Scholar and translator Arshia Sattar in speaks to editor and critic Somak Goshal about her new book Maryada: Searching for Dharma in the Ramayana. This episode is an edited audio discussion first aired as a BIC Streams livecast.
‘Maryada’ is the Sanskrit word for ‘boundary’ and also means ‘propriety of conduct’. In the Ramayana, the word carries special weight because it comes to be used as the defining virtue of Rama, the ‘maryada purushottama’ or ‘ideal man’.
But even though Rama is regarded as the epitome of dharma in his thoughts and deeds, the Ramayana does not provide us with one single template for what is right. Nor does it tell us that dharma is beyond the reach of human understanding and action. On the contrary, it holds out the promise that everyone can search for a dharma they believe in, one that is all the more precious because it has been sought and found rather than given and received.
In this thought-provoking new book, Arshia Sattar writes with compassion, tenderness and understanding 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.
You can read some of Arshia Sattar’s writings here.