Friday, March 28, 2014

Written by my guru, mentor and friend Krishna Sharma as a part of his READ RAMAYANA initiative:

History produces two types of heroes: crisis-time heroes and prosperous-time heroes.

Crisis-time heroes emerge at a time of social, economical, moral and spiritual crisis. They flash like lightening against darkness and are easily remembered. Prosperous-time heroes go unnoticed like Sun in the day time. But they are the ones who work hard to prevent the crises from occurring in the first place, by ensuring smooth, harmonious and orderly function of the society.

It is easy to name a number of crisis-time heroes like Gandhi, Jesus, Nelson Mandela, Mohammad, Gorbachev, Nehru, Mao, Buddha, Hitler, Lenin, George Washington, But it is hard to think of the names of prosperous-time heroes, becasue their times are remembered more than their names. There had been many of them, who are responsible for the many long, quiet, harmonious, peaceful and prosperous periods of history. Rama is one such hero and Rama Rajyam is one such period, when people enjoyed the best of the times of peace, harmony and prosperity, without any crisis.

Crisis-time heroes, most of the times, leave a legacy of passions against a demonized past, and for a glorified and imagined future. They leave people with hatred for their own past and dissatisfaction of not able to realize an imagined future.

Prosperous-time heroes illustrate the art and science of keeping a society harmonious and prosperous. They illustrate the tough stands one has to take and personal sacrifices one has to make in order to keep the society strong, stable and prosperous. Crisis-time heroes should be remembered, but prosperous-time heroes are the ones that should be emulated. Crisis-time heroes inspire us to take action in the periods of desperation. But prosperous-time heroes are the one that can tell us how to lead life.

For our good fortune, Indian civilization understood this subtle difference. The stories of Indian civilization are about the prosperous-time heroes and not about the crisis-time heroes. It doesn’t mean they ignored the crisis-time heroes. They embedded the stories of the crisis-time heroes inside the stories of prosperous-time heroes. Rama is the prosperous-time hero. Parasurama is the crisis-time hero. Parasurama’s story is embedded into Rama’s story, not the other way around.

Rama is an illustrious prosperous-time hero. He should not be mistaken to be a simple private individual. He inherited one of the grandest kingdoms of the day, from an illustrious line of rulers of an unparalleled dynasty. He gained the confidence of the people much before he got coronation as crown prince. He is a public person with great social responsibilities on his shoulder. He is fully prepared and mentally invested in discharging that responsibility. The magnanimity and grandeur of Rama’s life can only be understood, when one considers him as an individual struggling to keep up to his social responsibilities, which challenged him to make immense personal sacrifices.

Rama says (in Uttara Kanda slokas 45. 11-15) “Even my love to you (the brothers) and to Sita are secondary, when it comes to meeting the expectations of people in discharging my responsibilities”. His decision to leave the kingdom, to kill the Rakshasas to protect the Rishis in the forests, his action to punish Vali for his transgression against his brother’s wife and his killing of Ravana for abducting a women, are all part of one single principle for him: to protect Dharma. In every single action that he takes, he clearly articulates, “I have no choice, but to take this action, in accordance with the expectations of people and in accordance with the guidance of the illustrious Ikshvaku kings of the past”! (example: Kishkindha Kanda Sloka 18.36). Don’t we wish we have rulers of that kind all the time and in all the places?

Valmiki came to know about Rama, after he enquired Narada, whether one such illustrious prosperous-time hero ever existed. Valmiki uses SIXTEEN illustrious characteristics, posed as questions to Narada, to describe such a hero, in the very beginning of Ramayana.

(click on the image for better font)


Whatever be your personal beliefs, Ramayana is one of the greatest literary works written in the history of mankind. Everyone with a love for language, poetic imagery, symbolism, spirituality or just simple nostalgia for a world where one could distinctly hear the birds chirping all day, come across ponds with lotuses afloat and when people were warm and cordial to each other all the time - whatever ticks you, transport yourself to the endearing, magical world created by the great sage Valmiki and “READ RAMAYANA” is the easiest and the most unique way to get started.

You know what? I can’t pitch this better than the one who started it. So, please learn more about the Krishna garu’s READ RAMAYANA initiative here:


smanu said...

History is a sum total of different time settings, different possibilities of societal conditions and hence different kinds of people rising to the challenges. People and people's mindsets are born out of times and challenges they live in.

A person's (or a hero's) qualities or capabilities are a "response to a situation". That very person might have exhibited different qualities when subjected to a different situation. While I appreciate this inspection of a subtle underlying difference, I believe the statement "...characteristics of the most of crisis-time heroes..." defies this fundamental human aspect of "human behaviour as a result of responding to a situation" by stereotyping that crisis-time heroes possess so and so qualities.

A person who is aggressive during a crisis can also stay very calm and patient once the crisis is averted, to carry on with day-to-day challenges. There could have well been crisis-time heroes who both fought and averted a crisis yet succeeded to retain the status quo and prosperity of the society being ruled. Ashoka is one such person I can reckon. Nehru was another, he was both crisis-time and prosperous-time hero. After the independence he shielded people from many crises and enabled them to live under peaceful conditions yet laid strong fundamentals of governance and policies(Non-Alignment, Nehruvian Socialism etc etc) for the next gen of rulers to take over. I've not read any of Nehru's books, but ardent book readers say his books are gems and treasure-troves of knowledge & wisdom "relevant" for various times of human life.

smanu said...

The beauty of Ramayana is mostly because of Valmiki who took a simple real-life story and used it to impart values and explain differences b/w virtues and vices, fundamentals of righteousness etc. The magananimity is in Valmiki's perspective. Otherwise what things did Rama bear in background to carry on the ruling of Ayodhya? What did he do apart from carrying the legacy of Ikshvaku Kings, apart from whatever Dasharatha has passed on to him? Apart from the war with Ravana, which is expected coz his wife was stolen, what activities did Rama take up any differently for "Ramarajyam" to be considered one of the ideal periods? Events like warding off demons from Yagnam and killing evil is the order of the day and I would believe that such responsibilities might have been fulfilled by other kings too. Were the prosperity and peace of Ayodhya ever so endangered or challenged to say that Rama has been one of the most successful leaders to be reckoned as a prosperous-time hero?

On the other hand, sending his pregnant wife to forests without even telling her, without assigning her any care, is one of the worst decisions ever by Rama(according to me). It exposes his poor decision making skills. Was there even a trade-off for such a decision? Was sending away his wife "so necessary" to retain the peace and prosperity of his kingdom? I never understood what necessitate such an action. By any means it was not necessary from any third person's perspective except Rama's perspective. Yes, I appreciate the fact that rulers might have to make some personal sacrifices for the larger causes of society, but sacrificing one's wife for no reason is not supposed to be called a "sacrifice", its encouraging the dogma of the people, by acting upon their ignorant words. Agnananiki, anumanalaki pedda peeta vesinattee adi. He might have fuflilled his duties better and more soulfully has his wife been there with him all along coz he did not have to face the guilt, day-in and day-out, of leaving his wife for no apparent reason.

While Ramayana could well be a reference for many great virtues and fundamentals required to lead human life, are the men and women of "today" expected to look upto it especially when it has certain other contradicting flaws and situations? Today, some people don't feel they have time to read scriptures, some don't consider Ramayana worth their time and some though they have time and interest, they themselves are not in a situation to be able to identify what is relevant for these times and to be taken from Ramayan and what is irrelevant. I believe there will be more husbands today who will buy Rama's decision of sending away his wife and justify their current day actions and apathy towards their wives than take the good aspects of Rama of how well he took care of his wife, how much he loved her, those multiple instances..... of how he asks Sita to get into the boat first, of how a husband puts his wife first and himself next and many other instances in Ramayana...

Its a pity that:
(i) On one hand we are unable to grow beyond Mahabharata and Ramayana.
(ii) And on the other hand, we have deteriorated to such a situation not only to be unable to understand the virtues extolled by scriptures but also to be unable to filter the relevant and irrelevant aspects of scriptures and apply for our times.

Do you really think reading Ramayana will help people grow from their ignorant state today? I believe, they do not have the capacity for it, in the first place.

smanu said...

"...characteristics of the most of crisis-time heroes..."
I feel, they are not really the characteristics of those crisis-time heroes, they are rather the characteristics demanded by those (past) crises.

I feel, if comparison b/w the so-called heroes really needs to be made, it would make more sense to compare how people/heroes responded to SAME stituation/problems in the same TIME setting.

Comparing ppl of different ages responding differently to different situations cannot be really justified. I'll then be forced to use my trademark statement "its like comparing apples and oranges".

One can compare how Gandhiji and Netaji responded to the same problem of freedom struggle under same societal conditions. Jhansi Lakshmi Bai - Chatrapati - Mughal rulers; Rama and Ravana (how they responded to Eka Patni Vratam when posed with an option of multiple women being available - then an emphasis can be made abt Rama's virtues); Arjuna - Ekalavya - Karna - Duryodhana....

Such comparisons are more justified.

Sash! said...

hehe ... you seem to be angry on rama for some reason ... why is it that you want to take credit off him and give him only a B+ ? :)

also, if the story of rama didn't have crisis times, what can we do ? It's his story, it's a mythology, it's a itihasa purana ... it's not fair to judge those days with our current moral standards that are a function of the present economy (we talked about this briefly in an earlier post how values and economy are related ) ...

smanu said...

Hey! :)

I'm not angry with Rama, was I? Did that sound that way anywhere?

I'm not happy with the unnecessary hype created around him just because of a blind faith in him that he is an incarnation of God and hence exaggerating his accomplishments through a magnified lens. What if he is in incarnation of God even, let him take credit for only what he did. If there are more well-deserved human beings, normal humans, let them take the credit if they deserve.

"also, if the story of rama didn't have crisis times..."
Yeah, you have exactly reached the core point of my argument.
When there were no challenges as such and everything was normal as it was with many others, let him stay as normal as anybody else of his times. Why chant his work when its not too extra-ordinary? Let the work be not talked abt bcoz it was done by Rama, let the work be talked abt if it magnificent enought to be talked abt!

Its like this, if fortunately(if my life is not too hard) or unfortunately(I myself did not explore higher avenues or time did not favour me even if I did) if I have not encountered any challenges and if I'm unable to bring out the ultimate potential inside me, will you accept if I said why don't u accept my statements which are similar to those of Gandhiji or Einstein or some XYZ? You would rule me out wierd or selfish if I'm aspiring for such a fame without tantamount work...wouldn't you?

smanu said...

Ohhh! How could I write this statement - "I'm not angry with Rama..." How on earth did I write that? I take it back completely. My anger/discontentment towards Rama started even without my knowledge. Most of the times I don't even know I'm angry but yet complain, like this time!

I'm ofcourse angry with Rama and you are asking me why? After those 3 loooong comments? Did u try answering those qns raised there, at least for yourself if not for me or other readers of this blog?

I'm indeed trying to say that certain actions of Rama are wrong GIVEN the time setting then. I am trying to get judgemental because I thought that's what this post is all about. You are encouraging ppl to read Ramayana and I'm trying to say it had its flaws for its own times and how can it be relevant for our times now?

You can transport yourself to those times of Ramayana either by watching related movies or books or whichever means suit you most. Try merging yourselves with Sita's character and check it out if Rama's actions were justified...yes, for those times? You know what, not all women today are the women of today. I've known my Mom, Grandmothers who think like the women of the days of Sita and I myself think like that, like the yester-year woman in many scenarios. I am indeed saying Rama's decision of sending his pregnant wife without even informing her(atleast that's what Valmiki Ramayana says!) to forests owing to a random citizen's words IS WRONG, for any time, be it Treta Yuga, Dwapara Yuga or Kali Yuga... He has violated the self-respect of not just his wife but also that of a woman! I don't get it why men don't understand this grave mistake! He was unable to rise to a simple world scenario! And he has not even faced too many complex challenges atleast in the times of Ramayana, how is he an ideal ruler by any means? He has left his faith in the chastity of his life to the imagination of ppl of not only of the age of Treta Yuga, but also of the succeeding ages! How can any woman forgive such a grave mistake, let alone his wife, esplly considering he is a Divine Incarnation? More moral standards are expected of him, isn't it?!?!?

smanu said...

You know what, I'm hurt more than anybody else in this world to speak negatively about Rama. The inside of me is wounded, a part of me dies when I'm needed to talk like that. "I'm hurt more than anybody..." might sound like an exaggeration, but given the fact that I'm a great fan of Lord Vishnu, it hurts me than most other followers/disciples of Vishnu. I'm not really a disciple of His, but had a strange fond fascination for Him since childhood as a grand-daughter would have for a grand-father. So its fascination, not just blind worship. So with fond love, comes criticism towards his flaws too, just like I do with my grand-fathers who troubled my grand-moms.

I did not clutter my brain with too many Gods since childhood. And until recently God for me is Vishnu. Even when my life was falling apart, even when I was fleeing a country for my life, when I left behind gold, money and many other things, it was "Satyanarayana Swamy's pic" that I ensured I take back with me, which is always there with me wherever & whenever I go away from home, such a treasure He was for me.

But my faith in him did not go waste, he finally left me to the mercy of Lord Shiva. Ever since then, my world view widened (I'm not saying improved). I'm a believer of free will more than ever, ever since then. I've kept aside my dogma in the way Gods are worshipped blindly ever since then.

"it's not fair to judge those days with our current moral standards..."
Exactly! I'm one of those first persons who dislikes inappropriate comparisons.
I'm asking you, is it fair to apply moral standards of those days to our current situations, when nobody has even analyzed if they were right for those times, let alone current times? Is the majority acceptance or rubbing off, of those days, the blue litmus test for current days?

Why should I not analyze Puranas or Itihasas especially in this juncture when ppl are divided not only abt religion but also abt God...when ppl(not you but some others) have lacked this plain common sense that when I talk abt God, they think I am against Science. I don't see this mutual exclusivity of belief in God and belief in Science?

Don't we have any critics or critical books on Ramayana/Mahabharata/Bible or other religious scriptures? Don't we have such critical writers presenting their analysis? Can't I be one of those? esplly now that the post is all abt relevance of Ramayana for current times...Give me one good reason why I should not get critical abt Ramayana and I will apologize on my attempt to write such lengthy content on this, I will accept my argument is wrong and will take it back.

smanu said...

While I still leave the question "Give me one good reason..." open for you, I have something more to tell.

Put Ramayana and Mahabharata together and they both TOGETHER become more irrelevant for our times. I'll tell you why. On one hand Rama is regarded as Eka Patni Vratudu. On the other hand Krishna had so many wives, not just wives but padaharu vela gopalu. His relationship with so many women is justified on so many basis, saying it is Rasikata and all that! I can keep that aside, maybe I don't understand it.

But I have come across so many texts(not on internet, but hard copies of "proper" religious magazines or talks of some spiritual heads) who consider Radha as a form of Adi Shakti. That's fine, but Krishna-Radha relationship can be justified if Krishna has acquired Shiva's aspect and then Radha Shakti's aspect, then that's perfect. But "some sources" see Krishna as an avatar of Vishnu and Radha as an aspect of Shakti and that's such a bull shit. Its so difficult to digest when I read them.

People will be confused to see Rama as one woman-man and Krishna as a multiple-women man justified on so many pretexts immediately. No wonder those scriptures cannot solve the problems of today. Even Ravana can be God for the ppl of Lanka, but that does not make Ravana a God. There is a Universal Good and Bad for certain scenarios and higher entities or forces or this Nature's/Universal Discretion is better to judge that, not me, anyway! Time will tell!

smanu said...

And again, mind you I'm not saying those scriptures did not have any good aspects to learn from. I'm saying they have presented us with more flaws, contradictions and questions that outweigh the good they teach, that it is really difficult to apply them for our times, I don't see them solving today's humanity's problems, not my problems atleast!

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