- 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?
In a way, I do find Rama less interesting than other heroes that we have read about. He is labeled as the “perfect man.’ Throughout this story, there wasn’t anything that he did that stood out to me as a hardship. Other characters we have read about have worked their way through some type of hardship and came out of it gaining something, whether it being a good or bad thing. Rama was determined to go to Heaven and was already right there. His mother, Kausalya, was very distraught when it was time for Rama to leave. She pleaded for him not to go. She finally came to terms with what was happening and listened to Rama when he said he couldn’t disobey his father. Just like the Hindu religious beliefs, Rama stayed true to himself and continued to do what was best.
- 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).
In the Iliad, Achilles, decides to fight because he is simply out for revenge. Arjuna isn’t very thrilled about fighting against his family and friends, but comes to terms with it because he thinks it is what is best for the “purpose of life.’ Arjuna is fighting to be better in life, unlike Achilles who only fought to have his name remembered!
The code of behavior is acode set for doing the right thing in order to get a better hand at being closer to God. Arjuna takes to this because he thinks it is what is right for him at the end of his time.