History of Asian Civilizations
The Role of Dharma in The Ramayana
For thousands of years the Ramayana
has entertained and inspired its readers with
its epic tale.
The reader learns lessons through the intertwining stories of various
The various tales of these characters: gods, demons, men, and monkeys show
the obstacle they must face in the attempt to carry out their dharma in the mystical world
that they live in.
By reading the tales, readers have aspired to learn the book’s lessons
and to live according to the many tenets taught.
One such tenet is that by realizing one’s
dharma or one’s rights and duties, one will prosper. Conversely, by leading an immoral
life by ignoring dharma, one could obtain bad karma.
As is typical of this form of
literature, frequently the characters of the Ramayana
have to make sacrifices or put
themselves in danger in order to fulfill their dharma.
Rama, the main character of the
, has a brother named Lakshmana, who tries to fulfill his dharma as a brother
by being loyal, give sage like advice, fighting bravely, and by helping to end the tyranny
of Ravana and the asura class that he commands.
The story of the Ramayana is the tale of Rama and the people who accompany
him, such as Lakshmana, on a journey to destroy the asura class and rescue Rama’s wife,
As the story progresses, the reader can see that Lakshmana is devoted to Rama in
One example that illustrates Lakshmana’s devotion to Rama is that upon
hearing of Rama’s banishment into exile, Lakshmana, motivated by his sense of dharma,
quickly dons his battle gear and rides through the city yelling “Let the whole world come,
I’ll destroy everyone who opposes, and pile up their carcasses sky high.
I’ll seize the
crown and will not rest till I place it on Rama’s head.” (51).
Daring to fight anyone who
opposes Rama’s pursuit of what Lakshmana views as his brother’s rightful place as king,