Reading Journal Questions
The Ramayana (or The Journey of Rama) is an epic poem about the life of Rama, and is one of
the most important and influential stories of South Asia. Originally composed in Sanskrit by the
poet Valmiki around 300 BCE, it has been expanded through both oral and written traditions
over the years. It tells the story of the life of Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu, and his wife, Sita.
It is an important text in the Hindu tradition and illustrates the important concept of dharma.
The Ramayana is tremendously popular and influential, and continues to be told and retold in
modern India and other Hindu cultures The epic still influences the religious practices, beliefs
and art of Hinduism. Like the Odyssey, the Ramayana conveys some of the central values of a
culture in narrative form. Like the Gospel of Luke, it expresses central religious beliefs through
allegory, parable, and narrative.
The concept of dharma is complex, but in general terms it refers to the divine will or universal
moral order that is at the heart of all life. To live a good or righteous life is to live a life in
harmony or accordance with dharma In the context of the Ramayana, it means carrying out
your appropriate role or roles in a righteous or virtuous way. Behavior that violates dharma can
cause not only personal suffering, but can also bring about cosmic suffering as well. Within the
Ramayana, we often find characters facing moral choices, and they must figure out how to make
choices that will bring them into harmony with dharma.
Reading Journal Questions
1. Rama is considered an exemplar of someone who practices dharma. What roles does he
fulfill in the text? What characterizes his choices? His behavior?
2. What moral dilemmas do other characters face? Dasaratha, Lakshmana, Sita, Sugreeva, Vali,
Ravana. Identify their moral dilemmas and analyze their choices.
3. Rama and Sita’s marriage is considered the ideal. What characterizes their union? How
might you describe the ideal marriage today? How does it conform to or differ from Rama and
4. Are there gods in the Ramayana? If yes, what is their role? What is their relationship to
5. What is sacred in the Ramayana?
6. Gilgamesh and Odysseus are also epic heroes. Compare and contrast them to Rama. What
do their differences tell us about the different cultures from which they spring?
7. Compare and contrast Rama to the other sacred figures we’ve encountered thus far: Jesus,
Muhammad, and the Buddha.
8. What is the purpose of the Ramayana as a text? Compare and contrast it to the Christian New
Testament, the Qur’an of Islam, and the Dhammapada of Buddhism.