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Musings on sita's agni-pravEsam#6

From: sudarshan (lucasfie_at_md2.vsnl.net.in)
Date: Mon Nov 23 1998 - 09:25:20 PST

Dear Sri.S.H.Krishnan and other members (who are following this thread),

I am sorry we got interrupted after post#5 and side-tracked into a rather
digressive discussion on a line I just happened to quote from Swami
Desikan's "Raghu-veera gadyam".

Let's get on now with the central task at hand: our enjoyment of the scene
of the "agni-pravesam" from Valmiki Ramayanam.

I strongly suspect that perhaps all of you secretly wish to ask me a
question but are too polite
to do so and it is this:

"In discussing the subject of the Ramayana's "agni-pravEsam" why should I
engage you all in a discussion that has gone on now for more than 5 long,
seemingly tedious and interminable posts? Can't I simply get to the point
instead of beating around the "itihAsic" bush, quoting all manner and
specie of ancient and modern poets, East and West, and inflicting on you
all the most convoluted, elliptical and long-winded perorations which a
pompous but literary-minded windbag can pull out of the same sleeve on
which he flaunts his half-knowledge?"

Let me confess to you all, dear members, that I simply cannot help it.

If you read Valmiki's verses, even with scant knowledge of Sanskrit, you
too, like me, would tend to lose yourself in a heady reverie of poetic
enjoyment and philosophical reflection. A trigger-happy, highly wrought
imagination such as mine only makes things worse, for I sometimes I find
myself virtually hallucinating about the vivid scenes from the Ramayana. A
lot of associative and dissociative ideas and allusions too begin to buzz
and dance inside my mind. 

Let me tell you a truth about myself. I do not enjoy the Ramayana in the
spirit of a scholar or a religious devotee. Neither true scholar nor
"bhakta" am I. Instead I approach the epic in parts as a child that looks
forward, daily and excitedly, to riveting tales that a wizened grandma
re-tells to it after dinner, and in other parts, just as an ardent "rasika"
secretly wishing he were a performing 'vidwAn' so as to be able to secure a
fuller, richer experience of some rare Thyagaraja "kriti"!   

I am well aware that everyone of you is well-read and well-informed about
the Ramayana. Also, the episode of Sita's "agni-pravEsam" is as old as the
hills. Everything worth commenting on and reflecting about it, has already
been said and recorded by great souls of the past like Sri.Tirumalai-nambi,
Kamban, Kalidasan, Tulsidas, Swami Desikan, Govindaraja .... and in our own
times by towering minds like Tilak, Rajaji, Rt.Hon'ble Srinivasa Sastri and
Prof.K.R.Srinivasa Iyengar. There is nothing really new or original in the
episode that I am going to especially wring out and share with you all. So
why then, you might ask, why then my lengthy, discursive essays on "sitA's
agni-pravEsam"? Why, indeed!

Perhaps I'd do better to simply stick to bare, antiseptic facts. Perhaps I
should say whatever I have to say about the episode in the dry, direct,
matter-of-fact and dead-pan style of a lead-editorial under the gaunt
mast-head of a staid conservative daily like the "Hindu" or "Times of
India". Yes?

Perhaps, yes, that's precisely what I should be doing in my posts on the
"bhakti-list". It would certainly save everyone's time, breath and
band-width!

But then again I ask myself, "Would I enjoy discussing the Ramayana in such
a drab and lack-lustre manner?". Would I do justice to the great tale of
the Ramayana if I did not attempt to re-produce it to my friends on the
"bhakti-list" with at least half  the joy, painstake, and vividness with
which I'd heard it from my own grandmother years and years ago? Would I not
relish it so much more if I re-narrated the edifying episode of the
"agni-pravEsam" with the embellishment of my own little experiences of
life? Would I not acquire for myself a little deeper insight than before
into the lofty characters of Rama, Sita or Hanuman if I re-visited all over
again the whole episode of the "agni-pravEsam" just as if I were setting
out to do so for the first time in my life? Would I not by that act cleanse
my own faculties of perception and understanding..... what they call
"chitta-suddhi"....? And in that process is there not half a chance that
your own --- readers' ---  "chitta-suddhi" too might be enabled or
facilitated ? And is that not the true purpose for which we have all formed
a faceless, otherwise impersonal, "cyber-community" (called the
"bhakti-list") amongst ourselves across continents and seas and is that not
why we daily share and exchange ideas and thoughts with each other?

Believe me, dear members, to follow the story of the Ramayana --- and the
episodes in it like the "agni-pravEsam"  --- is in itself a personal voyage
of self-discovery that each of us must undertake on our own. The
commentaries of the Masters of the past will help us in this endeavour, no
doubt, like milestones and motels along the way. But the course of the
journey itself and the various sights and scenes it will present us on the
way, please remember, that journey itself will be very much our own. It is
a uniquely individual and intensely private understanding of truth of the
Ramayana that we reach ourselves.

I might be guilty of trying your patience, dear members, by posting my
rather long-winded posts on this subject. But it's the only way I can enjoy
the Ramayana and draw edification from it. I know no other way.

If you have the time and patience to accompany me a little distance on my
journey, you are most welcome. I do not promise you any great or fantastic
sight-seeing......

I can only promise you the next instalment of my "Musings on "sitA's
agni-pravEsam" in a few days from now.

adiyEn dAsAnu dAsan,
sudarshan