The Ramayana; The Bhagavad-Gita

1) If we were to compare Rama to someone like Achilles, Rama would probably lose to Achilles as far as appeal and glamour goes. If I had to take a crack at the reason why I think this might be, I would say it is due to the fact that people (at least in the U.S.) have an attraction to the type of person or personality that just does not take much maltreatment from others. Achilles is the equivalent of a “Type-A” personality in The Illiad. He was also selfish and emotional by comparison to Rama. Rama, to be considered perfect, had to essentially live his life as being “devoted to truth,” of dharma, and one who strove to “[earn] fame and heaven” by following the will of his father (730-31). Rama’s unquestioning faith however led him without question or disgust to turn down the crown and live in conditions unworthy of a king in the Dandaka forest for a period of fourteen years. In America, acceptance of this turn of events would not earn someone the prestige of heroics; rather, this might lend someone the title of “pushover.” This is especially true in my opinion because the words itself were not conveyed directly to Rama from his father, but rather from queen Kaikeyi and delivered on her whim. But as the story of Rama goes on, it is clear that his prowess in battle is no less than those of Achilles.

We then see in book 2 that Rama is resistant to the wishes of his mother, Kausalya, for him not to go to the forest and stay with her. Rama states that to do so would be inconsistent with dharma, as “[the] commands of the guru, the king, and one’s aged father, whether uttered in anger, cheerfully, or out of lust, should be obeyed by one who is not of despicable behavior, with a view to the promotion of dharma” (731). Rama further reminds his mother after making this declaration that it is his mothers duty to follow dharma in the only way a woman can, in the caring service of her husband. Therefore, we see that what makes Rama (as well as anyone aspiring to strive to the teachings of dharma and the implied order of Hinduism) perfect in his own right is possession of the wherewithal to remove all personal feelings and gratification in favor of embracing the prevailing greater good and the encompassing social order

2) In The Bhagavad-Gita, Arjuna tells the preserver god Krishna that the fighting which is about to take place on the battlefield is an abomination because all fighting seeks to do is kill another’s kinsmen. This in turn leads to a “disorder in society that undermines the constant laws of caste and family duty” (767). To this lament, Krishna responds that Arjuna’s thoughts emanate from a superficial, or flesh basis. Krishna proclaims that what instead would serve to undermine society is human inaction, whether that be from the warrior in battle or the lowliest of servants, because, “[he] who fails to keep turning the wheel here set in motion wastes his life in sin, addicted to the senses” (773). What Krishna tells Arjuna to fight instead is the enemy of desire in all its human sensory forms. This leads to a level of attained righteousness as well as recourse in following the willful dictate of one’s leaders. This leads man to become “free from sin,” and one who “easily achieves perfect joy in harmony with the infinite spirit” (776).

Achilles in The Illiad differs in his outlook to the teachings of The Bhagavad-Gita, specifically when he plans to leave with his ships and return to his home of Phthia rather than fight. Achilles plans to do so for the perceived slight inflicted upon him by the Greek warlord Agamemnon, because the fight was not worth dying for, and because he wished “to have and to hold” a wife to enjoy life’s riches with (209). By comparison to the Hindu teachings, Achilles as well as Madea demonstrate some very personal and contrary emotions toward the royal or established orders they are a part of. This leads to the conclusion that the will of the leaders appointed above these Greek characters does not represent some preordained justness that is without reproach. This stands in contrast to the caste driven message beholden by Krishna in The Bhagavad-Gita.

One thought on “The Ramayana; The Bhagavad-Gita

  1. emrickrachel

    I did not really think of the caste/lack of caste differences in the heroes’ stories. It’s very evident that Achilles and Medea are driven by their own decisions and emotions rather than the very structured orders that are present in the Hindu culture. However, it is when they turn from their duties that they end up in a less than ideal situation.

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