The Moral Of Life From The Sociological Prospect In The Texts Of The Ramayana And Gilgamesh
Moral values are known to be the right or wrong ways that a person perceives life. They affect the paths and choices you make, and ultimately your life depends on them, considering you grow up believing in them. Losing someone can awaken your morals, or eventually make you lose sight of what you used to believe in. In the texts of the Ramayana and Gilgamesh, the moral of life was awakened in relation to the Sociological Prospect. The Sociological Prospect, as stated by Campbell is that it is known to be “the validation and maintenance of an established order.” It can also be wisdom and be an embodiment of morals that eventually teach us how to behave and live life.
In the Ramayana, Rama believed people’s words and did not believe in Sita and her devotion towards him. He felt victim to people’s nay-say which claimed that Sita was impure because of how long she had stayed with Ravana. However, she later proved them all long. When Sita’s and Rama’s sons, Lava and Kusha, found Rama and his kingdom, it eventually led Sita back to Rama. He learned that she was faithful after all after seeing that she was the twins’ mother, but it was also confirmed after she dropped into the Earth that she was never unfaithful to him. Losing his wife and failing to see his children grow up most likely awakened a moral of Rama’s. The moral would probably be that you shouldn’t be so careless to fall into people’s words. Strangers don’t know your family better than you. In the sense of the Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh lost his best friend Enkidu to the hands of the Gods. He kept challenging the Gods by slaughtering anything considered sacred to them, and so eventually both men faced the Gods’ wrath. They chose one to die, and the other to learn a valuable lesson from the death. Fear was instigated in Gilgamesh from the Gods, but a moral was also learned. Gilgamesh should not challenge authority that he has no right to be going against.
Besides both men losing their loved ones, they can be remembered for the love they offered to the others. Gilgamesh and Rama both had gone on a journey, for their own purposes, however, someone had accompanied both of them along the way. In a way, the people who had accompanied them had also built their character to how we can view it now. Rama went on his journey with both Lakshmana and his wife Sita to destroy the evil of Ravana. He became more motivated on his journey and continued to build his dharma once his wife was kidnapped. Anything that he would do would be because of her and her safety. Similarly, Gilgamesh went on a journey with someone who filled the void in his life like Lakshmana and Sita did to Rama. Enkidu became Gilgamesh’s best friend and gave him a purpose and way to build his character. He was no longer just the cruel tyrant that everyone hated. Out of this, both characters grew as a whole and learned the moral values of companionship and love.
There is some sort of similarity in the divine prospect both stories portray, but yet a vast difference in the motives. Rama is already divine, considering he was an incarnate of Vishnu, yet relies on the Gods to help guide him through his path to defeat Ravana. He gets what he wants because he completes his Dharma to his wife and the Gods. On the other hand, Gilgamesh was proclaimed to having been born of the Gods, yet when you read the story, there is almost no divine aura you can grasp of his. Yes, he defeated many of the Gods’ sacred obstacles, but he didn’t do it for good. He even brought famine upon his kingdom. Rama never looked for immortality, despite being a human-like Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh however, looked to attain that prospect, and yet failed. Rama did things for the good of the world and received that goodness back in turn. With Gilgamesh it was the opposite, he expanded his kingdom, but exploited its people. He didn’t necessarily do any good if his own people prayed to the Gods to send something to deter him. And so, the moral that can be learned from both of these experiences is that do to others what you’d want to be done to you. And really, be kind to people, for what comes around, goes back around.
The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Ramayana
The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Ramayana are two of the oldest epics and examples of heroisms to date. While both Rama and Gilgamesh have many key similarities, there are some distinctive differences between the two. Both of these heroes exhibit the “prototype” characteristics of heroes, such as valor, strength, wisdom, and magnanimity. It’s the origin and cultivation of these characteristics in both Rama and Gilgamesh that is the biggest difference between these heroes. Both of these heroes also embody key values of their respective culture as well. Gilgamesh shows the importance of religion and gender roles, while Rama also shows the importance of religion and family values.The Epic of Gilgamesh, was written in ancient Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization. So, as a result, Gilgamesh, is known to be the first great, or epic, hero in time.
Not only could you say that Gilgamesh is the blueprint, more or less, for the epic hero, but he can also be seen as a symbol of the Mesopotamian culture itself. The Mesopotamians were a polytheistic people, meaning they believed in many Gods. They feared and loved these Gods and did everything in their power to keep them happy, from building temples and making sacrifices to their favorite Gods. So it comes as no surprise that they believed Gilgamesh was 2/3s God and only 1/3 man. The story of Gilgamesh cannot be entirely written off as another myth, he was a real King, and Uruk was a real city. Based on how pious the Mesopotamians where who would they think was better to rule them than a man who was part God? Gilgamesh is also a very strong male character.
Men in ancient Mesopotamia, and in virtually every other civilization thereafter, where expected to be tenacious leaders and providers of their households. Gilgamesh, was a firm king, maybe too firm in the beginning of his story. Even after his journey with Enkidu, who was again, a male creation of the divine, Gilgamesh is still a strong example of the alpha male prototype during this time.It is said that the epic, Ramayana, has had a deep-rooted influence on Indian life and culture. As a result, its lead character, Rama, embodies many key aspects of Indian culture. Much like Gilgamesh, Rama is also a divine being, since he is the avatar of the God Vishnu. There is some division within Hinduism, some are polytheistic while others are henotheistic or monotheistic, but all believe in purusartha, samsara, and in finding nirvana. While other Gods come to play in different parts of the story, the main one that is mentioned is Vishnu, since the main character is his avatar after all, so it comes to no surprise that many monotheistic Hindus believe in only Vishnu.
Another notable thing about Rama is his constant trust in his dharma and his belief that if he continues to put his trust in his fate he will eventually be lead to nirvana. Throughout the Ramayana, Rama always takes the route that he believes to be his fate, even his banishment. Hierarchy and family respect and harmony are also two major elements of Indian culture. Not only is Rama at the top of the chain, being heir to the throne, and part God, but he is also a superb example of a son and husband. He is wise and always listens to his elders, even if their wishes go against his own. For example, when he is banished he accepts his fate humbly and makes no move to go against his father’s will, even after the death of his father. As a husband, he always provides for his wife Sita and does whatever necessary to keep her out of harm’s way, even if it means hunting down the indestructible demon Ravana. He is a shining example for the Indian men to follow.
Rama is accomplished, pious, and wise, all of which are strong virtues in the Indian culture.Both Rama and Gilgamesh are renowned for their divine traits and capabilities such as physical strength, beauty, and nobleness. In both stories, each hero is already in a position of power in their respective societies. The most obvious distinction between the two is their journey to becoming such renowned heroes. Gilgamesh begins as a selfish tyrant, whose oppression over his people is so strong and cruel that they feel the need to turn to the Gods to end his cruelty. It is very easy to mistake him as villain and expect Enkidu to destroy him. Instead, he surprises us all by befriending his enemy. This twist in his story leads him on a path towards wisdom and knowledge, which Gilgamesh eventually acquires, and once he does he is transformed into a valiant and worthy King. It’s Gilgamesh’s quest that makes him into a hero. In comparison, Rama is wise and well loved by his subjects at the beginning of his story. He already had admirable qualities like valor, chivalry, and humility. He handles his banishment from his own kingdom in an extremely poised manner and decides to trust his Dharma, which just deepens his subjects” devotion and respect for him, in fact, once he is gone his Kingdom starts to suffer and even his brother Bharata didn’t want to take the throne from Rama. Rama’s innate wisdom and trust in his fate sends him on the mission that ultimately leads to the completion of his destiny.
In Rama’s story he proves himself as the hero we already knew him to be which contrasts deeply with Gilgamesh, who has to prove that he even is a hero. In the end, both heroes have more in common than not. They are both renowned by their societies, and even the rest of the world today. Both Rama and Gilgamesh set the tone for what a hero is, and what a man is in their societies. They both showed the values and potential dangers of their religions. Both The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Ramayana teach many lessons that many societies and cultures around the world can and do learn from..
Domination – The Power Shift from Women to Men Through Ancient Literature
Through history, civilizations and cities have typically put men in positions of authority, showing their dominance in society and giving them all the power. Ancient Sumeria was a refreshing sight in contrast to this. Evidence from literature and myths of the ancient Sumerians heavily support the idea that Sumeria was a matriarchal society. Women, instead of men, were the ruling sex. Ancient hymns praise Inanna—a goddess who ruled over all the humans, animals, and other gods in Sumeria. She can easily be seen as the ultimate god in Sumeria, the one who all look up to. Indeed, she may have helped the matriarchy in Sumeria, as women were revered as being higher than men, and were given more rights than they were. Much as the Ramayana serves as a prime example of what a relationship should be like for couples in India, Inanna could have served as a role model for women in Sumeria. However, as androcratic ideas began to blend into Sumerian society, the matriarchy was slowly overthrown, and ancient Sumeria became as patriarchic as the rest of the world’s history. The fall of Inanna in literature showed the drastic shift from a female-dominated society to an androcratic one. The tale of Gilgamesh rose to popularity and remains more well-known than the hymns of Inanna. A great empire ruled by a great goddess, overthrown by influential powers. Sumeria, much like the rest of the world, had its power falling into the hands of men.
Inanna was hailed and worshipped under many titles. She was the “Queen of the Earth Gods, Supreme among the Heaven Gods”, the “First Daughter of the Moon”, and many other titles (Wolkstein and Kramer, 1983). The hymns portray her in such a bright light that showcases how much they worshipped her. “The people of Sumer parade[d] before the holy Inanna” and “purif[ied] the Earth for her” (Wolkstein and Kramer, 1983). It is hard to identify, based on the hymns, if she was human or not, as the texts make many references to both ideas. Ultimately, Inanna was a savior of all people, someone that all the Sumerians could look up to. To love someone so much and hold them as a symbol of power, love—whether they were human or not—shows how Inanna may have been a model to, not just women in Sumerian society, but all other people as well, as “the male prostitutes comb their hair before” her (Wolkstein and Kramer, 1983). By contrast, ancient India was a strong androcracy, in which males were treated better than their female counterparts. The Ramayana serves as an example, in which Sita, the devoted wife to Rama, speaks multiple times of her place beside her husband, as her duty lies with him. Rama and Sita are hailed as models for couples in India. If the couple is comprised of a male and female, the male takes after Rama, and the female after Sita. It is clear that Sumeria was unique in itself in this right. Inanna was the one major god that everyone could look to for almost anything. Being one of the few matriarchies in the world, however, the female ruled society soon began to assimilate to match the rest of the world.
Sumeria began to advance and allow more foreigners into their land. The influence of foreign populations began to change ancient Sumeria. Either willingly or by force, Sumeria was pushed to shift into a patriarchy. Akkadians and Assyrians from the neighboring territories began to ease into Sumer. Both were strong cultures that had spoken Semitic languages and both were very involved with warfare (Wilson, 2013). Sumeria began to develop its own army, as they moved out of their land to find materials they did not have themselves, and the influences of more warlike nations on their territories encouraged the behavior. Militaristic ideas and the leaders of the army slowly became permanent, and democratic ways of governing fell, as the rise of the monarchies led by kings emerged (Wise, 2013). Inanna was pushed back, no longer the goddess that all Sumerians looked up to and worshipped. The goddess Ninlil did not take Inanna’s place, but her myths and legends may have contributed to the harsher treatment of women in Sumeria. Ninlil was raped four times by Enlil, once when he was not under a guise, and three times when he had disguised himself as someone else (Black, 1998). The legend may have served as an excuse for men who saw fit to rape women and ultimately hold power over the Sumerian women. The fall of Inanna spelled disaster for the female population of Sumeria, as men began to decrease the value that women held in society and traded them off as slaves and wives for money (Wise, 2013). They were seen as expendable members of society with no other purpose aside from childbearing, cooking, and standing beneath men, much like the rest of the world had come to see women in their societies.
From a position of power to one of ridicule, Inanna’s popularity decreased amongst the ancient Sumerians, as even Gilgamesh himself looked down upon her and who she was. long gone was the highly respected, all powerful god of Sumeria. Gilgamesh, in which she is known as Ishtar, portrays her as a liar who wants nothing more than to seduce him, then throw him away like she had to all her previous lovers (Mitchell, 2004). She comes off as a spoiled brat and a manipulator, as she convinces her father to give her the Bull of Heaven, then proceeds to use it to kill three hundred innocents—there is no trace of the once highly renowned and loved goddess that used to be known as the Great Lady of Heaven in ancient Sumeria. Gilgamesh is the strongest literary example of how Sumeria had morphed from a matriarchy into a patriarchy. Inanna, who was once seen as the greatest being in all of Sumeria, had been replaced by Gilgamesh, a cruel king who did as he pleased as long as it was for his own benefit. He took sons from their fathers and daughters from their mothers and broke them. He was the sole ruler of Sumeria; there was no queen to rule by his side. There is a stronger sense of monarchy now than there was when Inanna was revered with power. The city now looked up to Gilgamesh, and even after seeing his abuse of power, they did not remove him from where he stood in the social hierarchy. Instead, they saw fit to placate him with another man, Enkidu, who would change Gilgamesh into a better ruler of the people. And so Inanna fell and Gilgamesh rose to power, symbolizing the overthrowing of the matriarchy and introduction of the androcracy.
One can use ancient Sumerian literature to trace the power shift between men and women in the civilization. Early ancient Sumeria hailed Inanna, either a goddess or an ordinary human, as their queen, the strongest power in Sumeria whom all could look up to for guidance in many things. Hymns would praise her beauty, strength, and abilities, and she had quickly become someone that all the citizens of Sumeria would have liked to look up to. As time passed, however, invading powers began to shift Sumerian ideals, bringing with them their patriarchal claims and beliefs that would forever change Sumeria. Inanna lost popularity amongst her worshippers and men rose to power then. King Gilgamesh, now seen as the strongest being in Sumeria, stole Inanna’s thunder and used his own privilege to put her down and cast a dark light on her. From there, the power never did shift back, and along with the rest of the world, Sumeria moved through history, a society dominated by men, their great priestess discarded and forgotten.
Black, J.A., Cunningham, G., Fluckiger-Hawker, E, Robson, E., and Zólyomi, G., The ElectronicText Corpus of Sumerian Literature (http://www-etcsl.orient.ox.ac.uk/), Oxford 1998Brisch, N. (n.d.). Ninlil (Mulliltu, Mullissu, Mylitta) (goddess). Retrieved November 4, 2015,from http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/ninlil/
Mitchell, Stephen. Gilgamesh: A New English version. New York: Free, 2004
Wilson, E. (2013, October 8). Development of Patriarchy in Sumer. Retrieved November 4,2015, from https://heartwellproductions.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/development-of-patriarchy-in-sumer/
Wise, J. (2013, July 26). Part V: Punishing Eve: Tracing the Shift to Patriarchy in Sumer. Retrieved November 3, 2015, from http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/07/26/1226749/-Part-V-Punishing-Eve-Tracing-the-Shift-to-Patriarchy-in-Sumer#
Wolkstein, Diane, and Samuel Noah Kramer. Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer. New York, Harper and Row, 1983
Ramayana: D’harma in the 21st Century
The principle of d’harma that appears throughout Ramayana is one that calls for a specific kind of righteousness. D’harma is a difficult concept to pin down, but it essentially translates as the individual’s proper place and role in the cosmic cycle. D’harma manifests in many forms throughout Ramayana, but perhaps its most concrete manifestations are the father and son relationship and the husband and wife relationship. The principle of d’harma is brought to life by Rama’s respect and devotion to his father. Similarly, Sita is celebrated for her devotion to her husband Rama. These themes of respect and devotion appear in 21st century culture but have developed over time to account for new values. While the d’harma of the Ramayana places significance on duty to the father and husband, modern d’harma moves away from roles of obligatory respect and focuses on the autonomous individual.
Rama’s characterization as the ideal man in Ramayana relies heavily on his adherence to the principle of d’harma. D’harma entails righteousness, purity, and nobility. In Rama’s case, this righteousness, purity, and nobility mean an unquestioning respect for his father’s wishes. In this way, Rama’s duty to the principle of d’harma is a duty to his father. Rama’s unwavering devotion to Dasharatha is seen when Kaikeyi orders that he accept his father’s demands before he even hears what they are. Kaikeyi demands: “From faith, as well the righteous know/ Our virtue and our merits flow/ Now, be they good or be they ill/ Do thou thy father’s words fulfil:/ Swear that his promise shall not fail/ And I will tell thee all the tale” (2. 95-100). D’harma calls for such unconditional respect for the father that Rama is expected to accept Dasharatha’s command before the fact. Once Rama hears that he will be exiled, he responds without question: “Yea, for my father’s promise sake/ I to the wood my way will take/ And dwell a lonely exile there/ In hermit dress with matted hair” (11. 144-148). The d’harma celebrated in this scene is Rama’s loyalty before and after he is exiled. His righteousness is not derived from the knowledge of a greater good or consideration for his father’s possible intention behind banishing him. Rather, Rama displays d’harma in that he promises to obey his father’s command without regard to its severity or purpose.
Devotion to one’s father is a principle that has been dismantled over time. In 21st century society, unwavering devotion to the father has namely been disregarded for its inherent misogyny. The principle of devotion to the father stems from the belief that he is the assigned and rightful authority over the wife and children. The 21st century recognizes that a principle of unconditional loyalty to the father suggests a lack of loyalty to the mother, or at least a less pressing or significant one. The inherent misogyny of this aspect of d’harma can be seen in Sita’s unconditional devotion to Rama. When Sita learns of Rama’s impending exile, she responds, “The wife alone, whate’er await/ Must share on earth her husband’s fate./ So now the king’s command which sends/ Thee to the wild, to me extents./ The wife can find no refuge, none/ In father, mother, self, or son” (2. 388-393). Here Sita’s unchanging loyalty to her husband is celebrated as d’harma, although a 21st century reader would likely recognize the pressing issue of the perception of the wife as an extension of the husband. Though this form of d’harma is between husband and wife, Sita displays the proper righteousness by ignoring any desires of her own to follow Rama into exile. Kaikeyi is portrayed as manipulative and antagonistic for taking advantage of Dasharatha’s integrity and ordering that he banish Rama. Though Kaikeyi is antagonistic, her antagonism is made more severe in the face of the expected d’harma, or devotion to her husband. The 21st century sees past these obligatory forms of devotion to male figures and instead deals in the rights of the woman as an individual. This point brings forth the fact that 21st century society has also developed from ideas of individualism and autonomy. Unwavering respect for the father’s command, under the lens of 21st century culture, undermines fundamental rights of the individual. A modern family wouldn’t call for or be expected to call for the child’s blind adherence to the father’s every desire. Instead, individual thought, free will, and contemplation have been set forth as highly valued principles in their own right. Similarly, the ideas surrounding the family unit itself have shifted. While the Ramayana holds Rama accountable for fulfilling the commands of his parents, 21st century culture has established that “family” may not necessarily be blood relatives. Rama’s unwavering respect and calm acceptance of banishment might be seen as a form of manipulative abuse on his father’s part. The individual of the 21st century might rightfully take Dasharatha’s command as cruelty, and forge new connections and meaningful relationships that offer security, love, and compassion.
The d’harma celebrated in Ramayana stems from the notion of the individual’s “proper” behavior and actions in the cosmic cycle. Part of the ascribed proper behavior deals in an unconditional respect for the father’s authority. Rama is celebrated for his unconditional respect for Dasharatha, following his every command without question or regard for his own well-being. While these values are applauded in Ramayana, a 21st century individual would likely view them as dangerous. Rama’s code of conduct deals in reverence for his father, but 21st century culture recognizes that one’s code of conduct must deal in his or her individual needs and desires. Instead of viewing the individual as an extension of the father, the 21st century values the individual for his or herself.
How to Handle Your Feelings: Anger as an Antagonist in the Ramayana
Negative emotions such as despair, disappointment, fury, bitterness are very impactful on one’s life and actions; at times, such sentiments can drive one away from the right path. The complexity of feelings is accountable for the depth and dimension of a being. One of the reasons why the Indian epic the Ramayana has such profound layers is the emotional development of its characters. The flow of the story paints the perspectives of each character, good or bad, through multiple lenses. The demons, Rakshasas, may appear to be the main antagonists of Rama in the Ramayana, but negative emotions are the true fatal enemies within each characters, no matter whether men or animals.
In this epic, anger is a negative emotion that can destroy a person’s life with its immediate, horrifying consequences. When the evil Manthara fuels the Ayodhya queen Kaikeyi with hatred, and when she shows her rage; “Kaikeyi ran to the palace anger-room, slammed the door and locked it behind her. She broke off her strands of pearls. […] I want to die!” (Buck, 68). This moment of fury leads her to the inescapable hole of misery and misfortune. Shortly after, her beloved husband Dasaratha passes away due to tremendous grief, caused directly by her decision to exile Rama. However, the most painful results that Kaikeyi has to suffer is the denial of her son Bharata and the death of her husband Dasaratha. The queen does everything in her power to make Bharata king, but he does not accept the throne. Contrary to her imagination, Bharata disagrees with his mother’s actions, calling them “hateful” and telling her that she is “like a deer lured into a snare by a sweet song” (114, 115). He does not appreciate what Kaikeyi considers “efforts” and “good intentions” to him. One who causes destruction to another must receive the same result. She is deeply wounded by her son’s words, just as how Dasaratha suffers immense depression because of hers. Similar to Kaikeyi, Surpanakha’s rage leads to a terrible result. When Ravana’s sister fails to seduce Rama, her anger leads to an outburst, in which “she rushed at Sita, and held out before her her claws curved like elephant hooks” (157). Her intentions to harm Sita ultimately result in Lakshmana’s anger and cause him to cut off her ears. Her will to hurt Sita, in a moment of burning fury, causes her own wounds. Her brother, the demon king Ravana, also makes the same mistake. When Ravana and Time hold a conversation, the Rakshasa lord lets fury take over him and insults Time: “You little liar! […] And whatever you give you steal back, by fraud, from hiding, when you’re not watched” (337). Time and Death are the most powerful entities known, but Ravana, in his moment of anger, dares to humiliate Time. When Kala goes on, Ravana loses his patience and “made ready to seize Time and crush him with his steely strength” (339). Similar to Kaikeyi and Surpanakha, his anger catches him and his insult backfires. Not long after, he faces his doom, in his own ignorance and isolation. Thus, fury is a catastrophic negative emotion that has the ability to cause devastation within a very short amount of time.
Anger is not the only negative feeling that exists in Ramayana. Lust plays an important role in the epic as well. Its consequences are shown most clearly through Ravana’s actions and his life. Ravana is a role model for a lecherous lifestyle. He is so lustful that he steals women who are happily married, ultimately leading to Nalakubara’s curse after he rapes his wife: “Ravana, when you next attack a woman who won’t have you, your ten heads will burst!” (180). This curse stops the king from conducting wrongdoings towards women and preventing him from stepping into his own doom. But lust is a lethal foe of all beings and even the mighty Ravana cannot escape his fate. The feeling that Ravana has towards Sita, which he calls “love”, is in fact another appearance of lust. It covers his eyes, lures him from his path to Dharma and ultimate happiness and pushes him to the edge of doom. Because of lust, the Rakshasa king abducts Sita and indirectly causes his loved ones, even his brother and his own son, to die. Lust is the basis of the stubbornness in Ravana’s actions when he neglects the truthful advice from others. Regardless of Kumbhakarna’s warning “A King is the roof his people’s happiness, and if he is wrong their lives are in danger and their nation will die” (301) or Indrajit’s wisdom “You took Death on your lap the day you stole Sita, and Death have you courted all this time” (318), he insists on killing Rama and seizing Sita. He ignores the well-being of his people and even himself, just because lust deceives him. He has to undergo the sorrow of loss, exactly as Rama feels when he took Sita away. Even though the consequences that desire brings are not as swift as rage, their impact is much worse. In the end, the demon king dies at the hand of Rama, the man whose wife he steals. While the appearance of lust seems to be beautiful, as what Ravana calls “love”, it is a deadly enemy that slowly crushes one to death.
While anger and lust lead to actions that are controllable, grief — another destructive negative emotion, is a reaction and the greatest suffering that is unstoppable and inevitable. Dasaratha, once the mighty king of Ayodhya, suffers an agonizing depression due to his son’s departure. When Rama goes to visit his father before his great journey of fourteen years, he finds Dasaratha who “shut the wine-vault doors and locked them closed and barred them; […] he sat not in a palace but in a death-waiting house; he was a pilgrim come to die at some holy place in one of the little stone-built rooms” (77). His actions show how destructive grief can be. He abandons his status and hope, just waiting for death to claim him. Grief transforms him from a wise king to a hopeless man and takes away all his hopes and joy. The heartbreak ends Dasaratha’s time on Earth and death approaches him, shortly after Rama is exiled. However, grief is not identical to anger or lust. While rage and lust are the roots of sin and often expressed by an action of one on another, grief is a reaction that usually only has impact on oneself rather than others. This difference makes the emotion unique and reveals a hidden aspect: if one can get over the agony of grief and let go of vengeance and bitterness, they can achieve happiness and peacefulness, according to their definitions.
Sita is one character who is a victim of grief, but later successfully overcomes it. When Indrajit, the master of illusions, creates a false death of Rama, it causes Sita such sorrow that she decides to die: “She quietly opened her hand, and let life slip and fall away through her fingers” (286). Grief is so devastating that it can take away her life if Rama no longer exists. Her patience and willingness to continue is barely clinging onto her hope in her reunion with Rama. However, at the end of the epic, Sita finally lets go of her sorrow and becomes independent from grief. Even though Rama is still alive, she decides to return to her mother’s arms, indicating that she no longer relies on her husband. Rama is also a role model in his ability to prevent himself from falling into the hands of grief. Sita’s departure from his life at the end of the Ramayana certainly affects him, but he does not let it take over him:”[…] I will never meet Sita again as a man.” Rama sighed, and still he was smiling” (417). His smile shows his acceptance of the event. Indeed, he cannot eliminate grief completely, but he does not fight it either. He makes peace with grief and stays calm. In the end, Rama receives his long, deserving rest from life and reunites with Lakshmi in Heaven, after transforming back into Narayana. Therefore, even though grief is devastating, if one can overcome sorrow without harming others, he or she will be able to find joy and wishes fulfilled. Negative feelings are the main factors that lead to the ruin of Ramayana characters.
While anger and lust cause the immediate destruction of one when they do harm to others, grief acts as a challenge that test if one has the ability to seize happiness. Emotions are the biggest obstacles to stop a person from obtaining their goal, thus it is important to stay aware and conscious of our own actions. If one survive the impact of feelings, he or she can achieve the “everlasting Dharma wheel and truly set it turning”, an achievement tantamount to ultimate joy and happiness, as well as freedom from desires and needs.
Buck, William, translator. Ramayana. University of California Press, 1976.