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PART I_MYTHS_Sec 1-Intro-3 of 4

From: Nutech (
Date: Fri May 01 1998 - 07:41:48 PDT

Dear Bhagavatas,
Follwing is posting 3 of 4 in Section 1-Introduction to Part I on Myths.
Anbil Ramaswamy
They serve to instill a certain humility in prosperity and a reminder
that not by one's own efforts alone one could avert indiscretions but
divine guidance is also needed. They also serve to prove that penitence
and atonement are sure to invite divine forgiveness to extricate men
from such intriguing situations. In other words, they drive home the
adage that 'there is no saint without a past and no sinner without a

The modern movies  depict the role of villain and his deeds in such
vivid and realistic fashion as to lure impressionable minds to copy
them. The scriptural stories though they also show how even great people
err, never fail to warn and wean the reader from getting into the
vice-grip of vices. The episodes in the Ramayana and Mahabharata take us
on a guided tour of joys and sorrows that flesh is heir to but finally
raise us above both and we find ourselves transported to the  world of
transcendental reality.

Conversely, it is seen that not only Valmiki but other poets also have
depicted even bad characters with sympathy. It should be remembered that
nobody is wholly good or wholly bad. Human psyche is a mixture of
qualities which govern the moods, attitudes and behaviors called Sattva,
Rajo and Tamo gunas. The contents of this mixture is constantly in a
flux and are always in a see-saw movement.  Just as in a democracy, even
though there are several parties in the fray, the party that secures
majority takes over the reigns of Government for the time being , the
guna that is predominant at any given point of time would decide whether
a person would be virtuous or vicious and if so, how far in any given

Even Rajasic and Tamasic characters are delineated by poets in such
glowing terms to appeal to the readers with similar qualities. When such
readers come across such characters, a sympathetic vibration swells in
their hearts. They would feel not only at home with such characters but
also appreciate their emotions and actions with such an empathy to the
point of finding fault with the really Satvic characters. Like culinary
experts who can by their unique recipes turn even bitter ingredients
into delicious dishes, the poets are adepts in ingeniously depicting
even vile characters in agreeable light so that those governed by
corresponding gunas would be better able to appreciate.

Such a painting also serves another purpose. When admirable qualities
like valor,bravery, strength, determination etc are projected of
otherwise despicable characters, they serve as a necessary  backdrop to
highlight their darkside in sharp contrast. And, when such strong,
brave, valorous people get vanquished at the hands of the virtuous
heroes, it goes to heighten the superior ratings of the heroes.

Very often,we find the vanquished themselves sing paeans of praise of
their victors (e.g) In the Ramayana, Vaali, Taara, Maareecha,
Kumbakarna, Mandodari and even Ravana take their turns in praising the

Another reason for inclusion of such 'less than perfect' personalities
is to reflect the actualities of life lest a monotonous display of
idealistic heroes should fatigue the sensibilities of the readers. Our
classics realistically embody our national culture with all their
virtues and all their faults so that we could see ourselves as we really
are, apart from what we wish to become.

Again,  these vicious personalities provide a necessary compementary
role without which the value of the virtuous may not be fully
appreciated. You need scorching heat to realize the value of shade. You
need drought to realize the value of rains. You need the beast to
realize the value of beauty. So, you need the vicious  as an antithesis
to realize the value of the virtuous. If there were no devils, there
would perhaps be no Gods since a positive cannot exist without a

It is true that we discern a perceptible erosion in values from the
Ramayana days to the Mahbharata days and further deterioration as
Kaliyuga advances. While even a war had to be on Dharmic lines in the
Ramayana days, there has been a slow but steady decline in the concept
of Dharma in the Kurukshetra war. As the war progresses and passions run
riot, we see too many transgressions of ethics of war (e.g) the incident
in which Dharmaputra uttered a half truth 'Aswattama Hata Kunjarah' -
the first half in a loud pitch and the latter half - barely audible.
And, this resulted in the fall of Drona who thought that his dear son,
Aswattama had died while actually an elephant by that name got killed.

" Without myths a society decays. By losing touch with myth, however,
modern society has lost its sense of wonder and awe at the natural world
and the universe - perhaps one reason for the exploitation of the
resources of the planet, pollusion of the environment and destruction of
other living beings in the name of progress" - 4

As observed by Joseph Campbell -
" Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of
the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestations and it has always
been known that the prime functions of mythology and rite is to supply
symbols that move the human spirit forward" -5