“The mighty Rama, who possessed extraordinary strength, consecrating in accordance with the mantras prescribed in the Vedas, taking that great arrow – which was capable of removing the fears of the entire world and the Ikshvaku dynasty, capable of taking away the glory of His enemies, and conducive to His own happiness – fixed it on His bow.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kand, 108.13-14)
Friend1: You ever see these reinterpretations of past events?
Friend2: Umm, what? What is there to interpret about an event? Yesterday it was sunny and 65 degrees. You want me to change that to cloudy and 50 degrees? Not possible.
Friend1: Interesting response. Makes you think. Anyway, this stuff definitely happens. Like someone will speculate what the country would be like today if the South had won the Civil War. Or what if England didn’t lose control of the colonies. What would be different today?
Friend2: Oh, I see. So someone is writing fiction, inspired by real-life events.
Friend1: Basically. It could be a movie, too. Anyway, I came across one of these that related to spiritual life.
Friend2: Uh oh.
Friend1: Yeah, you’re not going to like it. I didn’t, either, but it’s out there. I thought it would make for an interesting discussion.
Friend2: Great. Thanks for bringing this nonsense to me.
Friend1: The interpretation is of the conclusion of the Ramayana story.
Friend2: Let me guess. What would have happened if Ravana had emerged victorious? What if the supposed bad guy was really the hero?
Friend1: Not quite. They keep the same outcome, but through different means. The change in the story is that Sita Devi is the one shooting the arrows. She defeats Ravana in battle, not Rama.
Friend2: Ah, so like a feminist angle?
Friend1: Exactly. The argument is that the occasion of Dussehra would be more inspiring to people today. It would show that women are strong and capable, rather than weak and shy.
Friend2: Of course this is from the materialist’s angle of vision. They are so envious of God that they can’t stand that He, as an incarnation named Rama, emerged victorious against such a powerful materialist like Ravana. Their only resort is make-believe, to feel better about what happened.
Friend1: I certainly agree with that. But what is the counterargument? I mean the reality is reality. You’re supposed to take what happened and accept it. Still, we know that God teaches through His lila [pastimes]. Could not a different lesson have been taught?
Friend2: The premise of the argument is completely invalid. Sita Devi is one of the strongest women in history. Dharma was her strength, and in her case it was the purest version, practiced on the biggest stage, under the most trying circumstances. She was not simply a devoted wife. She was tied to Rama, forever, in consciousness. She would never deviate from that way of thinking. It simply wasn’t possible. She endured tremendous torture at the hands of Ravana. She showed the highest level of renunciation, even to where yogis and ascetics wouldn’t be able to reach.
Friend1: That’s true.
Friend2: Moreover, the devotees share in the triumphs of Bhagavan. Rama releasing the arrows and defeating the wicked Ravana brought tremendous delight to Sita and others. She played a significant role in that victory. Without her influence, Ravana may never have been defeated. You could argue that Hanuman should have been the one to kill the king of Lanka. Then that would give strength to devotees.
Friend1: Yeah, I mean Hanuman is awesome.
Friend2: And he certainly had the ability to defeat Ravana. Still, he wanted the glory to go to Rama. That is the definition of pure devotion. Nothing for yourself. And to this day Hanuman’s reputation is spotless. So is Sita’s. Some people say bad things about Bhagavan, but that has been going on since the beginning of time. Sita Devi is already an inspiration for millions, men and women alike. There is no reason to change one thing from the Ramayana history. It is already perfect in every respect.
Friend1: What about the inspiring women angle, though?
Friend2: In terms of thinking there should not be bodily designations. That is the first cause of the cycle of birth and death. We are trying to teach people to see the spirit inside. Even if viewed materially, the lesson from Sita and Rama is that the husband and wife share in the achievements. The wife is as much responsible for the victories of the husband as the husband is. Her support means everything. That is the secret to the potency of the marriage system followed in Vedic culture. Sita Devi had the ascetic power to kill Ravana herself, without needing to shoot arrows. She chose to allow Rama to earn the glory, for that increased the fame of the family and showed the world the power of good over evil. From all angles, her example is already an inspiration.
No need for reconsideration,
Sita already an inspiration.
Devoted to husband so much,
Of selfishness without a touch.
The glory of Rama’s victory sharing,
For personal wellbeing not caring.
No need for lila to change at all,
In hearts of devotees already standing tall.