A Clarion Call for Order in a World of Disorder
Even if one were to not regard the profound spiritual implications of The Ramayana, one of its strongest aspects is its clarion call for order in a world that fails to acknowledge it. The model that Lord Rama gives is the ideal, the standard to which all others can pledge themselves. Even at the cost of his own security and comfort, Lord Rama shows an immediate respect for dharma. He respects the word of his father, even though it was given in a context that did not directly impact the son. He shows a firm level of respect even for his opponent in Ravana, as he gives the demon- king of Lanka multiple warnings before engagement in battle. Even with the banishment of Sita Devi, Lord Rama shows an adherence to his dharma as a ruler. The need to uphold dharma is representative of the order that maintains human beings and society. This is seen in Lakshmana's relentless devotion of Lord Rama, never peering above Sita Devi's ankles in deference to his brother. It is also seen in the devotional service of Lord Hanuman, who holds no other purpose in life other than to serve the needs of his chosen master. When Lakshmana establishes the "line" that Sita Devi is not to cross, it is symbolic of the line between order and disorder, a world where there is control and power and a world where lawlessness and disorder reign supreme. Finally, Sita Devi might be one of the most striking examples of embracing the law of dharma. She follows her husband willingly, even though it is not needed for her to do so. She recognizes the dharma of her role as wife. While she is in captivity in Lanka, Ravana tempts her with every possible luxury if she would consent to being with him. She refuses to because of dharma and her adherence to it is what ends up causing her great distress. Even in the end, when Sita Devi's virtue is in doubt, she embraces dharrma by walking through the fire and entering the Earth, denying her the comfort of her one true love, Lord Rama. Both husband and wife represent the standard to which human beings can only begin to emulate. Their entire premise on the Earth is representative of dharma, embracing the rule of order, over anything else.
In the characterization of Ravana, one sees the destructive presence of disorder. Lord Rama and Ravana are stark opposites in their embodiment of law and order and uncontrolled chaos. There is really no reason for Ravana to covet Sita Devi other than to satisfy his own self- indulgence and prove that he can. Ravana is destroyed because of his capitulation to his limitless desires. In succumbing to this, Ravana sows the seeds of his own destruction. The Ramayana reminds us that there is a fine line between both and the realities within both surround the individual. Conscious choice is evident in the life individuals choose. Either we can choose the path set for us by Lord Rama, pledging our lives and fortunes to dharma and a world of what can be in contrast to what is, or we can embrace the indulgent chaos that ends up destroying Ravana.