Why are we asked to read the scriptures, Puranas and Itihasas? Because they offer us solace when we are in distress. Often, we complain that our burdens in life are too difficult to bear. We ask ourselves why it is that we alone suffer so much. We are full of self-pity and think that we are being unduly troubled, while everyone else in the world is happy. It is at times like these that reading our sacred literature helps us, for it lessens our pain. We come across people who have suffered much more. Our problems seem small compared to theirs, said D. Gnanasundaram, in a discourse, and gave the examples of Sita and the Saivite saint Thirunavukkarasar to drive home the point.

Sita was the pampered daughter of a King, and was married to Rama, the darling of His father and of all the people of Ayodhya. And yet, when Rama was banished, Sita willingly accompanied Him, although He told Her to stay behind. To Her, life in the palace would be unbearable if Rama went away.

But although She could brook no separation from Rama, and for this reason accompanied Him to the forest, separation was what She had to face. She was taken away by Ravana, imprisoned, taunted and teased. Ravana employed every means possible to make Her comply with his wishes. She had to put up with all this, while waiting for Rama to save Her. Compared to the problems She faced, what are our problems? We fuss over even trivial issues. Sita’s life is an example of the patience we need in life.

Thirunavukkarasar incurred the displeasure of the King, who ordered the saint to come to meet him. But the saint refused and said he was nobody’s slave. Simply because he lived in a certain geographical territory, it did not mean he had to pay homage to the king of the region. The king, angered by Thirunavukkarasar’s response, ordered various forms of torture to be inflicted upon him. The saint was given poisoned food, was thrown into a lime kiln, was tied to a rock and cast into the sea. But the saint never lost faith in Lord Siva and was saved in every instance. Compared to the saint’s travails, what are our problems? Thus reading sacred literature keeps us from self-pity.

This article has been corrected for a typographical error.

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