The Sacrifice for Bettering Oneself in Ramayana
The Ramayana myth of Rama and Sita are used as examples and teachings in the Hindu religion. Sometimes they are portrayed as gods and sometimes as humans. This myth has several manuscripts and is very old dating back to the 6th century BC. There are several different versions of this myth which originated as a poem with over 24,000 verses, but each share the ideas of power in ethics, morals and duty when good is faced with evil. In this version, the closest translated version to the original, there are many examples of the sacrifice for bettering oneself.
Joseph John Campbell was an American professor known for his comparative approach when interpreting myths from different cultures. According to Joseph Campbell on the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, “Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life.” For example, after Sita’s disturbing experiences, she is transformed from a submissive and passive wife into a confident woman who can voice her opinions and make her own decisions while acting according to her morals and religion. She supports her husband and together they end up ruling their kingdom. This myth is an intriguing piece because its message describes how people can change into stronger and better versions of themselves without giving up their morals especially after traumatic or extreme changes in their lives. Their sacrifices lead them to become who they desire to be. Using Campbell’s approach this piece of the myth can show the growth a person can go through spiritually and personally.
The culture in the myth of Ramayana is to obey the king and follow the path given to them. Usually, the firstborn of the king takes over and reigns over the kingdom. In the myth of Ramayana, occur many instances where temptation and desires often interfere with the overall “success” of the characters.(Chalapathi pg 234) It is only with sacrifice and thinking through what the possibilities are that one can make a good decision that will lead to success. For example, in Ramayana, the King, Doshetha had to make a very important decision about who would be ruler of the kingdom in his place after him. On one hand he had a most obvious choice, his oldest son, Rama, that traditionally would be heir to his throne and rule the kingdom. On the other hand, one of Doshetha’s wives held him to a promise that he made long ago that he would owe her two favors when she asked. She wanted their son to be the ruler. Kaikeyi spoke, “This great king of Ikshvakus never swerved from the path of Dharma. The king had agreed me two boons. I have saved his life in the war between Devas and Asuras. Then he granted me two boons for saving his life.”(Chalapathi pg 67) This was a decision and a sacrifice that Doshetha had to make. He was faced with upholding a promise he had made rather than disgracing his dignity and jeopardizing his honor. If word got out that he did not uphold his debts, it would most likely affect how the people thought of him as a leader. Doshetha had to sacrifice the honor of giving his oldest son, Rama, the throne and gave it to Rama’s younger step-brother instead. This action describes sacrifice. The sacrifice Doshetha made for himself and his kingdom to prevent any type of disturbance is a teaching of this myth.
The Ramayana myth depicts the many temptations as well that require sacrifice for overcoming. Some of the temptations our society has can include spending money, eating unhealthily, gambling, adultery, and betrayal for immediate gain or satisfaction. In the Ramayana myth Rama, Sita, and Laksmana were faced with some of these temptations that they overcame because of their loyalty to dharma and their culture. We can relate these temptations to today’s world where obesity is high, the divorce rate is increasing, and more people are experiencing bankruptcy. Everyday people are faced with temptations that may lead them in the wrong direction. For example, not being able to control overeating may be satisfactory at present, but food choices and quantity will have results on your health. Decisions and actions that are not agreeable with a spouse could impact the health of a marriage in the future. Finally, the market is filled with impulse items that lure a person into making financial decisions that are not supported by their income. This usually leads to a purchase that is later regretted. Whether in today’s society or presented in a myth, temptations are very abundant and very real.
As appealing as one path may seem, it takes a strong mind and willpower to look ahead into the future and realize what impact their decision may make. It takes sacrifice to overcome immediate desires for the better of the self. An example of this is when Sita was offered an easy escape from the demon Ravana by the monkey named Hunaman. She did not take this route because she knew that was not the way of dharma. Sacrificing her happiness and comfort Sita demonstrated faith in her husband. “Apart from this it will not be a credit to Rama if you carry me. Secondly I will not allow another person to touch me. Regarding Ravana I was helpless. No one was there to protect me. So I kept quiet. You better go and inform Rama. Bring them here as early as possible.”(Chalapathi 234) According to the Webster dictionary, sacrifice means to suffer loss of, give up, renounce, injure, or destroy especially for an ideal, belief, or end.
The culture of Ramayana can be compared to our culture today. It has been known for generations that we should be diligent and sometimes sacrifice things to gain even more in the future or for the better of others. Today, sacrifice is a science that is studied and broken down into steps as a means to success.(Moore) A perfect example is John Maxwells book entiltled “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership where he escribes how a leader must make personal sacrifices for the good of a company. This describes Doshetha’s situation where he sacrificed his choice for king to follow up on his word. Sacrifice is learned from an early age. For example, kids are given a dollar and told to save it for bigger and better things, they are sacrificing their want to get a toy or something immediate and instead, waiting to buy a more expensive better one.
Many people don’t want to give up what they have currently in order to gain a higher level of income in the future. An example of this would be saving or investing your money. You are forfeiting the chance to spend it on what you want right now and instead planning for the future. Achieving success, according to an article entitled, “Your Willingness to Sacrifice Directly Determines Your Level of Success” written by Anthony Moore in Aug. 2017, talks about how you would have to step out of your comfort zone many times before success can be achieved. Your pride and what you currently believe would have to be reconsidered. What you might think is the right way or what seems the easiest route may not be the correct way to success.
College is another example of sacrifice. With a look ahead into the future, a student will make sacrifices in order to attend classes and continue their studies. Many people have a goal to become healthy and strong, but we all know there are delicious temptations we might give into from time to time. Everyday people are giving up time, sleep, wants and even sacrificing their health or life for a greater good.
During the time that Rama was banished into the forest, both his other step-brother and his wife, Sita, decided to sacrifice living in the kingdom as well. They chose to go with Rama into the dangerous, evil-filled forest to live. “The wife is the half partner of her husband. She has to share good or bad along with her husband. When you are banished I must also follow you to the forest.”(Chalapathi pg 81) “Lakshmana who was standing in the door heard Rama taking Sita along with him, he fell at the feet of Rama and said he would follow them.”(Chalapathi pg 82)With these sacrifices, their goal was to remain a devoted brother and wife of Rama. They could have easily stayed in the kingdom. But there was an even greater success waiting for them because of their level of sacrifice.
While in the forest, Sita had resisted the temptations of getting rescued by Hanuman, the monkey kingdom ruler. By doing so she showed sacrifice for her freedom and waited until Rama himself came back for her. What followed this was sacrifice by Rama in pursuit of Sitas freedom. He had sacrificed his followers lives as well as his own to save his wife the way dharma intended. While he may have had the temptations to walk away from the war for his wife, he followed through to the very end even when he was unsure of his wife’s purity.
Loyalty and friendships benefit in the end where the characters ban together during this battle helping each other succeed and initiating the main concept of fulfilling one’s duty to themselves through dharma. This relays the message of how valuable relationships are when going through these personal battles and self-discovery through their sacrifice to find themselves. Valmiki, the person who wrote this poem, originally found himself to be a thief who was redeemed later in life thanks to the help of Narada. Narada helped guide Valmiki and initially this gave him his name. This situation could further confirm that a possible meaning behind this work could be the power of self-fulfillment throughout the trial’s life brings that end up guiding a person especially with the help of others. Without the company of others, reaching your goal through sacrifice would be less impactful on situation and more impactful on just the self.
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