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Fun in Devlok: OmnibusFun in Devlok: Omnibus by Devdutt Pattanaik

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A nice set of stories to be, as usual different from the normal mythological twist, one can now say with the Pattanaik twist.

Introduces a set of gods like Indra, Yama, Kama, Shiva and others to the children. The stories have been blended with the current state of affairs so that the children can related to them. It is meant for the upper middle class where the children go to school, do their homework, their parents take them to parties etc. And probably these are the ones who would read this book too.

A nice bedtime read for the children.

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My GitaMy Gita by Devdutt Pattanaik

My rating: 5 of 5 starsA wonderfully different but very sensible interpretation of Bhagwad Geeta. Difficult to summarize the book so some excerpts from it.

Vishnu establishes balance between Ramayana and Mahabharatha. Example of “Karma”?

When Vishnu descended on earth as Ram, he killed Vali, the son of Indra, and sided with Sugriva, the son of Surya. So when Vishnu descended as Krishna, he was obliged to restore the balance in the cosmos by killing Karna, son of Surya, and siding with Arjuna, son of Indra. Here one story is one half of another story, and Karna’s misfortune neutralizes his fortune in another life. Free of any obligations or expectations, he would thus be liberated from the wheels of rebirth. So his killing, which we feel is a sad incident, becomes a wonderful event.”

In the third story, when Vishnu descended as Parashurama, he trained Bhishma, Drona and Karna, who ended up siding with the Kauravas and upholding adharma. Since he could not kill his own students, Vishnu again descended as Krishna and supported the Pandavas, who fought and killed the Kauravas and their commanders. Here Krishna is reborn to correct the errors of a previous life, one of them being Karna.

“The journey from human to divine is to achieve conceptual clarity and appreciate the world as it is, while empathizing with how others perceive it.”

From fear of death comes hunger, hence the quest for food, hence violence. Fear of death by violence makes animal sexual, so that they reproduce and ensure that at least some part of their being outlives death. And that which is reproduced carries with it the fear of death, hence hunger, hence violence and sex. Thus, cause is an action (karma) and the consequence is also an action (karma). Karma is both action and reaction.

Karma – Each moment is a fruit (karma-phala) of the past and a seed (karma-bija) of the future. And just as every seed need not germinate, just as quality of the fruit depends on various external factors like sunlight and quality of soil and availability of water, the reaction of every action is unpredictable. With unpredictability comes uncertainity, which amplifies fear”

The acceptance of uncertainity is the hallmark of mythologies that believe in rebirth. Here, the world is always changing and so the point is to observe it, rather than judge or control it.

“Those who believe in Karma do not blame. They do not judge. They accept that humans live in a sea of consequences, over which there is limited control. So they accept every moment as it is supposed to be. They act without expecation. This is nishkama karma”.

To empathize is dharma. Failure to empathize is adharma.

“Arjuna, in age after age, whenever humanity forgets its potential and functions as it should not, I manifest to inspire those with faith and shake up those without faith, so that humanity never forgets that it is capable of”. A completely different perspective of “Yada Yada hi dharmasya”

Animals have no choice but to follow their instinct. Humans have a choice. When we do exercise our choice, when we value other people’s needs alongside our own, we are following dharma. When we stay focussed on our own needs at the cost of others’, we are doing adharma.

Everyone is born with a different capability (varna): some advise the society (Brahmins), some protect the society (Kshatriyas), some feed the society (Vaishyas) and some serve the society (Shudras). Everyone has to go through different stages of life (ashrama): a student (brahmacharya). a householder (grihasta), a retired person (vanaprastha), and a hermit (sanyasa). The Puranas tell us that society is constantly changing; every culture goes through four phases (yuga) moving from innocence (Krita) to maturity (Treta) to struggle (Dvapara) to decay (Kali).

How does one uphold dharma in different contexts?

Typically people come up with rules – traditions (riti) and laws (niti), and equate them with adharma. Compliance then becomes dharma and non-compliance becomes adharma. But things are not so simple. “What matters more than action itself is intent, which is not tangible, hence rather invisible.” Rules vary with context.

In Ramayana Vishnu is the first born in a Royal family and is hence expected to follow the the rules of the family, clan and kingdom, and uphold family honour. Krishna the youngest born of a noble family, raised by cowherds is under no such obligation. He asks Arjuna to concentrate on his dharma (sva-dharma) and not on somebody else’s (para-dharma).

In Ramayana Rama upholds rules, while Ravana breaks them. In Mahabharatha Duryodhana upholds rules, while Krishna breaks them. As the eldest sons of their respective clans, Ram and Duryodhana are obliged to uphold rules. Ravana, son of a Brahmin, and Krisna, raised by cowherds, are under no such obligations. Dharma, however is upheld only by Ram and Krishna, not Ravana and Duryodhana. Ram is constantly concerned about his city Ayodhya’s welfare, while Ravana does not care if his Lanka burns. Krishna cares for the Pandavas, who happen to be the children of his aunt, but Kauravas do not care for the Pandavas, who happen to be children of their uncle. Dharma thus has nothing to do with rules or obligations. It has to do with the intent and caring for the other, be it your kingdom or family.

Ravana argues his case passionately, as do those who fight on the Kaurava side, from Bhishma to Drona, Karna and Shalya. They justify their actions on the grounds of justice, fairness, legitimacy, duty, loyalty, fidelity and commitment. None of them sees the other (para); they are too blinded by the the self (aham). Logic serves as a lawyer to defend their stance.

While Ravana and Dhuryodhana judge, Ram and Krishna never do so. They never complain or justify.

In Puranic lore, he who gives upon getting is a deva; he who seeks retrieval of what he thinks has been stolen is an asura; he who grabs, takes without giving, is a rakshasa; he who hoards is a yaksha! He who does not participate in yagna, does not give or want to get, is a shramana or tapasvi, the hermit, much feared in Puranas as the cause of drought, hence starvation. Within us is the yajamana, the devata, the asura, the rakshasa, the yaksha and the shramana. They manifest in different directions.

Exchange can be used to satisfy our desires, or repay our debts. It can entrap us, or liberate us. It depends not on the action, but on the thought underlying the action.

Sankhya means enumeration and refers to analysis, the tendency to break things down into their constituent parts. Yoga is its complement and refers to synthesis, the tendency to bind parts to establish a composite whole. In art, sankhya is visualized as an axe (parashu), use to slice things into parts, while yoga is visualized as a string (pasha), used to tie things together.

With yama we limit social engagements by not indulging in sex, violence, falsehood, theft and greed.

Then, with niyama, we discipline ourselves by practising cleanliness, contentment, austerity, reflection and having faith in divinity.

Third comes asana, where we activate the body using various postures

Fourth is pranayama, through which we regulate the breath.

With prayahara, we withdraw from sensory inputs.

With dharana, we become aware of the big picture and gain perspective.

With dhyana, we become attentive and focussed.

With samadhi, we go further within experience our emotions and discover fear!

Connecting with other is not easy, especially when we look upon each other as predator and prey, rival or mate. In such a situation we trust no one but ourselves, as animals tend to. Or we trust the other only in situation of extreme helplessness, as only humans can.

The earliest word for God in Rig Veda is ‘ka’, which is the first alphabet in Sanskrit, from which come all the interrogative pronouns such as what, when, where, why, how. Thus, divinity had something to do with inquiry. The kavi, or poet, enquired about ka. He later came to be known as the rishi, the observer.

Between survival and understanding comes judging – the state when everything and everyone around is evaluated based on imagined benchmarks, in order to position oneself. The animal wants to identify the other as predator or prey, rival or mate. The judge wants to classify the world as good or bad, innocent or guilty, right or wrong, oppressor or oppressed, based on his or her own framework. The observer wants to figure out what exactly is going on. The journey from animal to judge to observer is the journey if va-nara, to nara, to Narayana.

Arjuna, he who sees the divine as present equally in all things does not hurt himself by hurting others and so attains the ultimate state.

Arjuna, he who does not hate anyone, is friendly and compassionate always, is not possessive and self-indulgent, stable in pleasure and pain, forgiving, contained, controlled and firm in his love for me, in heart and head, is much loved by me.

In nature, there is a pecking order. But animal domination is not aspirational; it is necessary for survival. Domination ensures they get access to more food. Humans dominate to grant themselves value, and feel good about themselves.

Maya distracts us from infinity and immortality, from the feeling that the world can continue without us. Maya makes us feel important.

We cannot measure infinity, but we can lock infinity in a symbol. Thus in temples, a rock (pinda, linga) or a fossil (shaligrama) can represent the formless divine. It is our imagination that gives value to things, purpose to an activity and identity to a thing. We can give meaning or wipe it away. That is the power of maya. It is the power of God bestowed upon us humans. Maya is often called magic, for it has the power to make the world meaningful, transform every word into a metaphor, every image into a symbol. Maya can divide and separate, cause conflict by comparison.

When people say in Hindi “Sab maya hai”, it is commonly translated as “The world is an illusion or a delusion”. What it means is that the world can be whatever we imagine it to be – valuable or valueless, fuelling ambition or cynicism.

We can manufacture depression and joy in our lives by the way we measure, delimit and apportion the world. The world itself has no intrinsic measurement.

In nature, there are natural forces of attraction and repulsion, even between two objects. Plants and animals are drawn to food, and shun threats. Over and over this, humans cling (raga) to property (kshetra) that grants them value in society. We convince ourselves that our social body defines our identity. To be told that our true identity is intangible and immeasurable (kshetragna) seems quite unbelievable, as it can never be proven, only believed. So we cling to our goals or rules, to property or relatives, to titles or ideas, and fight over them as animals fight over territory. Animals fight because the survival of their body depends on it. Humans fight as the survival of their identity (aham) depends on it. Clinging is comforting. Insecurity fuels desire (kama) for more, and so acquiring more becomes purpose of life. We get angry (krodha) when we don’t get them, get attached (moha) to them, become intoxicated with pride (mada) because we possess things, feel jealous of those who have more and insecure around those who have less (matsarya). Material reality thus enchants us and crumples our mind several times over. These are called six obstacles (arishad-varga) that prevent the mind from expanding, the aham from transforming into atma and discovering bhagwan.

We also shun (dvesha) things out of fear. We avoid taking ownership, responsibility or proprietorship in fear. We are terrified of heartbreak, and so refuse to fall in love. We are terrified of failing, and so avoid struggles. We are terrified of outcome, and so refuse to take any action. We clearly demarcate what is mine and what is not mine. If attraction to things makes us householders, and revulsion of things makes us hermits, then neither is actually wise, as neither accepts reality. As householders, we wish we expand the mine, sometimes at the cost or yours. As hermits, we want to shun even what is mine and reject all that is yours.

Reality is allowing things to come to us naturally and not seeking things that do not come to us naturally. Wisdom is bearing the fruit we are supposed to bear and not wanting to bear the fruit that we cannot bear. Depending on its guna, a tree bears mango fruit; this is not ambition or desire, it is simply realization of potential. If we expect a mango tree to bear apples, then problems start. We do not respect guna. A human being can become a king, a warrior, a merchant, a servant or a poet depending on his qualities and potential. If we try to change a warrior into a poet because we are revolted by war or attracted to poetry, then we cause tension and suffering. Hinduism therefore does not talk of conversion, only realization of potential. To let our potential be realized without deriving our identity from it, or without denying its existence, is the hallmark of wisdom.

Gajendra the elephant is caught by a crocodile and Gajendra tries to escape in vain, as no one comes to his rescue. Lost, helpless, he prays to Vishnu who appears and strikes the crocodile away. This is a metaphor for a mind consumed by passion, seeking gratification in the material world and suddenly finding the world turning against it, becoming even more hostile. The solution is not to fight harder, for that only leads to crocodile tightening its grip. The solution is to stop fighting and have faith that another force will intervene.

In the story, Gajendra chooses to see himself as a victim and the crocodile as a villian. If he wins, he will be hailed as a hero and if he loses he still be hailed as a martyr who died trying. But the observer can see that the crocodile is no villain; it looks upon Gajendar either as threat, or a food. The crocodile’s violence is not violation. Gajendra sees it as a violtion, as he is in a state of mada, seeing himself as the king of elephants, master of all the cow elephants, loved and feared by all, and not as an animal, prey to a predator. Rather than imagining violation, being heroic or acting like a martyr, Vedic wisdom suggests that we recognize maya, moha and mada at work, stop struggling over imagined boundaries, and have faith that life is shaped by many other forces, not just the ones we have control over.

As long as we don’t have faith, we carry the burden of solving all problems. We will be impatient and fight and cling. Wisdom is enjoying things that drift away, like watching the waves drift in and out of the breach.

Rama is considered the greatest king, as he was more concerned about his kingdom and his family’s reputation than his personnal happiness. Krishna is considered the greatest kingmaker, as he shows the Pandavas that war is not about vengeance or ambition, it is about governance.

Unlike the independent Shiva made dependable by Shakti, Vishnu displays vulnerability and dependance on other others when descends as Ram and Krishna, for other also wants to feel powerful and valued, and this can happen only when self ‘consumes’ the other. I want you to need me. If you do not need me, and only give me, without taking anything from me, I feel inadequate, meaningless, valueless and purposeless. In wanting me, you illuminate me and contribute to my fulfillment. Likewise, you want me to need you. If I do not need you, if I am dependable but detached, you will feel insulted, hurt, unwanted, and I will appear patronizing.
Krishna to Yudhishthira “Yudhishthira, hear what Kama, god of craving, says about himself. He who seeks to destroy craving with weapons ends up craving those very weapons. He who seeks to destroy craving with charity ends up craving charity. He who seeks to destroy craving with scriptures ends up craving scriptures. He who seeks to destroy craving with truth ends up craving truth. He who seeks to destroy craving by austerities ends up craving austerities. He who seeks to destroy craving with renunciation ends up craving renunciation. Craving cannot be destroyed, but it can be put to good use by locating it in dharma. So seek to destroy by with the pursuit of dharma. You will end up craving dharma! And that will be good for the whole world, for you will then conduct more and more exchange, bring prosperity to the world, liberating yourself in the process from all obligations, enabling others to give without expectations.”

In Western philosophy heros try move the world from “imperfection” to “perfection” and hence the terms like redeemer and saviour are frequently used. The Eastern philosophy concentrates more on the individuals victory over the baser instincts and movement towards understanding of universal unity.

“The yearning for perfection stems from the desire to control and organize the world to our taste, to create a cocoon where everything makes sense to us. It demands that we judge the world as a problem that needs fixing, chaos that needs to be organized, a disease that needs to be cured, a polluted space that needs purification. It assumes that the world needs to have a climax, a happy ending, or else life is a tradegy. These are typical of finite narratives, where there is only one life to lead”. This underlies most of the Western Philosophies. The Eastern Philosophy on the other hand gives mutliple chances to redeem oneself and gain oneness with the only ONE.

The summaries from the end of each of the chapters

You and I do not have to judge

Do you seem me as a hero, villian or victim? If yes, then you are not doing darshan. If you can empathize with the fears that make people heros, villians and victims, then you are doing darshan. For then you look beyond the boundaries that separate you from the rest.

You and I have been here before

This life is not the first time you and I have experienced each other.  We have been here before, but we have not learned, from past experiences, that much of life defies explanation and control, that life always offers a second chance and that the world existed before us and will continue to exist after us. As long as we resist reality, we will not discover the immortal, and go from lifetime to lifetime, hungry for meaning and validation.

You and I experience life differently

My deha is different from yours. My hungers are different from yours. My assumptions are different from yours. My capabilities are different from yours. My experiences are different from yours. My expressions are different from yours.

You and I seek meaning

Plants and animals, including humans, seek food. Additionally, humans also seek meaning: the dehi within the deha, the meaning within the word, the soul within the body, the metaphorical within the literal.
You and I have to face consequences

I want to control your actions and reactions. You want to control my actions and reactions. We want to control the world around us, make it predictable. To act is karma. Karma Yoga is when we act without seeking control over the outcome.

You and I can empathize

Dharma is more about empathy than ethics, about intent rather than outcome. I follow dharma when I am concerned about your material, emotional, or intellectual hunger. I follow adharma when I focus on my hunger at the cost of yours.
You and I can exchange

To do yagna is to recognize that we live in a sea of assumed expectations and obligations. You and I can hoard, grab, give in order to get, get before giving or simply withdraw from the exchange. We can act out of desire, duty or care. We can choose to expect or control outcome or not.

You and I withdraw in fear

A yogi looks within to appreciate the mind that occupies the body, the thoughts that occupy the mind, the fears that occupy the thoughts, the opportunities and threats that occupy the fears, and the fears of the others that occupy those opportunities and those threats.

You and I hesitate to trust

We all ride the waves of fortune and misfortune. If you and I believe we alone control the waves, then we are asuras. If you and I feel entitled in fortune and remember God only in misfortune or in fear of misfortune, then we are devas. We are not yet in touch with the atma within and without.

You and I have potential

I want you to be bhagwan: see my slice of reality, my insecurity and my vulnerability, and comfort me, without making me feel small. You have that potential. So do I. If not your and I, then surely there is somebody else.

You and I can include

When I feel that you acknowledge, appreciate and accommodate my worldview, rather than dismissing, tolerating, adoring or even following it, I know you are expanding your mind and walking the path of brahmana.

You and I can accommodate

Sometimes, you can see more than me, but you pretend to know less so that I don’t feel intimidated by you. I do the same for you. We do not feel superior when other is vulnerable; or inferior when we feel helpless. This is waht sustains our relationship.

You and I have no control

We are all a masala box of guna, with one guna dominating at different times. We can all be lazy, assertive or detached or engaged. Yoga makes us aware of the guna at work.
You and I value property

You may value me for what I have and what I do. But I am not what I have or what I do. If you love me, focus on who I am: my hungers, and my fears, and my potential to focus on who you are.

You and I compare

Do you derive your identity by comparing yourself with me? This is maya, a necessary delusion without which society cannot function. It can uplift you with inspiration, depress you with jealousy or grant you peace by revealing how different you are from me.

You and I cling

There is no violation in nature. Only violence. Violation follows when we grant meanings to things and derive our identity from them. We are attached to property as long as we are dicsonnected from atma.
You and I can be generous

Am I aware of my fears that make greedy, stingy, and controlling? What stops me from being generous materially, emotionally and intellectually? Liberation, essentially, is letting go of our insecurities that disconnect us from others.

You and I matter to each other

Can you and I participate in a relationship without seeking to control the behaviour of the other? Can we help each other outgrow our hungers and fears? Then we are on the path of brahma-nirvana. When we derive joy from within, not from achievements outside, we are on the path of atma-rati.

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Posted on: October 3, 2014

<Myth = Mithya A Handbook of Hindu MythologyMyth = Mithya A Handbook of Hindu Mythology by Devdutt Pattanaik
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After reading Jaya and Sita this book is a let down. It is not a book for Indians who have a background in Indian mythology. The book may be interesting for foreigners who have no background to Indian mythology.
The author also has added enough controversial details like talking about erect phallus of Shiva and other details which would enthuse the one who like to believe that India is a land of snake charmers and a country where elephants and where people believe myth and mythology more than scientifically proven things.
Not a very good read.

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

Suvarna Matsya – The Golden Fish/Mermaid

The Suvarna Matsya lived in the sea across which Rama and the Vanaras built a bridge to cross over to Lanka. Suvarna Matsya was ordered by Ravana to try and break the bridge. When she and the fish and serpents try to do so Hanuman fights her and defeats her. Suvarna Matsya confesses to Lankini, the guardian of Lanka about Hanuman:
“He was the most beautiful and serene creature I have ever seen in my life: silver and gold, with large eyes, wide nostrils, and an upraised tail, the body of a warrior and the aura of a sage. We fought. No wrestled, I just wanted to feel his toughness. But he withdrew, sensing my desire. He said he would serve only Rama, no other. Why, I asked. And he said, because he liberated me by having no expectations of me. And I realized how trapped we are by expectations: those that others have of us and those we have of others. I expected something from Ravana, Ravana expected something from me. I expected something from Hanuman, but he expected nothine from me. I suddenly felt this great urge to be liberated. I wanted to break free from everything. I stopped fighting. I decided I would le the bridge be built, encourage all sea creatures to help building the bridge, and risk Ravana’s wrath”.
Tirjata, one of the ladies that are company to Sita says “Sita keeps saying something she has heard during the Upanishad long ago: I am the creator of my world and so are you. We can widen our world by breaking free from the maze of expectations. We can shrink our world by entrapping ourselves with expectations.”
The Suvarna Matsya says “If I was just a fish, I would have no expectations of the sea. I would have been resigned to fend for myself. But since I am only half a fish, I expect the sea to provide for me and get frustrated when that does not happen. My human side keeps berating the sea, cajoling the sea and seeking control over the sea”.
Sarama another companion of Sita in Lanka: “Ravana expects his brothers to behave in a particular way. When they don’t, he rejects them. Vibhishana also expects Ravana to behave in a particular way. When he does not, he rejects Ravana. This Rama does he have expectations of his father, mother, brother, and wife? Does he reject them if thye do not behave as he wants them to?
Trijata: “If Sita is any indicator, then I think not”.

Sita answers to Lakshmana’s anger at having to leave her in the jungle at the behest of Rama

“You feel Rama has abandoned his Sita, don’t you? But he has not. He cannot. He is God; he abandons no one. And I am Goddess; I cannot be abandoned by anyone”
Lakshmana: “I do not understand your strange words”
Sita: Rama is dependable, hence God. I am independent, hence Goddess. He needs to do his duty, follow rules, and safeguard reputation. I am under no such obligation. I am free to do as I please: love him when he brings me home, love him when he goes to the forest, love him when I am separated from him, love him when I am rescued by him, love him when he clings to me, love him even when he lets me go”.
Lakshmana: “But you are innocent.”
Sita: “And if I was not? Would it be socially appropriate and legally justified for a husband to throw his woman out of his house? A jungle is preferable to such an intolerant society”.
Lakshmana: “You were not even given the dignity of being told. You were tricked into leaving the palace”.
Sita: “You judge him, Lakshmana, but I love him. You see your brother as an ideal and are angry because he has not lived up to your expectations. I see my husband for what he is, and understand his motivations; at every moment he strives to be what he thinks is best. I will not burden him with my expectations. That is how I make him feel loved. And he sees me, knows that I will support him no matter what, even when he resorts to such a devious route like an errant child. Go back home; observe Rama well. Know that the man who calls himself the husband of Sita will never remarry. Of king of Ayodhya, I do not know.”
Lakshmana: “This is not right. I can’t stand this nobility.”
Sita: “Imagine what would have happened if Rama had refused to obey his father. Imagine what would have happened if Rama refused to banish his wife. People would have forever passed snide remarks about him, even if his actions could be justified. It is not about being right. It is about being a king who is above all doubt. To be such a king, he needs our support.”

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

Shabari

Shabari meets Rama and Lakshmana. She finds them hungry and asks them to sit down and share the berries she has gathered. She bites into a berry and gives it to Rama who eats it. She bites into another and throws that away. She then bites a third one and gives it to Lakshmana.
Lakshama objects: “How dare you feed me a fruit that you have bitten into? I am no servant to eat such soiled food. I am Lakshman, prince of Ayodhya, and this is Rama, its king. Don’t you have any manners?”

Shabari apologizes. But Rama says “Clearly, what I saw is not what you saw. We are two men walking in the forest carrying weapons. We make a fearsome sight yet this woman comes to us. She is surely a brave woman. She stops us for our sake, to feed us; she is under no obligation to do so. She is clearly a caring, generous woman. And she bites into the berries to ensure they are sweet enough. She is a good host. This is what I saw, but what did you see? A woman without manners, manners you learned at the palace. Look at her, Lakshman, she is a forest woman, what does she know about the palaces and its manners, its princes and its kings? You judge her by your standards. You don’t even look at her. You have eyes, but you are blind”

When Hanuam recites this incident to Sita she comments “I am like Shabari’s berry. I belong to Rama but Ravana wants to taste me. Will Rama still accept me when I am thus contaminated?”

Hanuman: “In nature, nothing is contaminated”

Sita: “Ah, but Rama is a king, not a sage. He does not care for nature as much as he cares for culture. In culture, the polluted are cast out”

Rama’s view on Sita’s abduction by Ravana

Hanuman tells Lakshmana: “Long ago, the devas and asuras churned the ocean of mil and out came many treasures. Amongst them the wish-fulfilling tree Kalpataru, the wish-fullfilling cow Kamadhenu, the wish-fullfilling gem Chintamani and Amrita, the nectar of immortality. Vishnu took the form of Mohini, enchanted everyone and promised to distribute these treasures freely but gave Amrita only to the devas. This made the devas so powerful that they claimed all the treasures for themselves and turned their abode Amravati into Swarga, paradise of pleasures. The asuras thus cheated never forgave the devas, attacking them repeatedly in various forms, like the buffalo demon. So who are the real victims? Devas or Asuras?”
Rama: “Why do you assume that Vishnu sides with the devas. Is it because he grants them the nectar of immportality? Yes, after drinking Amrita no logner do the devas fear death. Why they are they still insecure? What are they afraid of losing? Why do they cling to their treasures? Yes, Vishnu gave the devas prosperity, but did he give them peace, for they still grant themselves an identify through things? And yes Shiva gives everything to the asuras and to the rakshasas and yakshas, everyting they ask of him for. But what do they ask him for? They ask him for wealth and power – things once again. They never ask him to help them outgrow their hunger. They never ask him to expand their mind with thoughts. And so hunger gnaws at their being as fear gnaws at the being of the devas. The fight continues endlessly, with victory following defeat with unfailing regularity, led by those who believe they are right and those who believe they are powerless.”
Rama: “Know this: Durga is strenght that we get from the outside. Shakti is strength that is inside. Nature gives us Shakti. Human society is designed to grant Durga through tools, rules and property. But having lived in the forest this long, for over thirteen years, both Sita and I have learned to value Shakti, not Durga. For strenght from within is always there; strength from without may or many not be there. Ravana, however, seeks strength from outside. He seeks to punish the man whose brother mutilated his sister. He sees my wife as my property; by stealing her he wants me to feel deprived. He does not see Sita as a person, who did him no harm.  I do not blame him. I am not angry with him. I see his point of view. I do think he is wrong. I do not begrudge him his power. I just see to rescue my Sita, restore her freedom to her.”
Sugriva: “You do not judge Ravana?”
Rama: “No one understands where he is coming from, just as I understood where Kaikeyi came from. Ravana is capable of so much more. But he refuses to be what he can be. So he imagines me as his enemy, and refuses to see me for who I am. Like Kaikeyi, he is consumed by his own notion of what is reality.”
Hanuman: “Hearing Rama speak thus, I realized Rama was a true brahmin, he who expands his mind and of those around him, a householder with the mind of a hermit. He does not need a kingdom to be a king.”
Sita: “He does not need control over a wife to be a husband”.

Justification of killing of Vali

Hanuman is relating the fight between Vali and Sugriva to Sita. After Vali is killed, Rama reveals himself as his killer and Vali asks why did he do it surreptiously and why did he support the coward Sugriva.
Hearing this Sita: “Vali grabs the kingdom he is supposed to share and now demands rules of civilised conduct be followed in war. Is it not strange that the most unfair people in the world often demand fairness?
Hanuman: “Fairness is a human concept. It does not exist in the jungle. All that matters is survival, one way or another. Sugriva has found his way. To be outsmarted by his weaker brother, that was too much for Vali to handle. So he argued by appealing to humanity and civilization.”

Hanuman proceeds on how Rama replied to Vali.
Rama: “You lived by one code of animals: you used force to get your way. Your brother has used another code of animals: he used cunning to get his way. Why do you then cry foul? Why do you speak of human values? You who lived like an animal all your life should accept being killed like an animal. I am the hunter and you are my trophy. And Sugriva is the beneficiary of this sport of kings”

Was Lee Falk the creator of Phantom inspired this when he gives Phantom the slogan “Rough with roughnecks”

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”.

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

Yagnavalkya’s statements in Janaka’s court based on his learning from Surya

The fear of death makes plants seek nourishment and grow towards sunlight and water. Fear of death is what makes animals run towards pastures and prey. At the same time, yearning for life makes animals hide and run from predators. But human fear is unique: fuelled by imagination it seeks value and meaning. “Do I matter? What makes me matter?” Every human creats his own imagined version of the world, and of himself. Every human is therefore Brahma, creator of his own aham. Aham Brahmasi, I am Brahma. Tat tvam asi, so are you. We knot our imagination with fear to create aham. Tapasya and yagna are two tools that can helps us unknot the mind, outgrow fear and discover atma, our true self.
Atma is the brahman, a fully expanded mind, Atma is the mind that does not fear death or yearn for life. It does not seek validation, It witnesses the world as it is. Atma is ishwar, also known as Shiva, who performs tapasya, is self-contained and self-sufficient. Atma is bhagwan, also known as Vishnu, who conducts a yagna to nourish everyone even though he needs no nourishment.
The traditional Advaita interpretation of Aham Brahmasi and Tat Tvam Asi is “I am God and so are you”. This is a completely different interpretation of the same quotation.

Kaushika becomes Vishwamitra

Vasishta refuses to part with Nandini, a cow similar to Kamadhenu, which is capable of feeding any number of people to the king Kaushika. Kaushika tries to take it away by force of his army but fails. He realizes that he has to become a rishi like Vasishta to be able to gain access to Nandini and sets about doing tapasya to gain siddha. During this time a man called Trishanku managed Kaushika’s kingdom. Once Kaushika attained a level of siddha he tries to send Trishanku to heaven as a gift, but Trishanku is pushed out by Indra and Trishanku finds himself hanging between the two worlds. Now Kaushika performs austerities with the aim of toppling Indra, who sends Meneka and Kaushika falls for her and his austerities is broken.
He resumes his austerities, but is disturbed by a king called Harishchandra. When he is about to curse the king and his family, the king offers his entire kingdom as a compensation. Kaushika accepts is but demands a dakshina for liberating him from the karmic obligation of his crime. With nothing to give the king sells himself and his wife and son as salves and gives the money thus collected to Kaushika.
The king is bought by a chandala and is asked to help in burning dead bodies at the crematorium. The queen were bought by a priest who has made them servants in his household. The son dies of a snake bite and the queen brings him to the crematorium. Harishchandra asks for a fee for burning the body. Having nothing to offer the queen offers the clothes on her body. Harishchandra accepts that and cremates his son. In the light of the funeral pyre, Kaushika sees that naked queen and the stoic king, weeping for their son, but neither blaming nor reproaching anybody for their terrible situation. Kaushika asks the king “Wherefrom comes this wisdom that enables you to be at peace even in tragedy?” and Harishchandra answers, “From my guru Vasishta.” Hearing Vasishta’s name engrages Kaushika even more and he goads aman-eating rakshasa to devour Vasishta’s son. The grandson of Vasishta seeks revenge, when Vasishta tells him “Every action has consequences. Why blame the instrument of karma for what is determined by our own past actions? By denying Kaushika the Kamadhenu because he did not deserve it, I ignited rage in his heart, which led him to goad the man-eating Rakshasa to kill your father. I am as much responsible for your father’s death as are the Rakshasa and Kaushika. I wish I had more sons that Kaushika could kill until he has his fill of anger”.
Hearing this, Kaushika realized that it is not siddha that makes a man a rishi, it is the ability to care for others. To care for others, we have to first see them, understand them truly.
Kaushika realizes that the purpose of yagna and tapasya is not to increase the wealth and power. It is to make one unknot one’s mind, move from aham to atma, see the world from another’s point of view. Only then can one be a Rishi.
With this realization Kaushika stops being a Vishwashatru and becomes a Vishwamitra.

Vasishta to Dasaratha

When Vasishta tells Dasaratha that he will try his best to make the princes brahmins, Dasaratha says that his sons need to be warrior princes and not brahmin. Vasishta explains.
Vasishta: “You confuse brahmin-jati with brahmin-varna. He of brahmin-jati is a priest, transmitter of hymns, rituals of the Veda. He of brahmin-varna is one who inspires the Brahma of limited mind to move towards being brahmin of limitless mind. Whether priest of warrior, farmer, herder or trader, man or woman, everyone must expand their minds, rise from the shurdra-varna, the mindset of a follower, to vaishya varna, the mindset of a trader, to kshatriya varna, the mindset of a master, to brahmin-varna, the mindset of seer.”
Dasaratha: “How can a king be a servant or a trader or a master or a seer?”
Vasishta: “A king is a servant when he mimics other kings without understanding. A king is a trader when he uses rules to get all the things that he desires. A king is a master when he uses rules to impose his thoughts on those around him. A king is a seer when he understand the thought behind the rules and so appreciates the many reason why a rule is followed and why another rule is not. For a king with a mind of a brahmin, rules are merely functional, they are never right or wrong, and like all actions they have consequences. For them rules are not tools fof power to dominate and control. For him rules are merely instruments of society that enable even the weakest to have what is otherwise cornered by the strongest.”

Vasishta to Rama

Conduct your yagna as only a tapasvi can. Ignite the fire, tapa, which needs no fuel, within your mind. Light the outer physical fire, agni, which demands fuel. Tapa will transform you while agni will tranform the world around you. Tapasya will burn your hunger. Yagna will feed the hungry. Tapasya will reveal fear that generates aham. Yagna will hep you discover love that reveals atma. Tapasya works on self so that we can focus on others. Yahna focuses on others so that we can work on the self. Tapasya helps you impose rules. He who understands this walks the path of Vishnu.

Rama is asked if theoretical knowledge or practical knowledge is more important

Rama replies “Neither is better or worse. The pursuit of theoretical knowledge develops the mind, while practical knowledge develops the body. Both have value and both come at a cost. It is aham that creates notion of better or worse. Atma observes it all, and smiles.

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