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From: Usha Sampath (surfing_at_pacbell.net)
Date: Fri May 08 1998 - 07:26:12 PDT

This is with reference to Krishna Susarla's recent contribution on the
subject, which is as follows:
"Then when Lord Raama tried to "test" her chastity, this Maya-Sita went
into the flames and the real Sita emerged. Although externally, Lord
Raama did not take back Sita because of concern that she was unchaste,
the internal reason was that He could not take her back because she was
not the real Sita. The whole pastime of asking her to enter the flames
then was just to get the real Sita out."
Valmiki, the original author of Ramayana, did not create a Maya Sita.
In later times, people found it difficult to even imagine that Lord Rama

could put to such cruel test his wife whom he loved dearly, missed very
much and fought for her release from Ravana's captivity.  They therefore

added a Maya Sita to the Ramayana epic.  The underlying cause for this
was the belief that without such an interpolation, it would be difficult

for the Rama-Bhaktas to accept the fact of the AgniPariksha for Sita
Devi.
Narayana Bhattathiri, who has written a succint account of Bhagavatam in

his famous work 'NARAYANEEYAM', has dealt with this uncomfortable
feeling in a different way.  This is what he has said in Sloka 10 Ch. 35
of
Narayaneeyam:

So yam marthyaavathaarasthava khalu niyatham marthyashikshaarthhamevam
Vishlesharthih niraagaasthyajanamapi bhaveth kaamadharmaathisakthyaa
No cheth swaathmaanubhootheh kka nu thava manaso vikriyaa chakrapaaNe
Sa thwam sathaikamoorthe pavanapurapathe vyaadhunu vyaadhithaapaan

Bhattathiri, an ardent devotee of the Lord, wonders if Rama acted thus
only to teach us that an excessive attachment to Dharma (Kaama
DharmAthiSakthayaa) can lead to injustice such as abandonment of the
innocent (Niraagasthya janam).  The story as told by Valmiki needs no
excuses for Rama's conduct.  He is Vishnu, the all merciful.  If he
punished innocent Sita, following blindly the letter of the Law of Raja
Dharma, it must be so only  to teach us that actions based on blind
obedience to society's rules and expectations may lead to adharma such
as punishment of innocent ones.
The story as told by Valmiki without the character of Maya Sita seems to

serve the greater purpose of teaching us a good lesson on the practice
of Dharma in its purest sense.  This is the essence of Bhattathiri's
statement on the subject which, I thought, I should bring humbly to the
notice of Bhakthi readers.

"Bhattathiri's interpretation seems also to echo the famous sloka in
Bhagawad Gita:
'sarva dharmaan parithyajya maamekam saranam vraja'.  The Lord is
advising:
'Look deep within you and divine your duty, abandoning all the man-made
dharmas
of the outside world.  If by doing so, you commit a papam according to
those societal
rules, be certain that I shall release you from any consequences of such
conduct.'
Valmiki was sure that his readers  would draw the right lesson from his
story of Rama:

"Strict adherence to the letter of the law relating to Raja Dharma (and
other societal laws) might result in injustice in some cases."

Rama's noble stature is enhanced by this act of role-modelling
negatively to teach us a lesson.
The method is similar to the  'reductio ad absurdom' process in
Mathematics.

Adiyen Dasan,
Mandayam Kumar Krishnaswamy
E-mail:  surfing@pacbell.net