”
Rama: “The cow nourishes humanity with her milk, Lakshman. We need to save it. He is a hero to humans because he saved humanity’s food. He is no hero to the starving lion, or to the deer the lion may have to feed on instead”.

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