[Advaita-l] Devas Adhikara, Rama and Sambuka

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Fri May 26 12:42:49 CDT 2006

On Mon, 22 May 2006, Annapureddy Siddhartha Reddy wrote:

> This is interesting. I felt the traditional view was that Ramayana and
> MahaBharata were authored in their entirety by Valmiki and Vyasa, as
> opposed to the Indologists' view that there would have been several
> interpolations (for example, that Bhagavad Geeta is probably a later
> addition). And also, that people have been as careful in preserving the
> contents of the Itihasas, as they have been in the case of the Vedas.

Even more so than the Vedas, itihasa-purana is an oral tradition.  The 
criteria for what is considered accurate in an oral tradition is not the 
same as in a writing-centered culture.  Again, ask any kathakara, they 
feel they are expounding the Ramayana of Valmiki even if they don't stick 
to the exact letter.

  Also note even in "written" form there are several Ramayanas. Adhyatma 
Ramayana and Yoga Vasishtha, Ramacharitmanas which is as popular as any 
Sanskrit shastra, the Rama akhyanas in the Mahabharata, Padmapurana 
etc.  All of them do share the same core story.  But they do diverge in 
minor details and even traditional thinkers were aware of this.

On Sun, 21 May 2006, S Jayanarayanan wrote:

> I'm not sure that the sin was a minor one - it caused the death of a child.

Yet the boys father blames Shri Rama.  It is not that a human went wayward 
but the king failed in his sacred duty to keep his subjects on the right 
track which is the primary cause.  This is why he could'nt just dispatch 
Lakshmana etc. (as occurs in other episodes) but had to go and rectify the 
situation himself.

On Mon, 22 May 2006, Siva Senani Nori wrote:

>  There, we have an advaitin^Rs view, echoing what Sri Vyas said was a
> Vaishnavite^Rs view. However, there is no mention of Sambuka being a
> rakshasa in the elaborate treatment.

I asked a couple of learned Vaishnavas I know and they weren't sure where 
it comes from either. They suggested perhaps some other Purana but I 
wouldn't even know where to start looking.

Finally I would like to mention one more perspective on this story from 
the Kavi Bhavabhuti in act three of his play Uttararamacharita.  As Shri 
Rama flies to the Dandakaranya (which is south relative to Ayodhya; modern 
northern Madhya Pradesh.) he remembers it was the place where He and Sita 
had been exiled many years ago.  As he sees the familiar sites, he feels 
increasingly guilty and as he alights to do the beheading, he says:

re hasta dakShiNa mrtasya shishordvijasya
         jIvAtave visrja shUdramunau krpANam |
rAmasya gAtramasi durvahagarbhakhinna
         sItAvivAsanapaToH karuNA kutaste || 10 ||

"Oh right hand, strike with the sword the Shudra sage so the dead son of
the twice-born may live again. You are a limb of Rama who rationalized
expelling the heavily-pregnant Sita.  What mercy could come from you?"

kathamchitprahrtya | krtaM rAmasadashaM karma |

(He hesitates and strikes.) "I have done a deed worthy of Rama."

See the double-entendre?  It is worthy of Rama in the sense of it is a 
defense of dharma but also in the sense of an injustice performed hiding 
behind the letter of the law just like kicking out His blameless (and as 
Bhavabhuti notes, pregnant) wife just because of gossip.

I found this interesting because Bhavabuti is no wild-eyed radical.  His 
intent is not to undermine Dharma or the character of Shri Rama in fact 
afterwards Shambuka returns as a divine being (divyapurusha) to reassure 
Rama that He did do behave appropriately.  Rather this is the essence of 
tragedy, showing how doing what you think is right can still can lead to 
unfortunate outcomes.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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