Hindu Heroes and Morality

1.

Rama is considered a virtually perfect man but that word “virtually” is what keeps him from being a less interesting character. The points where he falls short and must struggle internally to retain his near-perfect moral composure are the most interesting, especially since much of it is in the subtext. His reaction to being exiled is an example of that. Though he retains his composure on the surface, the text and his brothers response to him heavily implies that retaining that careful composure is a great effort for him. The restraint of the text in not directly stating this turmoil is a parallel for his own hidden dilemma, and also a parallel for the Hindu value of human actions matching decency, despite any internal conflicts. I wish that more contemporary literature had such subtlety.

 

2.

In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna seems like a god with a more solid moral high-ground than any of the gods portrayed in the Iliad. In comparison to the internal dilemma that Arjuna undertakes with a wise supernatural figure to advise and challenge him, Achilles seems like a petulant child. Arjuna is weighing the lives and well-being of virtually all of the humans he could possibly effect, while Achilles is weighing his own Honor against his own Glory. And while his Honor and Glory do incidentally effect the people around him, his awareness of that is filtered through his own quest for personal achievements. Arjuna’s quest for success is directly dependent on the good his actions do others. Violence in the Bhagavad-Gita is a force that must be considered for it’s overall effect on the world and whether it’s a positive or negative force. Violence in the Iliad is a means to an end – Honor and Glory for the individual using it.

1 thought on “Hindu Heroes and Morality

  1. sxkristoffersen

    I agree. It seemed like a lot of his internal dialogue was less obvious and although he appeared prefix his inner workings held his composure to seem balanced. Violence for the greater good, of who I wonder. To opposing views are often fighting for the greater good of their side. Some of these old epics don’t have the stereotypical “evil” villain, so who then would deserve to be killed?

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