English: Rama and Hanuman fighting Ravana, an ...

English: Rama and Hanuman fighting Ravana, an album painting on paper, c1820. Tanjore or Trichinopoly, Tamil Nadu, India, Around AD 1820 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thankful for books!

I love Mythology. Greek, Norse, Celtic, Hindu, African, South American, they all are interesting and completely entertaining to me. One of my first Lit instructors said that Mythology is a culture explaining itself to itself. Neat huh?  It makes sense too, since most mythology is thought to have originated as oral traditions that were written down years after their origins. The instructor I mentioned is James Bryant-Terise at Clackamas Community College, (just in case he sees this). One of my favorite in the mythology genre is a Hindu myth known as the Ramayana. It is the story of a great Hindu Hero/God named Rama fulfilling his destiny. The translation I read was by Ramesh Menon

The point I found the most interesting was the concept of free will in the tale. It was free will against fate, and how the story seems to display evidence of both. There were two ideas that came from this: destiny usually requires intervention, possibly divine: and that the story emphasizes the importance of both fate and free will, setting things up so that while there was divine intervention, Rama still had choices to make.

For instance, he is destined to kill Ravana, in “The Need for an Avatar” chapter five of the “Ramayana,” Vishnu spoke and explained, “I will be born as Dasaratha of Ayodhya’s son, and I will kill Ravana”. So from the very beginning he is destined to kill Ravana. Yet by his own choices he prolongs the destiny, for example in chapter five, “A Golden Deer”, Sita takes a fancy to the deer that is in actuality Maricha, he says, “All instincts cry out warning: some great danger is very near” . Yet he continues on and leaves his brother with his wife. If he had followed his instinct he may have been there and killed Ravana, or prevented Sitas’s kidnapping. Even Lakshmana, who was left to protect Sita says “I am too afraid; I feel grave danger very near”. Yet he too leaves her even though he doesn’t believe his brother was really injured. So Rama may have a destiny but definitely has free will to choose as well. It is a necessary thing, for the hero of the story to have an opportunity to make mistakes. If the destiny was so locked in, and every choice was made for him, there wouldn’t be much of a story. All people make mistakes, and in most mythology, even Gods do.

A refreshing change, don’t you think?


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