Maryada: searching for dharma in the ramayana
What does it mean to be good? ‘Maryada’ is a commonly used word for ‘boundary’ in Sanskrit which also means ‘propriety of conduct’. In the context of the Ramayana, the word carries special weight because it comes to be used as the defining virtue of Rama, the ‘maryada purushottama’. But despite the fact that Rama is regarded as the epitome of dharma in his thoughts and deeds, the Ramayana does not provide us with one single template for right action. Nor does it tell us that dharma is beyond the reach of human understanding and human action. On the contrary, it holds out the promise that everyone can and should search for a dharma they can believe in, a dharma that is vulnerable but all the more precious because it has been sought and found rather than given and received. In her thought-provoking new book, renowned Ramayana scholar Arshia Sattar writes with compassion, tenderness and insight about dharma as a multiplicity of appropriate choices, showing us that when we choose one way of being and doing over another, we will be as often wrong as we are right.