Hidden Truths of the Ramayana

“A lie hides the truth. A story tries to find it.” – Paula Fox

What is truth to begin with? Truth has been a topic of discussion in its own right for thousands of years; the central topic for philosophy. Truth is the reality of things; it is a fact that we believe in. But what makes a statement true? To make this long discussion short: elieve in. but  things; it is a fact with. rtruth is a statement that the majority agrees with. It is the universal statement that we believe. But who is the majority that present and control these statements? Who’s to say that these people are in fact right? But seemingly nonsense arguing aside, this essay will be talking about the philosophical truths revealed in the popular Indian epic, Ramayana.

According to Swami Vivekananda, Rama may be the personification of the Paramatman, the absolute reality or the self. Sita is the portrayal of the Jivatman or the individual soul or the false notion of the true self or ‘I’. ‘Lanka’ where Sita was held by Ravana is the body, mind complex which has the individual soul imprisoned within it. The Rakshasas represent the characteristic traits or Gunas of the body and finally Ravana of Rajas represent lust, passion, malice, avarice, and the like.

Under a bigger perspective, we can understand that we as humans are the ‘true self’ or ‘Sita’ in this case. As we know in the story, Sita was kidnapped by Ravana and held captive in Lanka, waiting to be rescued by her beloved, Rama. In a sense, it is like we are trapped in this mortal body, simply waiting to escape this illusion and enter reality. We (Sita) are contained in this state of being (Lanka) due to the fantasies and distractions caused by lust, passion, and malice (Ravana). Our only escape in this harsh prison is to find the absolute reality (Rama). But like Sita, we believe that we will simply be rescued; we wait for our “knight in shining armor.” That is not the case. Just like the Indian belief of moksha, the extrication of the soul from the eternal cycle of life and death is through enlightenment or nirvana. The so-called reality that we are living now is simply an illusion where we crave the true reality of things.

Another not-so-shocking and unbelievably obvious truth would be that the whole story was based on a male dominated society. The male sets the rules, the male leads the society, the male is above the female. Period. Kausalya, Dasharatha’s first wife, not only accepted the fact that Dasharatha had two other wives but she had also accepted that her husband no longer had any sexual relations with her, that being reserved solely for his second wife. Now for me, this was totally –to put it lightly– a harsh tradition. I mean, I’ve heard of marrying again after a divorce, but come on! Three wives at a time? If that doesn’t scream “male domination,” I don’t know what does. Another character would be Sita. After a lifetime of devotion and service to her husband she was publicly humiliated by being forced to take a trial by fire and was later banished for the exact same reason she had the trial in the first place. A trial, might I add that she succeeded in. Of course, being a woman, that really pissed me off. The message to women was clear. If you remain within the bounds set by the male dominated society you will be ‘deified.’ But if you break the barriers you will become an outcast. Simple yet clear as a bell.

The males on the other hand act according to will without giving a thought to the sensitivity of the women. Lakshmana’s accompanying Rama in his exile is one instance. His reason for this was noble, no doubt. But let’s not forget that he had got married at the same time as Rama. His filial duty was so strong that it crushed his duty as a husband. Tsk.

But we shouldn’t be surprised right? We are living in a patriarchal society. It is evident everywhere; from the simple matters and arguments at home to the salaries and employees of any job to the political leaders all over the world. The male is stronger and arguably smarter than women. Who run the world? I think we know the answer.

And as we can all see there were many truths revealed in this epic. The meanings in each statement of a story are well hidden beneath its covers. Subtle hints, character traits, or the entire plot itself; it is everywhere. We read to understand and comprehend. We read to find the reality of it all. There are many truths an author would want his readers to find, it’s just up to the readers to look beyond the obvious.

References:

What is Truth? (July/August 2013). Philosophy Now. Retrieved from: http://philosophynow.org/issues/86/What_Is_Truth

Philosophical Facts about the Ramayana. (September 18, 2007). Boldsky: Limitless Living. Retrieved from: http://www.boldsky.com/yoga-spirituality/vedanta/2007/swami-vivekananda-ramayana.html

Women in the Ramayan. (2012) History Asad. Retrieved from: http://www.historyasad.com/ramayana/women-in-the-ramayana.html

Glanzberg M. (January 22, 2013). Truth. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  Retrieved from: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth/

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