QUIZ: (answer version will be released on avenue!)
•One of the distinctive features of Vedic religion is its se of non durable architecture
•Several new religious concepts emerged during the late Vedic period
•The endless cycle of birth and rebirth is called samsara
•The organization of Vedic literature gives us some insight into the organization of Vedic society
•Dharma = teachings of the Buddha in Buddhism
•Indra is the most important god in the Rig-Veda (~1000 hymns in the rig Veda and he is mentioned in
289 of them)
•Jainism advocated for acetic practices as a way to achieve moksha
•The oral transmission of the Rig-Veda was stopped when it was written down in 800BCE = FALSE
•Buddhism is a religious tradition that began around 500BCE
•Participation in Vedic religion was restricted to certain segments of society
1. What are the problems or conflicts that drive the story? In other words, what
are the events that happen early to set the story in motion?
•Rama is an avatar of Vishnu, has his wife, Sita abducted
•Rest of the story is driven by Rama’s attempt to save her
•Rama is not just Rama – he is also the incarnation of Vishnu… he is an avatar!
•Dasaratha is worried about his lineage carrying along when he has no sons; he performs a
sacrifice and what is produced with that sacrifice is that he gets 4 sons (he has 3 wives)…
Rama, Lakshmana, Bharatha, and S…?
•Brahmans perform the sacrifices; they are more ritually pure than any other caste – even more
oRitually pure involves obeying any number of restrictions on your activities to maintain
a state of ritual purity
You do not marry outside your class because marrying outside of your class
means loss of your class
Coming in contact with a menstruating women means you lose your ritual
Restrictions for women on their menstrual cycle still exist (i.e. women are not
allowed to go to the temple when they are on their period – no contact allowed
with god, like how Brahman women are not allowed to have any contact with
their husbands during their period)
Brahman’s have made up these rules
Vedic literature is considered to be revelation
Vedism(?) turned into Brahmanism, which turned into Hinduism
There are still Brahmans in India who memorize the Rig-Veda and pass it down orally
•Kshatriya’s – like the king: warrior class – and low castes, are required to have sacrifices done
oDasaratha pays Brahmans to perform the sacrifice, and he gets the reward from the
It takes very long, and takes resources, to do a sacrifice
Brahmans > Kshatriyas (warriors, politicians) > (V…?) Merchants > Servants
The texts are accurate descriptions of how things were
Early on in the story, Ravana and his brothers acquire extraordinary powers; this is a problem and this is
why Vishnu had to incarnate as Rama – to get rid of Ravana, as he was using his powers for evil
There are 2 dimensions to the Ramayana
The mundane (earthly) dimension
This is what is happening in Ayodhya: Dasaratha wants sons, does sacrifices to get sons. Rama married
Sita, Sita gets kidnapped, Rama searches for her
Some scholars believe that it is possible that the mundane story was earlier, and the cosmic dimensions to
the story were added on later
The Ramayana itself can be a retelling of a mundane story…?
The cosmic aspect could’ve been added on to suit the context
There was probably less of a cosmic aspect to it when the story was written compared to now.
People say the same about the Mahabharata – which also has a cosmic dimension, where there are
incarnations, and problems are being solved; the mundane story behind it is a war between two cousins
and who gets to be King. It can be similarly said here that the cosmic dimension was added after.
The cosmic dimension
As a result of the mundane events, there are cosmic events that occur
Ramayana opens with cosmic events
The acquisition of power by Ravana – he asks for invulnerability from the gods, and from other beings, but
he does not ask for invulnerability from humans. Ravana is a proud, arrogant bad guy and because of this,
he does not ask for invulnerability from humans (he thinks humans are too weak)
This is a cosmic dilemma – once he acquires these problems, he enslaves most of the other gods and puts
them in his service.
Gods are in a pickle because Ravana has become invincible to them and therefore the solution is for
Vishnu to incarnate – to become a human – in order to do one thing: defeat Ravana
Rama’s mundane event is to get his wife Sita back, but cosmically, the his ultimate goal is to defeat Ravana
as that is his only purpose to come into Earth.
You get a lot of stuff about the gods in the beginning and in the end. The stuff that happens in the middle all
happens on earth
The mundane events is a way of playing out cosmic concerns… the drama has to
The kidnapping of Sita – although it has its own motivations on earth – it has to happen so cosmic concerns
can be solved
Rama does not know that he is an incarnation of Vishnu until the very end, and Sita does not know she is a
reincarnation of Lakshmi
It is revealed to Rama at the end that he is an reincarnation of god, but he does not know it.
2. Think about what I taught in class last week. Do you see any confirmation of
what I said in class last week? Do you see anything that contradicts what I
3. What are the unquestioned assumptions that underlie the text? In other words,
what does the text take for granted?
It assumes you know the things about Hindu culture
The text tells you that the good always triumphs over evil