Okay, so I know that Karma doesn’t exactly work this way. But still, if you are going to try to demonstrate one of the most complex and intricate aspects of Hindu philosophy in 38 hilarious seconds, this is probably not a half-bad way to go about it. Enjoy!
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Lame oversimplification or cute video? Sound off in the comments section below.
After the interest generated in my last post about a Bhakti interpretation of Sita’s banishment, I thought it’d be fun to do a review of Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues. Before I could get to it, though, my friend Kaustubha at The Bhakti Collective posted his review. Great minds, I guess, think alike.
Maybe I’ll eventually get around to writing one of my own. For now, though, I really appreciate what Kaustubha does with his review. He looks at Sita Sings the Blues from a number of angles, maintains an open mind and gives her the benefit of the doubt, but politely articulates his own reservations and objections. He writes with humility and integrity, alternating between his feelings as objective critic, sympathetic viewer, and practicing devotee. I like Kaustubha’s delicate and measured appreciation of Paley’s art, even as he raises eyebrows at the theological implications of it.
Here is the film:
Many Hindus consider Lord Rama and his wife Sita Devi to be incarnations of the Divine in
personal form, the God and Goddess that together constitute the
Supreme. In my blog post yesterday — based on a reflection that I shared at Princeton University’s Diwali celebration a few days ago — I described how the Ramayana is largely the story of reuniting Rama and Sita.
And that is precisely why the end of the Ramayana is so difficult to swallow.
Diwali celebrates the part of the story where Rama defeats Ravana, rescues his beloved Sita, and returns to rule over Ayodhya. Basically, the rest of the story goes like this: One day, years after Rama and Sita are happily living in Ayodhya, Rama hears a washerman doubting Sita’s faithfulness to Rama during her captivity in Lanka. Ostensibly to uphold dharma at any personal cost, Rama banishes Sita from the kingdom.
Say what? After pining for her, practically going mad missing her, and waging a war to free her, Rama sends Sita away? Why would Rama, glorified as the very personification of righteousness, behave so apparently cruelly and unreasonably?
What can two Diwali narratives tell us about living our lives today?
When I was a child, every Diwali night before going to bed, our family did something which I thought was extraordinary. We unlocked and slightly opened the doors to our home. (That may not seem so extraordinary to some of you, but growing up in New York City it was!) The reason, I was told, was that so on this night, Laksmi the goddess of fortune could freely enter and bless our home with prosperity. In my childish way, I imagined Laksmi to be something like a more selfless version of the tooth fairy… leaving coins for us on the altar.
As I grew into an adult and embraced the path of Bhakti, Diwali became more focused on the narrative of Lord Ramachandra – the Divine in the form of an exemplary king – returning home to His kingdom of Ayodhya.