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Religious Studies 1J03

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McMaster University
Religious Studies
Joe Larose

Ramayana A great story is a story that gets retold. What is religious in the text? - Talks about the gods (Shiva, Vishnu, Indra, Brahma, Kama) a lot. Vishnu is the head of the gods (know this bc people go to him when they cant figure something out). Kama is the god of love. - Class of religious specialists (priests are the top 2)warrior 3)merchant 4) serfs) - Male doinated What drives the action in the first half of the story? - Ravana is a demon (asura) has too much power; gods can’t kill him or defeat them. Except for Vishnu. Brahma gives Ravana protection-invulnerable to the god, demigods and demons. (That was his wish, he got it bc he impressed Brahma, but you can never become absolutely immortal). Vishnu incarnates himself into Rama - Early period of gods= indra (in one story, indra tries to get a very powerful persons wife, gets caught and the powerful person puts vaginas all over him lol then people have pity for him and replace them with eyes), later= Vishnu, shiva, bahama. What kind of person is Rāma? - Wants to kill demons and rescue his wife. She was abducted by Ravana- taken to his kingdom (sri lanka/ lanka). - Everything in his fate is manufactured and necessary bc its really the cosmic problem that needs to be resolved. - Everyone liked him- even his father wanted him to become king when he retires - Hes perfect What kind of person is Sītā (Ramas wife)? - Avatar of Lakshmi (Vishnu’s wife) - Fell in love with Rama right when she met him. Gets all mopey when not around him. - Dramatic and naïve (?) - Devoted - Does Rāma deserve his exile in the forest? - No, but his duty is to obey his father so he must do it. - But he feels he does bc he accepts it. - He ends up in the forest bc his father (Dasaratha- he has three wives= Kausalya (Rama’s mom), Kaikeyi (Bharata’s mom) and Sumitra (Lakshmana - he goes into the forest with rama, very loyal bc he chose to do this. A little hot headed- any sign of trouble and he gets his sword out and ready-> opposite of Rama. He also mutilates ramavas sister, Soorpanka (only when she seems like shes going to attack sita)- & Satrughna’s mom) grants his step mother (Kaikeyi) two wishes- 1) own son put on thrown instead of Rama 2) Rama has to be exiled for 14 years. Are the demons of Laṅkā all bad? Or is there some subtlety to their character? - No they’re not all bad - Vibishana- joined ramas camp kinda. He’s good - Mareecha- bad for a while and now dedicated his life to being better. Ravana had to convince him a lot to help him kidnap sita. - Some subtlety in their character. More in some cases. Avatar= incarnations of Vishnu on earth (stays in heaven and sends down part of himself and is reborn as rama- whose goal on earth is to kill Ravana. Rama doesn’t know he’s an incarnation of Vishnu. What evidence is there of class distinctions in the story? To what extent is the story driven by class conflict? You may want to revisit the conversation between Rama and Soorpanaka (Ravana’s sister?) on page 65. - lower than men, must be protected by men - Law codes say that women shouldn’t be independent and men should keep them under control. (that’s men’s duty) - 6 bad things for women to do: o Drinking o Associating with bad people o Travel- Soorpanaka travels independently. She’s pretty manipulative. o Sleep o Being away from husband o Staying in the houses of others We talked a little in class about duty and conflicts between duties. What other conflicts between competing duties do we see in the second half of the Ramayana? - duty= dharma - figure out your dharma by a law code (of Manu and Vishnu) - ex: little brothers have to obey older brothers - children obey parents Are the demons of Lanka all bad? Or is there some subtlety to their character? (This is a question from last week that we did not get to consider last class.) How is Sita treated while she is in Ravana's city? How does her treatment by the demons compare with Rama and Lakshmana's treatment of Soorpanaka? - shes taunted by all girl demon - kept in a woods/ garden - doesn’t touch sita till she consents bc he would explode (he has been cursed) What sorts of parallels are there between Rama's situation and Sugreeva’s situation? What function might these parallels serve? Rama didn’t fight the war to save sita, but to restore the honour of his family. He didn’t like sita that much after bc she lived in another mans house for awhile. Her accessibility is in question. She proposes a trial by fire, throws herself in the fire. Rama meets up with exiled leader of a group of monkey people (intelligent, speaking) bc his brother tried to get more power. Rama allies himself with Sugreeva (brothers with Vali) Sugreeva makes a deal with Rama= if you help me help my brother than ill have an army ready to get back Sita. Rama kills Vali when he is fighting his brother. But this is against the “warrior way/code” bc rama was in hiding. Pretty much goes against everything rama stands for. “youre wrong bc you exiled your brother, so its justified” (reason why rama says he shot Vali). Ravana’s brothers= Kumbakarna, Vibishana. Uncle = Mareecha. He also has a sister. She runs into rama, sita and his brother while they’re in exile, she falls in love with rama and wants him to marry her so she wants to get rid of sita. She plans on eating sita. She gets Ravana interested and that leads to sita being kidnapped. She then tries to marry Rama’s bro bc Rama is in love with Sita, his bro doesn’t understand why she would want him. That’s when she realizes she won’t get Rama and tries to attack sita. Then the bro mutilates her. Demons/ asura/ rakshasa No noble= non Aryan (shows class distinction) Article Assumption is that all events are worth understanding. The story changes a little as years go on (sensitized violent things) Article 1/30/13 300 ramayanas version vs telling’s - versions make it seem like it’s a version of something that is more original and correct. - telling’s is more neutral Jain Ramayana Not shortened, and not as fun to read. Very detailed. Changes? - Rama is not as violent. Gets his bro to do all the dirty work. EX: doesn’t kill Ravana - Sita becomes a nun at the end/ Rama becomes a monk. Many characters do actually - No incarnations. Rama is just a regular guy - Ravana less mean and more compassionate - Sitas ordeal is diff. other ordeal is when she goes in the fire and survives to show her purity. Jain version= trial by fire and when they return the towns people start whispering and don’t know how rama could live with sita after she lived with another man. Maybe it was bc of a past life? Yes it was. She realizes this and that’s why she becomes a nun. - This version talks about the characters past lives and future lives - Gods have no special status. - Just a human story now. What happens to the humans in the story? - Lakshman goes to hell bc of all the crappy stuff he does for rama Cycle of Samsara-> no beginning or end in Asian religions. Just keeps on going. No point where universe was created. Everyone dies and is reborn. KARMA shape of your current life is in part bc of actions you preformed in the past. Only way to get out is if you become a monk or a nun Please also consider what happens at the end of the story. What is the story concerned with after the battle? What does it spend a lot of time doing? What happens to most of the characters? What do they do after the war? The Buddha’s Last Life 5 -6 century BCE Siddhartha G (he who achives his aim) this reflects bc everything he did, he did well in. always won everything Nepal Prince Don’t know much detail about him (when he was born/ when he died) Don’t know if theres more than one or not Lives ~ 80 years, but who knows - The prince lives in tushita heaven before he is born for the last time - Mothers name is Maya, she has dreams that are of the buddhas life (dreams of a
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