- Every epic work defines heroism differently, and many heroes are great of stature without being moral paragons. As the headnote to the Ramayana points out, Rama is a virtually perfect man. Do you find him less interesting than other heroes on that account? What indications are there in this portion of the text that his perfection may not be totally innate, but a state of being that he must work to achieve? How would this mirror the efforts we see his mother, Kausalya, make to discipline her feelings? How would that be consistent with the Hindu religious beliefs that imbue this work?
I would say that at first, Rama seemed to be a bland character, because he was a heroic figure “without fault’. However, I think that throughout the story there are instances where one can catch a glimpse of his human struggles. Upon his victory over Ravana, he questions SÃ®tas chastity and faithfulness to him by harshly stating, “Your conduct is open to suspicion, hence even your sight is displeasing to me. Your body was touched by Ravana: how then can I, claiming to belong to a noble family, accept you?’ (pg. 757) I think this passage shows his inner turmoil on trying to achieve and be that symbol of perfectionism. He loves Sita and went on a long and arduous quest to find her, and reaching his goal, questions her faithfulness and loses his trust in her. Kausalya, additionally, has a difficult time as well. Her actions compared to Hindu religion may be seen as somewhat unacceptable because she should respect and honor her husbands decision.
- In The Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna speaks to Arjuna, a warrior afraid to fight: compare Arjuna’s dilemma with that of Achilles in the Iliad, or that of Medea as she struggles with her maternal emotions when she is about to kill her sons by Jason. Compare the code of behavior Krishna outlines to the view of violence in Homer’s poem or Euripides’ Medea. If appropriate, look for materials in other belief systems that reflect on these questions: consider “[The First Murder]’ (Genesis 4), the Beatitudes (Mathew 5), or “The Offering of Isaac,’ or the table (Sura 5 of the Koran).
The Bhagavad-Gita interestingly enough reminded me of Job. Krishna is there not necessarily questioning him, but trying to persuade him otherwise and dissuade his conscience, similarly to that of Jobs three friends who keep questioning him about his faith in God… Anyway, back to the question, I would say that I think Arjuna isn’t really scared to fight, it seems that he is more torn between familial code, and the warrior code. In comparison to Achilles struggles, Achilles refuses to fight because of his pride, however I would say his familial code overrides this struggle when his good friend is slain, if this didn’t happen he may have never have fought. In comparison, Arjuna is struggling to fight because he thinks it isn’t right for brother to go against brother. In line 31 he states, “I see omens of chaos, Krishna; I see no good in killing my kinsmen in battle.’ However, Krishna was able to persuade him otherwise.
In the story of the Offering of Isaac, I think that Abraham was faced with a hard choice. His familial calling I think would be to spare his son, however he had complete trust is God and followed his orders, I guess that could be seen as the warrior code.
I think this picture really captures Abrahams turmoil, yet his resolve to do Gods will.
I felt the same about Rama, at first he seemed so one dimensional. When he easily accepts his exile without so much as a question as to what Keikya even did to earn these boons I was hardly impressed. But when Rama looses Sita and goes into a rage it really showed a human side to Rama that made him more interesting. By the end when Rama is able to honor Vibhshna’s request to perform burial rights on Ravana I found it rather heroic actually. Rama was able to keep the composure that Achilles was not, even after all the turmoil and suffering that Ravan put Rama through.