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Musings on the Jatayu-episode

From: M K Sudarshan (
Date: Sat Jan 04 1997 - 22:56:19 PST

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNe namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha

Dear bhAgavatOttamA-s,

The 'sAdharanNa-dharmA' that Lord Rama 'transcended' in the Jatayu-episode
can be described as follows :

When He, alongwith LakshmaNa, arrived at the scene of Sita's abduction, he
saw Jatayu in the throes of death. The Great Bird, as we all know, then gave
Lord Rama an account of Ravana's "crime". It also indicated which way or
direction Ravana, holding Sita captive in his 'pushpaka-vAhana'(the
air-borne royal carriage of Ravana), was headed.

In the dramatic sequence of events then, dear friends, one would have
normally expected Lord Rama to do what was immediately "needed in that moment".

Having got a rough idea of
  (a) the directional bearings of the way Ravana was headed 
  (b) time elapsed since the abduction
  (c) the approximate speed of the 'pushpaka-vahana'
  (d) the state of exhaustion of Ravana after doing battle with Jatayu
  (e) and other such important "clues" and "facts" gleaned from the "crime-spot"

... one would have expected Lord Rama to have done one of the following
deeds in line with the 'sAdharaNa-dharmA' of a husband beset with acute
anxiety over the "disappearance" of his beloved spouse.

   (1) Do a quick mental calculation of how far Ravana might have proceeded
towards Lanka on his 'pushpaka-vahana' and then either immediately set out
in pursuit hoping to apprehend the 'rAkshasa' before he could reach the
sanctuary of Lanka OR, fire away a great "AstrA", or guided-missile,
generally in the direction in which Jatayu had said Ravana's 'vahana' had
taken off, hoping, thereby, it would hit its target and bring down the
'pushpaka-vahana' before it reached Lanka.

   (2) Be overwhelmed by the situation and collapse in utter sadness, and
despondency over the "loss" of the spouse.

   (3) Become wholly "frustrated" and then enraged at LakshmaNa, His
brother, for having been intrumental in bringing about the sorry situation.

Any one of the above "acts", dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s', would have been
entirely in character. Any one would have behoved the 'sAdharaNa-dhrmA' of a
"good-husband", a "dharma-pati", like Lord Rama !

However we know that Lord Rama did none of the above !

He transcended His 'sAdharaNa-dharmA'!

He kept all his personal "anxieties" about Sita, his "disappointment" over
LakshmaNa and expectedly "vengeful thoughts" about Ravana, the villain, out
of His mind !!

Instead Lord Rama became solely concerned about Jatayu !!

His only thought was about the dying Great Bird which, He saw, had just
acted in a manner that was a practical and model lesson on lofty "dharmA" to
humans and how they ought to uphold and cherish it !!     

Lord Rama became overcome with emotion caused, NOT by what had happened to
'Sita-pirAtti', and NOT even by the tragedy that had befallen Himself then !!

Lord Rama was overwhelmed by the great "dharmA" that a mere Old Vulture,
Jatayu, had so easily immortalised for the whole posterity of mankind in the
milleniums to come !!

So overwhelmed was Lord Rama by this that He proceeded to forthwith first
arrange to perform the 'anthima-samskara-s", the last rites of death, to the
great bird !!

And that act of "anthima-samskara" for Jatayu was, indeed, dear
'bhAgavatOttamA-s', how Lord Rama showed that He too "transcended" His own
'sAdharaNa-dharmA' !!

When He could have otherwise just "acted" like any other "anxious husband"
or "accusing brother" or "vengeful posse", Lord Rama "chose" (remember the
element of choice, we said was present in 'sAdharaNa-dharmA'?) instead to
"act" (i.e. "transcend") like a "dutiful son" to Jatayu and took upon
Himself to perform the obsequies of that Great Bird.

What greater and more moving example than Lord Rama's is needed, dear
'bhAgavatOttamA-s', to show us all that we must (in keeping with Lord
Krishna's 'charma-shlOka', which we explained in my earlier posting), we
must all strive constantly to "transcend" our respective "sAdhraNa-dharmA-s"

In my next posting we will essay the 'visEsha-dharmA' that Lord Rama
demonstrated and how it was a reflection of Jatayu' own !!

Thereafter we will try and explore how all these discussions on 'DharmA' --
sva-dharma, sAdharaNa-dharmA and viSesha-dharma -- are actually relevant to
Verse#39 of Swami Desikan's "Raghuveera-gadyam".
              vikrama yashOlAbha-vikrIthajIvitha-gridhr-rAja
dEhadidhakshA-lakshita bhakthajana dhAkshinya !  

After that I will take leave of you.

srimathE srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikaya namaha