The Ramayana, The Bhagavad-Gita

1.   In the context of the epic tale, Rama is perfect because he follows the “dharma’ or moral duty, which is strictly defined by a complete set of social laws that are dependent in his socioeconomic position within the society, as well as, his gender and marital status.  Although persuaded by different beloved ones through his dethroning, he still pursued his required moral responsibilities as the prince and husband.  In contrast, his mother, Kausaya did not wanted to follow her “dharma’, which was to serve her husband.  Instead, she wanted to leave with Rama to the forest, but after Rama reminded her of the required duties as a wife, she regained her sense of duty.  Despite that Rama was more faithful to his “dharma’ in this situation, you can see that his perfection was a work in progress through the abduction of Sita.  Rama’s grief was blinding him to the point that he wanted to die, and his brother persuaded and convinced him to do the right thing, which was to keep searching for his wife.  Also, even though he was a god reincarnated, he did not knew this fact until the end, when the other gods told him so.  For the Hindu religion, Rama is a hero because he conducted himself in the proper ways according to his social duty, disregarding his feelings, and at the end, he was honored for it.  Therefore, Ramayana is an epic tale that is an inspiration in the Hindu religion, as well as, a justification of why morality should be defined by social stratification.  In my opinion, I found Rama less interesting that other heroes, because this religion reminds me of Kant’s moral philosophy, in which actions are only considered good if they are done only for the sense of duty, obeying the moral law, not feelings attached.  A common problem encountered by doing this, are situations where you have to choose between two moral duties, or a social duty and a moral duty, at the same time.  For example, if the king knocks at a person’s door with the intentions of killing his son, is it his moral duty to not lie to the king or to save his son?  Which moral duty should precede the other one and who decides?

2.   This is exactly Arjuna’s dilemma, which was a conflict between his social duty as a warrior, of killing his family in a war, and his moral duty of not killing them.  Krishna explains to Arjuna that his actions should be based on his sense of duty, and not in the moral duty that affect his feelings.  It is only this way that he can save his soul.  Arjuna at the end, accepted Krishna’s philosophy.  The difference between Arjuna and Achilles is that the last one rejected his duty as a warrior.  Aquile’s motivation to fight was not based on his sense of duty, but in the honor he could get, for pride.  Later a sense of morality changed his mind, due to his feeling for the loss of his friend.  Still, he fought to avenge his friend, and not because it was his duty as a warrior.  In other religions, you can see this predicament.  In the Hebrew bible, Abraham was ordered to offered his son in sacrifice, to test his faith.  However, God himself stopped him.

2 thoughts on “The Ramayana, The Bhagavad-Gita

  1. sdpost

    I agree with your answers for number two, the motivations for these two warriors to either battle or not battle were totally different.

  2. sehoyos

    I found it interesting that you coincided Rama’s actions to the philosophy of Kant. Reading the Introduction, I got a sense that the culture upholding dharma, or sacred duty, was very similar to that of deontology. I actually thought it was a refreshing change after Greek literature, whose characters make decisions charged with emotion and filled with personal desires. Even though Rama makes decisions out of a sense of duty, it serves as rational framework.

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