Is It Okay for Ramayana’s Gods to Rape Women & then Exile them as Polluted Whores?

Via Peter Sklivas
on Sep 22, 2012
get elephant's newsletter
Rama is the dude dressed in blue skin & the bow while Sita is the hot babe with the sweet smile & glittering jewels.

Recently, I dove headfirst into Ramesh Menon‘s translation of the great Vedic classic The Ramayana.

The first half of the book is filled with countless stories of the most beautiful devotion between a Prince Rama and his wife, Princess Sita, his brothers Lakshmana and Bharata, his father Dasarath, illumined rishis & many many others.

Ancient Vedic India is portrayed as a gateway to the heart of purity, consciousness and bliss. Many times I cried reading this book; however, I gotta tell you how completely disgusted I am with the second half.

In particular, I am repulsed by how the masculine feels so thoroughly entitled to worship, possess, pilfer and then discard the idealized beauty of the feminine. And then, declare honor is being preserved by denigrating the previously cherished feminine, so the males can then move on to the next cycle of female victims.

Whenever a goddess, apsara, princess or other angelic female is raped by a god, gandhava, demon, prince or king the story justifies the rape by explaining how she committed some sin to have attracted the male—and is universally designated “damaged goods” and unworthy of any virtuous male.

I feel so disgusted by this rubbish posing as Vedic teachings; these are highly evolved gods who perform these despicable acts—and face no ill consequences forthwith.

Varuna, the God of Water/Oceans rapes the beautiful innocent Apsara Rambha and then her celestial lover wants nothing to do with her, as though the rape was her fault.

How do such perversities get passed down through generations as the venerated stories of an esteemed praiseworthy culture?

In this story, Rama and his legions expend tremendous energy (millions of demons & monkeys are slain in the goriest ways) to retrieve Sita after she has been abducted by Ravana. Then, Rama abandons Sita shortly thereafter because his subjects declare that she is tarnishing his image and unworthy of him.

Meanwhile, the truth is that Sita is purity incarnate; she remained chaste during her incarceration. So, Rama is not yielding to the truth when he exiles his pregnant wife to a remote ashram.

Right now I am so angry.

We need to retell these stories in ways that re-balance the male-female archetypes.

While proclaiming his divine love for Sita, did Rama fight the war to preserve his honor? Was Sita just a piece of Rama’s stolen property? Did Rama launch a war to kill Ravana and millions of subjects on both sides simply to retrieve his property?

This possibility is sickening.

If Rama felt honor required exiling Sita, why didn’t he join his beloved Sita and let the humans who were so eager to judge Sita as damaged goods find themselves another king?

No, Rama couldn’t do that because he had a duty to perform as king. What bullshit! In the end, Ramesh Menon’s translation of The Ramayana is an elegy to the cruelty of masculine entitlement, posing as a work of great devotion. While William Buck’s translation lacks Menon’s literary dexterity, I recommend it as a healthier alternative version.

What makes me feel so sad and enraged, is how Ramesh Menon plies his craft as a fabulous wordsmith to justify the sort of behavior that re-enforces the very reason that Rama and Sita incarnated in the first place.

The god and goddess incarnated to correct the excessive misuse of power by the masculine embodied by Ravana and his rakshasa demon kingdom. Unfortunately, the storytellers of The Ramayana seemed to be so immersed in their own imbalance, that the story portrays the most evolved of the gods as rapists and murders, juxtaposed next to acts of unparalleled devotion.

Somehow, the reader is left to reconcile the conundrum between the extreme swings of divine love and vulgar barbarism, committed by the so-called creators and sustainers of the universe.

The Ramayana perpetuates a perverse psychology not unlike The Bible does within, the realm of Christianity; these texts make it impossible for this devotee to retain a pure open heart to the Rama in The Ramayana or the Christ in The New Testament.

Fortunately, I can reach for other literary expressions of divinity. And, I can embrace the Rama and Christ in my heart, as well as the Sita and Mary Magdalene.

I feel it’s vitally important to expose stories perpetuating lies and cruelty between men and women, especially in the world of yoga, which is a place I regard as a sacred gateway to human evolution.

Please tell me what you know about The Ramayana.

Is it okay for yogic gods to rape women and then exile them as polluted whores? Is this dharma in action? Or is it confused men in authority writing down holy rubbish to justify their demented worldviews? How can we confront this sort of bullshit without becoming mired in the same polarity of false righteousness?

I’d love to hear what you know.

Om Shakti Om…Om Shiva Om.

~

Editor: Bryonie Wise

Like elephant reviews on Facebook.


25,547 views

Comments

144 Responses to “Is It Okay for Ramayana’s Gods to Rape Women & then Exile them as Polluted Whores?”

  1. @BabaRampuri says:

    Are the opinions of "overtly religious Hindus" to be dismissed? How about people who are overtly Indian? Or are overtly post-colonial? When you start looking ay it, there is a lot of dismissing you will have to do, Yogijulian. Who are you to be in this privileged position dismissing informed opinion?

  2. @BabaRampuri says:

    What is it that informs your opinion of Indian Dharma, the Ramayan, & Indian culture, Yogijulian? Your articulate answer would be valuable in looking at some of the larger issues here.

  3. @BabaRampuri says:

    Timmy, you ascribe a universality, that all other cultures must accept, of terms such as listed above which have private definitions. The varied & often vague definitions of these abstracts suit specific interests, often political. When 'individuality' means self obsession & sacrificing the collective for the individual, when 'democracy' means selling out to the highest bidder, when 'equality' hides inequality, and 'freedom' means freedom to shop, then yes, the 'Other' may reject these vague ideas and crave the nourishment of their own cultures. If you would think it a sign of intelligence & culture for the civilization of India to just accept your definitions of these ill thought out terms, despite having debated & articulated these kinds of 'concepts' for 1000's of years, then it would be you who could be accused of calling members of the 'Other' "idiots." Look around you, for Goddess sake, do you believe the Libyans, Iraqis, Afghans, Syrians, & others meeting similar fates cherish American democracy, for example? They may be going to Heaven in large numbers, but they are not being "liberated."

  4. Yogananda Puri says:

    Well I guess if you are stuck in gross material nature, you limit yourself to being just physical body and you run into a bullet, then you see yourself as being dead. Body is terminated, I am body which must means I'm dead.

    Is this the insight you have gotten from your yoga sadhana ??!!
    Is this the knowledge that you have gained from your tapasya and your guru's teachings ??!!
    Is this what you represent when claiming a voice on the subject of Self Knowledge (Atma Vidya) and yoga ??!!

  5. Yogananda Puri says:

    Timmy, there are actually some serious people out there, that do not attend yoga classes, workshops and retreats or whatever in the west has become synonymous of yoga.

    Just because you have a cheap Chinese copy of a Louis Vuitton bag, doesn't mean you know anything about the original, nor does it mean you have become more concious of design or style.
    It just shows that your a gullible consumer, that doesn't have the sophistication to tell the difference between a fake and the real thing and a sign of really bad taste !

    Like all cheap products that flood the market, your bag is going to fall apart and all your material belongings fall to the ground and break.
    Hopefully there will be someone around to help you pick up the pieces again…

  6. Auki says:

    I give this article — and most of the comments in this thread — TWO THUMBS DOWN! I recently read the unabridged version of the Ramayana. It was a beautiful, worthwhile read from a spiritual perspective. Yes, it was often disturbing. But what true spiritual path is not often disturbing?! I strongly disagree with Skliva's judgements, opinions and conclusions about the book. And I wonder how many of the comments in this thread were made by folks who haven't even bothered to read the Ramayana.

  7. yogi henry says:

    to Hindulinks: you say:” Nothing related to Yoga is distinct from Hinduism. It’s all Hindu/Vedic Philosophy.”
    WOW!! You obviously haven’t read or studied The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Can you enlighten us with examples of the Sutras containing fables, stories, names of demi-gods? One can be a Patanjalist yogi and not be a Hindu. What’s your beef with that? So, Patanjali is not a Yogi in your mind?
    I also don’t have a problem with free speech including Christian bashing if the author would like to discuss that or show examples; just in this case the author was talking about the ramayana and went off topic. I called him on that. What’s your problem with that?

  8. yogamamba says:

    I think everyone is just bored and appreciative of the opportunity to discuss. – life can get quite disturbing at times and if the Ramayana and stories like it can help society well thats what they're for. Is there anything in the west quite as inspiring to the whole of society? This huge gaping hole in our culture is of course the primary reason we all go off hugging cultures other than our own, and why Peter is reading the book in the first place.

  9. Timmy_Robins says:

    Hi yogananda Puri
    Well, i am not a yoga practitioner so I dont think I understand what you are trying to say , but I ll tell you what i think.

    First of all i respect your beliefs , in my opinion beliefs are only relevant to the person that holds them , they are only relevant to yourself. They might actually help you to be cool with death but there is a relevant fact that remains , if you die , for your family and friends you will effectively be gone , they wont hear your voice again , you wont be having dinner with them again , you will be absent for special ocasions and celebrations , you will cease to exist in the here and now for those who outlive you and they will probably miss you too, you wont be coming back.

    I dont know what you think about this but even if gross material nature and your physical body are totally irrelevant to you , they are not for those who actually care about you. So , i guess the question is how is this denial of gross material nature helping you be a better person ?If you are so sure about the uselessness of your material body why dont you test this belief and shoot yourself in the head ? If you are more than your physical body then you shouldnt have a problem with this….you could terminate your physical body and still be you right? But then how do you know you will?…the problem with beliefs is that they cant be tested….can they?

  10. Timmy_Robins says:

    I think this subject deserves a longer discussion but for now I ll say that yes , there are many human universals, pain , joy , fear , rage , etc are human universals , there might be different or similar triggers in different cultures . An arranged marriage might be a culturally accepted and even desired thing but yes on a personal level it can become into a very painful experience or maybe not .Jumping into your husband's funeral pire will still be painful even when you are culturally expected to do so. Life is experienced individually each body has one mind , each experience is felt and sensed personally. And this is true for all human beings.

    My point is that culture cant change human wants and needs . When culture gets in the way of these wants and needs it starts to be changed by people itself .

    I cant say Afghans wanted to be "liberated" but Sirians and the others did start the arab spring by themselves .

  11. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Derpa, I'm pretty sure the author of this article agrees with you completely about the Bible and could probably join you in giving plenty of examples. In fact most people at this site would probably agree with you and many have their own lists of perverse examples from the Bible which they like to present.

    The author says, "The Ramayana perpetuates a perverse psychology not unlike The Bible does within, the realm of Christianity". Key words are "not unlike." Ie, there's no surprise that the Bible is perverse. I mean everyone knows that (is the assumption). The surprise is that old writings from other cultures (for us rose-colored-glasses-wearing Westerners) could also be perverse.

  12. Pankaj Seth says:

    The problem is that you have a certain idea in your mind about Hinduism. Hinduism traces back textually to the Vedas. Patanjali is within that tradition. Yoga is a path to Moksha, which is one of the 4 aims of life, the others being Dharma, Artha, Kama.

    Yoga is one of a number of complementary approaches to Moksha, within the tradition called HINDUISM. The others are Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Mimamsa and Vedanta.

    In what sense is Yoga, Patanjali not in the HIndu tradition?

    Of course, the word "hinduism" is not a native word, but an outsider's term. It only refers to a geographical area, the Indus river.

    The Puranas are a class of literature within the tradition known as Hinduism, which includes "fables, stories, names of demi gods". There are other classes of literature too, for example Patanjali's Yoga Sutra which is not a Purana. All of this is called "Hinduism".

    You can read more about the tradition here, whether or not it needs to be called "Hinduism"… http://archive.org/details/AHistoryOfIndianPhilos… (2517 pages)

  13. Pankaj Seth says:

    You make a good point.

    This blog is much ado about nothing. If a utopia were to be described vis a vis humans and gods, especially gods, then the message would be that that is the goal, to become a god. But then, we would be pointed to dualism, not non-dualism. We would be pointed to a tawdry little philosophy.

  14. yogamamba says:

    Yes – too much philosophizing – Being human like being conscious is very ordinary and natural.

  15. Hi Henry Thank you for your thoughtful comment. The distinction between yoga/Vedic versus religion/Hindu is one I struggle to understand. Perhaps you are right in attributing The Ramayana as a mythic work of religion rather than a yogic scripture. The devotional components tend to open up my heart. And the violence of the stories offers a jarring contrast that I find difficult to integrate. Can our myths evolve to better inspire living in dharma?

  16. Paul, thank you for your comment. Menon's translation is 4th one I've read. I keep coming back to The Mahabharata & Ramayana because of their devotional & dharmic elements. Role models of what it means to surrender to God … the Divine … the elements of life fundamentally different than earning money or fame. It's about embodying a life of virtue which I can always use extra help with. I get this help from reading The Ramayana. Plus I get these extra challenges mirroring how to integrate what it means human & spirit. I hope the questions in my blog can ignite a healthy inquiry.

  17. Great question! Archetypal myths invite precisely this sort of inward inquiry. That's what I endeavor to see.

  18. vakibs says:

    I once had a long email correspondence on this topic of masculine / feminine counterpoints on Ramayana with Nina Paley.
    http://sitayana-correspondence.blogspot.com

  19. Manoj, thank you for commenting. I wish you'd address the issues raised by my questions. I asked because I want answers. I think it's healthy to ask questions & then listen. While I adore & cherish many elements of Vedic culture, I don't present m/s as an expert. I think of m/s as a sincere seeker. These archetypal stories can be powerful springboard into my evolving humanity or they can be used to justify stagnant ways of being. I'm trying my best to make my inquiry about the former. Again, thank you, Manoj

  20. Matt Dalton says:

    It's a story. Written a long time ago. By people from a different world than the one we live in. Yoga is not religion. Hinduism is religion. This article is proof that the penchant for fundamentalist interpretation of fictional literature is seductive to even those that consider themselves to be among the new age. There's nothing new about this sort of interpretation. And there's nothing yogic about the Ramayana or any god. When we overlay the literature of the past on the present and then try to critique it we will always come up comparing apples to oranges.

  21. HI Ashton You are 100% correct. I have been missing the archetypal significance. And I want to get it. Your interpretation is extremely helpful in reveailing the big picture of what the story is really about. Please forgive my ignorance. I genuinely want to grow as a result of my inquiry. I'll probably forget more than a few times down the road. Hopefully the periods of forgetfulness are getting shorter. And hopefully I find ways to surround m/s w/ enlightened individuals who illuminate my pathway. Thank you for revealing a bigger picture.

  22. Wow, Yogananda Puri! Your interpretation is wonderful! Personally I feel the conflict to which you are alluding. I do sell yoga classes. I am creating a dvd, app & ebook about the style of yoga that I practice & teach. Does that make me a demon? Is it possible to sell yoga without raping Sita? Does the pure approach require sequestering the inquiry to an isolated Rishikesh cave? I find m/s conflicted about whether I am seeking to spread what I teach because I want more money. Or because I want to serve people. Both are true. Serving people was & has been my primary motivation. But it isn't easy to maintain the pure intent when interacting with the business world.
    Thank you for your insights. And I apologize if my inquiry offended you. That's not intent.

  23. Thank you, Vic. A lot here for me to digest & learn. The influences of Islamic culture must play a role. The word: respect … keeps coming up for me. What does it mean to respect the feminine & masculine in my world? I'm grappling with this inquiry. Do you have a particular translation of the Bhagavad Gita that's close to your heart?

  24. Many famous gurus have used these precise arguments to have sex with disciples & then silence any voices of protest. This includes my 2nd yoga guru Yogi Amrit Desai (founder of Kripalu Yoga & Kripalu Center) An amazing man whose contributions made an enormous shift in the lives of many thousands of people (m/s included). How to reconcile 'the divine glory with 'the primal lust'? Especially with the duplicitous flowery spiritual teachings about purity, celibacy, speaking truth, etc … while secretly screwing disciples? Is the Eastern mind really that different? Or is it oriented toward a different ideal … value system … North Star?

  25. @HinduLinks says:

    All the four Dharmic religions have been influenced by Tantra. Each of the four Dharmic religions namely Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism have influenced each other. So, what's your point?

  26. Vic DiCara says:

    Peter,

    The modern approach to gender equality has grown from a fundamental idea of homogenizing the two genders, so that there should remain no significant differences. But the Indian approach is female and male energy are two distinct entities and cannot be homogenized. if we look for equality in Indian literature, looking for it in the shape of sameness or uniformity in the roles and natures of men and women, therefore, we simply won't find it.

    What will will find is that the indian spirit values the contribution of each member of society – without artificially trying to make each members contribution the same or interchangable.

    This is my understanding after living in India and closely among Indians, and studying Indian literature in a practical manner since 1990. I hope it is of service to you, I appreciate your inquisitive spirit.

    As for the Bhagavad Gita and a particular translation that I like… Elephant is currently publishing my own translation! 🙂 The first chapter is here: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/09/desperate-… The next chapters are coming, one per week, I think.

    Radhey Shyam,
    Vic

  27. Joshua says:

    I don't care to comment on this article, but the government doesn't "own all the temples". There is no master on the throne controlling the masses through religion. People will believe in all kinds of crazy stuff forever more. They don't need dictators to do so.

  28. Thank you for recommending The Yoga Vasistha. I'll pick it up. I'm fascinated by the many levels of interpretation, understanding & determination in beliefs generated by this story in its readers.

  29. peter sklivas says:

    Hello Auki Exactly what is an unabridged version of a story verbally passed down through generations? Whose version can claim to be unabridged when there are so many stories depending on whose aural tradition the translator plugs into? Every translation I've seen looks so different. I'm glad the book worked for you.

  30. @tarasnake says:

    well krishna was opposite to rama

    he valued the feminine

  31. Lenore says:

    He isn't "Christian bashing," he is making an analogy between the writings of "confused men in authority writing down holy rubbish to justify their demented worldviews" which continue to pervade societal behavior today. Did you not read the part of balancing the female and male archetype? He asked for thoughts on how to cope with these discrepancies. I didn't see where he asked for an editor.

  32. Lenore says:

    Yoga was brought to the west from – you guessed it – yogis, Indian teachers. Furthermore, a woman cannot be "stripped of her virtue" and turned into a whore. Why the female analogy? Your choice of words shows that you suffer from the same imprisonment of mind that has become the bane of society – east and west.

  33. Tanya says:

    I support your questioning. I agree with a comment I saw that if it is just presented as stories then it is showing us lessons to learn. Since I don't follow Hindu culture but do follow Buddhism which is influenced by some of the beliefs in Hindu… may I offer this: the Gods are not the creators of the world, they have powers and according to Buddhism there is a God realm which is not the highest level like that of Enlightenment where Enlightened beings emanate from complete purity. The stories show to me: not to put your faith in the power of Gods but rather know their power and potential to be of aid, yet they too are still under the influence of ignorance, attachment and lack unconditional love and compassion. There are specific teachings in Buddhism that illustrate how we can get to a God realm and that we will eventually fall. We have more ability to achieve Enlightenment as a human with the suffering around us so long as we train in Bodhichitta as demonstrated by Saints. Hope you find my response helpful and or interesting, and thank you for opening this discussion up!

  34. Manoj Mehta says:

    Peter,

    In that case, if you are so open to inquiring and finding out, just desist from using titles that only serve to offend. If I unpack that title, I can see it loaded with innuendo and assumptions about things which – as you yourself say – know little about. To put it another way, what if I asked you about certain injustices in recent American history and framed my question as "Is it ok for an alien culture to rape, pillage, loot, kill and decimate an indigenous population in the name of civilization and development"? It's a conversation-stopper, no?

  35. @BabaRampuri says:

    After a week, it doesn't seem YogiJulian has much to say. Easy to shoot off the mouth and then hide behind a computer screen like a good virtual yogi!!

  36. […] In a move carefully calculated way to elicit outrage and controversy, self-proclaimed ‘yoga teacher,’ Peter Sklivas recently blogged : ‘Is it Okay for Ramayana’s Gods to Rape Women and Exile them as Polluted Whores?’ […]

  37. Thank you, Tanya. Your words make a lot of sense. I'm not here to hurl to Malitov cocktails Hinduism or Vedic culture. I'm here to learn more about myself & my rel-ship to fem/male archetypes within this world of illusion & truth.

  38. […] more “spiritually enlightening articles” are male. This, to me, is an indicator of the taboo surrounding female sexuality and the continuous sexism that blankets the more feminine spiritual […]

  39. Bhakta says:

    Where in the Ramayana is Rambha raped by Varuna? I have never heard of this before and a quick google doesn't seem to indicate this is present in the epic either. Rambha is raped by Ravana not Varuna in the Ramayana, and for this Ravana is beaten and cursed by Rambha's husband Nalakuvara, and his father Kubera, who also happen to be Ravana's nephew and brother respectively. He does not go unpunished for his actions.

    Likewise the Uttara Kanda, the last chapter of the Ramayana, is the chapter in which Sita is supposidely banished from Ayodhya. However, this chapter does not appear in all recesions of the Ramayana, and is regarded by some scholars as a later addition to the epic.

  40. paul says:

    You are right on all counts. There are many different versions of the story, so I wondered the same, but Menon uses Valmiki for his translation. Sklivas was simply wrong, and has apologized and admitted his various errors in a way. .

  41. savi pandayi says:

    Firstly an impure mind cannot understand the play (role) of God on earth, God the creator both Mother and Father aspect has expand himself in both male and female aspect to come on earth to rid the evil minded, wicked and bewildered like you people who are making contradiction. To abloish Sita was not an act of inhuman, it was the act to show that a True King should rule to please his submjects despite their pure ignorance, what did Sita lost or what did Raam lost in the whole play, his duties was fulfill to rid earth of demonic Human beings. The Universal creator retreat to its abode and you are still arguing who is Raam and who is Sita. What Raam did and what Sita accept no ordaniary person can attain that, it was an act to show man how high he can traverse if he release attachment. So fools you have to born eight million four hundred thousand times before you can even begin to understand the act of the Universal Father or Mother.

  42. C.S.Ramalakshmi says:

    You are generalising too much.
    It was Ravana who abducted a married woman.
    Would any man in western culture allow his wife to be abducted or lured by a passing stranger?Wont he wreak vengeance?
    You say Rama suspected.
    Is a man to take things lying down?What will people say, if Rama accepted without a murmur?
    Any thief in the kingdom will say,"Rama, Rama, I didnt commit any crime, believe me.You believed your wife, why not believe me ?I cant be punished'.What will happen to the justice system in that case.?Rama was the 1st king who said, people should be judged on evidence.Law of evidence came into being only after 'agni Pariksha'.'Agni Pariksha' is our National ideal.Anybody, be it ever so high, is not above rule of law, and has to submit himself to scrutiny.
    Lakshman Rekha is the code of self discipline.No man or woman can cross lakshman rekha.
    These are our national ideals.
    Only western culture has eroded into our values, and we are having crooks amidst us .
    Only way India can be saved is by learning and re learning self discipline from Ramayana.
    Foreigenrs have to go deep.India psychology is deep.
    Rama suspected and scolded his wife because he wanted to prevent some body else starting to mailgn her.As a man, he took all the blame and crticism upon himself.What a noble man!

  43. Shriram says:

    Dude I dont know which version of Ramayana you have read but you have seriously misguided views. I have read the Ramayana. Also for your information there is no lakshmana rekha in the Ramayana.

    It has become a fashion nowadays to denigrate Hinduism.

  44. P.M. says:

    @Manoj: Well said.

Leave a Reply