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

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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

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anonymous Feb 12, 2015 5:29am

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.

anonymous May 10, 2013 6:55am

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!

anonymous Jan 6, 2013 2:57pm

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.

anonymous Nov 3, 2012 5:35pm

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.

    anonymous Nov 3, 2012 8:07pm

    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. .

anonymous Oct 22, 2012 1:23pm

[…] 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 […]

anonymous Oct 4, 2012 10:54am

[…] 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?’ […]

anonymous Oct 1, 2012 1:56pm

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!

    anonymous Oct 4, 2012 5:13pm

    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.

anonymous Sep 29, 2012 8:20pm

well krishna was opposite to rama

he valued the feminine

anonymous Sep 27, 2012 9:17am

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.

anonymous Sep 27, 2012 8:52am

I once had a long email correspondence on this topic of masculine / feminine counterpoints on Ramayana with Nina Paley.

anonymous Sep 26, 2012 2:43pm

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.

    anonymous Sep 26, 2012 6:51pm

    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.

      anonymous Sep 26, 2012 11:19pm

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

anonymous Sep 26, 2012 11:34am

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.

    anonymous Sep 29, 2012 5:06pm

    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.

anonymous Sep 25, 2012 7:19am

Thank you

Bob Weisenberg Sep 24, 2012 11:45pm

Probably as good a time as any to revive this old related chestnut:
Bob Meets Baba: Entrepreneur Meets Sadhu.


anonymous Sep 24, 2012 2:29pm

Good that you've discovered that the Puranas are full of the kind of moral ambiguity that all beings have to address within themselves. This existence is not a 'happy ever after'… there are thorns everywhere, even in the powerfully devotional or intelligent, even the gods have to sort through this. This is the world as it is, and so it is portrayed as it is. However, Indians have read these stories and have not come to the conclusion that rape is salutary, just as in reading the Mahabharata Indians have not concluded that war is wise.

Once the thorns have been noticed, then one could move on from the Puranas… and in the case of moving on from the Ramayana, one would come to the Yoga Vasistha where Rama is taught by the sage Vasistha about the nature of existence, self, reality. The Yoga Vasistha begins with Rama's having noticed the thorns everywhere in the midst of sweetness, and he is perturbed. So, Vasistha teaches. This is where one ought to go next, the Yoga Vasistha, and if you havn't I hope you do.

From a reader's description: "The Yoga Vasistha is the dialogue between Rama and the holy sage Vasistha. In the beginning of the book Rama has come to realize the endlessly changing nature of life from such a profound level that he sees no hope in anything and does not know how to proceed to live in a way that can lead him away from the inevitable sorrow that always follows all relative hopes and endeavors. The bulk of the text of the Yoga Vasistha is Vasistha's response to Rama's questions and state of dispassion. This book presents the truths of life as perceived and understood by those who have risen above all small self concerns, beyond all karma… from the perspective of one in Unity consciousness, the only real achievement in human life."

anonymous Sep 24, 2012 12:48pm

Thank you this is great. If we look in every single religious text we will find stories like this. It is devastating yes, and extremely heart-breaking to realize this hatred for thousands of years. I would suggest to you works by Riane Eisler, such as Chalice and the Blade or Sacred Pleasure, to further explore these links of co-opting of myths that occurred several thousand years ago from goddess-worshiping, egalitarian societies to violent, misogynistic ones that we know today…

anonymous Sep 24, 2012 3:33am

Oh! I'd like to extend the same invitation to Peter, the writer of the article as well. If he comes, he might see the Ramayan (or our other 'texts') in a new light. You'll only know us once you live with us. Otherwise, you'll keep being your judgmental selves.

anonymous Sep 24, 2012 3:14am

Dear writer and yogamamba you have no idea of what idealism is,how an ideal son,husband and king should act,if you carefully go through these text you will came to know about it as it mentioned repeatedly,
mostly it is related to keeping interest of country,society and family above your own interests.Duty of a king is first towards his countrymen then towards his family as a husband Lord Ram has loved and taken care of her Sita,but as son of a King and from a royal he has asked her to prove her purity,but as a king his duty is first towards his countrymen and interest of his country that is why when Sita was seen by his one country man(mind it ,he was a mere washer man) as some one not in line with the highest ideal of Raghukul(family line of Ram) he has left Sita for whom he has suffered so much ,almost died in a battle and was dear to him and have not married again.

Western writers almost always fails to see this as they just doin't go beyond the idea of individualism and cant see the whole picture.Ram has not left Sita because she was a woman and he is a man he has left her because of his country.

Dear writer if read carefully again Ram has removed Laxman from his kingdom has he has failed to do his duty as he has not followed Kings order,so doin't see every thing with your so called illuminated feminist ideology.

And for Shri Krishna being married to 16000 wives,these ladies were those who have worshiped God to have Ram as their husband ,since Ram was bound by his vow to remain married only to Sita,he fulfilled their wishes in his Shri Krishnas incarnation.

    anonymous Sep 24, 2012 5:06pm

    Beautiful sentiments indeed. But when it comes to being an individual getting stuck between a rock and a hard place these sentiments – or ideals -fly out the widow as much in India as anywhere else, leaving the door wide open for madness – the poor fellow having believed in an absolute ideal is left totally exasperated and confused by his own humanity.

anonymous Sep 24, 2012 2:44am


I feel sorry for you. Do you think people like us live our lives purely based on what '"the texts" tell us? That we don't critically look within our culture and minds and change and evolve with time? I'd bet that you have spent absolutely no time at all living, and I mean really LIVING the Indian way of life, with the Indians themselves. Your mind is influenced purely by what you have read, a lot of which is drivel, about we are all about. You are like an armchair critic, watching a movie on TV, and assuming that your opinion on the movie is the 'correct' one. With the likes of you, at some stage, there is no room for debate or discussion. Yours is a purely one-sided view, heavily influenced by the system you are part of. Your arguments are also generally laced with an intention of creating discord, rather than really wanting to try and understand and bridge the chasm between your world and what's outside of it.

    anonymous Sep 24, 2012 3:20am

    We also extend a warm welcome to you to live with us and be part of us. Coming from where you do, it might be tough going for you because your every illusion will be shattered. However, I am not too sure you would have the courage enough to spend some quality time with us. You are quite safe in front of your computer screen at the moment, lashing out at the rest of the world. It takes a real man (or woman if you will) to go and explore the world in all its glory, without the blanket of the 'safety' of your home environment. You are right; going into a Yoga studio where you are isn't even a pale imitation of the real thing. Like many things in your world, it's make believe, pretentious, cosmetic. You rile against that scene but shy away from going out to find out what the real thing is all about. You see, it's easier to get your 'knowledge' from your texts (i.e. your media and scholars). All it is doing to you is making you an extremely angry, fearful, confused person. We people know a lot about these things, and many of us can even hold your hand and guide you to a better, happier place. However, you've got to want to get to that place, and it would also entail spending some or a lot of time with us. It's an open invitation, and we promise that we won't harm you or main you or indoctrinate you into anything that your mind or heart doesn't agree with. In fact, we promise not to indoctrinate you, period. We offer an immense array of choices, a vast menu for you to pick from. To your heart's content, and perhaps even delight. You know that thing you call democracy? Yes? Well, we offer a very good version of it, even very flexible. Come to us. Just come with an open mind and an open heart, and as someone once said, you may come to scoff, but might just remain to 'pray' with us. Do get in touch with us when you feel you are ready. We are a very hospitable culture.

anonymous Sep 23, 2012 11:30pm

Thanks Julian, for the link.

anonymous Sep 23, 2012 9:45pm

sita sings the blues: ENJOY!

anonymous Sep 23, 2012 9:40pm

"Coming from the perspective of the individual we see ourselves as separate from the whole and as a result everything will always be seen as separate from us – ourselves included. Whereas the eastern mind sees everything as coming from wholeness, and completeness and seeing itself as already whole and complete, doesn't understand individuality. "

do you ever wonder if this is perhaps a neat and tidy rationalization rationalization used to cover over the problems with ancient texts and non-democratic societies so as to continue blissfully idealizing?

    anonymous Sep 23, 2012 9:55pm

    Ancient texts are useless without someone nearby who understands what they're all about. Not about rationale but about that presence in which everything is 'seen as' rational or irrational. This is not an ideal nor does it have anything to do with democracy but everything to do with the framework through which democracy and or other ideals are embraced. Like we all fill up with gas at the same pump.

      anonymous Sep 23, 2012 10:30pm

      yes i know – this kind of doublespeak passes as profound in the yoga community!

      it is absolute and utter nonsense.

        anonymous Sep 24, 2012 2:24am

        I think we should say in as much as the western mindset is being infiltrated and contaminated by eastern ideas, so the eastern mind is being infiltrated and contaminated by the western ideas. Its lik a big melting pot these days with currents flowing everywhere and no one really knowing where the [email protected]#$ its ll heading. But that doesn't matter to the texts does it. The book just looks at you and says. 'When you gonna read me?' So the guy Peter read the book and got everyone talking shit. What to do!

    anonymous Sep 27, 2012 10:10am

    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?

anonymous Sep 23, 2012 9:31pm

What a lively discussion. I must say India has done a superb job of marketing their culture worldwide over the last 30 or 40 years. Westerners are all clambering after getting initiated into their culture and receiving Indian names adopting so called ‘Indian lifestyles’ which the indians themselves have long forgotten.

Looking at all the erudite comments it would seem the literature too has become an essential part of this adopted lifestyle.

I would hesitate though in taking any westerners approach seriously as we just dont have the capacity to understand it. Coming from the perspective of the individual we see ourselves as separate from the whole and as a result everything will always be seen as separate from us – ourselves included. Whereas the eastern mind sees everything as coming from wholeness, and completeness and seeing itself as already whole and complete, doesn’t understand individuality.

Keep at it though. Give it your best shot. Hahahahaha. Its all entertaining.

    anonymous Sep 23, 2012 11:28pm

    " Whereas the eastern mind sees everything as coming from wholeness, and completeness and seeing itself as already whole and complete, doesn't understand individuality"

    A complete myth. And the typical brainwash people get at yoga class and yoga courses.

    Yes, Im sure all Indians feel whole, Happy and enlightened because they are special right? What you are saying is kind of ridiculous and absurd ….it is the perfect example of how people tend to romanticize eastern cultures . Really sad and out of touch from reality.

      anonymous Sep 25, 2012 3:44am

      Whats reality mr Timmy?

        anonymous Sep 25, 2012 1:40pm

        Objective, material reality, the kind of reality where if someone shoots you in the head you die.

          anonymous Sep 26, 2012 2:38am

          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 ??!!

            anonymous Sep 26, 2012 3:28am

            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…

              anonymous Sep 26, 2012 4:18pm

              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?

anonymous Sep 23, 2012 5:15pm

I am not a scholar of Ramachandra, but here are a few innocent thoughts for the author:

(a) I think the word "rape" is probably a misleading translation 90% of the time we hear it. I think it is probably similar to the term "prostitute" translated from Sanskrit – the denotation may be somewhat correct, but the connotations are wildly miscommunicated.

(b) I agree that the role of females in vedic culture is complicated and confusing to the modern mind. And I think that interpolation and new texts created after India recieved strong influence from the Islamic world play a fairly significant role in that. Historically older texts seem to bear far fewer of these perplexing male-female juxtapositions.

(c) With all respect to Sri Rama, I find Sri Krishna infinitely more adorable and lovable. Case in point: Sri Rama rejected his wife on the possibility that she had illicit contact with another man. Sri Krishna, on the other hand, married 16,000 women who he rescued from their abduction into the harem of a nefarious king. I'm way more into Sri Krishna. =)

    anonymous Sep 23, 2012 9:39pm

    i'm team jacob all the way though – i think bella would be so much better off with him, i mean like he's warm blooded and every- thing!

      anonymous Sep 23, 2012 9:51pm


        anonymous Sep 23, 2012 10:31pm


          anonymous Sep 23, 2012 10:33pm

          seriously though "I agree that the role of females in vedic culture is complicated and confusing to the modern mind."

          think this through it sounds like you are joining the chorus that says it is only from the limited judgments of the "modern mind" that these kinds of stories are a problem…?

          NO. they are a reflection of an ancient culture's lack of understanding regarding equality and human rights.

          all this extreme relativist non judgment starry eyed crap is so ethically and intellectually lazy!

            anonymous Sep 24, 2012 1:19am

            Ohh man, dont be like that , it isnt really rape , it is romance and they didnt need the enlightenment because they were already enlightened! ; )

              anonymous Sep 24, 2012 1:38am

              yea…. you know, rape and romance are the same in the eyes of non-dual enlightenment, right?

              it is just our limited minds that impose separation and judgment….

    anonymous Sep 23, 2012 9:52pm

    Hi Vic, to a: in the Ramayana, the word "rape" isn't always used but it is clear that non-consensual sex takes place, and is the #1 reason that Ravana is cursed and ultimately killed.
    To b: this is not at all the case, there is a sort of equality, but on the whole, women are presented as lessers, if not very much so.
    to c: 🙂

    anonymous Sep 23, 2012 11:40pm

    "Sri Krishna, on the other hand, married 16,000 women who he rescued from their abduction into the harem of a nefarious king."

    Yep, just to have them himself.

      anonymous Sep 24, 2012 1:41am

      it is all man made mythology and reflects ancient notions about reality, society and supernaturalism.

        anonymous Sep 24, 2012 10:36am

        It's always the same old song ain't it Julian…

        Let's see…the song remains the same also works.

        But seriously, I can always count on you to present good ol' assertions as if though they were the God's honest truth despite the fact that they exist outside of the epistemological framework that you so fundamentally adhere to.

        Just out of morbid curiosity…I would love to have the argument or scientific study upon which you based the claim that "ancient cultures had less than 1% the knowledge we have now," or a coherent answer to how you know that "it is all man made mythology and reflects ancient notions about reality, society and supernaturalism."

        You've had a good run on this thread though.

    anonymous Sep 27, 2012 10:02am

    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?

      anonymous Sep 28, 2012 12:53am


      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:… The next chapters are coming, one per week, I think.

      Radhey Shyam,

anonymous Sep 23, 2012 3:20pm

Thank you, Peter Sklivas, for such an interesting approach and angle of viewing the Ramayana.
However distorted the viewing angle may be, it clearly tells us, or at least me, not so much about the Ramayana, but very much about the viewer and the culture, or viewing angle, that he sees and interprets the story and the world.

Since we have started looking at the Ramayana from a slightly different angle, why not indulge in another view.
The Ramayana is not nescessarily to be looked upon, only as an ancient mythology depicting a story that took place in another age and time.

The story of Ravana abducting Sita from Ram, to a distant island and trying to make her his own is in many ways the story of the demon Corporate Imperialism kidnapping yoga from Indian culture. Stealing her away to the island of consumer society and making her into his own.

Here we are, the audience, in the middle of this version of the story, where Ravan with the help of his rakshasas/-is, Big Bucks, Mainstream Media and Consumerism are holding Sita captive.
It’s not looking that bright for Sita, she has been stripped of her virtue and been remolded and modeled into a greedy slut, a whore of consumerism , a mirror image of the culture of which she is now captive.
The devotees of Ravana enchanted by Sita’s exotic otherly beauty, worship and sing praise of her and adorn Ravan with even more gold and silver, for bringing them such a precious gem, as they are only used to seeing cheap glitter.

How sad the audience feels, because this is a moment of great despair. Many see the pristine beauty of Sita, hidden beneath layers of vulgar make-up, body contortion, academic polemic and a SALE tag, but how will the story end, will Sita ever return to Ram ??

Ram has only just discovered that Sita is in the hands of Ravana and his rakshasas in Lanka, as Indians and other people of great respect for Sanatan Dharm, just now are really discovering that yoga is in the hands of corporate imperialism, the demons of money, greed and control and the devotees of narcissistic consumerism.

So it is with great delight that the audience sees Hanuman step into character and come to the rescue of Sita.
Thank you Manoj Mehta Ji, Baba Rampuri Ji and several others unnamed, for coming to the rescue, leaping across the ocean of ignorance and giving a voice to Indian culture.

Much of the story is still left untold.
Will Hanuman succeed in bringing back news to Ram about Sita ? Will Ram believe him or does it all seem too far out to be true ?! Will Ram be able to overcome Ravan and is it too late to save Sita ? What happens to Ram if his consort no longer has her virtue intact ?

What will happen to Sanatan Dharm and Indian culture if yoga is understood in the light of gross consumer culture and exported back into India ?!

The audience is waiting with great anticipation …

    anonymous Sep 23, 2012 9:44pm

    ah yes of course the ramayana is about corporate imperialism and corrupt american society! 😉

    this would work well for violent and misogynist islamic myths as well!

      anonymous Sep 24, 2012 2:36am

      We take things (cultures, people, texts …) out of their context and superimpose ideas, moral and doctrines, that have nothing to do with that culture, time and place from where the thing is from.

      I'm not claiming that the above way of looking at the Ramayana has in relevance in regards to the story of Ram and Sita. It may have a lot of relevance in regards to another narrative, but that is a whole other discussion.
      You may just view this of another example of how the objective caucasian male, with his empirical rational mind, arrogantly superimposes the ideas and values of individualism, democracy, equality and freedom onto the other.
      The post enlightenment idea that is so much a part of modern western thinking and that which basically is the foundation for your Republic is a very recent idea experiment, that has little substance or relevance in many other cultures, especially if we are talking about understanding a culture that was on the other side of the planet millennia ago.

      There are many ways of looking at things, which can give great joy, satisfaction, insight and connection. Does it necessarily have anything to do with the thing being perceived, this is clearly not the case.

        anonymous Sep 24, 2012 1:05pm

        So, are the poor eastern savages incapable of having objective , empirical rational minds? Are they incapable of valuing individuality , democracy , equality and freedom?

        The idea that only westerners value this is insulting, specially for easterners because you are reducing them to stupid "noble savages" incapable of reason and higher thinking …..capabilities that by the way all humans have, not just westerners.

          anonymous Sep 25, 2012 11:43pm

          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."

            anonymous Sep 26, 2012 4:45pm

            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 .

    anonymous Sep 27, 2012 9:56am

    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.

    anonymous Sep 30, 2012 8:48am

    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.

Bob Weisenberg Sep 23, 2012 12:44pm

Comments from elephant facebook page:

Jamie Conglose Wow! I'm going to be really interested in what others, particularly Hindu scholars say about this.
Yesterday at 11:03am · Like · 1

Shanna Everitt-Kneifer I am seeing that no matter the ethnicity, religion or belief system, many man are born with this attribute. Oh, your stressed out and deserve some unwind time but it is my duty to suck it up, with a smile on my face and just deal with it.
Yesterday at 11:37am via mobile · Like

Lauphin Bodhi Satva Further misinterpretation of eastern belief system coupled with new age rhetoric.
Moving along.
Yesterday at 11:53am · Like · 4

Anne Olsen I dont have to watch anymore, men should be listennig to their women – always.
Yesterday at 11:58am · Like

Nik Issar Is it logical to believe in what a person says without checking its right or not ?
Yesterday at 11:59am · Like · 2

Nik Issar Rho Crow , Jamie and shanna ?
Yesterday at 11:59am · Like · 2

Basant S Mehta Before any one of us judge anyone and anything which is related to any religion or Gods or culture or ethnicity WE MUST DO OUR OWN STUDY & RESEARCH, only then we have the right to pass a judgement and share it with the rest of the world ; it's that simple !
Yesterday at 12:07pm via mobile · Like · 4

Nik Issar Whole world has lot to learn about eastern religions , even we eastern ppl has lot of work to do.
Yesterday at 12:53pm · Like · 4

Anne Olsen Guys, listening does not mean buying everything women say like you are supposed to be their slave – LOL we want Real Men to discover being Real Women, please get a clue, we cannot be you.
23 hours ago · Like · 1

Lauphin Bodhi Satva I am a woman that has studied the eastern religions and philosophies for most of my life and I will still state that this is a drastic misinterpretation of the eastern philosophy and the figures portrayed within.
I believe what Nik was attempting to state was the AUTHOR did not check their facts before writing this article, thus no one reading it should believe it until they have researched the facts themselves.
20 hours ago · Like · 1

Nik Issar Ya right, one does not have any authority to say anything on em until they have learned it through a GURU/master from a traditional linage of wise men. If they understand whats karma/dharma and other basic thing , at that point of time they can discuss about it.
11 hours ago · Like · 2

Bob Weisenberg Sep 23, 2012 12:32pm

More robust discussion on Baba Rampuri's facebook page:

    anonymous Sep 23, 2012 2:32pm

    robust!? you have got to be kidding my friend. this thread is mostly the comments of overtly religious hindus saying things like "one has to have great love for shree to be able to correctly interpret the ramayana."

    it also surprises me that you are so quick to tell me i am incorrectly lumping you in with overtly religious folks and then just how much you actually seem to be quite involved with overtly religious folks.

    that you would find this thread "robust" is confusing to me – it is really nonsensical and filled with fundamentalist assertions and vaguely mystical revisionisms.

      anonymous Sep 25, 2012 11:01pm

      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?

      anonymous Sep 25, 2012 11:06pm

      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.

        anonymous Oct 3, 2012 9:32am

        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!!

anonymous Sep 23, 2012 10:39am

Hmm… no way to edit comments?… that should be Sita being separated FROM the Universal Self, not by…

Sorry 🙂

anonymous Sep 23, 2012 10:11am

Wow, so, obviously the author of this article does not understand the philosophical significance of the story of the Ramayana, and/or it's many interpretations. But at least the article ends with an invitation for information so they can learn more… But like most people who "transplant" a story from one culture to another, they are too caught up in the literal happenings of the story.

This is not a story about rape, a story about masculine entitlement. It's not a story about hordes of demons and monkeys dying. It's a story about YOU, and ME, and all of US. It's a story about the Individual self (The jiva atma) as represented by Sita, being separated by Universal Self (the param atma) as represented by Rama, by the ego (ahamkara) as represented by Ravana. In this journey of life, we (in our feelings as individuals) feel discounted from our highest source, feel disconnected from the divine, from the Universal Self. Why? Because the ego is always out to get for itself. Ravana has 10 heads… he has a HUGE ego. And anything that he wants, he takes, with no thought of others, only him/her/itself. It is that ego that burns up everything, and everyone around it. This is a story about the ultimate reuniting (although they are never truly separate) of the small self, and the big SELF. About overcoming the ego through service and devotion (as represented by Hanuman).

Why does Rama "abandon" his pregnant wife to an ashram? Not because of some ancient and convoluted idea of masculinity and femininity. Rama also represents the force of Dharma in the world. Throughout the story he puts Dharma before himself. He puts others before himself. He seeks to overcome Ravana, not because he wants to make the world a safer place, not because he thinks Ravana is some bad dude he just needs to die. He seeks Sita's return because that's his duty. She is his wife. It is his dharma. But he also has a duty to his kingdom and his people. Ravana, on the other hand, is always doing things just thinking of himself. He brings his entire kingdom to ruin over a woman. Contrast that against Rama who GIVES up the woman he loves, his pregnant wife, because he's afraid of the effect it will have on his kingdom. He doesn't want his own personal feelings of love to destroy his kingdom (as it did for Ravana). This is a selfless act, not one of masculine pride.

    anonymous Sep 27, 2012 9:44am

    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.

anonymous Sep 23, 2012 4:13am

My understanding it God was created by man. Man was and will never be perfect and hence his portrayal of God cannot be perfect. Many Hindu women have told me that they did not like the way Sita was treated in some parts in the Ramayana. I guess we just have to accept certain shortcomings that can be attributed to the way people lived in the ancient times and move on. Of course, no Hindu will justify such behavior only because it is a part of the scripture. Besides, the Vedas are the final authority and not a secondary text like the Ramayana.

anonymous Sep 23, 2012 3:20am

I love the male reaction from India. Compulsively reacting for the sake of it. Hindu is not a religion. Nor was it ever intended to be. Only modern day Indians and the government who own and control all the temples make it so controlling the masses.

    anonymous Sep 28, 2012 10:01am

    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.

anonymous Sep 23, 2012 3:01am

It is sad that many people fail to accept and realise that ancient text, stories, thoughts are mere guides and not concrete rules that were written to be followed today. These texts and stories unfortunately are not timeless in what it portrays but in many ways it is timeless for what they convey in the deeper sense of learning! Spirituality and how people live with spirituality also moves with time and the unfortunate influence of society. Whether we like it or not!! This is a classic example how pressure from so called society makes a man, a king act or rather react. However, it also shows how a woman rises higher by understanding things herself and acting without much rigidity. This is how things were then and no matter how the ranks were classified, kings and higher authority did portray a lot of ego openly. Dharma was everything for many and anything would be done to fulfill ones dharma!! In this the ego also had a large part to play. That was probably the norm at that time. However, i think people are missing the whole point that the times were different. Every story has a deeper positive message and a message of purity of a woman shines through in Ramayana just as the love and duty of a husband to protect his wife shines through. The love and respect along with understanding of brothers shines through just as the understanding nature and love of a woman for her husband shines through!! I think people will talk, make assumptions and thats the way things are now a days!! 🙂 Some are wise to learn the deeper essence of ancient texts and stories. Some see it as fairy tale and some are like trolls 🙂 Comment or instigate trouble just for the sake of polishing their false ego!!

anonymous Sep 23, 2012 2:19am


I am FROM the Indian culture, and unlike you, I am immersed in it. You on the other hand are from a culture that is totally different. You just dabble in my culture, but will never truly be part of it. Your culture has been trying to understand my culture for centuries but has generally made a royal mess of it. Since you could not understand it, you and your lot have tried to essentialize it and give it all sorts of labels under your various -isms. You my friend have been a recipient of convoluted ideas about my culture, through your Academy and your new-age philosophers. I hate to break your bubble, but I know that you have not even begun to scratch the surface of the philosophy and workings of my culture. As long as you continue being involved in the world of so-called Yoga in the West (and its attendant selling of ideologies and material goods), you stand no chance of knowing anything about my culture. What you have received through books and translations (in English I am guessing) is not even a diluted version. It's your culture's version of what you THINK my culture is all about. You are in no position to comment on it. It's best to stick to what you know best, and that is YOUR culture and its workings. If you have rejected certain aspects of your culture, please don't come to us to find the answers. You will not get them there, no matter how hard you try. If I were you, I'd stay well clear of trying to come to grips with the richness of my culture; you will fail at every stage. Your mindset has been conditioned by your culture beyond the point of no return. My world is different from your world, and it's best that you stay in yours and let me live in mine. In peace, if I may add. However, when my culture has come under threat from various other cultures over the ages, it has tried its best to integrate and assimilate the others' mindset into its own, so that we both may live together and move forward. There have been times when your culture has been far to repressive and judgmental of my culture. At such times, we do not remain silent and allow ourselves to be ground into the dust. We do speak up, and sometimes, a la the Geeta, we speak up quite strongly. We believe in co-existence and co-creation. We love to interact with other cultures and make much of theirs, part of ours. Sometimes, your culture needs to be put into its place, when it gets too angry and belligerent. With articles such as yours appearing, do not be surprised if if we do put you into your place. No, I am not talking violence here, or veiled threats. I am talking of the power of words. We don't use our words lightly or flippantly; we use their full shakti (shakti being a concept I think you might be trying to wrap your head around. Don't worry- you won't get it in this lifetime), when the occasion calls for it. Expect those words coming your way, from those who are qualified to do so, from my culture. My culture is not a free-for-all, like yours is. We allow those qualified to stand up for my culture to do so when the need arises. Fear not. They will respond to you. Again, with words. Something like how a parent would do with a wayward child. In the meantime, our womenfolk are doing quite well, thank you very much. They don't need your protection. They can and do stand up for themselves when they have to. Our men cower in front of their Shakti at that time, with awe and reverence. I would not expect you to understand that at all. Yours is a different culture. Now, I hope you leave us alone and look after, nurture and protect your own, especially your womenfolk and children. You have kept them subjugated and imprisoned for far too long. In the meantime, we will look after our own.

    anonymous Sep 23, 2012 5:53am

    Right on Manoj!

    anonymous Sep 23, 2012 1:00pm

    What a string of chauvinist nonsense. My culture, yours culture, your sorts… Leave us alone but let`s us be embedded in your culture. All so sacramental. One doesn`t necessarily have to agree with the author`s s assumptions in order to see how fair his analysis can be without offending, profaning or being blasphemical. Why not review the status of all these narratives, with all due respect, and perhaps detect more lying behind that what meets the eye? Dogmas conduct to one way tracks.

    anonymous Sep 23, 2012 5:48pm

    Who is "your own"? If you understand the texts, who is excluded?

    anonymous Sep 27, 2012 8:58am

    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

      anonymous Oct 3, 2012 7:31am


      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?

    anonymous May 12, 2015 10:44pm

    @Manoj: Well said.

anonymous Sep 23, 2012 1:39am

If I may- I think we can see clearly how modern India still sees the archetypal behavior portrayed in these epics as acceptable by the way women and children are treated and abused in the society. Although starting with their mothers, women play the dominant role in the society, most Indian men are woosies incapable of accepting the power of the woman. Women do control male thinking around the planet though, men just dont know it.

    anonymous Sep 23, 2012 2:52am

    Yoga Amba,What is the role of a woman in society of yours? to have 8 partners as live in partners before deciding whom to marry? when do the women in western society lose their virginity 13 or 14? What power you are talking of?Is there any faithfulness to Husband in your society what is called PatiVrata?in India women is worshipped as mother..where as the western society put their mothers in old age home and mothers themselves have no say in their daughter or son lives.What kind of society you live in and how many broken homes with mother marrying 2-3 times and father marrying 2-3 times is the norm ? Animal or sub human decide for you .Go back to your christian roots instead of jumping from one religion to another it is making you insane.God made your birth in christian land for your samskaras..and you deserve that.and Teach your churchian morals to pedohile christians and priests.They need you more.

      anonymous Sep 23, 2012 4:06am

      Birth anywhere is blessing enough. If you see one part of the world as different from another neither is the truth. All views are conditioned. I think regarding divorce etc India is well on its way to joining the western world in this regard. I think Mumbai and Delhi attest to this. Children there are also being subjected to broken homes. My greatest fascination is to see Indias most powerful woman is an Italian. This takes the cake. An ex waitress meets the heir to the Indian throne and marries him and assumes his powerful role. Fascinating. She even learnt how to dress in Sari and talk Hindian.

anonymous Sep 23, 2012 1:30am

your thinking way over the top ,,i love the Ramayana and yoga vashishta..take RAM'S NAME AND MEDITATE AND I WILL LEAVE IT WITH THAT .come back to the love come back to the heart and leave all the silly mental gymnastics alone and do your sadhana…

anonymous Sep 22, 2012 10:12pm

Would it feel any different if you interpreted the story as discussing the male and female sides of you own being rather than Sita and Rama?

    anonymous Sep 22, 2012 10:54pm

    Gilana, that is sublime. I was really into Julian and Bob's excellent discussion, thinking it finely done. But then, in a couple o' words you took it to another level.

      anonymous Sep 22, 2012 11:39pm

      sorry, but i doubt the "true" meaning of ancient texts has nothing to do with their cultural context, sociopolitical views etc – we can't just "feel better" by interpreting it through the lens of new age psychology…

      i mean i could also come along and say – well, do you feel better if you interpret it as being the dream of an extraterrestrial?

      i mean i would feel better if the crucification of jesus was really about dying to your false self…. but that is called revisionism, and i think there are better ways of a) interpreting cultural myths and b) finding meaning in life.

      the fact is that ancient scriptures have all sorts of detailed instructions and descriptions regarding cruelty to women and violence against people of other faiths – the reason is simple: they were written in a brutal time!

      they do not reflect our current understanding of enlightened, liberal, human rights…. this is what we have to realize: human rights and equality are a VERY recent invention! they have taken root more in the west than anywhere else too – as much as we wanna reject the west and idealize the east, where they still have arranged marriages, honor killings, widows throwing themselves on their husbands funeral pyres, widespread caste discrimination etc…

        anonymous Sep 23, 2012 1:48am

        Hey Julian, I'm with ya bro. The Enlightenment took a radical idea – all people have value – and brought it into the mainstream. The decreasing level of violence in the world, the rising standards of living in the world, the "trickle down" of rights to more and more people… It's all largely a Western thing, more specifically, an Enlightenment thing. Elephants and intellectuals in general take it for granted and take it further than for granted. They denigrate it and raise in its place romanticized versions of uncivilized modes of social conduct.

        But I'm also with Gilana. His/Hers is an excellent way to look at not only this story but all stories that deal with human depravity. Anger at the depravity is, I think, a way to deny that the same depravity is inside of each of us. When our blood boils at Rama or Hitler or whoever we imagine as a hateful being, it's a way to say, Hey, I'M not like that!!! And the ego is pleased as we say it, pleased and protected. Compassion even for the "evil beings" is a step towards pesonal enlightenment, I think, and that compassion develops from the understanding that they are really not so different than us.

        Ok, maybe I'm reading too much into Gilana's little note, but maybe not. That's my take on it, anyway.

        anonymous Sep 23, 2012 5:42pm

        Have you applied the suggestion made to yourself? If you had, you might not have made this argument.

        If you have applied it, have you found the many times you crucify your feminine side? How easily we all disgrace and repute the feminine inclinations and wisdom? How we would immediately become "macho" and abandon the feminine in ourselves simply to "look good" to others who judge us? And, unfortunately, your reaction to that post reflects the male side of your nature – argument, knowledge, contention, retaliation, anger and judgement. Your female side would incline toward listening, experimentation, trying to understand, reception.

        This is important information. This IS what the texts are talking about. Yes they were written in less humane times which only makes them more miraculous. Is your contention that the authors were stupid, cruel and unenlightened? That we and our time is so much smarter?

        It is apparent that the violence of the ancients is painful and unacceptable to you. However, it cannot be escaped that experience has no importance whatsoever to truth, so whatever caught the attention of the seeker would be valuable. Our current understanding of enlightened, liberal, human rights has absolutely no relation to truth.

        All texts are stupid. They are dead and have nothing to do with truth, which is alive – but you can use them to find out what is alive in you right now.

        If we attempt to find the real way to increase our understanding of ourselves we will do justice to the author of this text., no matter what he really meant.

        And by the way, experimenting with your own mind/body has nothing to do with new age psychology. It is the true path to self understanding, which is the precursor of enlightenment.

        Please excuse my using the words "feel better" which might have confused you. I was struck by the author's frustration and disappointment in his experience and probably could have worded it better.

          anonymous Sep 23, 2012 5:52pm

          wow – presumptuous indeed!

          what on earth could you hope to do you know about the feminine side i supposedly "crucify every day?!"

          i am a 20 year yoga teacher and meditator, bodyworker, tantric lover of the feminine, deeply engaged in emotional awareness practices, music, poetry, a very intuitive person. i just happen to have integrated all that with reason and critical thinking, rational thought and intellectual inquiry!

          this, from you, is some of the most meaningless rationalization i have ever heard though: "It is apparent that the violence of the ancients is painful and unacceptable to you. However, it cannot be escaped that experience has no importance whatsoever to truth, so whatever caught the attention of the seeker would be valuable. Our current understanding of enlightened, liberal, human rights has absolutely no relation to truth. "

          couldn't disagree more with the point you seem to be making in this garbled and condescending metaphysical argument.

          anonymous Sep 23, 2012 6:34pm

          Femenine side , masculine side? really ? sounds like new age BS to me.

anonymous Sep 22, 2012 10:10pm

Would it feel any different if you interpreted the story as discussing the male and female sides of you own being, rather than separate individuals?

    anonymous Sep 27, 2012 7:07am

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

anonymous Sep 22, 2012 4:14pm

hmmm, let´s see …a book made by men , about men , for men .Impressive.

    anonymous Sep 22, 2012 7:49pm

    are. there. any. other. kind?

      anonymous Sep 22, 2012 9:13pm

      lol not if they are "ancient" or "sacred".

anonymous Sep 22, 2012 3:37pm

I agree with Julian , these stories reflect the mentality people had back then and polygyny was more like the rule than the exception. Women's rights are a modern thing, in many traditional cultures back then women were considered property , exchangable property, so this is really not surprising.

I think the only way people who follow these spiritual traditions can deal with this kind of information is by compartmentalizing…

Peter, I applaud you for questioning the content of these books , it's a good thing that you are actually making use of your critical thinking skills.

    anonymous Sep 22, 2012 5:41pm

    "I think the only way people who follow these spiritual traditions can deal with this kind of information is by compartmentalizing… "


anonymous Sep 22, 2012 2:04pm

basically all ancient texts are reflections of their times. we want to believe they are timeless expressions of transcendent ultimate truths – but more often than not they are a collection of superstitions, bigotry, hallucinations, with occasional moments of poetry or wisdom.

of course the ramayana, gita, the bible, patanjali, the koran etc are filled with beliefs and actions that by our standards are appalling or ludicrous!

all the more reason to locate intelligent spirituality in present knowledge about the universe, the brain, human rights etc…

ancient cultures had less than 1% the knowledge we have now.

of course we can try to revise and rationalize after the fact, but these books come from brutal times and are written by people who thought literalized mythology was the most important thing in life. hopefully we've moved on at this point.

one can have a rich and full integrated spiritual life without idealizing ancient superstition, rigid social roles, the caste system and other outdated power structures.

    Bob Weisenberg Sep 22, 2012 4:37pm

    Now you tell me! So I wasted my time with all that ancient literature I read in college…and probably with my entire Stanford literature degree, too, since Faulkner and Conrad and Gabriel Marquez and Allende and Conroy are filled with appalling and superstitious stories as well.

    And all that time I could have been learning the truth from Ken Wilber and Andrew Cohen.

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      anonymous Sep 22, 2012 5:37pm

      haha! funny bob 🙂 actually au contraire! studying literature is very different from expecting texts from ancient cultures to provide ultimate truths and deep meaning.

      we can look at ancient mythologies through a joseph campbell lens and glean much about the human psyche and its relationship to cultural context and existential conflict.

      once we de-romanticize all ancient texts we will not be disappointed by finding that they are indeed filled with superstition, bigotry, hateful attitudes toward women, gays etc – because that was the general stage of social evolution at that time in history.

      it is in fact the literary study and genuine philosophical analysis of ancient texts that is what i think is missing in the bible-study-with-bindis approach in most teacher trainings and forums like these.

      the difference between scriptures and novels is that everyone knows that novels are works of fiction – so whatever kinds of magical storytelling or violence they contain can be understood in terms of that art form… scriptures on the other hand are considered (by most people who value them) to be literally true and to contain actual instructions for how to live a "godly" life.

      conflating the two does no-one any favors, least of all the great novelists you mention.

      i hardly think marquez thought the magical realism in his stories was literally true. we can't say the same for those who wrote the gospels!

      i never found cohen interesting or impressive for a moment – he is a weasel!

      wilber captivated me for about ten years but his religiosity ( and its inevitable intellectual dishonesty) finally turned me off. very interesting way of pulling multiple strands of study together though…

        Bob Weisenberg Sep 22, 2012 7:13pm

        Hi, Julian.

        Do you really think that people are going to be reading about the 20th Century 2500 years from now, with its world wars and atomic bombs and overpopulation and mass murders and species-suicidal environmental degradation and be regarding it as an age of great philosophical progress overall?

        But apart from that, why do you jump to put all of us who love ancient yoga texts into the confining false stereotype of the irrationally religiously oriented. I'm not, and neither are most of my fellow enthusiasts. We love these texts just as you say, as great literature, and chock full of "ultimate truths and deep meaning", just like we see any great literature.

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          anonymous Sep 22, 2012 7:38pm

          goodness me!

          well, first of all i am not putting all of anyone in any category! i am talking about the difference between reading mythology as literature and reading it as "gospel." (there's a reason we use that word in this way, right?)

          secondly i don't think most ancient holy books come anywhere close to great literature that is honest about being fiction. the novel introduces us to the first person subject and their inner world in a way that hallucinatory scriptural pronouncements could not approximate.

          are you not being a little slippery here about how scriptural texts are seen by the vast majority of religious folks as being historical rather than allegorical?

          i think you overplay the amount of wisdom and deep meaning that is relevant to our lives today. but to each their own, and certainly if you and your fellow enthusiasts enjoy these texts in a joseph campbell kinda way i am all for it…. i'm in the same camp! religious texts can tell us a great deal about the human psyche in relationship to specific social structures and existential conundrums!

          i was actually (oddly enough) responding to the article above which seems to be reacting in surprised outrage from a contemporary perspective to what has been found in the ramayana – as if he had expected to find humanistic attitudes that fit our enlightened understanding of equality for women in a text from an ancient culture.

          and finally – YES, i do think in the future people will be reading about the 20th century! absolutely.

          martin luther king, mohandas ghandi, nelson mandela, the fall of the soviet union, the end of apartheid the overthrowing of british colonialism, more democracy for more people on the planet than ever before in history, massive strides forward in medecine, science, technology and of course a lot of problems along the way. let's not forget, rock and roll, jazz, the beat poets and the great east/west spiritual conversation that has spawned this conversation and indeed everything about yoga in america!

          oh yea and then there's mohammed ali, elvis, the beatles, and a couple golden eras of cinema with amazing artistry and social commentary…

          even with the horrific wars and the tragic atomic bombings, the 20th century was WAY less violent than pre-enlightenment times, in fact if you check out steven pinker's new book you will realize that as counterintuitive as it may sound, we live in the least violent time in human history. in fact each period of human history is less violent han the ones that came before. these are just the facts.

          give me the whole grab bag of 20th century shadow and light over being a woman or untouchable several hundred years ago in india!

            anonymous Sep 22, 2012 7:53pm

            i also actually think people will continue to look at the history of philosophy in terms of an ongoing evolution in dialog with science.

            over the last few hundred years, as we have applied scientific method to solve questions that were previously the domain of priests and philosophers, philosophy has had to make massive adjustments – and hardly any philosophers are stil theists.

            yea i think the 20th century is hugely significant – but also in the context of post enlightenment culture, the world getting smaller, the advent of the internet etc…

            life in pre enlightenment times was just much harder, much more oppressive, much more superstitious and much less free for the vast majority of people.

            we do well not to romanticize the ancient and exotic, which is kinda the point of this article methinks :)the ramayana has a place alongside other ancient mythology as an interesting cultural artifact, but it does not contain ultimate truths about the nature of the cosmos or how human social relations should be enacted.

            give me jack kornfield's a path with heart, rick hanson's buddha's brain and peter levine's waking the tiger as guides to a contemporary spiritual practice over any ancient religious text!

          anonymous Sep 22, 2012 9:09pm

          Hi Bob,
          I think most people , as in sane people , would not find it pleasing to read a novel where rape and murder are glorified. The fact that these books are somehow granted with special status plus the fact that people want to find meaning and comfort might make it easier for them to turn a blind eye on all the nasty content .

          The question remains, why is it that followers of these spiritual traditions fail to recognize this?

          A movie made from these stories would make the rape scene in Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo look silly.

          anonymous Sep 22, 2012 10:18pm

          I dunno Bob, the last time I tried to make that point, in an e-mail discussion you started, I got roundly attacked (which is why I've avoided such discussions ever since). Yes, I agree that these texts are great works of literature, no different from Hamlet or Moby Dick. That's because I'm one of the same tiny intellectual minority as yourself, and, hence, largely insignificant, in the face of the great masses of those who treasure these texts as the timeless words of god(s). That's not to say that we're not correct–we're just not particularly relevant.

            Bob Weisenberg Sep 22, 2012 10:43pm

            Hi, Jay.

            You make a good point, from a world-wide perspective. But I would say we literature-oriented folks are a very high percentage of elephant readers who love the ancient yoga texts. I guessing we're not getting a lot of devout religious devotees here, although there are some, and I welcome them, too.

            Anyway, I'm only making very general points in defense of those of us ultra-rationalists who still get a lot out of great literature, both modern and ancient. I've actually never read the the Ramayama.

            But I have gotten a lot out of the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads in a modern personal interpretation, which I've documented about as completely as I can in my own writing, which, ironically and instructively, is philosophically very close to Julian's general rationalist philosophical point of view.

            Julian and I disagree about how to deal with people who are different than ourselves, not much about core philosophy.

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          anonymous Sep 23, 2012 12:18am

          Thank you, Bob, for including me on this article, and it’s one of those times where I’m in complete agreement with you. The article is something worthy of a fundamentalist Christian, or an overzealous Neo-con, in that one’s world must be superimposed on another, whether in interpretation of another’s culture, in rules of engagement, or in the enforcing of specific values on another (to the exclusion of others).

          The Ramayana is a text very different from the “gospels” of Chritianity, Islam, & Judaism, in that the poem of Valmiki, which it seems Peter is referring to, is only one text of an entire genre of literature often referred to as “Ram Katha” (“The Story of Rama), with versions (not translations) in most Indian languages, with a geographical spread covering almost half the world with ‘versions’ (again, NOT just translations) in the many languages from Japan & China down to Indonesia, to Africa, and as far as Eastern Europe. With its origins going back MANY thousands of years, it is arguably the oldest story, the most known over history, certainly among the 3 best known today, & the most sustainable story still being told and performed on a large scale in the world.

          But, except for Western culture, where it is not traditional, it is popularly known NOT by “reading the book to yoursef”, as we do in the West, but by its performance and recitation. And in India, the vast majority know the Tulsi Das, “Ramcharitmanasa” version, rather than Valmiki’s, which, I believe is Peter’s source. And there is a huge difference, Valmiki was an epic poet, and his work may be compared with other literature in its genre such as Homer, while Tulsi Das was a devotee, and his genre is devotional. One of the major differences is that in the devotional literature, it is only Sita’s ‘shadow’ that is kidnapped, and not being an epic poem, focuses on popular devotion to personalities of nature, deities, their songs, their drama, their mysteries, & their blessings. Valmiki’s version, on the other hand, is one of the great masterpieces of the craft of poetry and the expression of man, even if it was a crow who told him the story.

          Then there are the commentaries, whether from one’s grandmother, aunty, or guru. The Story of Rama is completely interwoven in the culture of India, in its literature, theater, and art, in its sacred rites and esoteric knowledge, child naming, pilgrimage, names of towns, cities, and their streets. The list goes on.

          To reduce this entire world of Ramayana to a modern Western interpretation of Ram’s banishment of Sita, based on privileging a single modern translation over all the other texts, theater, customs, culture, and vernacular interpretations, is simply disengenouos, and reminds me more of what I read in the mainstream media about the “evil empires” than any sober examination of a huge historical and cultural phenomena.

          Ram’s banishment of Sita is indeed a great mystery, debated and discussed over the centuries, so if one wishes to contribute to this discussion, one really should move beyond warmed over 19th century colonial politics ala MacCauley. And if it is the narrative of take the ‘Hindu’ or ‘Indian’ out of yoga, then be upfront and state your case, no need to dismiss the 1000’s of years of India’s sustained culture.

            anonymous Sep 23, 2012 12:52am

            5th century B.C is hardly "MANY" thousands of years. An objective discussion on the subject must also leave aside romantic notions of eastern cultures.

              anonymous Sep 23, 2012 10:39am

              Timmy, some of us actually know what we're talking about and don't need to run to wikipedia for knowledge.

                anonymous Sep 23, 2012 11:43am

                I know the stories collected in the Panchatantra have been shown to have spread from India to East Asia and Europe, but I've never read this for the Ramayana. Maybe a variant of the Nala-Damayanti story had made it out there?

                anonymous Sep 23, 2012 12:15pm

                ohh , ok , if you are the scholar here do you mind giving us an accurate date?

                  anonymous Sep 25, 2012 9:41pm

                  You must be referring to Valmiki, and even that date is highly debated among scholars. But Valmiki is only one text of a genre, to which I referred to in my comments, leading most people who have studied the subject to conclude that the story itself is considerably older. Anyone who gives an "accurate" date on this is certainly not a scholar. But why do you avoid the central issues of the article and my comment? Certainly we're not discussing dates of stories in remote antiquity.

            Bob Weisenberg Sep 23, 2012 11:54am

            Hi, Baba. I knew you'd have some fascinating thoughts for us on this. You do not disappoint.

            Thanks for joining us here.


              anonymous Sep 25, 2012 9:42pm

              Thank you, Bob. Sending you very best wishes,

anonymous Sep 22, 2012 12:57pm

I think the Ramayana was written to raise the issues mentioned in this article, and from what I recall it doesn't do the moralizing the article implies, but presents the stories as any stories, to teach lessons about life by examples, in this case in a world of Manu's laws and Brahmanism. There is a lot to unpack in the story, and the religious dynamisms, race and gender issues, the not-entierly-saintly saints, the psychological and "as above so below" of divine kingships have to be viewed in it's own context, not our modern moralities (better though they likely are), to understand why the women's "purity" was so important, as well as the many other issues of the story presents (I mean, Hanuman literally steals a mountain, and no one seems to mind!).
You can say (or blame if you prefer) Kaikeyi and Surpankha set the stories in motion, but it was Manthara and Laksmana whose actions spurred them on. Sita's rejection isn't about her so much as the dharmic-ness (so too the sustainability) of the kingdom. And in the end, she rejects everyone, sending herself home rather than deal with the continued doubt of her "purity." It's sort of like proving you're not a witch by drowning yourself- but how can you prove this kind of innocence, without such a nihilist act?
I don't think it is rubbish, but a story, and all the characters are cartoonish, because it is a story (and I don't rememver Rambha being all that innocent, but it's been a while). I agree with the article that there are a lot of messed up things in the Ramayana, and that "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," but this apparent contradiction, and the question why this is, is exactly the story sets out to discuss; it is the same theme as most every religious text even regardless of an inclusion of gods.

    anonymous Sep 23, 2012 9:48pm

    I spent the day reading and researching rape in the ramayana, particularly to find out more on Rambha's husband, but more generally I found that rape is regularly condemned, and in fact is the chief reason / karmic reprocussion for Ravana's defeat. Check out It has a very nice, and more importantly accurate prose translation of each of Valmiki's chapters.

    Because he is such a jerk (his story is told for most of the beginning of Book 7), and more specifically a rapist, Ravana was cursed several times. He mention this in 6.60 (book 6 chapter 60 (yuddha kanda, sarga 60), where Ravana, in retreat from Rama, recalls his boon from Brahma in which Ravana didn’t mention man among those who couldn’t kill him, as well as the various curses he has accumulated, from Anaranya, Vedavati (reencarnated at Sita), and finally that the predictions of Uma (Parvati), Nandishvara (Siva’s attendant), Rambha and Punjikasthala (all women, except Nandishvara who is ugly stocky and short) has come to pass.

    here are the various curse-ers, with reference (except Uma, whose curse I didn't find, but in 7.24
    Ravana is cursed by the various damsels, earthy and heavenly, he abducted, that he will meet his death by the effort of a woman.
    Brahma’s boon is mentioned is several places, but mainly
    Relates the boon Brahma gave Ravana, and that because of Ravana’s contempt for humans, didn’t include them in the list of being that couldn’t kill him, and the request the gods make to Vishnu to incarnate as four sons of a righteous king Dasharatha.
    Ravana and his brothers do austerities and get boons. Ravana (then known as Dashagriva) fasts for 10,000 years, giving one of his heads each year to a sacrificial fire. As he was about to chop off his last head, Brahmna appears and offers him a boon, so he chooses immortality, but Brahma says everything dies, so he chooses to not be killed by all sorts of things, from birds to demigods, saying he has no fear of other creatures, and considers humans less than straw. Brahma throws in restoring his other 9 heads, and the ability to shape-shift.
    Ravana (then Dashagriva) beats up his brother and takes his airship, which stops for some reason. Nandishvara, an ugly really short guy with a spear, tells them to scram because Siva is partying around there, so access to the area is closed. This makes Ravana mad, Nandishvara ends up cursing Dashagriva that monkeys will destroy his dynasty. Dashagriva picks up the mountain, angering Siva, who puts his toe down crushing Dashagriva’s arms, so Dashagriva praises Siva for 1000 years, and Siva give him a sword and changed his name to Ravana.

    1.70, 2.110
    Anaranya is the great-great-great-grandson of Manu; Manu > Ikshvaaku > Kukshi> Vikukshi > Baana > Anaranya > Pruthu > Trishanku …
    Ravana is out conquering, and challenges Anaranya, the king of Ayodhya. Anaranya looses big time, and shoots Ravana 800 times, but to no effect. Anaranya admits defeat, but because Ravana insulted the Ikshvaku dynasty, he curses Ravana that a descendant of the dynasty named Rama will kill him.

    Ravana is traveling around, and sees an ascetic woman. She is hot, but never married because her dad wanted her to marry Vishnu, which pissed off Siva, who came and killed him, then her mom threw herself on the pyre and died with him, so she’s now doing austerities to get closer to Vishnu, who she considers her husband. Ravana propositions her, and says he is stronger than Vishnu. Vedavati rebukes his jibe at Vishnu, which pisses Ravana off, and he grabs her hair and makes to chop off her head. She gets mad and curses him, saying she is going reincarnate for his destruction, then she turns into fire and reappears from a lotus. Ravana takes her to his house, but a minister says she’ll be his destruction, so he throws her in the ocean. She gets to shore and puts herself beneath some sacred ground, and is dug up later by Janaka as Sita.

      anonymous Sep 23, 2012 9:48pm

      Rambha is one of four apsaras, celestial beings that often go about trying to get people out of their ascetic practices. It is also the name of a monkey general.
      Sage Shatananda continues telling Rama the story of the saint Vishvamitra, who in the course of his ascetism has been turned on by apsara Menaka. The saint dismisses her and takes off to do more intense practice to get rid of lust. Indra sees his efforts and gets ancy (Indra likes his position, and doesn’t want anyone taking it), so calls the apsara Rambha. 1.64 Indra tells Rambha to seduce the ascetic. She says she’s scared of his anger, but Indra says he’ll help her out as a songbird so the two go and try to get him lusty, but as she expected, he gets pissed off, and curses Rambha to turn to stone, and Indra flies off. Because he got angry and succumbed to it, Vishvamitra looses his ascetic merits and resolves to practice even better to get rid of wrath. 1.65 Vishvamitra deal with his anger (takes 1000 years), and gets Brahma-hood.
      Viradha (a demon/asura) says he was once an gandharva interested in Rambha but made Kubera mad by not offereing to be his service to the god, so Kubera cursed him to become the demon that when killed by Rama would again become a gandharva.
      The rape of Rambha. Rambha is decked out and looking good, headed to see her husband Nalakuvara. She walks through Ravana’s army camp, and Ravana propositions her. She reminds him that she’s his brother Kuvera’s son’s (Nalakuvara’s) wife, so basically his daughter-in-law, and he’d be pissed if they had sex. Saying that she is an apsara and so can’t technicly have a husband. He rapes her, and later she tells Nalakuvara, who curses Ravana saying that his head will break into 7 pieces if he rapes a woman again.

      Hanuman is told that his mother is the incarnation of the apsara Punjikasthala
      Ravana explains why he hasn’t raped Sita, that because he once raped the apsara Punjikasthala while she was on her way to abode of Brahma, so was cursed by Brahma that if he rapes a woman again, his head will break into 100 pieces.

      Hope this is of some use in your consternation about the epic. 🙂

        Bob Weisenberg Sep 23, 2012 10:07pm

        Common', Julian. You've got to admit that's a pretty good yarn, as yarns go!

        Thanks for all your research, Paul. I enjoyed reading it.

        Bob W. elephant journal
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          anonymous Sep 23, 2012 10:18pm

          You're very welcome Bob, I'm glad you enjoyed it. There is much more to it of course, and while I appreciate j's point about 1st person narratives and all that, as with all sci-fi there is always an lesson behind the razzle-dazzle.

    anonymous Sep 24, 2012 10:13pm

    I should have mentioned that the 1st and 7th books are thought to have been added on several hundred years later. These two fill in a lot of blanks, giving the background of Ravana, the expulsion of pregnant Sita and her (and Rama's) sons, and generally a more Vaishnavite spin. I looked for a rape by Varuna, but couldn't find it; I wonder if Menon's version took from sources other than Valmiki?

    In addition to Biggs' amazing translation at there is also which has verse-by-verse translation and commentary, except for the last (7th) book. The latter is more difficult to read than Biggs, but another amazing resource.… is an interesting, long article comparing the expulsion of pregnant Sita in Valmiki and the version in the Padma Purana. The expulsion is not without a lot of emotion and regret, which runs contrary to how Sklivas presents it. (As too I hoped to show in the examples I listed yesterday.)

    Another book that may be of interest is Paula Richman's collection of modern (Indian) looks at the epic, Ramayana Stories in Modern South India.

    The conversations Sklivas' article produced are very interesting complex in themselves, I hope it has brought some understanding to this complex story.

      Bob Weisenberg Sep 24, 2012 10:36pm

      Thanks again for offering all your clarifying information and constructive insights to a sometimes highly charged discussion. We really appreciate the time, effort and caring it takes to do this.


        anonymous Sep 24, 2012 11:03pm

        Again, you're welcome, and thank you too for the light moderating and encouraging nudges. It has is a pleasure to be revisiting this story, which I find fascinating on several levels, from the presentation of the various contrasting elements (Ravana/his brothers vs. Rama/his brothers, Lakshmana vs Hanuman, even fire vs water), to the more esoteric significance of the journey, incarnation, "gods" and "demons".. all of which seem to just scratch the surface of the story, and why I think it has spurred so many versions, interpolations, etc.

        It takes more effort, but I think it is far more useful and productive to example and be specific, rather than the much easier crutches and masks of platitudes and accusations that emotional expression typically elicits.

    anonymous Sep 27, 2012 6:55am

    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.

Bob Weisenberg Sep 22, 2012 9:00am

Hi, Peter.

Wow, and I thought the Bhagavad Gita had some serious difficulties for modern readers. Sounds like they are minor compared to Ramayana. With the Gita, at least, I came up with the following approach to enjoying the wisdom without letting the other stuff get in the way:
Why Is the Gita So Upsetting At First?

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Yoga Demystified, Gita in a Nutshell

anonymous Sep 22, 2012 8:57am

Dear Peter,

I read your essay and suggest you might edit or re-write a couple of lines in your text.

Near the end, you write: “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.”

whoa…..your article is about one story within Hinduism. Then you get off topic and give your unsupported criticism of the totality of Christianity without any argument. It would be better for you to leave this paragraph out altogether.

Then you follow up with:…”impossible for this DEVOTEE to retain a pure open heart to the Rama in The Ramayana or the Christ in The New Testament.”

I might ask you; devotee of what? You don’t make that clear.

Finally, you write: “Is it okay for YOGIC gods to rape women and then exile them as polluted whores?” Peter, I suggest you re-write this replacing the word ‘yogic’ with ‘Hindu’. Patanjali’s classical yoga which is my base for practicing,teaching and living yoga is distinct from Hinduism.

That’s one of the magnificent reasons he wrote the Sutra’s without “stories” attached to them.

With these suggested changes, your article makes sense to me and I agree with your overall message.


    anonymous Sep 23, 2012 4:15am

    You have a problem when Christianity is criticized but replace 'Yogic' with 'Hindu'. Wonderful. Nothing related to Yoga is distinct from Hinduism. It's all Hindu/Vedic Philosophy.

      anonymous Sep 25, 2012 9:51pm

      vedic ? borrowers from tantra ? so why stick with isms ?

        anonymous Sep 27, 2012 2:45pm

        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?

      anonymous Sep 26, 2012 12:48pm

      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?

        anonymous Sep 26, 2012 5:56pm

        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"…… (2517 pages)

        anonymous Sep 30, 2012 7:51am

        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.

    anonymous Sep 23, 2012 3:16pm

    I`m sorry for the inclusion of my comment into the wrong place. It should be posted as a remark to another comment. By the way, I almost totally subscribe to the above analysis.

    anonymous Sep 25, 2012 8:31pm

    Pffft….. any relatively intelligent individual who reads the Bible can easily come to the conclusion that it perpetuates a perverse psychology. Or did you miss the part about women being forced to marry men who rape them? If you'd like more examples, there are plenty.

      anonymous Sep 26, 2012 5:43pm

      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.

    anonymous Sep 27, 2012 6:37am

    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?

anonymous Sep 23, 2012 4:24am

Why are you so perturbed? As Hinduism goes global, you must be prepared for criticism. So far, Hindu concepts have fascinated the Western mind and they've openly appreciated our scriptures and philosophy. You cannot take the praises with a wide grin and get abusive when some aspect of it is criticized. And anyone who criticizes any aspect of Hinduism does not automatically become a missionary.

Alexandra Thompson Feb 20, 2018 2:38pm

Thank you for this.

Rahul Das Saxena Nov 2, 2017 3:59am

Peter, if you get a chance please read this explanation from Arjun Puri. If Lord Rama had to bring goddess sita back then why did he leave her The following is the verse from padam purana “A washer man, with his eyes red due to anger and full of anger kicked his wife who had stayed at another’s house, and despised her: “From my house, go to the house of him where you stayed for a day. I shall not accept you who violate my commands.” Then his mother said to him: “Do not abandon her who has come (back) to (our) house, who has not committed any fault, and who is free from bad acts.” The angry washer man said to his mother: “I am not as great as Rama as to accept (my wife) who stayed in another’s house. Whatever that king does, might by lawful; (but) I will not accept my wife who has stayed in another’s house.” He again and again said these words: “I am not king Rama who protected Sita that had stayed in another’s house.” Padma Purana 5.55.68-73 Here you see if you see through eyes of faith , the mother of the washerman tries to prevent him from sin The mother represents the logic And the logic always works you to abstain from doing bad But the anger the negativity pushes logic out Secondly Lord Rama did leave Sita , but you only focus on this part You did not bother to think upon that 1) He compared her with pure gold for ashwamedha 2) He lived a life of grief and sorrow to depart from his wife 3) He did not re marry When we are setting examples to our juniors , we often quote " I did xyz blunder and had to repent" Lord Raman did the same and showed the world that you will not be in peace until you make up for not standing by your wife and you will face the sameness sorrow I had to go through