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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.”

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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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