What is the conflict in The Ramayana?
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The conflict that presents itself in Valmiki's work is a rather elemental one. The questions that drives the work and makes it such a bastion of Hindu thought is what shall one do and how shall one live. This becomes the fundamental conflict that is seen throughout the work. When Rama must endure banishment because of the deception of one of his father's wives, there is a conflict, and it is resolved by accepting what is seen as his duty. When Sita must struggle with whether or not to let the mendicant into her home or to give him food, there is a struggle as to what to do and how she shall live. When Rama must confront Ravana, there is a conflict as to what to do and how he should live. When Rama rescues Sita, and recognizes the doubt of his people about her virtue, the construction of the pyre upon which she will burn is yet another instant where the conflict of what to do and how to live is present. As a result, when Sita chooses to walk through the fire to demonstrate her purity, but also to move to a transcendent realm where even her husband can no longer reach her, it is a statement of what to do and how one shall live in the face of intense and agonizing conflict.
In each of these situations, the challenge present is whether or not one will be able to embrace their dharma, or responsibility, or whether or not one will shirk from such an awesome responsibility. In this, there is conflict because Valmiki's work stresses how there is conflict in all of consciousness, and through following the example of Lord Rama can we, as human beings, find the strength and courage to alleviate such intense pain caused by the conflict of knowing what needs to be done, but wishing to not do it.
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