Choose one specific decision in The Ramayana where Rama honors dharma through his dedication to his duties and obligations. Explain the result of Rama's decision. In addition, explain whether or...

Choose one specific decision in The Ramayana where Rama honors dharma through his dedication to his duties and obligations.

Explain the result of Rama's decision. In addition, explain whether or not you would have made the same decision and why.

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The decision to accept banishment is one of the most revealing moments where Lord Rama follows the path of dharma.

Lord Rama is the embodiment of "dharma."  He lives his life in accordance to "the right way."  Dharma is the structure that guides his actions and forms the basis of the universe.  This is most evident in his willing acceptance of exile into the forest for fourteen years. Kaikeyi, the mother of Bharata, is worried that King Dasaratha, Rama's father, is going to make Rama successor.  Encouraged by her maid, Manthara, Kaikeyi insists that King Dasaratha honor a promise he made to her years ago that he would grant her a boon.  Kaikeyi reminds King Dasaratha of his promise and says that he must banish his beloved son, Lord Rama, to the forest for 14 years, and make Bharata king.  Broken and despondent, the King agrees.

It is clear that such a punishment is unjust.  Lord Rama did nothing to deserve exile.  Inheriting the throne was not only his birthright but something that the King and all of his subjects wished to see.  However, when Lord Rama is told of the punishment, he shows dharma. He says that his primary duty as a son is to accept and honor the word of his parents.  Even though he would be completely accurate in suggesting that such a decision is unjust, he never questions it.  Leaving his beloved Ayodhya for fourteen years to live off the land is harsh.  He sacrifices his birthright, the comforts of the kingdom, and leaves without any hesitation.  He does not flinch in embracing his dharma as he willingly accepts exile.  His embrace of dharma, even when the cost is so great, shocks his subjects and even the royal palace.

In The Ramayana, Lord Rama establishes a standard of dharma that very few can meet.  He is the standard to which we all should aspire.  Knowing this, I can honestly say that I would not be able to do what he did.  I could not accept the injustice, and channel it into my dharma.  I hope I could. However, I know my limitations well enough to know that I could not possess Lord Rama's singular drive and adherence to dharma.

andrewhays0287 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dharma is a concept in Hinduism and Indian philosophy that can be difficult to translate into English. Ultimately, it refers to thoughts and actions that are in line with the natural order of the universe. Dharma is, to simplify, doing what is right. A person’s dharma might differ based on his or her occupation, role, or birthplace, but it all boils down to righteous or proper action.

In the Ramayana, one of the two great Indian epics, the hero Lord Rama is an ideal example of a person who follows and lives his dharma fully. He is gracious, kind, and loyal. An example of Lord Rama living his dharma comes when he is approached by the demon Surpanakha, who is the sister of Ravana, king of Lanka and the chief antagonist in the Ramayana. While Lord Rama and his wife Sita are in exile, Surpanakha approaches him with the intention of stealing him away from his wife. Though Surpanakha is ugly, she disguises herself as beautiful, but Lord Rama sees through her disguise. When she offers herself to him, Lord Rama rejects her advances, and she tries to strike Sita. Lord Rama’s brother Lakshmana intervenes, cutting off Surpanakha’s nose. Surpanakha flees to her brother and demands he kidnap Sita so that nobody can have Lord Rama. Sita’s kidnap and subsequent rescue by Lord Rama eventually leads to Ravana’s defeat.

I would like to think that I would make a similar choice. The key in the above scenario is that Lord Rama, as a righteous person upholding his dharma, is able to see through Surpanakha’s deceptions. The takeaway is that righteous people are able to spot unrighteousness, which helps them make proper decisions.