“For a man, of what use is a rope that is used for tying the elephant, if he is giving away the elephant itself in charity?”
– Lord Rama (in the Ramayana)
There are three deeper levels at which one needs to examine the pastime of Ram sending Sita to Valmiki’s ashram.
Three levels to see the Ramayana
Firstly the pastime reveals the challenge of balance- we have various duties, and it’s not always easy to perform all of them. For most of us, if we could perform even fifty percent of our expected dharma, we’d consider ourselves successful. For Ram, although most of the time he did well, on occasions like these, he reveals our delicate predicament in this world. One could imagine that if Lord Rama is not free of censure, how much more difficult it is for us to perform our dharma? The incident gives one courage to march on in life, even if others do not appreciate our good intentions.
If one phoo-phoo’s the Dharma conflict, it only means he or she hasn’t lived long enough; life always throws up dilemmas, and you have to simply live to experience them.
A leadership lesson
Secondly, Lord Ram’s incarnation was with a specific purpose of setting the example of an ideal leader or king. In different incarnations, the Lord fulfils a specific purpose. As Parashuram, he annihilated the warrior class twenty one times. As Buddha, he taught non-violence. One can’t accuse Parashuram of not doing what Buddha did. Similarly as Krishna, the Lord cared for all his sixteen thousand wives; he even lied and cheated to protect his devotees. He was the incarnation of a lover, who broke all rules to reciprocate with his beloved. As Lord Ram, his purpose was to teach us how a true leader is willing to give up what he loves the most, for a larger good. Although Lord Rama is the same as Krishna, Parashuram, and Buddha, yet he primarily performed pastimes to suit the purpose he came to serve. Krishna performed dance with many cowherd women in Vrindavan, but Ram was strictly devoted to his one wife. We can’t reverse the roles of Ram and Krishna.
Five hundred thirty years ago Krishna came as a sannyasi, renunciate monk, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who had no dealings with women. Some unfortunate spiritualists these days (called as Gauranga nagaris), in cheap mixing of Lord’s purpose, imagine themselves to be gopis, cowherd women, and seek to perform dance pastimes with Lord Chaitanya. They claim he is none other than Krishna, but refuse to acknowledge that he’s in the role of a monk. Similarly, Lord Rama is an ideal king first, and a loving husband later. When duties conflict, he performs those duties to teach us the principle of selfless leadership.
Thirdly, Lord has his own agenda- an internal reason- for his incarnation. Lord Rama relished the mellow of vipralambha bhava– or love for his devotees in separation.
To be continued….