A. K. Ramanujan's essay on the Rāmāyaṇa has garnered much attention in recent months, but not for its message of tolerance and appreciation, rather for tracing the historical lineage of this splendid epic. What has already transpired in the last two thousand five hundred years cannot be undone, yet there are those who scorn at it as if the world must have made some kind of mistake and ought to have done otherwise, namely, not to disseminate the Rāmāyaṇa to other cultures and regions. However, no story is told to a stone and if stories were told to stones then, perhaps, those negatively criticizing the essay would be sunbathing and enjoying a nice cocktail right about now instead of taking arms for the reason that humans have eyes, mouths, ears, hands, and legs to revel at, learn from, celebrate to, dream about, participate in, ponder on, adopt into, and divulge upon a story. Though it may be unfortunate for those who wish we be deaf, dumb, and blind machines, it is fortunate for those who know how to live that we are not so. Therefore, I will hereto expound the personal effect the essay had on my being without being hindered by others' opinions on the matter.

The essay is an enthusiastic scholarly odyssey that features five different Rāmāyaṇa tellings. Treating each as equal, Prof. Ramanujan beautifully exposes humanity's natural predisposition to behold beauty and to treat those things considered personally beautiful in high regard. Though mostly concerned with facts distilled from scholarly and historical sources, he also inserts passages from Rāmāyaṇa tellings in the most innocent way to exemplify some of the beauty found in each telling. The essay ingeniously weaves from one telling to another without lending to any abruptness and each meditation on each telling features unshakable evidence that explains the reason why for a particular telling. With the supporting pieces of evidence, Prof. Ramanujan hopes that the reader will finally come to grasp the magnitude of the journey that the Rāmāyaṇa intrinsically contains. It is as if the Rāmāyaṇa was programmed to spread outside of India to the farthest reaches of the globe. The essay clearly demonstrates this absolutely phenomenal performance of the Rāmāyaṇa to be able to sow itself throughout the world in different soils and to grow just as strong, nourishing, beautiful and unique as the other for its people to reap a bountiful harvest.

Particularly, there is a passage in the essay that hints at the fundamental beliefs of the Hindu religion itself. This is the part of the essay where it spoke of when Hanuman travels to the subatomic level to recover Rama's fallen ring. When he arrives there, he meets the king of that world who furnishes a platter upon which rest thousands of rings just like the one that Rama had just lost. The king tells Hanuman that there have been many Rama incarnations and his job was to collect the ring when it fell just in this juncture of the story. Similarly, if one were to take the basic precepts of the Hindu religion one will find that Godhead is all-pervading and that this is the real essence of all. Since Rama is Vishnu and since Vishnu is a particular instance of individuation out of Godhead, then Rama would not be limited to any one particular region of the mind, world, or universe. In fact, Rama would be at the root of all our actions, thoughts, feelings, and desires. This sets up the stage for an opposing worldview that is not found in the Rāmāyaṇa nor the Hindu religion, yet which some Hindu purport to be there and long for.

Though it was not expressly said in the essay, it alone influenced me to think of what I am about to say. I challenge any Hindu or non-Hindu to point where it states that the Rāmāyaṇa forbids its dissemination to other cultures and any sort of alteration, and also, in the event that these do occur, that the “true” believers take arms against those who have violated these stipulations. The fact that Rama is omnipresent agrees with the fact that if Rama didn't wish for his story to spread, it would most like turn out to be so. However, apparently Rama did want the Rāmāyaṇa to spread, and so it did.

What I am talking about is the stifling of the opulence that is the human tradition, its story and roots for fame, glory, and politics. Rather than celebrate the different takes of the Rāmāyaṇa in different cultures, there are those that scorn it. Instead of joining hands in joy for appreciating the same jewel, we break apart and shout at each other about who loves it the more. This is the human drama that must be resolved through mature, clearheaded, and objective conscience.

In addition, anyone who hasn't read the essay but still hates it because s/he thinks it attacks their religion must be told that none of the other tellings when taken in themselves (in their context and so forth) seek to cause mischief, grief, pillaging, murder, rape, etc. In fact, what they do is expound on a philosophy of life and what is it like and how to lead a good life. The more Rāmāyaṇas we have the bigger the database of wisdom we can draw from. One cannot halt or bar the principle driving force behind all the various tellings of the Rāmāyaṇa, namely, to agitate all the human faculties, especially the emotions, to such extent to where they reach a kind of boiling point; this boiling point is where people feel a kind of sobering force that inspires them to tell the story from their own contextual space-time that makes it more meaningful for their tribe, community, city, village, kingdom, and etc. In fact, the story of the Rāmāyaṇa coupled with the essay, have inspired me so much that I may write my own telling of the Rāmāyaṇato nearly the same proportions.

In summary, taking the meaning of a 'sober conscience' to the full extent, nowhere does the essay seek to entice, hurt, injure or in any shape or form hinder religious or cultural observances and sensibilities, but rather treats every story with equal footing by reveling at the stories for what they are in themselves. A7