Category Archives: Week 6

The Right Choice

  1. Rama accepts the hardships with which he is confronted, because he is devoted to dharma and believes that “prosperity and pleasure surely follow dharma’(731). He believes that his live can only be bettered by following his dharma. I think Rama is just as interesting as any other hero. I find it intriguing that he can whole heartedly and blindly follow dharma. I think this faith reveals an intricate character.

Rama seems to fall from perfection when Sita is kidnapped. Instead of trusting in dharma, he is stricken with grief and doubts the choice that he has made in leaving Sita alone as he did. He does not trust that this is the will of his god, or the path of dharma. It seems that the only way Rama can truly trust in dharma is if he distances himself from all emotion. In this way he is able to see past his own emotion to the will of god. This way of thinking fits with the Hindu practice of emptying the mind.

In the story we see how Kaikeya becomes ruled by her emotions and therefor sends Rama to the forest. She shows her lack of trust in dharma by attempting to put her favorite son on Rama’s throne. Although she attempts to use the boons for her own gain, in the end her actions were guided by the will of god.

  1. In the tale of Medea, Medea is caught in a struggle between what she considers to be her duty, and what she believes to be necessary. As a mother, she feels a responsibility for the welfare of her children. As a scorned wife she feels that her life is not worth continuing to live unless revenge is achieved.

Arjuna despairs because he faces an impossible choice: to kill his own relatives, or to abandon the fight entirely, therefor shirking his duty as a soldier. I believe that although “choice’ is an important theme in both of these stories, the motivations behind the heroes’ choices are vastly different. Media wishes to revenge herself. Her actions are totally self-seeking and self-promoting. Arjuna does not seem to be self-seeking. He does not seek revenge, but instead tries to discern how to harm none while retaining his honor.

This same struggle is mirrored in the story of Abraham. After being chosen by a God who has led Abraham in safety and promised him a good future, this same God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son. Abraham must now choose where his loyalties lie: with his son, who is his only earthly hope at decedents, or with God, who has power over the earth, Abraham’s life, and certainly over the life and death of Isaac. In this story Abraham is challenged to decide what holds ultimate importance, his own vision of life, or the vision of life held by God.

The Ramayana; The Bhagavad-Gita

Discussion Questions 6 — The Ramayana; The Bhagavad-Gita

1. 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 don’t feel as if his journey for perfection and to uphold his beliefs in peace and being aware of ones self all of the time was in any shape or form to describe, “boring.” In fact, it was almost like I wanted to continue reading thinking, “There is no way he is going to be this perfect the whole time…something has to happen.” We entered the story when Rama was 25, had given his throne up to keep his father’s honor and the relationship he has with everyone around him.

We see that finally he his human and he has the ability to act out of his normal character when his wife is taken. Rama picks up his weapons and starts to act like how you think, Achilles would act when he was hurt. But Rama’s brother, Lasmana was like the little angel on Rama’s shoulder telling him to calm down and remember who he was and that violence won’t solve anything. He remembers to “take the road less traveled”.

After his actions get him fourteen years of exile to the forest, before leaving, Rama’s mother, Kausalya begs him not to go and tries to persuade her son to stay and tells him he is breaking the code of Dharma. “If, as you say, you are devoted to dharma, then it is your duty to stay here and serve me, your mother,’ (731). But he justifies that his exile will bring many great things and in fact, is not breaking Dharma. He takes his exile very calmly and peacefully with no more retaliation.


2. 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 Koran, Sura 5, it says, “Believers, be true to your obligations”. Which could really be taken differently depending on one’s culture or own separate journey. For example, for Achilles, he was a warrior, a very great one and that was what people knew him as. He was expected to live up to the Warrior Code, that was his obligation, so anything less would be frowned upon. He was part god, and so people feared his strength. His obligation was to protect his people but he also had a human characteristic of pride. He was always getting his pride hurt and acted out upon these things.

Medea’s obligation was a self-righteous one as well. She had so many flaws, maternally especially, that in order to fulfill her obligations she felt she needed to kill the children she had with Jason, who married someone else. She had no single code other than her own, but from her point of view, she was true to her obligations.

This is why I see almost no comparison for Arjuna. Arjuna was torn between being a warrior and listening to his heart. He wanted to serve but he wanted to follow his beliefs. Arjuna just wants to live up to Dharma but when he is looking at his kinsmen lined up for battle on both sides, he sees no good could come of this. Krishna had to come to show Arjuna the light, because he was in such a battle with himself.

The only thing I could see trying to tie them all together is the battle they had within themselves. Medea fought with herself upon the death of her children. Just like Arjuna in fighting and trying to serve Dharma and Achilles trying to avenge the death of his friend, maintain his pride and look at the weeping tears of a father.

Rama & Arjuna


1. One distinct difference in other hero’s stories is the presence of a coming of age or great transformation through learning and life experience. Rama is already 25, when his story begins and may be viewed as less dynamic, but in no way shows a less fascinating hero. Rama has already been tempered through his development and makes decisions based upon the Hindu beliefs of self discipline and compassion, which helps them to achieve a higher moral plane and honor through commitment. At one point in “The Ramayana,” Rama loses his self control and lets his emotions run wild. Rama is at the point of a breakdown, from the loss of his wife, Sita, at the hands of Ravana and has seemed to have lost hope. This anguish seems to be his one weakness, similar to that of his mother, Kausalya, who believes she will surely perish at the loss of her son. She had stated that she would follow him and abandon her husband, but in his belief that this was unrighteous, Rama instructs her to stay and she tempers herself to do so. Rama must take his own advice and work to achieve his enlightened state, once again, gaining his self control. Once directed by the nature that surround him (animals as a collective), he is given hope, but is determined to wreak havoc and spread hate upon the demon, which has taken Sita. Rama’s alter ego, Laksmana, who is normally the aggressive and pragmatic character, actually has to advise and calm Rama and save him again from his wild emotions. These trials act as lectures to the temperament of all men and how one should conduct themselves. The ability to set aside ones emotions, such as Rama and Kausalya have done in this text, is examplirary to the compassion for other and truth of self, gained through temperment and understanding.


2.  Arjuna is a noble man, who is chosen to represent a dilemma that mankind faces in every day battles as well as the tough decisions one must make in their lifetime. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Arjuna sees no apparent point in the battling between kinsmen and asks of the point to Krishna. It enfolds as a duty, which must be fulfilled as it is Arjuna’s role in this life as a warrior to do so or face shame. The action faced in war, such as killing, is not reflected as a true sin, as it is not something that is sought or desired, but is simply a necessity to serve purpose. Achilles also serves his purpose as a warrior and lives without regret for the killing other men. He is simply fulfilling his duty and lives by a code of honor that does not deem killing in the name of one’s duty as action requiring repentance. The portion of the code outlined by Krishna, basically summarizes that actions are necessary, but the intent is what determines the effect on a persons’s soul and brings the weight of sin. Krishna states, “Look to your own duty,k do not tremble before it; nothing is better for a warrior than a battle of sacred duty. The doors of heaven open for warriors who rejoice to have a battle like this thrust on them by chance. If you fail to wage this war of sacred duty, you will abandon your own duty and fame only to gain evil. People will tell of your undying shame, and for a man of honor shame is  worse than death.” This code is very similar to that faced by Achilles, in his time and place as a warrior who serves man gods. To not serve these gods would bring great pain in the form of retribution, on behalf of angry gods. Honor is something gained in action and to be idle, as Achilles plays for a span, brings discredit to his purpose.

A few passages from the Koran, in Sura 5, The Table, provide some similar instruction on what is right or wrong and how the soul will be affected. The very beginning of the Sura states, “Believers, be true to your obligations.” In this one could determine that an obligation is also translated as a duty and with that, actions. The Sura also states “He that is constrained by hunger to eat of what is forbidden, not intending to commit sin, will find God forgiving and merciful.” Once again agreeing with Krishna’s instruction that it is not the action, but the intent or desire, which bears the importance.

DQ 6

Rama’s perfections are the ideas for perfection of ancient Indian society and his imperfections are also the imperfections of that society. This is similar to Achilles behavior in the Iliad for Achilles was a representation of the perfect warrior in Achaean society. Giving a hero this type of perfection gives them a inability to make mistakes. Instead in these stories the supporting characters tend to make the errors that push the plot along. In the Ramayana its Sita sending Laksmana off to go and check on Rama as he kills the deer that Sita wanted. Or Jatayu dying as he failed to prevent Ravana from taking kidnapping Sita. These errors give these characters a more human perspective and makes them far more interesting than the ideal that Rama sets. What really makes that human aspect show is how these characters rise against their weaknesses and become better human beings. Rama’s mother Kausalya is a good representation of this when she deals with Rama leaving. Kausalya at first has a lot of trouble dealing with this for she expected her son to be a king and instead he’s now being exiled. She says she’s going with him, then that she’ll die if he leaves, finally after she talks with her son for a while she accepts that he is going to leave but still has her doubts. This shows far more of a human reaction to being exiled to a forest for fourteen years.

When Arjuna faces his kinsmen and can’t kill them he is consoled through Krishna. Krishna tells him that these men will be reborn in the cycle of life and that action, discipline, and his god will guide him on the right path. This attempt to cope with killing people is a huge contrast to the greek literature that we have read in this class. The Greeks deal with death as it faces them, like how Hector dealt with facing Achilles, and the death of their loved ones. With the grief processes that follows that no matter how that grief is processed similar to how Achilles dealt with Patroclus death. When it comes to killing the Greeks have an acceptance to it that is never really addressed. Even Medea who kills her own children is never shown trying to process that and instead simply accepts it as an inevitable result of Jason leaving her. Processing killing like this is a sign of both a narcissist and a sociopath. While Arjuna’s difficulties and how he deals with them is the sign of a person who cares for others beyond himself and is trying to make the best out of a poor situation.

The Ramayana and the Bhagavad-Gita

Rama and Sita

1. The fact that Rama is very nearly perfect doesn’t make him less interesting than the other heros we’ve read about. In fact, I think it makes him a little more interesting. While the other heros were succumbing to pride or anger, Rama is a great guy just trying to get to Heaven. He lives and breathes dharma by not getting upset and calmly accepting what’s happening around him. You’re almost waiting for him to screw up and get carried away by anger, and it actually almost happens when his wife Sita is kidnapped. Having the human factor of justifiable anger was a good touch, and his brother stepped in to calm him down before he could carry out his anger. This mirrors the scene when Rama’s mother, Kausalya, gets upset that Rama is leaving for his 14 year exile. She gets upset and tries to talk him out of it while he calmly lists off the reasons he must go. She pulls herself together, just as Rama did when Laksmana talked him out of his anger, and accepts the exile. These examples illustrate the Hindu belief in dharma (following the path to heaven) and kharma (the consequences of actions that keep a soul on earth). Rama was following dharma when Kaikeyi sharply ordered him to exile – after all, his father owed this wife two boons, and Rama was essentially following his father’s orders.


2. I have to admit, I didn’t really like Achilles. Arjun’s struggle wasn’t really anything like that of Achilles’; Arjun is struggling against the conventional teachings of his life. Killing kinsmen was not something to be done, lest you invite kharma and you suffer in the next life. Arjun is worried about doing the right thing for his soul, whereas Achilles was only wounded by pride and refused to do the right thing for his army by coming back to fight. In Greek times, violence was all around and it was commonplace for a man to be  suddenly called up to fight a war. Krishna, on the other hand, preached about overcoming anger and jealousy to become a better person, as well as respecting and loving all things. Somewhat different than the Greeks with their fight, fight, fight mentality. Sura 5 of the Koran reiterates the  Hindu values of dharma  by stating that “be true to your obligations” and “do not violate the rites of God” – basically, “you will get into Heaven by following the rules”.

Discussion 6- The Ramayana; The Bhagavad-Gita

Discussion 6-   The Ramayana; The Bhagavad-Gita


Rama is presented in The Ramayana as the embodiment of a perfect man. He lived his live with a strict adherence to dharma. He gave up the throne to save his father’s honor. Rama was always a loving and dutiful son, brother, and husband. I do not believe that his following a code of honor and being a righteous man in way made him less interesting as a hero. Rama still possessed humanly emotions and did great deeds.

Rama did have to work on his perfection; he had to overcome his emotions. We can see this when Rama picks up his weapons and wants to act out in anger for the abduction of Sita. But, he overcomes this with a reminder from his brother Lasmana that Rama should not act out of his nature because he is hurt and angry.

Rama’s mother is very distraught and begs her son not to leave. She wants him to stay and fight for his throne. Rama tells her that he must obey his father and that it would be wrong to raise arms against his brother.   When Rama reminds Kausalya of her duties to his father, Kausalya agrees to stay and do her duty. Kausalya has to overcome her emotions and adhere to dharma.

The Hindu’s believe that a person should life their live in a dutiful manner no matter who they are or where they come from. Rama’s actions in life hold true to this belief. He strove to do the right thing in every situation regardless of the trials and hardship he had to endure. Rama worked to control his emotions and overcome actions based upon them.


Arjuna’s does not want to fight against his family and friends. He believes this is wrong and will bring about the destruction of them all. He ends up fighting because he believes in dharma and the purpose of this life is to better his soul. Achilles at first refuses to fight because his pride his hurt and when he does decide to fight it is because he wants revenge for the death of his friend. Both are aware that death awaits them but Arjuna’s death is for spiritual gain while Achilles of for legendary fame.

The code of behavior in the The Bhagavad-Gita is a code based upon doing the right thing in order to become more spiritually whole. Everything they do is based up on the concept of dharma. In the Iliad the code is based more upon the honor they achieve here in earth. It is also filled with many actions fueled by revenge.

The Ramayana & The Bhagavad-Gita

The Ramayana

In all of the epics we have read so far it seems that for each of the hero’s stories they were all referred to as the perfect hero within their own ways. Therefore I don’t find Rama any less interesting than any of the other hero’s, because he still has his own challenges and journeys to overtake just like the others.  In order for Rama to be considered ‘The Perfect Man’ he must meet honoring the act of Dharma. Rama’s mother tried to persuade Rama into staying by telling him that if he leaves he will be breaking the act of Dharma. She informed him that to be devoted to Dharma he must stay. Kausalya was struggling to discipline her feelings and would say what she could to get her son to stay. But Rama was able to talk to her influence her into the right and honorable way to follow and act in Dharma. Rama’s heroic acts show in his attitude and actions. He accepts his exile with a calm spirit; he treats his enemies with kindness and grace and faces challenges with courage. In the act of these things he is respected strongly for valuing and acting in a honorable way of Dharma.

 The Bhagavad-Gita

Arjuna was afraid to fight because he saw no righteousness from it. Krishna informs Arjuna that it is sinful not to act. She encourages him to act as a person who acts in a disciplined way such as a yogi, so that others will follow in his lead. Krishna ensures that if Arjuna acts his soul will be liberated from birth and death. Arjuna’s experience is much different from Acchiles in the Iliad. Arjuna’s wanted to withdraw from the war because he is trying to prevent Karma from entering his life, when Krishna informs him otherwise. Acchile’s withdraws from the war due to his own anger and selfishness. They both hold a certain amount of selfishness but Acchiles mostly out of anger; While Arjuna is trying to honor the act of Dharma. The story of Arjuna is a bit similar to The Offering of Isaac. Isaac was to offer his son for a sacrifice to God he was willing to do so out of righteousness. This too is found in Arjunas tale he wished to not fight in the war for it did not seem right while Krishna came to him and showed him the way. As did God to Isaac, God did not let Isaac kill his Son he was just seeing if Isaac would obey him and had faith in him.

Living Life By Dharma


Discussion Question 1RamayanIn each epic we have read thus far I have come to realize that even though each person that is named as the hero is different, it doesn’t mean that they are any less of a hero. Also, in each epic it seems as though every one of these heroes was described as the perfect man. Saying Rama is the perfect man doesn’t necessarily make him any less interesting, quite the contrary; it can make him just as interesting as the other heroes. While it says that he is the perfect man there are indications that he is only a perfect man by working to achieve that status. Compared to the other heroes Rama has a different sense of being and way of living. He lives by a totally different set of codes compared to the warriors and other people we have read about. Rama’s point of being on Earth is to follow the way of dharma, which is the religious and moral law and code of righteousness that will allow him to be accepted into Heaven. This sort of belief is reminiscent of Job working to do God’s will, Rama’s beliefs are just in a different place. One good example of Rama working to be a hero is right in the beginning of the story. When Rama is told that he must go into the forest and people object about this exile the story goes “Rama, devoted as he was to dharma, spoke: ‘Among our ancestors were renowned kings who earned fame and heaven by doing their father’s bidding. Mother, I am but following their noble example,’’ (731). While the odds are great that he would rather not live as a hermit in the forest for 14 years he accepted this exile as his duty because of intensely he follows dharma as his ancestors have for many years. He is working to earn his way into Heaven. He is the perfect man because of this work that he is doing to be accepted to Heaven, because it is the righteous thing to do.


The answer to the question about Kausalya mirroring her son’s efforts to discipline her feelings can clearly be seen in the same situation where the quote above comes from. In the beginning after hearing of her son’s fate she tries to guilt him into staying by saying “If, as you say, you are devoted to dharma, then it is your duty to stay here and serve me, your mother,’ (731). Then after listening to her son speak she eventually concedes and says “I shall eagerly await your return to Ayodhya, after your fourteen years in the forest,’ (732). By disciplining her feelings as her son has, by accepting his fate to go into the forest for those fourteen years to stay in the path of dharma, she also stays in the path of dharma by respecting her son’s wish and just waiting for him to return.  The Hindu religion basically revolves around the belief of dharma. By following this religious and moral law or code of righteousness, one can be accepted into Heaven for they have done God’s will and lived a righteous life by following orders and living life to the fullest.


Dharma and Life

ramayana21. Heroes come in many shapes, sizes, and economic backgrounds with Rama being no exception. Rama is described in the head note as being the perfect man, in other words that he follows ‘dharma’ the code of righteousness and the moral law. I found that this makes him just as interesting as other heroes because like so many others he has a set code which he lives by. This code or the claim that he is perfect does not exclude him from having emotions, thoughts of despair, love, and honor even in the face of adversity. What this claim does is set up a guide of how a man should be like Rama, to be able to put oneself above petty emotions and only seek the betterment of society as a whole (forego your ego), and act out of honor.

Rama’s perfection is not innate or completely intrinsic. In Aranya 65-66, Laksmana reminds Rama that his nature cannot desert him and say “pray, do not go against your nature’, when Rama wants to pick up his weapons and act out of anger at the despair of loosing Sita. Laksmana beseeches Rama to regain his composure, even though it is natural for grief to hide wisdom, he reminds Rama of the type of man he truly is. The anguish Rama goes through at the loss of Sita gives the reader a way to connect to the hero, to have empathy with the God Visnu in his human form as Rama. It shows the reader that if a god can have such conflicts it is okay for a mere human to also have doubts as long as the person is able to find the balance of dharma, rein in emotions and act out of righteousness. Rama’s mother, Kausalya, is also affected by emotion and wants to stay with her son in Ayodhya 24-25. In this case it is Rama who reminds her of dharma and her responsibilities as a woman and wife. Just like Rama she accepts her situation and does what is right and holds to honor.


The Hindu beliefs are strong in the Ramayana. Each aspect of man and woman are represented in their higher forms. The form each believer is to achieve and work toward through reincarnation. Every character is seen to let ego rule if only for a short while. Sita is overwhelmed with desire for the deer, Laksmana wants to overthrow his father’s will about the hermitage of Rama, Surpankakha the demoness and her brother Ravana are consumed by lust and act out such desires, it is as if all passions are found in the tale. For every passion represented there is a response that enlightens the reader to the honorable path. For the Hindu the Ramayana is like a self help book, showing the way to higher reincarnation and truths. Every human faces trials and this inspires Hindus to seek dharma in all circumstances.


  1. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Arjuna is a warrior who does not want to battle his kin and believes he will lose honor if he chooses to fight. Arjuna is sick with pity at the sight of kinsmen gathered for war; he sees no good in killing others. He thinks evil will haunt him if they are to draw bows against each other and the families will be of destruction, overwhelmed with chaos bringing about the annihilation of order. In Madea, she sees herself as the more kindly of deaths for her children. She sees them as already being chosen for death, and finds the task both fearful but a necessary evil. (verse 1210-1220) Madea chooses to arm her heart in steel, and do the unthinkable because she sees no other way. The children were the ones to present the poisoned gifts to the new wife of Jason which condemned then to death, even though they were innocent, not aware of the murder they would bring about. Madea struggles with the love of her children (verse 1045) and what she must do, just as Arjuna struggles with the choice he must make.


Arjuna in the third teaching asks Krishna if he thinks understanding is more powerful than action why does he still urge Arjuna to fight. Krishna states that a man cannot escape action by not acting. Action should be performed as sacrifice. It is sinful not to act, because each person has a part to play and a standard to set. Act with dharma, for nothing is obtained without action. Krishna tells Arjuna to be a man of discipline (a yogi) for others to follow. This code toward violence is different than in Madea or the Iliad. Here the idea is to follow your path toward enlightenment and lead others on their path as each is reincarnated, infinite and undying of soul. In the other works they worked toward honor of self or revenge; not toward a higher purpose – the betterment of the soul. For one’s soul to learn it must experience all passions in life (lives) to reach the highest level, this includes violence. Krishna taught Arjuna if he acted out of righteousness then there was no evil being done. Sometimes bad things happen to bring about the good and shine light on the path of wisdom and truth. The idea of honor and doing acts you question are found in many tales, folklore, and religious text; in most cases it is a test of the character’s moral code and willingness to put aside their own desires for what is asked of them. Not all heroes are up to this challenge for honor, righteousness, and discipline take many sacrifices to achieve.