The Ramayana main character Prince Rama standing with an arrow quiver on his back and holding a bow

The Ramayana

by Vālmīki

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What motivates the actions of gods in the Ramayana?

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The preservation of dharma motivates the actions of the gods in the Ramayana.

"Dharma" can be seen as acting in the way that is right. It provides structure to the universe. Without dharma, the universe becomes lawless and descends into chaos. Dharma is critical in the actions of the gods in the Ramayana. For example, Lord Vishnu takes the Rama avatar because he recognizes that dharma must be represented on earth. Rama believes that "truth is the highest form of dharma" and acts in accordance to this maxim. Rama does not swerve from his path. Specific examples are when he willingly accepts Kaikeyi's banishment, when he stands up for the rights of those who are silenced, and in the way he focuses on retrieving Sita from Ravana. In these instances, dharma motivates Lord Vishnu in the Rama avatar.

Devi Sita, Rama's wife, also embodies dharma. She is an avatar of the goddess Lakshmi. In this form, Sita represents the essence of dharma in her loyalty to Rama, adherence to the strict standards of an ideal wife, and in the way she fights injustice. Ravana is able to kidnap her because he assumes the form of a mendicant, and Sita knows that her dharma is to serve a visitor, even though it goes against the instruction that Lakshmana gave when he drew his line. Sita also embodies dharma in how she repels Ravana. Even though she is promised wealth, privilege, and luxury, she refuses because she knows her dharma as a wife. As an avatar of Sita, dharma motivates Lakshmi.  

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