From Mahabharata to Ramayana, I have to admit, I am now addicted to anything Indian. In our literature class in high school, we already tackled the story Rama and Sita, but after a long time, I’ve forgotten about it already.
Two years ago, we went to Bali and watched 2 plays related to it, one is a normal stage musical play and the other one was Kecak dance. From then, I got interested once again, but I didn’t do anything about it until after I have read a version of Mahabharata. Then, I decided to buy a book and try to re-learn the story I’ve already extinguished from my limited memory.
In highschool, I read it just because we were required to do so, now, I wanted to read it because I thirst to learn some life lessons and this story didn’t disappoint me.
In summary, it’s about the journey of Ram, who was supposed to be King of Ayodhya, but unfortunately accepted his fate of being exiled to the forest with his brother, Lakshman; to how he tried to save his wife, Sita, with the help of Hanuman and many others, from the hands of Ravana, after he took her by force; and the reunion of Ram, Sita and the Kingdom of Ayodhya.
The ending was kind of sad because, Ram, due to his personality of upholding to cultural and societal rules, he decided to separate himself from Sita again after saving her from Ravana. People of the kingdom were gossiping about Sita and how impure she is because she already stayed with Ravana for a long time, hence, unfit to be a queen.
Ram sent her away, back to the forest once again while she was pregnant. She accepted her fate without complaining. She loved the forest anyway, because there, everything has value, everything is equal. Ram didn’t take another wife which still proved his unending love for Sita. They both believed that they can still love each other despite not being together physically. Sita proved her purity to Ram and to the community by letting the land take her in.
While Lakshman, despite being Ram’s closest brother, was beheaded because he broke his own rule of -“he will behead anyone who disturbs Ram’s meditation”- after the death of Sita. He was forced to open the door because of an apparition and due to this, Ram asked him to follow what he promised to do and uphold the family’s reputation.
Well, it was said that Ram was reincarnated as Krishna and Sita as Radha of Mahabharata, but they will once again be separated.
My favourite characters were:
Sita – because she is an example of an empowered woman who can take whatever shit the world throws upon her. She is resilient. She can live with or without a man. She is strong and smart but still very womanly. She’s knows what is important in life. She’s simple and she’s someone I aspire to be like.
Hanuman- because he is very powerful and yet his humility is unending. He can defeat Ravana by himself, but he didn’t do it because Ram didn’t instruct him to and he claimed that that event is not his story, it’s Ram’s. He wrote Ram and Sita’s story better than Valmiki, but he tore his own poem away when Valmiki told him that “if people read Hanuman’s version, nobody will read his version already.” He’s selfless, pure, and he loves unconditionally. He’s someone I aspire to be like.
My favourite life lessons were:
“Humans are special. We have a mind that can imagine. With imagination we can, without moving, travel through space and time, conjure up situations that do not exist in reality. It is what separates humanity from the rest of nature….We both see the world differently, not because we have different bodies, but because we have different minds. You see the world from one point of view and I see the world another point of view. But our minds can expand. I can see the world from your point of view and you can see it from mine.Some, like Vibhandaka and Rishyashringa, instead of expanding the mind, use it to control nature though tapasya and yagna. They do not accept the world as it is. Why? Enquire into the human mind, Janaka, and you will better understand the flesh and the world around this flesh. That is veda, wisdom” pg 17-18
“Animals fight to defend their bodies. Humans curse to defend their imagination of themselves. This imagined notion of who we are, and how others are supposed to see us, is called aham. Aham constantly seeks validation from the external world. When that is not forthcoming it becomes insecure. Aham makes humans accumulate things; through things we hope people will look upon us as we imagine ourselves. That is why Janaka, people display their wealth and their knowledge and their power. Aham yearns to be seen.” – pg 19
“But Human fear is unique: fuelled by imagination, it seeks value and meaning. Do I matter? what makes me matter?” – pg 19-20
“Animals compete for mates and fights over territory. Humans do not have to. Rules ensure this. Animals do not eat more than they have to. But humans do. Rules prevents this.”-pg 25
“The ruler was the shaft and the rules were the string. Too loose, the bow was useless, too tight, and the bow would break.” pg 26
“For a king with a mind of a Brahmin, rules are merely functional, they are never right or wrong, and like all actions they have consequences. For him, rules are not tools of power to dominate and control. For him rules are merely instruments of society that enable even the weakest to have what is otherwise cornered by the strongest.” -pg 34
“Both are your devotees but whom do you prefer: Ravana or Kubera? Shakti asked Shiva. ‘Neither is really different from the other. Ravana Grabs while Kubera hoards. Both believe their identity stems from their property. That is why they value things rather than thoughts. That is why they refuse to expand their minds, even though both are sons of Brahmin,’ Shiva said.” – pg 50
“A society that does not make a room for imperfection can never be a happy society.” – pg 57
“They knew that there is wisdom in letting go and moving on.” – pg 60
“Expand you mind and understand that the pain comes from your assumptions and expectations. Choose love over hate, by accepting the fears and fragilities of humanity that leads to situations like these.” pg 86
“Ram bowed before the Sage and said ‘You crave for the king’s life that you see me being denied. You see me as a victim, stripped of a wonderful life that should be mine. You see me as a fool for submitting to the will of my father, and for not lookng at my life the way you do. Ypu feel all that I value is false and all that you value is true. But what you value and what I value are both imaginary. The difference is you seek to change the way I see things, you want me to subscribe to the way you see things, while I seek to understand why others do not see things the way I do. I don’t see myself as a victim. I don’t crave for the king’s life. I don’t feel living in the forest, bereft of royal comfort and authority, is a tragedy. I see it as an opportunity and wonder why others do not think like me. I want to understand what is so wonderful about a kingdom that Kaikeyi craves for it and what is so terrible about the forest that Kaushalya fears it. Away from society, away from resposibilities, I will finally have opportunity to do tapasya so that when I return I can be better at conducting yagna.” -pg 97
“Events are events. Humans qualify them as good or bad.” -pg 122
“Let the forest and its fears not claim you. Stay true to the idea of dharma. Be the best you can be, in the worst of circumstances, even when no one is watching.” – pg 128
“There is pain only when there is attachment, Yagnavalkya said. She felt pain. She was attached. Was that bad? She yearned for liberation: when would Ram come?”- pg151
“Impatience is the enemy of wisdom; it propels us to jump to conclusions, judge and condemn, rather than understand.” – pg 156
“And he said, because he liberated me by having no expectations of me. And I realized how trapped we are by expectations; those that others have of us and those we have of others. I expected something from Ravana, Ravana expected something from me. I suddenly felt this great urge to be liberated. I wanted to break free from everything. I stopped fighting. I decided I would let the bridge be built, encourage all sea creatures to hel in building the bridge, and risk Ravana’s wrath.”-pg 215
“Those who trust need no proof; those who do not reject all proof.” – pg250
“Most people seek to be the sun which the world revolves. Very few are willing to be the moon, allowing others to be the sun, despite having full knowledge that they can outshine everyone else.” – pg 265
“Ram is dependable, hence God. I am independent, hence Goddess. He needs to do his duty, follow rules, and safeguard reputation. I am under no such obligation. I am free to do as I please; love him when he brings me home, love him when he goes to the forest, love him when I am separated from him, love him when I am rescued by him, love him when he clings to me, love him when he lets me go.” – pg278
“When Sita wept finally, she wept for Ayodhya, the imaged powerlessness that makes people snatch power through gossip….As she walked into the forest, she observed the absence of boundaries. There was nothing to distinguish the crop from the weed. Everything had value. In nature, nothing is pure or polluted. Culture excludes what it does not value. Nature includes all.”- pg 280
“You trap yourself in your own victimhood. Then be like Ravana. Stand upright while you brothers die, your kingdom burns, imagining your own nobility. Who loses, but you? Cultures come and go. Ram and Ravana come and go. Nature continues. I wound rather enjoy nature.”- pg 281
“Being satisfied with life is but an option. You can demand more if you wish. That is also a hallmark of humanity. ” -pg291
“The kingdom is not the king’s property. Besides, property is a human delusion granted by man to man.” – Pg 298
on Sita : “She does not need social structures to give her status. She chooses the earth, where there is no boundaries and rules.”