As we are all at home these days and thanks to the government who have started the re-telecast of Indian epic Ramayana, I take this opportunity on the auspicious occasion of Shri Ram Navami (tomorrow 02.04.2020) and as a student of emotional intelligence, would like to pen my learnings from Ramayana till date from the emotional intelligence point of view. When Ramayana was first telecast somewhere in the late 80s when I was in college, I never watched it just for fun or knowing the story rather than gathering any learning from this epic. But now with more mindfulness and maturity, I can see a tremendous amount of learnings from each of the characters. My perspective:
- Maharaj Dashrath– The greatest teaching he gave us is once you have given a word to anybody you cannot go back on it come what may, even if you have to send your own son through lots of pain and hardships. You may be tempted by the attachment for your own son and could be stupefied in his love, however, you need to have the self-awareness and self-management to think rationally even in times when your mind is clouded and threatened by emotions. Maharaj Dashrath exemplified this to the fullest. This talks about the strong value system he possessed. He was caught in the quandary of tradition of the Raghukul (or Suryavanshi dynasty) who would fulfil their vachan (in spite of all the adversities) and the love and affection of son like Lord Rama without whom he wouldn’t be able to live. In spite of all this he sided and took a decision in favour of his values and principles rather than taking it emotionally. Just imagine the emotions he could have gone through and the sheer helplessness and the frustration that he stuffs inside him just to protect the legacy and name of his dynasty.
When Kaikeyi, Dashrath’s second and the most loved wife, demanded the two boons,(her son Bharata to be the coronated as King instead of Rama and Rama to be sent to 14 years of exile) emotions like anger, hostility, hatred for her and then when he had to announce his decision to Rama that he is being sent to 14 years of exile in the forests, the feelings of Love, guilt (that he had to order Rama this which from his perspective was like a punishment for no fault of Rama and depriving him of the throne which was rightfully his as the eldest son), shame, fear (how will Rama survive the atrocities of forests like the wild animals, path full of stones and pebbles, and thorns etc.), frustration( of not being able to do anything in that situation) and helplessness, shock, feeling miserable and sadness all at the same time must have totally taken control over his mind and body. Maybe he could have gone into depression as well, but perhaps he didn’t survive long enough because of the circumstances and the shock he went through.
One more learnings from Dashrath- he gave two boons to his beloved wife Kaikeyi when she had saved him in the battle against the Asuras. He got so emotional and overwhelmed by Kaikeyi’s heroics to grant those boons without thinking, which were later mis-used by her. The learning for me is never allow others to take you for a ride and you decide what reward and the timing of it, you will shower or refuse to. Have the ability to say ‘NO’(being Assertive) when you disagree even when it is emotionally difficult to do so.
Maharaj Dashrath was a victim of his one of his mistakes which would haunt him for life. As a youth, he went out for hunting (in those days was considered to be a hobby of the brave, mainly the kshatriyas, and the kings) in the forests, he heard the sound of water and assuming that a deer had come to drink the water at the river, he shot an arrow without seeing who it was going to hit. To his dismay, the arrow went and pierced a youth called ‘Shravan’ who had come to the river to fetch water for his thirsty, blind and old parents. Hearing his cries, Dashrath went close to him and realized his mistake, but alas it was too late. Shravan was about to die. In the dying moments, he requested Dashrath to take water for his parents who were waiting for him nearby. When Dashrath reached the spot of Shravan’s parents and narrated the whole story, they curse him that he will also meet the same fate as they were about to, and he too will die because of separation from his beloved son.
Now, what is the learning from this story of Dashrath?
- Maharaj Dashrath showed little impulse control and did not look before he leaped and the lust for the animal clouded his rational thinking.
- Perhaps, he was emotionally hijacked too with flight/fight response coming into play, his amygdala sensing a threat to his body or from a feeling of missing out the hunt, acted too fast to have any communication with his rational brain. [Emotional Hijacking is a hugh concept in EI, just to give a gist in very brief – amygdala is a part inside our brain which has the tendency to act very fast when triggered with any external threat to our body as its function is to protect us against these threats. The response of our body is either flight (run away) or fight (fight with the threat) without having any communication with the Neo-cortex or the rational thinking brain. When the person is emotionally hijacked, he/she normally behaves or takes a decision for which they may have to regret/repent for life. An emotionally intelligent person has the ability to take a pause, think and then respond instead of reacting even in these situations]
Better impulse control and managing the external triggers could have saved Shravan and the curse Dashrath received from his parents. Rest as they say is, history. So, the learning here is have impulse control and look before you leap.
2. Lord Shri Rama- What to say about him? he was Maryada Purshottam. There are numerous qualities that Lord Rama had- just to name a few from emotions parlance, he was kind, affectionate, empathetic and considerate of the feelings of people around him. Even when his father Maharaj Dashrath with great pain, ordered that he be sent to exile for 14 years and the crown will be given to his younger brother Bharata, he was very calm and maintained his composure. Not for a moment did he get angry or had feelings of hatred, resentment or revenge for his father nor his stepmother Kaikeyi. Instead, he was pleased that he could spend time with the great sages on the way to forest and learn many things from them. He was also very happy that his younger brother Bharata would be coronated and that he respected his father’s orders and mother Kaikeyi’s wishes.
Well, this may sound (and literally is) to be too idealistic for all of us and that too in this age of Kaliyuga. Agreed, we may never get anywhere close to Lord Rama, we can at least learn and try to pick some of his qualities of empathy, kindness, love for all souls, living in the present moment, being respectful to elders, being flexible under all circumstances and being supremely self-aware.
3. Kaikeyi- You may ask what can Kaikeyi teach us? She was a paradigm of how NOT to behave.
- Jealousy: She got too jealous of Lord Rama after her nurse Manthara fuelled and instigated Kaikeyi to ask for those two wicked boons from Maharaj Dashrath. We need to guard against jealously to others.
- Love blind– She became too blind in her love for her son Bharata and in the process was not able to think rationally and totally oblivious that she was doing (devoid of Self-awareness) a great injustice to her other son Rama, who it is believed that she loved more even than Bharata.
We need to Love our children but not get blind to the extent of being oblivious of the surroundings and be mindful of what effect it may have on others.
- Insecurity/Fear– Manthara was successful in instilling a feeling of insecurity in her mind, that after Rama became the King, he would kill Bharata and that she will lose all her powers and that Rama’s mother Kausalaya would enslave her once Rama became the King. These thoughts gave rise to anger and hatred for Rama which totally masked her ability to think through her conscience and rationale. She could have had discussions with Maharaj Dashrath openly rather than acting impulsively to work on her insecurities and could have asked the two boons to safeguard interests of Bharata and herself. The key learning here again is to have impulse control and rational thinking.
There will be many more learnings from Ramayan from Emotional Intelligence point of view, but to be continued for some other day…..