Delightful Disagreements – 1


Article by : Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore

Srimate SrivanSatakopa Sri Vedanta Desika Yatindra Mahadesikaya nama:

All of us are aware of how debilitating domestic arguments are. Though they may begin quite innocuously, they have an uncontrollable tendency to become serious affairs, with both parties to the disagreement feeling hurt. And often, either of the participants in the argument goes off at a tangent, straying from the core subject to extraneous matters. Usually, what begins as a reasoned effort to convince the other person of his or her error, ends up as a free-for-all slanging match, with tones and tempers raised to unseemly levels. And for hours or days thereafter, the matter leaves a bitter taste in the participants’ mouth, turning people estranged and bitter.

If the matrimony is healthy and the partners flexible, the bitter argument is usually followed by a reconciliation and things return to normalcy. If we were to take a survey of separations and divorces, we would probably find that all of them began with an argument, developed into disharmony, graduated into discord, resulted in mutual incompatibility and intolerance and ultimately ended in a parting of ways between partners, who had sworn to stay together till “death do us part”.

An argument results, when a couple have a difference in outlook concerning a particular matter. As two reasonable adults, a husband or wife should appreciate reason when they see it in the other’s argument and concede gracefully. The problem arises only when one or both of them stick(s) to their stand adamantly, without appreciating the logic of the matter.

And when one of the parties to the argument fails to find reasonable things to say, he or she usually resorts to extraneous matters, insults, abuse, invective and so on. The Sanskrit saying, “SEsham kOpEna poorayEt” highlights the fact that people get angry, when they have no reasonable answer to others’ arguments. And when anger enters the mind, reason deserts it, with predictable consequences.

As in everything else, Srimad Ramayanam has lessons for us in how to have domestic arguments, reasonable ones, and how to appreciate the spouse’s point of view. Like any other marriage, that of the Divine Couple too had its share of arguments—however, what sets these arguments apart is that they were eminently devoid of rancour, discord and acrimony, with both Sri Rama and Sri Sita conceding readily, when they were convinced of the logic of the other’s arguments. And these exchanges left the Couple with considerably enhanced love and affection for each other and the marriage itself emerged considerably enriched, the bonds of matrimony made stronger than before.

The first of these arguments that Sri Janaki has with Her beloved, is over the issue of accompanying Him to the jungle, while He undertook the 14-year vanavAsam imposed by the scheming Kaikeyi. The exchange between the Divine Couple on this occasion highlights for all to see, the unbounded love and affection they had for each other. While Sri Rama doesn’t want the delicate Princess of Mithila to be exposed to the rigours and dangers of a jungle sojourn, Sri Mythily, on the other hand, is equally convinced that Her place is by at the side of Her beloved, wherever be His residence.

When Sri Rama reveals to her the momentous news about His impending journey to the jungle and asks Her to stay behind, Sita Devi is instantly angry at being left behind. This anger, says Sri Valmiki, flowed not out of any ego, pride or sense of self-importance, but purely out of the immeasurable love She had for Rama—“PraNayAt Eva samkruddhA”. She is flabbergasted at the idea of being left behind to spend 14 interminable years without the enchanting company of Her Sri Rama and this found _expression_ in Her words of anger. She tells the Prince that She would indeed accompany Him, walking ahead and removing the thorns and stones in the way, which could hurt Her Lord’s delicate soles—“agaratastE gamishyAmi mridgatI kusha kantakAn”. She tells Rama that She is prepared to endure the inhospitable environs of the jungle, to live on fruits and roots, to travel barefoot on the thorny jungle paths. The immortal words of this young Princess, barely out of Her teens, would bring tears to the eyes of even the most stone-hearted of men and women. She tells Rama that if He is with Her , She wouldn’t mind a vanavAsam of even a thousand years, leave alone a mere fourteen. And why wouldn’t She forsake Her husband’s side? Because the Pati is everything to a married woman and is never to be forsaken under any circumstance. She might have any number of close relationships, with Her father, mother, son or Her friends, but of all these the overriding alliance is that with Her husband, who is Her sole refuge—

“na pitA na Atmaja: na AtmA na mAtA na sakhIjana:
iha prEtya cha nAreeNAm Pati: EkO gati: sadA”

To achieve Her objective of accompanying Sri Rama, She displays all womanly wile by pointing out to Raghava the innumerable days of happiness they could have amidst the romantic and picturesque locale of the jungle.

No husband could resist such words of reason, mixed with the potent potion of love. However, Sri Rama does, prompted by a fear of what the dark and dangerous jungle could hold for a delicate damsel like His beloved. He hence embarks upon a detailed description of the terrors of the jungle, in all of 26 slOkAs spanning a whole chapter, all of them ending with the refrain, “tata: dukhataram vanam”. The Prince is totally determined not to expose the young Mythili to the hard, cruel and dangerous life of the forest.

She reasons, She begs, She beseeches, She sheds copious tears, She threatens to commit suicide by consuming poison, entering the fire or waters—When all this doesn’t work, Sri Sita, out of sheer desperation and the fear of being left behind, hurls at Her husband a biting barb which no man worth his salt can tolerate. She sneers at Sri Rama and wonders whether Her father had married Her off to a woman in man’s garb, incapable of protecting his wife from man or beast—

“kim tvA manyata VaidEha: pita mE MithilAdhipa:
RAma jAmAtaram prApya striyam purusha vigraham”

Which man would put up with such insults? Sri Raghava does, because He knows full well that they are born not out of a desire to abuse, but constitute a last-ditch effort to make Her husband take Her along on the arduous journey to the jungle.

Thus Sita tries all the four strategies listed in the Shastras for achievment of one’s goals—SAmam, BhEdam, DAnam and Dandam, the last comprising Her stinging words casting aspersions on Rama’s bravery.

Though He had made up His mind initially to leave Sita behind, Sri RAma, the ideal husband that He was, doesn’t hesitate to change His mind and agree to take Her along, in the face of Her impassioned plea therefor. He doesn’t stick to His stand adamantly and tell Her to just obey, or else! He doesn’t claim a right, as the husband, to lay down what was to be done, irrespective of whether it was right or wrong.

This volte-face in Sri Raghava’s attitude was possible because He looked not merely at Sri Janaki’s words, but at the immeasurable love and affection, which prompted them. He listens not only to Her words calling Him effeminate, but hears too to the tone of anguish and agony that the lady is feeling over being left behind for not one or two, but fourteen long years. He gathers up Sita in a close embrace and tells Her He considers Her dearer to Him than even the heavens—“na idAneem tvatritE SeetE! SvargOpi mama rOchatE”. He gives in at last and tells Her to make preparations for them to leave for the forests together.

Now, whom would you say won the argument?

To the superficial reader, it would appear that, as is the case in almost all our domestic arguments, the Lady of the House was victorious on this occasion too, Sita managing to get Her way despite Rama’s reservations.

However, to the serious student of Srimad Ramayana, it would be evident that it was the strong bond of matrimony and the inalienable love and affection that characterised it, which emerged victor. There was no winner and no loser in this particular argument—both the Prince of Ayodhya and the Princess of Mithila emerged appreciably stronger from the episode, as a husband and wife who had infinite concern for the other’s welfare. They cared little for proving themselves to be right, through empty and endless debate with each other. Sri Rama was concerned at exposing His young Princess to the dangers and discomfort of the jungle, while Sita was intent on being with Her husband, through thick and thin, offering moral and other support through the impending sojourn in the inhospitable forests.

Marriage counsellors would have to search for other jobs, if everyone started perusing the Ramayana. The divine couple’s flawless conduct, their undisguised affection for each other, their readiness to appreciate each other’s viewpoint and to readily change their own opinion to accommodate the other’s, their moving concern for each other’s welfare, much more than each caring for his or her own—all these set out the argument they had as an exemplary one. Their way of resolving discord sets for us a shining example to emulate for all time.

If this is an argument where Sri Rama gave in to Sri Mythily, there was another where Sri Sita conceded to Her husband. Let us see more about this later.

Srimate Sri LakshmINrisimha divya paduka sevaka SrivanSatakopa Sri Narayana Yatindra Mahadesikaya nama:



Article by : Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore

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