Ignoring good advice

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In Wilderness, there are several occasions in which a character gives a piece of advice to another, either to persuade or dissuade him/her from doing something. Unfortunately, as we will see, characters in the Ramayana tend not to follow other’s advice, leading to a disastrous chain of events.

In chapter one, Sita criticizes the use of unjustified violence and advises Rama not to carry any weapons in this new world– leaving aside the “code of the ksatriyas [warriors]” (235). Her way of giving advice is very gentle and cautious, since it is not normal that women, “in [their] foolishness” (235), give advice to men. But Rama receives well her piece of advice, claiming it is proof of her love for him. However, he still rejects it, on the grounds that his use of violence against rakasas is justified in order to protect the helpless sages that live in the forest. Eventually, ignoring Sita’s advice and deciding to continue with his belligerent attitude has dramatic consequences: if he hadn’t continued carrying a weapon, Surphanka would have had her nose cut off and there would have been no enmity with the rakhasas at all.

Further on, Rama receives another piece of advice – this time from his brother Laksmana. After Rama discovers his wife has been abducted he is outraged and promises to “destroy the three worlds in his anger” (295). Laksmana, surprisingly, tries to dissuade him from using violence by saying that he “cannot destroy the world because of the crimes of a singles person”. I say it is surprising in light of Laksama’s violent reaction to Rama’s exile. Rama’s reaction is different this time, as he decides to heed his brother’s “wise and judicious advice”, even though “he [Rama] was the older brother”. But why does he follow the advice this time and not when his wife told him not to use violence? Might the author be implying that woman are in no condition of giving advice to men?

Another important counselor in this section is Surphanka. As opposed to Sita, Surphanka is much more persuasive and convincing when giving advice – not in a good way though, as she is not genuine and is very manipulative. This can be seen in her trying to convince Khara to take revenge against Rama. It is interesting that instead of asking him directly, he uses reverse psychology to convince him. He tells him to “leave immediately” or he will “soon be destroyed by Rama’s might” (249), knowing that such words will have the contrary effect on Khara.

Surphanka also plays an important role in convincing Ravana, king of Lanksa, to take revenge against Rama. Again, she effectively uses her persuasive skills and convinces Ravana to abduct Sita, claiming that she “would be the ideal match for [him]” (261). Ravana decides to go ahead with Surphanka’s plan, despite Marica’s warnings. It is interesting to see how Marica tries to convince him not to abduct Sita, warning him that such plans would only bring “destruction” and “a terrible calamity upon Lanksa and himself” (267). But Ravana doesn’t listen to his advice. As we will further see (sorry for the spoiler), Marica was right and Sita’s abduction ends up with the destruction of Lanksa and Ravana’s death. If only he had listened to Marica… but characters in the Ramayana seem to never listen to good pieces of advice…

15 thoughts on “Ignoring good advice

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