The Pursuit of Dharma

Rama’s perfect character is not a slight to his appeal in the least; instead he identifies a hero in a different light. So far we’ve looked at heroes and epics, and each hero was only human, even if they were half-gods. But Rama’s undeniable and daunting nobility and honor in all circumstances is admirable, because it shows us another kind of hero. When he is banished by the hesitant orders of Dasaratha on orders of blackmail from Queen Kaikeyı, he does so with no sorrow. Rama is a perfect example of the Indian belief of Dharma, the sacred law of the cosmos and the social order. In India, everyone in theory should strive to reach their own individual dharma, and Arjuna faced the beginning of this process as he weighed the pros and cons of battling against his kinsmen. On one hand, like Gilgamesh and Achilles, he wanted to be a warrior and kill the people he was fighting against with no mercy. But on the other hand, he couldn’t because they were his family and neighbors and kinsmen. When he refused, he exposed a trifle of the concept of dharma. Rama is simply acting consistent to the Hindu religious beliefs of good character and self control, and he does so by being righteous like his mother in her self-control.

 

Fear is not a trait that is contrasting to a heroes journey; in fact it is the opposite. Homer, a true hero, still circled the walls of Troy several times before he knew running away from Achilles would not solve anything. Standing up to his fear, he fought Achilles bravely. And Medea broke the social order as she fought her maternal instincts and killed her children to get back at her husband. It is a common theme that being righteous and noble and fair will get you into heaven, or nirvana, or enable you to live a life following dharma. Rama does this well, although in the process he still has to live in a forest for 14 years and his wife gets kidnapped. However, none of these actions are his fault, meaning he has been acting righteously all along. Fear is an important concept to the heroes journey, I have a feeling it will be developed even more in our discussions. After all, in Indian belief, it’s all about the individual finding their own dharma and acting accordingly to it, but before that can happen they must face their fears and find their way through it.

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