“Hindu Epic Has Lessons for All” by V.V. Raman

April 6, 2006

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer


On April 6, 2006 The Philadelphia Inquirer ran an opinion piece by V.V. Raman, an emeritus professor of physics and humanities at Rochester University and a senior fellow at the Metanexus Institute in Philadelphia. Raman writes, "This week, about 800 million Hindus have been celebrating a joyous event that in their tradition symbolizes the victory of good over evil. They will rejoice in the name of Rama, the hero of the epic Ramayana, with colorful costumes and plentiful sweets, pious chants, and enactment of episodes as dance-drama. The spiritual enrichment one derives from the celebrations is beyond the reach of science, politics and economics... The Ramayana is one of the sturdy roots of India's ancient culture. Aside from its renderings into all Indian (and many non-Indian) languages, the reverberations of this ancient epic can still be felt beyond the borders of India in other Southeast Asian regions, and now the United States as well... Between the hard facts and incontrovertible findings of history and the flights of fantasy of tall tales, there is the realm of sacred history deeply etched in the collective psyche of religious groups. The Ramayana belongs to this realm. As in other traditions, there is also in the Hindu world a tension between literalist and mythopoeic interpretations. The two coexist, and have seldom come into open combat. My own perspective is that, like Moses' covenant with God and the resurrection of Jesus, the relevance of the Ramayana lies not in scholarly debates as to its literal veracity, but in the religious hymns it has generated, in the ideal it inspires, and in the spiritual fulfillment it gives. But I am not disturbed or offended by others who hold a different view."