Its quite common to see children playing with toy guns. Police and Robber is yet another passtime play for young boys. But online shooting games, shooting game apps are even more common these days. There are loads of such games even for adults. Shooting ranges are promoted as an effective approach for destressing. So guns and shooting is not really limited to those in the army. Its part of growing up for many children, part of stress management for many adults, part of entertainment for many teens and thus part of our lives in myriad direct, indirect and subtle ways. We also often witness the use of guns and shooting in movies.
Although even adults are at risk, children are at a greater risk. Childhood is the most critical formative years of the individuals life. Parenting experts, medical professionals, and grandmothers with traditional wisdom, all of them agree to this.
Should we be concerned about their exposure to guns and shooting. Some say, “its just a passtime and so let it be.” Some say, “it fosters imaginative play, so no harm.” Some say, “dont try to moralize everything.” Some say, “in the real world there is real shooting, so one cant walk away from this reality just by avoiding children playing shooting games online or otherwise.”.
Ofcourse there are many who argue against such an exposure for both children and adults alike. My intent is not to juxtappose such arguments against the ones previously listed.
Let’s see what we can learn from our History, from one of the greatest historical records, The Ramayana.
रामायणे अरण्यकाण्डे नवमसर्गे
As per the wish and command of his father, Rama takes to exile. Sita and Lakshmana follow suit. During his stay in the forest Rama meets and interacts with many renowned and hallowed seers. He also learns of the difficulties faced by them while being engaged in sacred and beneficial tasks. Accordingly Rama pledges to relieve them of this ongoing trouble by putting an end to all those evil perpetrators. Though Rama has no enmity against them directly, yet he would be involved in terrorizing and terminating them. This perturbs Sita a lot. She then expresses her concern to Rama as follows:
सुतीक्ष्णेनाभ्यनुज्ञातं प्रस्थितं रघुनन्दनम्। हृद्यया स्निग्धया वाचा भर्तारमिदमब्रवीत्।।3.9.1।। While Rama was leaving with the permission of Sutikshna, Sita spoke these warm, affectionate words to her husband:
अयं धर्मस्सुसूक्ष्मेण विधिना प्राप्यते महान्। निवृत्तेन तु शक्योऽयं व्यसनात्कामजादिह।।3.9.2।। This great path of dharma you are following now can be attained only through subtle means by one free from addiction born of passion.
त्रीण्येव व्यसनान्यत्र कामजानि भवन्त्युत। मिथ्यावाक्यं परमकं तस्माद्गुरुतरावुभौ।।3.9.3।। परदाराभिगमनं विना वैरं च रौद्रता। There are three kinds of vices born out of lust. First, speaking untruth, second, having sexual relation with others’ wives and third, resorting to violence with no enmity. The later two vices are of serious nature.
मिथ्यावाक्यं न ते भूतं न भविष्यति राघव।।3.9.4।। कुतोऽभिलाषणं स्त्रीणां परेषां धर्मनाशनम्। O Rama you never spoke untruth in the past nor will you speak in future. How can there be any desire in you to destroy the virtue of others’ wives ?
तव नास्ति मनुष्येन्द्र न चाभूत्ते कदाचन।।3.9.5।। मनस्यपि तथा राम न चैतद्विद्यते क्वचित्। O Rama, lord among men, you hadn’t it (lust for other women) in the past. You havn’t it now. Never does it exist even in your mind.
स्वदारनिरतस्त्वं च नित्यमेव नृपात्मज।।3.9.6।। धर्मिष्ठस्सत्यसन्धश्च पितुर्निर्देशकारकः। O prince, you are always faithful to your wife. You are righteous, truthful and obedient to your father’s orders.
What is Sita’s concern?
Sita is concerned of the pit falls one could fall into on account of not being watchful of ones own desires/passions. She identifies three errors one commits thereby. Firstly speaking untruth. Second one being having an affair with another man’s wife and third one is engaging in violence without enmity.
She is absolutely confident that Rama is way beyond commiting the first or the second of the above listed errors. She is however concerned of the third error.
तृतीयं यदिदं रौद्रं परप्राणाभिहिंसनम्।।3.9.9।। निर्वैरं क्रियते मोहात्तच्च ते समुपस्थितम्। (But) you are a victim to the third (vice born of lust) i.e. showing violence without cause for enmity.
Why is Sita so perturbed?
Out of concern for Rama. Please note that Sita is concerned about even the remotest possibility of Rama digressing from the path of Dharma. Or so it appears.
त्वं हि बाणधनुष्पाणिर्भ्रात्रा सह वनं गतः।।3.9.15।। दृष्ट्वा वनचरान्सर्वान्कच्चित्कुर्याश्शरव्ययम्। Of course, you will go to the forest with your brother, holding the bow and arrows. Release the arrows when you see the forestrangers.
क्षत्रियाणामपि धनुर्हुताशस्येन्धनानि च।।3.9.16।। समीपतस्स्थितं तेजो बलमुच्छ्रयते भृशम्। A bow in the hand of a kshatriya is like fuel to fire. It surely swells his strength and his brilliance.
How does Sita justify her concern. It is just a hunch or is there some merit in her arguments?
Sita recounts an episode from the past to validate her claims.
पुरा किल महाबाहो तपस्स्वी सत्यवाक्छुचिः।।3.9.17।। कस्मिंश्चिदभवत्पुण्ये वने रतमृगद्विजे। O mightyarmed one, there dwelt in the past an ascetic, noble and truthful in a sacred forest where animals and birds lived merrily together.
तस्यैव तपसो विघ्नं कर्तुमिन्द्रश्शचीपतिः।।3.9.18।। खङ्गपाणिरथागच्छदाश्रमं भटरूपधृत्। Once Indra, husband of Sachi, came to his hermitage in the guise of an attendant, sword in hand, in order to hinder his penance.
तस्मिंस्तदाश्रमपदे निशितः खङ्ग उत्तमः।।3.9.19।। स न्यासविधिना दत्तः पुण्ये तपसि तिष्ठतः। Then while the sage was practising penance at the hermitage, he gave him that excellent sword to be kept in trust.
स तच्छस्त्रमनुप्राप्य न्यासरक्षणतत्परः।।3.9.20।। वने तु विचरत्येव रक्षन्प्रत्ययमात्मनः। Having received the weapon as a trust, the sage went wandering in the forest, always attentive in safeguarding the weapon.
यत्र गच्छत्युपादातुं मूलानि च फलानि च।।3.9.21।। न विना याति तं खङ्गं न्यासरक्षणतत्परः। Vigilant about protecting the sword deposited with him, the sage never moved without it even when he went gathering roots and fruits.
नित्यं शस्त्रं परिवहन्क्रमेण स तपोधनः।।3.9.22।। चकार रौद्रीं स्वां बुद्धिं त्यक्त्वा तपसि निश्चयम्। While the sage moved about holding the weapon, he gave up the practice of penance gradually and developed a violent mindset.
ततस्सरौद्रेऽभिरतः प्रमत्तोऽधर्मकर्शितः।।3.9.23।। तस्य शस्त्रस्य संवासाज्जगाम नरकं मुनिः। By association with the sword, he developed a violent attitude. And in that habitual state of excitement he was dragged into unrighteous ways which (ultimately) took him to hell.
Sita is concerned about the power of association. Rama’s continual engagement with his weapons should not lead him astray into unjustified indulgence.
एवमेतत्पुरा वृत्तं शस्त्रसंयोगकारणम्।।3.9.24।। अग्निसंयोगवद्धेतुश्शस्त्रसंयोग उच्यते। स्नेहाच्च बहुमानाच्च स्मारये त्वां न शिक्षये।।3.9.25।। Contact with the weapon has led to this in the past. Like contact with fire, it leads man to destruction. I say this out of my love and reverence for you as a reminder and not as an instruction.
न कथञ्चन सा कार्या गृहीतधनुषा त्वया। बुद्धिर्वैरं विना हन्तुं राक्षसान्दण्डकाश्रितान्।।3.9.26।। अपराधं विना हन्तुं लोकान्वीर न कामये। While holding a bow, you should not have the intention to kill demons residing in Dandaka with no animosity against you. O valiant one I do not desire that any one should be killed without incurring any offence.
क्षत्रियाणां तु वीराणां वनेषु निरतात्मनाम्।।3.9.27।। धनुषा कार्यमेतावदार्तानां त्वभिरक्षणम्। It is the duty of a kshatriya, a warrior to protect with his bow those who practise selfcontrol (penance) in the forest in a state of panic.
क्वच शस्त्रं क्व च वनं क्व च क्षात्रं तपः क्वच।।3.9.28।। व्याविद्धमिदमस्माभिर्द्देशधर्मस्तु पूज्यताम्। Where is the question of wielding a weapon and living in the forest, where is the life of a kshatriya and the life of penance? For us, this is an encroachment. Let the law of the land be honoured.
तदार्य कलुषा बुद्धिर्जायते शस्त्रसेवनात्।।3.9.29।। पुनर्गत्वा त्वयोध्यायां क्षत्रधर्मं चरिष्यसि। Lord, when we handle the weapon, the mind gets vitiated. (Only) after returning to Ayodhya can you perform the duty of a kshatriya.
अक्षया तु भवेत्प्रीतिश्श्वश्रूश्वशुरयोर्मम।।3.9.30।। यदि राज्यं परित्यज्य भवेस्त्वं निरतो मुनिः। You would have been on unlimited source of joy to my fatherinlaw and motherinlaw had you permanently renounced the kingdom for the life of an ascetic.
Sita reminds all of us the importance of following Dharma at all times and at all circumstances.
धर्मादर्थः प्रभवति धर्मात्प्रभवते सुखम्।।3.9.31।। धर्मेण लभते सर्वं धर्मसारमिदं जगत्। Righteousness brings wealth. Wealth brings happiness. Righteousness brings everything. In fact, the essence of the world is righteousness.
आत्मानं नियमैस्तैस्तै कर्शयित्वा प्रयत्नतः।।3.9.32।। प्राप्यते निपुणैर्धर्मो न सुखाल्लभ्यते सुखम्। The wise earn dharma through getting their bodies emaciated by carefully adopting different means of discipline (selftorture). Happiness does not beget happiness.
नित्यं शुचिमतिस्सौम्य चर धर्मं तपोवने।।3.9.33।। सर्वं हि विदितं तुभ्यं त्रैलोक्यमपि तत्त्वतः। O gentle one you may move in this forest of ascetics with a pure mind. The true meaning behind everything in these three worlds is known to you, indeed.
Sita knows very well that the one who could renounce an entire kingdom at the drop of the hat, in pursuit of adhering to Dharma, will never go astray at any cost.
Sage Valmiki, uses this occasion to convey subtle truths to all the readers.
स्त्रीचापलादेतदुदाहृतं मे धर्मं च वक्तुं तव कस्समर्थः। विचार्य बुद्ध्या तु सहानुजेन यद्रोचते तत्कुरु मा चिरेण।।3.9.34।। I told you all this out of feminine fickleness. Who can guide you in the ways of dharma? After carefully deliberating the matter with your brother you may act according to your wish. Let there be no delay (hesitation).
Should we be concerned about children playing with and engaging with guns and shooting games ?
If Sita was concerned about what it could do to Rama, the embodiment of truth and righteousness, then should’nt we be even more concerned.
We are all victims of the ecosystem we live in. Through repeated exposure over time, one begins to think of it as part of life, something normal, meaning that there is nothing abnormal about violence.
Here is short video that explains all that we have discussed so far.
- What is to be done? Be Aware, Educate oneself and children, Explain and Take appropriate actions to safeguard oneself suffciently. (आत्मानं नियमैस्तैस्तै कर्शयित्वा प्रयत्नतः।।3.9.32।। प्राप्यते निपुणैर्धर्मो न सुखाल्लभ्यते सुखम्। The wise achieve dharma through carefully adopting different means of self-discipline. Happiness does not beget happiness.)
- Ramayana is not just about Rama’s life story. There is so much in this epic historical document. Be Aware, Educate oneself and others, Explain and take appropriate actions to succeed in life.
॥ हरिः ॐ ॥
- Ramayana Text and Meaning from https://www.valmiki.iitk.ac.in/