Ramayana Essay, Research Paper
Alexander Eisen 10.20.00
UGC 111 Essay #2 : Ramayana
The epic of Ramayana
and some of the
Hindu virtues derived from it
The poetic author, Valmiki, does not calls Rama “the perfect man” in his well known tale of Ramayana for no reason. For this story has been a legendary epic that many generations of the Hindu culture have been modeling their society after, for over two thousand years. It has been an influential teaching for children and scholars of all ages because of its simplicity and exemplary concepts and virtues of the Hindu people. From childhood most Indians learn the characters and incidents of this epic and they furnish the morals, ideals and wisdom of common life. This epic helps to bind together the many peoples of India, transcending caste, distance and language by showing all the perfect way to practice dharma throughout one’s life. As will be explored in this essay, from Ramayana, one can derive many of the virtues of the Hindu culture such as perfectionism, honesty, order, obedience and respect, and active asceticism. All these characteristics make a human being perfect and are achieved through the practice of dharma, as explicitly shown by the main character of Ramayana – Rama.
Rama is indeed a perfect man in the eyes of the Indian people. Many Hindus even regard him as an incarnation of the god Vishnu. The main reason for that is Rama lived his entire life in an exemplary manner – by the rules of dharma. In fact, that was why Indians consider him heroic and respect him so much . When Rama was a young boy, he was the perfect son. Later he was an ideal husband to his faithful wife, Sita, and finally a responsible ruler of Aydohya.
The first example of obedience and respect displayed by Rama is vivid when the news of his banishment, enforced by his own parents, are brought to him. He handles the situation with remarkably patient and wise attitude and says to his stepmother, “I gladly obey father’s command …Why, I would go even if you ordered it.”. By doing this, he shows characteristics of great piety to his parents and the lack of desire to be a powerful and authoritative rich ruler, all while knowing that he is giving up his righteous turn to rule the kingdom since he is the oldest of the four sons of the king. Instead, he willingly goes off into exile – forest infested with evil spirits whom he battles with the power of good and defeats. As in most of the Eastern world, this example of respect being paid to elders, parents, authorities (no matter what one is commanded to do) is very important in one’s ‘faith’; and the fact that one successfully wards off evil, gives him/her the title of a cultural model hero, just as seen in Rama’s case.
Rama’s casual attitude about going off into the forest for fourteen years also shows his asceticism – the will to give up his material, emotional and physical attachments. His peaceful and patient attitude towards his life is vivid due to his enduring wisdom. For he goes beyond the material and physical world to strive for a higher state of being – nirvana, something all Hindus look forward to. He says the following to his brother Bharata, when he is offered the throne again, “I should have known that you would renounce gladly what most men work lifetimes to learn to give up”. Physical attachments like money and emotional attachment like love are only barriers in the path of dharma because they bring desires for possession and pleasure. Rama shows that, by faith, it is more important not to complicate one’s short life on earth with these distractions but rather it is vital for one to strive for this state of perfectionism (nirvana) by concentrating on working hard for it on earth (dharma).
Rama makes no mistakes in the story of Ramayana. He is always makes quick and wise decisions whether in battle or in peace. He is concerned about maintaining order and getting rid of evil as he defeats Ravana, the 10-headed king of Lanka who abducts Sita. This bravery against evil is another Hindu virtue that is inbred into Hindu boys. It is believed that the best way to practice dharma is through action instead of meditation as in Buddhism. Rama, exemplifies exactly that by always working on setting the order of things straight. He makes quick and impulsive decisions and caries them out effectively.
The last major virtue that is popular among Hindu culture, related to Rama is honesty. Rama never lies himself and even puts his wife Siva to a test to prove her credibility and purity to him, after she is resqued from Ravana’s hostage. She does that indeed by immolation, and thus Rama accepts her back as his wife showing all that loyalty and honesty are the basis of their relationship.
All of Rama’s characteristics are factors to his success and thus scholars analyze him and try to help all Hindus understand the importance of practicing dharma by preaching the virtues of Rama. His perfectionism and wittiness, the strive for order and peace, obedience, respect, loyalty and honesty to parents, women, friends and elders, his asceticism and good-will actions are all ideals in the eyes of the Hindu folk. Also, his heroic contributions, harmonious attitude and also the belief that he is indeed Vishnu, should be evidence enough that to walk the path of dharma, one should follow in his footsteps.
Book of Ramayana