Rama: wise or wicked?


Both Rama and Vali can be considered accurate in their arguments of Rama’s adherence to dharma, as they have each presented, yet both have their faults. Vali’s faults were rightfully pointed out by Rama, and Rama believed that he “acted on the basis of dharma” that “the one who metes out the punishment [has] […] done their duty”. However, it was not considered that Sugriva was the one Vali had wronged, and thus perhaps it should be Sugriva’s duty to mete out Vali’s punishment instead of Rama’s. Let us now assume that it was appropriate for Rama to punish Vali for violating dharma in general. This then raises questions of whether Rama was right to punish Vali in a “wicked and unethical” manner of a “deceitful arrow” instead of confronting Vali fairly. If Rama, who is supposedly “compassionate… devoted to the welfare of all beings”, had first reasoned with Vali the values of dharma, perhaps Vali would have felt the same repentance and turned over a new leaf before Rama had to resort to murdering him.

To touch on the subject of dharma, dharma is an uncertain concept that varies between individuals and situations, not a strict, clear-cut set of conducts. “You have transgressed the bounds of dharma. Your conduct is inappropriate because you are ruled entirely by pleasure. You are not fit to be a king!” Does this line, spoken by Rama, imply that Vali would be fit to be a common folk instead? It suggests that the dharma for a king is different, somehow stricter to uphold, that that of a common folk. It is wrong for common folk to be ruled entirely by pleasure, but the sanction of such a sin is harsher for a king. If Vali had been a typical monkey who infringed the same dharma, would Rama have made his punishment as severe, and if not, would that be just?

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