A Lesson From Ramayana :: Specially for young couple…

There are innumerable Tamil literature pieces. Each one has its own ‘Rasa’… It is not possible to elaborate each one of them in this short period. I would therefore like to highlight on the national literature, the Ramayana, which is available in many languages. Although many ‘Rasas’ are handled in the Ramayana, I would elaborate only on one of them – my concept of the affectionate conversation between couples. The reason being, any piece of literature must be helpful in uplifting people in their lives and Ramayana is one such.

The rate of divorce today is on the increase, due to lack of understanding between husband and wife, under such circumstances, I would like to place before you, the conversation between the divine couple Rama and Sita, as presented by Valmiki in Sanskrit and Kambar in Tamil.

 

RAMAYANA :: LESSON FOR OUR CONSUMERISED LIFE

All of us are aware of how domestic arguments weaken the family. Though they may begin in a lighter sense, they become serious, with both spouse felt hurt. And often, either of the participants deviate from the core subject.

Usually, what begins as a reasoned effort to convince the other person of his or her error, ends up in a mess with tones and tempers raised very high. And for hours or even days thereafter, the matter leaves a bitter effect in the participants, turning people estranged.

If the matrimony is healthy and the partners flexible, the bitter argument is usually followed by a reconciliation and things return to normalcy. If we were to take a survey of separations and divorces, we would probably find that all of them began with an argument. Then it developed into disharmony, and ultimately ended in a parting of partners. At the time of marriage they had sworn to stay together till ‘death do us part.’

An argument results, when a couple have a difference in outlook concerning a particular matter. As two reasonable adults, a husband or wife should appreciate reason when they see it in the other’s argument. The problem arises only when one or both of them stick to their stand adamantly,

And when one of the parties to the argument fails to find reasonable things to say, he or she usually resorts to abuse, insult etc.,

The Sanskrit saying, ‘SEsham kOpEna poorayEt” highlights the fact that people get angry, when they have no reasonable answer to others’ arguments.

——————–

Srimad Ramayanam has lessons for us in how to have reasonable domestic arguments, and how to appreciate the logic in other’s arguments. Like any other marriage, that of the Divine Couple too had its share of arguments. However what sets these arguments apart is that, both of them understand each other’s logic, and come to an amicable decision. And these exchanges left the couple with considerably enhanced love and affection for each other.

——–

On Kaikeyi’s order, Rama was instructed by his father to go to the forest and live there for 14 years. Rama approached Sita not knowing how to convey the message to her. She was bedecked with all ornaments and ready for the coronation,.

Rama who had already got the permission from Kousalya and Lakshmanan, to go to forest, hesitates to convey this to Sita. Sita, asks the reason for his visit Rama slowly informs her, through the following words… that he must go to the forest.

பொரு இல் எம்பி புவி புரப்பான்; புகழ்

இருவர் ஆணையும் ஏந்தினென்; இன்றுபோய்

கருவி மாமழைக் கல் – கடம் கண்டு, நான்

வருவென் ஈண்டு; வருந்தலை நீ  என்றான்,

Accepting my father, king Dasaratha’s order, I will go to the forest. You remain here, without worrying… Sita’s reaction to these words are…

நாயகன் வனம் நண்ணல் உற்றான் என்றும்

மேய மண் இழந்தான் என்றும் விம்மலள்;

நீ வருந்தலை; நீங்குவன் யான் என்ற

தீய வெஞ்சொல் செவி சுடத் தேம்புவாள்.

Sita did not feel sorry, because Rama was going to the forest, nor he was not going to be coroneted. But, she felt hurt when Rama said, ”You stay here without worrying, and I will go to the forest!” Now begins the war of words of Sita.

While Kambar depicts this in merely ten stanzas, Valmiki has written 159 slokas , five sargas in ayodhya kaanda…

——–

Rama tells like this….

Oh, Sita! My venerable father is sending me to a forest in exile.

You are born in a great family. You know what is Right and practice virtue . Hear me in what sequence it happened to me…

Two great boons were given to my mother Kaikeyi long ago , by my father Dasaratha who is true to a promise. Now that the arrangements initiated by the king for my coronation are getting ready , Kaikeyi came out with that promise of boons, turning the situation to her own advantage by grounds of morality…

I have to dwell in Dandaka forest for fourteen years . Bharata is being appointed as prince by my father…

Before starting to the forest, I came to see you. I should not be praised at any time in the presence of Bharata . Men endowed with power and fortune indeed do not tolerate praise of others . Therefore, my virtues should not be extolled by you in front of Bharata.

You need not be attended in a special manner at any time by him. You can stay familiar to him, by behaving with him conformably.

The princely kingdom is given to him by the king permanently. Oh, Sita ! He is fit to be rendered gracious by you, more so the king Dasaratha.

After I leave for the forest frequented by the sages, you can become interested in religious vows and fastings.

You can rise up in dawn , perform worship of the deities as per precept and do salutation to my father , king Dasaratha.

For me all my mothers are equal in my eyes in point of fondness, love and the way in which they have looked after me ( in my childhood). Hence the rest of the mothers also deserve to be saluted always by you…

You, in particular, should regard Bharata and Satrughna, as your brothers or sons.

Bharata is indeed king and the master both for the kingdom and for our family . Hence, you should not do what is displeasing to him at any time.

Kings being pleased by good character and served by exerting one’s self become happy. They get angry if it is to the contrary…

Kings abandon even their own sons, if they are antagonistic and accept even other people if they are fitting…

You dwell here, doing conformably to the will of Bharata the king, remaining devoted to righteousness and with a vow of truth as you end.

——

On hearing the strong words about Bharatha, the question raises in our minds, ” Does Rama have this much of affection and confidence in Bharatha?”

Although he knew Bharatha right from his childhood, why did Rama caution Sita, about such things? His intension was only to remove the fear in Sita… But would not such words make her all the more afraid? Then, what was the need for Rama to speak such words? Valmiki replies the answer…

aham gamiSyaami mahaa vanam priye |
tvayaa hi vastavyam iha eva bhaamini |
yathaa vyaliikam kuruSe na kasyacit |
tathaa tvayaa kaaryam idam vaco mama || 2-26-38

Oh, Sita ! I can go to the great forest. You can stay here only, without doing harm to any one as it is. Listen to my words…

Rama spoke such words only to provoke her and find out her inner feelings. But will she be infuriated?

According to Ramanujacharya….

Padmavaanalayam bhagavathim sriyam devim nithyana bhayinim niravathyam deva deva divya mahishim

ahila jagan matharam asman matharam …

She is the mother of the entire world. Dwelling in the lotus, this deity is the mother of all living things. Sita, the incarnation of goddess Lakshmi, is an embodiment of ‘dhaya’ and ‘karuna’, and speaks only affectionate words. How can such a mother, blurt out angry words? Then why does Rama provoke her?

Sita, who speaks kindly and deserves kind utterances, after hearing Rama’s words, became angry out of love alone and spoke to her husband.

What words are you speaking? These light words certainly are to be laughed at by you and me after hearing.

aarya putra pitaa maataa bhraataa putraH tathaa snuSaa |
svaani puNyaani bhunjaanaaH svam svam bhaagyam upaasate || 2-27-3

Father, mother, brother, son and daughter-in-law accomplish their own good fortune, as benefited by their own pious deeds. Wife for one gets fortune of the husband. For that reason, I am also destined to dwell in the forest.

But there is a story behind this.

Once, Rishi Naratha told Valmiki, who was earlier a hunter, that only his ‘punya karma’ will be equally shared by his family members including his wife, and not his ‘paapa karma’… Valmiki assured himself of this fact, and surrendered to Naradha. The ‘prayachitha’ suggested by Naradha was to meditate on God. As the hunter did not know of any God, Naradha taught him the Manthra ‘ Rama Rama’. The fact ascertained by the hunter is now conveyed by the words of Sita.

—–

na pitaa na aatmajo na aatmaa na maataa na sakhii janaH |

iha pretya ca naariiNaam patir eko gatiH sadaa || 2-27-5

To a woman, father or son or self or mother or female companion are not the recourse. Husband alone is forever the best recourse either in this world or after her death.

If you set forth now itself to the forest, which is difficult to be traveled, I shall come before you, by trampling down thorns and grass with long pointed stalks.

My mother and father taught me of different matters long ago. I need not be told now, how to deal in any way with anyone.

——

Certainly, Rama would have been infuriated on hearing this if he were an ordinary human being. But Sita immediately starts praising him.

Oh, Rama, the bestower of honour! Here in the forest, you are indeed capable of protecting other people also. Why to tell about my protection?

Sita questioned the courage of Rama by asking, how do you think you can protect me a woman, in the dangerous forest?

Sita replies continuously…

Thus spending even a hundred thousand years in your company I shall never find any deviation. Heaven also will not be acceptable to me.

Even heaven is no residence for me without you.

The divine couple who remain together in the milky ocean ‘kshera saagara’, should also be united in this world ie., Ayodhya, where they taken birth.

Justifying this, Kambar says…

துறந்துபோம்ஒ எனச் சொற்றசொல் தேறுமோ

உறைந்த பாற்கடல் சேக்கை உடன் ஒரீஇ

அறம் திறம்பும் என்று ஐயன் அயோத்தியில்

பிறந்த பின்பும் பிரியலள் ஆயினாள்?

(அயோ.காண். & 219)

However, to the serious student of srimad Ramayana, it would be evident that it was the strong bond of matrimony, love and affection that characterized it, which emerged victor. There was no winner and no loser in this argument. Both the prince of Ayodhya and the princess of Mmithila emerged appreciably stronger from the episode, as a husband and wife, who had infinite concern for the other’s welfare. They cared little for proving themselves to be right, through endless debate with each other.

Sri Rama was concerned at explaining his young princess to the dangers and discomfort of the jungle, while Sita was intent on being with her husband, offering moral support on the forest journey.

———-

Smoothening with kind words to Sita, when eyes were blemished with tears, the virtuous Rama spoke again.

In kambar words…

வல் அரக்கரின் மால்வரை போய் விழுந்து

அல் அரக்கின் உருக்கு அழல் காட்டு அதர்க்

கல் அரக்கும் கடுமைய அல்ல & நின்

சில் அரக்குண்ட சேவடிப் போதுஒ என்றான். (கம்பராமாயணம் 221)

“Oh Sita, the delicate! Do whatever I tell you. There are many inconveniences in the forest. Know them from me. This advice is given by me, keeping your welfare in view. Forest is always uncomfortable…

The sounds created from waterfalls in hills and from lions residing in mountain caves are unpleasant to hear.

Even streams filled with crocodiles full of mire are difficult to be crossed by rut elephants also.

Pathways covered with creepers and thorns, echoed with noise of wild cocks, are water-less and very difficult to enter.

One, distress by fatigue has to sleep in nights on a bed of fallen leaves.

In the forest, air and darkness are too much. There are always hunger and great fears too. Hence, dwelling in a forest is very much a misery.

Therefore, do away with the idea of your coming to the forest. Forest is not indeed bearable for you. Reflecting now, I perceive forest as having too many disadvantages.”

But, when the thought of separation merely arose, Sita tried to correct it at the roots through ‘dharma.’ Although reminded about dharma, Rama’s remained unchanged. The heartbroken Sita asks, O Rama! Why do you speak such heartless words?

Seetha was distressed to hear these words of Rama and spoke these words slowly, with her face with tears.

In Kambar words…

பரிவு இகந்த மனத்து ஒரு பற்று இலாது

ஒருவுகின்றனை; ஊழி அருக்கனும்

எரியும் என்பது யாண்டையது? ஈண்டு நின்

பிரிவினும் சுடுமோ பெருங்காடு என்றாள். (கம்ப ராமாயணம்)

That is., Will the forest hurt me more than your separation?

Sita continued the argument as follows…

“Know all those disadvantages you mentioned about dwelling in the forest become advantages to me, if your affection is placed before them.

As per the command of the elders, I also should go along with you. My life is to be abandoned here, if I were separated from you.

Verily such a thing was taught to me by you, that a woman disunited from her husband should not be able to survive.

Following my husband with loving devotion, I shall become sin-less; for husband is the supreme deity to me.

Oh Rama, the scion of Kakutsa! You ought to take me, who is a devotee, so devoted to husband, who is distressed who feels alike in pleasure and pain and shares your joys and sorrows.

yadi maam duhkhitaam evam vanam netum na ca icchasi |
viSam agnim jalam vaa aham aasthaasye mR^ityu kaaraNaat || 2-29-21

I shall take resort to poison or fire or water for dying, if you are not willing to take me, afflicted as I am, as above.”

———–

Finally, Sita threatens with the arrow of affection, ”If you do not act according to my wishes, I will commit suicide”.

But Rama remains untouched by these words. Because he is aware of the dangers of forest and the difficulties that Sita would have to face.

———

But why is Sita so adamant? Are both Sita and Rama selfish about their intentions?

Probably it may be applicable for todays world. But the divine couple had taken birth, only to establish ‘dharma’ in the world. So they are not at all selfish.

Distressed and highly agitated, the Sita reproached Rama in the following words:-

“What my father, the king of Mithila belonging to the country of Videha, will think of a son-in-law, you, a woman having the form of a man?

It is a pity if these people of Ayodhya through ignorance, tell the falsehood that valour is lacking in Rama. For what reason you are deserting me?”

——

Why does Sita alone abuse Rama, who is praised by all? That is because she being his wife knows him very well. So nobody else deserves to abuse Rama, except Sita.

Sita’s argument continues…

“Oh, Rama the sinless one! Be you always dutiful and obedient to him, whom you speak of welfare, for whose sake I am being kept back. It is not proper for you as such to set out to the forest without taking me. Any austerities you do, or go to forest or even heaven, but with me only.

To me, who follow you behind, there will be no tiresomeness. I shall remain in the path without any fatigue, remaining in a place.

While walking with you, blades of kusha grass, kaasa shrubs, reeds, rushes and plants with prickles which fall in the path will touch my soles like a heap of cotton or soft deer skin.

Hence, you are not justified to see anything unpleasant there. There will be no annoyance to you because of me. I will not be difficult to be maintained.

yaH tvayaa saha sa svargo nirayo yaH tvayaa vinaa |
iti jaanan paraam priitim gaccha raama mayaa saha || 2-30-18

Your companionship will be a heaven to me. Without you, it will be a hell. Oh, Rama! By knowing my great love, obtain supreme joy with me…

Abandoned by you, as a result of grief I will not live anymore. Death is therefore better at the time of your relinquishment. I cannot bear this grief even for a moment, why again fourteen years in misery….”

*     Sita, burnt by grief, having got exerted, lamented much piteously, embraced her husband and cried a lot with loud voice.

——————–

How does Rama react to this? Does he take offense at his wife’s words, apparently presuming to tell him, of all people, of what was right and wrong? Was he not dharma personified (“Ramo vigrahavan dharma:”) in no need of lectures, especially from a woman, much inferior to him in age and experience? Notwithstanding the sugarcoated language, what Sita had done was to question his wisdom. How does a hot – blooded Kshatriya take this? Does he reject his wife’s argument outright, treating them with contempt and condescension?

Because of the strong bond of love and affection binding them, Sri Rama takes the words of Sita in the proper perspective, realising her well-meaning sentiments. He doesn’t agree with his wife, but voices his disagreement in the most reasonable and inoffensive terms. He advances eminently sensible and logical arguments in support of his actions and tries to convince Sita of their correctness, rather than force his views upon her. He doesn’t tell her, “It is correct because I say so, and what I say goes!”, but talks to her with all the persuasiveness at his command.

————

Sri Rama tells Sita that, keeping his word is utmost to him, even if it involved the loss of his own life, Lakshmana or even Sita herself. A promise, once made, should be kept at all cost, says Sri Rama –

“apyaham jeevitam jahayam tvam va seete sa lakshmanam

na tu pratigyam samshrutya brahmanebhyo viseshata:”.

Rama made it clear to his wife that he had to abide by his words at any cost. Hence he could not accept her views. Sri Rama softens the disagreement by telling her that it was indeed correct of her to speak out her views, because they were prompted by love and good intention. He also appeals to her to see things from his viewpoint, and praises her as being dearer to him than his own life –

“saha dharma chaarini me tvam pranebhyopi gariyasi”.

————-

Then Rama embraced her, who was depressed and had fainted, spoke the following words, fully reassuring her.

“Oh, queen! I do not relish even heaven while you are in grief. There is indeed no fear whatsoever to me, like the god of Brahma.”

“Eventhough I am able to protect you, without knowing your entire opinion, I do not like to take you to the forest.”

“Oh, Sita! it appears that you are created indeed for dwelling in the forest with me. Hence, you cannot be left behind by me, like the honour by a man of self-regard.”

“Oh, Sita! My mind was depressed to take you to the forest of Dandaka. But you are saying that you will reside in the forest, duly determined to follow me.”

“Since you were allowed to come to forest, Oh Sita, follow me and become my help-mate.”

“Oh, Sita! You adopted very auspicious resolve, suitable in all ways to me and to your race.”

*    Seetha the divine lady, elated to know her departure acceptable to her husband, quickly set about, making gifts. Thereafter, Sita, becoming delighted on hearing the speech of her husband, started giving riches and valuable gifts to virtuous souls.

———

Several unique aspects emerge from an analysis of the arguments the divine couple had.

Not a single harsh word was uttered throughout the lengthy exchange. The entire debate was totally free of abuses and discrimination.

Both the beginning and the conclusion of the arguments were marked by absolute cordiality, with each praising the other for their views.

Each person stated his or her position clearly and firmly, without ambiguity, but in an extremely reasonable manner.

There was absolutely no resorting to irrelevant matters.

While most arguments leave a bitter taste in the mouth of the participants for days thereafter, the aforesaid arguments did nothing of the sort.

While disagreements tend to eat away at the fundamentals of the relationships, the aforesaid arguments resulted in the bonds of love and affection between the couple emerging stronger.

There was a readiness on the part of both to appreciate and accept the other’s viewpoint, once they were convinced.

Ego played absolutely no part in the arguments.

Besides being paragons of virtue and models of correct conduct in everything else, the prince of Ayodhya and the princess of Mithila also showed us the way in conducting our domestic affairs in a congenial fashion.

They showed us too that wife or husband, each must respect the other’s viewpoint and do not dominate the other’s opinions. Looking to these instances and others, which showcase the extremely strong bonds of love binding the divine couple, we feel that it is high time every discordant couple was told to read the Ramayana. That would do them immeasurably greater good than an army of Marriage Counselors.

Senkottai Sriram

My Speech (copy) at Kolkata Bharathiya Bhasha Parishad, Award Function
on 18th apr 2009
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