Atheism In Ramayana Rama Jabali Discussion

Three is a thinking that Atheism and the so-called ‘Rational Thinking’ is the prerogative of the Modern Man and the early Hindu scriptures did not have these thoughts.

Far from Truth.

The Ramayana ‘one of the early Epics of the Hindus ,The Ramayana contains , seemingly more irrefutable arguments than the Modern  Thinkers(?).

Other Philosophical systems like the Nyaya,Sankhya,Charvaka, do have Atheistic thoughts and they are respected and included systems of Philosophy.

Buddhism and Jainism also fall under this category.

That those who decried the concept of God and the worship of idols have their Statues erected and worshiped as ‘Gods’ is another story!

  1. When Lord Rama decided to  honor his father Dasaratha’s words and leave for the forest, Jabali, a Brahmin priest tries to dissuade Rama from going to the forest by questioning the authority of the Vedas, the existence of God,Truth, Theory of Rebirth,Sins.

The arguments advanced by Jabali are very logical, though seemingly.

That Lord Rama refutes them point by point is another matter.

Excerpts of Jabali’s arguments and Lord Rama’s Reply

“Rama, you are too much of a simpleton. Let not your understanding get deluded like an ordinary man’s. A man takes birth alone and alone he perishes. Therefore, he who wallows in affection for parents is insane. Discarding the kingdom at your father’s request and taking shelter in inaccessible and dangerous forests is not your duty. Return to prosperous Ayodhya this instant. That city, like an abandoned wife in a single-braid, awaits you. There pass the days enjoying the kingdom and live in supreme happiness like Indra in the world of the gods. Dasharath is no one to you. He is a distinct being and so are you. Child, you are being ruined because of your own flawed intelligence. I am extremely worried about those who, discarding concrete goals, live only for religion. For, after suffering various tortures in this world they are utterly destroyed. People perform funeral obsequies offering food to departed ancestors. Now, this is unnecessary waste of food; for who has ever heard that dead persons can eat? Those scriptures that contain prescriptions for worshipping gods, sacrifices, donations, ascesis and other rituals, have been prepared by wise men only to keep people subjugated. Therefore, Rama, comprehend that there is nothing whatsoever as dharma for the after-life. Act on what is before you and engage yourself for what is to come. Bharat is requesting you. Following the unanimous advice, accept the responsibility of the kingdom.”2

Hearing Jabali’s words, Ramachandra, basing himself on knowledge of dharma, said:

“Rich-in-ascesis Sir, what you have said desiring my welfare is actually improper but seems to be duty. Your advice is anti-Vedic and you are an atheist fallen from dharma. Properly I condemn my father’s appointment of you as priest. As a Buddhist deserves the same punishment as a robber, so too should an atheist be punished. Therefore, discriminating people do not even speak to those atheists who are to be avoided as driven beyond the Vedic pale.”

Jabali meekly replied, “Rama, I am not atheist; nor am I voicing atheistic views. And it is not that there is nothing such as an after-life. Expediently, as the situation demands, I turn an atheist and after an interval become a believer. The time when it is necessary to become an atheist has come. For turning you back from the forest now I spoke thus and now, again, it is for pleasing you that I am withdrawing what I said.”

After hearing Jabali’s words, Rama the best among virtuous and upright men spoke with a great devotion and with an undisturbed mind of his own (as follows);

“That which, in your desire to please me, you have counselled, is impossible though it appears to be possible. It is like a forbidden food, appearing to be an agreeable one. He who is unruly, fully invested with ill-conduct, having a bad reputation and seeing differences in everything, does not gain respect from honest men. One’s conduct itself explains whether one belongs to a good family or a bad family, valiant or arrogant and chaste or unchaste. What sensible man, able to discern what is just and what is unjust, in this world, would respect me, if I am ignoble resembling as noble, bereft of honesty, impure, having no good qualities but appearing like the one having good qualities, ill-behaved but appearing as well-behaved abandoning righteousness and getting hold of unrighteousness in the guise of piety, creating confusion in the world and disregarding rules of conduct.”

“If I behave in this manner faithlessly, to whom can I advise a prescribed conduct? How would I attain heaven? This entire world would follow its own whims, for, whatever the conduct of the kings may be, such will be the conduct of their subjects.”

“The eternal royal governance is indeed an assemble of truth and not cruel. Hence, the kingship has the Truth as its essence. The world is established in Truth. Even sages and divine being have respected truthfulness alone. The one who speaks truth obtains the highest position in this world.”

“People fear of a person, who speaks untruth, as one fears a snake. Truth is the highest virtue and is stated to be the origin of heaven. Truth is god and all virtues follow truth. All are rooted in truth there is nothing higher than truth.”

“Gift sacrifice, oblation, austerities performed and the scriptural texts have the foundation in Truth. Hence, one should thoroughly surrender to truth. One rules over the world. One develops a race. One sinks into hell . One rises high to heaven (according to one’s degree of truthfulness practiced). I am true to my promise. Why should I not fulfill the command of my father, who was a devotee of truth?”

“Neither covetousness nor forgetfulness nor pride would cause me to destroy the bond of morality. I shall honour the vow made to my father. Neither gods nor the manes will accept the offerings of those who are wanting in truth, unsteady and unstable in their minds. This is what is taught to us.”

“I perceive this virtue i the form of truthfulness as a universal permeation of spirit. That is why, this burden, observed as a vow, has been honoured by good men. I renounce the so-called duty of a warrior, it is injustice under the name of justice, it is practised by petty cruel and covetous men of evil deeds.”

“Sin is committed by the body after it has been conceived by the mind and falsehood is spoken with the tongue. Thus, the degrading act is of three types (with body, mind and tongue) The earth, fame, prosperity and fortune indeed woo a man of truth. They constantly oblige the truth: truth should therefore be strictly observed!”

“The logical words, you have made it out to be good, saying ‘Do this good thing’ as uttered to me, are really unworthy. Having promised before my father about my exile to the forest, how can I fulfill Bharata’s words now, abandoning the father’s words?”

“A firm promise has been made by me in the presence of my father, when Queen Kaikeyi too became rejoiced. I will proceed with life-journey in this manner, by accepting this dwelling in the forest, by remaining pure in body and mind, having controlled my diet, by feasting the Gods and Ancestors with pure roots, flowers and fruits, with all my five senses fully sated, without any deceit, fully devout and discriminative of what ought to be done and what ought not to be done.”


7 responses to “Atheism In Ramayana Rama Jabali Discussion”

  1. There is a very good translation than the one you have copied from a website in my opinions.
    It is in a book called Valmiki The Ramayana by Arishia Sattar and published by Penguin Books ISBN –9780140298666 in Chapter 14 of the book.
    Please read it if you get a chance. There is too much emphases on the translator above to make Jabli an atheist, when in fact he is the greatest of all brahmins. Jabli may have spoken unrighteous words but Rama responds well

    “What you have just said is totally unacceptable though it seems appropriate, completely improper even though it seems reasonable……………

    The timeless rules of kingship are bound by truth and compassion. Truth is the mainstay of kingship and the world is established in truth. The gods and sages declare truth to be the highest goal. It is supreme in the world and exalts one to heaven. Men despise a liar as they despise snakes. Truth controls the world and is the only refuge. It is the basis of everything. Nothing is greater than truth. Gift giving, sacrifices, penances, good deeds, even the Vedas, are established in truth and therefore, it is the highest good.

    How can I fail to carry out my fathers promise where I am committed to it by oath of truths? I cannot violate my fathers bond with truth out of greed, delusion or even out of ignorance! Gods and ancestors reject the offerings of men who are fickle and do not keep their word. It is clear to me that every man must hold to the truth, that it is his Dharma. It is for this reason alone ascetics command so much respect. I renounce the dharma of a ksatriya because it is fundamentally unrighteous even though it has some good things about it. It attracts the base, the cruel, the greedy and those inclined to be wicked.
    What you have just asked me to do is wrong, even though you have supported it with a great many arguments. I promised my father in the presence of elders and teachers that I would live in the forest. How can I do what Bharat wants without breaking that promise? By living in the forest I shall be able to pursue purity by eating simple foods and making offerings to the gods and ancestors. I shall nourish my body but go through life without deceit, depending on my powers of discrimination!”


    • 1.The translation ,you have said is copied’.
      I have provided the Source Link. It is an accepted practice to quote if the source is good, authentic and especially if it involves serious Discussion.
      2.In Hinduism Atheism is not looked down and is an accepted system of Thought as I have mentioned in the Post.
      3.Atheism in Hinduism means the non acceptance of the Vedas as a Source of Knowledge.I have made this point in various posts.
      4.The purpose of the post in discussion is to highlight the fact that Atheism is accepted and respected.
      .I shall try to get a copy of the Book you have suggested.
      Thank you,


  2. 1]
    I think you are thinking too much into my sentence. Perhaps I should have used the word ‘shown’ or ‘brought forward’ or ‘used’ or ‘extracted’ or ‘shared’.
    You forget that I myself have copied from a book.
    It was not an ‘attack’ or ‘mocking’ of some sort.

    You explain to me [[In Hinduism Atheism is not looked down and is an accepted system of Thought as I have mentioned in the Post.]]

    I wrote [[There is too much emphases on the translator above to make Jabli an atheist, when in fact he is the greatest of all brahmins. ]]
    My statement is exactly what it states and nothing beyond that. Because of the translators focus on atheism, it has clearly lead you to make a post about atheism; when this is not what the argument made by Jabali to Rama is about.
    No doubt other Hindus will be beating their chests after reading this blog or the translation you have shared

    3] [[I shall try to get a copy of the Book you have suggested.]]
    Don’t buy it. Just order it from your library if they can.




  3. Hi Raman,

    I have frequently read through a lot of your posts and have found them interesting and informative.

    Just wanted to bring to your notice something I found on Wiki:
    These verses depicting Rama’s anger are considered a later insertion in Valimiki’s original text. Every canto of Ramayana ends with one long shloka written in a different metre, compared to the other verses. However, the version of the canto containing these verses contains six long shlokas in a different metre. The dialogue between Rama and Jabali is finished in the first shloka, in which Rama is not depicted as annoyed. However, the next few shlokas re-open the dialogue abruptly, and the tone of the conversation contradicts the tone of the earlier dialogue.[7] In his translation, Griffith calls these lines “manifestly spurious” and cautions that these need to be “regarded with suspicion”. August Wilhelm Schlegel, who translated Ramayana to German (1829), also called these lines fake, and later regretted not having excluded them from his translation.[3][5]

    Wiki reference: Valmiki. “Book II: Canto CIX.: The Praises of Truth”. The Rámáyan of Válmíki. Translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith.
    ^ Jump up to: a b

    In light of the book -“the battle for Sanskrit”, I have become weary of Indologist/ Western translations of Hindu texts, but I would still love to believe that the above is true, since it portrays a God who is capable of taking an alternate argument without calling Atheist a thief.

    Is it possible that the Lord’s response could have been added later? Would like to know your thoughts.



    • This is due to our understanding of our texts through an English translation by a westerner.The Gentle men you have referred to , though they have done a remarkable job,may have not translated correctly either with or without deliberate intention to in point is Max Mueller, who deliberately misinterpreted the Vedas.Please read my article on the correct approach would be to read Sanskrit in original by ourselves.the following is a good site with reasonably excellent translation. As to Rama and Jabali Samvada, it goes to prove how Hinduism accommodates even atheism.This trend can be found in the Vedas too.Regards.


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