While it is imperative that everyone be given moral instruction, to do so without examples and stories to emphasise what is taught will only invite the accusation that one’s words of advice are boring. So, great sages have left behind works like the Ramayana, wherein we see a demonstration of how we should behave and how we should not, said Goda Venkateswara Sastrigal.

When we have before us the example of Rama, we realise what we should aspire for. We might fall short of our aspirations because of our shortcomings, but at least we know what we should work towards.

When Bharata comes to Ayodhya and discovers that in his absence, Kaikeyi has banished Rama to the forest, he goes to the forest to meet his brother. He requests Rama to come back and take over as King. But Rama refuses. He says he can’t go back on his promise to his father. What a sacrifice Rama makes, to uphold the dharma of speaking the truth! He could easily have gone back and become the ruler of Ayodhya. The people would not have protested; on the contrary, they would have welcomed Him. His brothers would have rejoiced. Yet, Rama remains steadfast. So if we speak of the importance of keeping promises and point to Rama's example, it will help to get the message across.

Even Kaikeyi does not come across as completely bad. When Dasaratha asks her what she wants, after she has helped him, she says she does not know what to ask for, but will ask him if the need arises. Thus, she displays contentment. It is only later, at the urging of Mantara, that she changes. When Rama is still a lad, Viswamitra visits Dasaratha’s court. The King welcomes the sage and says he will grant him whatever he seeks. He asks Dasaratha to send Rama with him to slay demons, but Dasaratha is unwilling to grant his request. Viswamitra says the whole world will then identify Dasaratha as the king who did not keep his word. It is only after much persuasion by Vasistha that the king allows Rama to accompany Viswamitra. Rama, on the other hand, never hesitates to fulfil a promise. Thus, the Ramayana holds many examples of the values we should adhere to in life.

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