Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Virtue Ethics: An Ethical Development Program for High School Youth

Activity 3: Story - Sita's Reputation

Part of Virtue Ethics

Activity time: 10 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Read the story so you can present it effectively.
  • Print the Leader Resource to show participants.
  • Optional: If you expect you might have time, plan to invite participants to act out the story with as much melodrama as they wish.
  • Optional: Copy the story for all participants.

Description of Activity

Youth hear a Hindu story about Sita, the embodiment of honesty, trust, and integrity.

Tell the group this story comes from the Ramayan, a classic Hindu text. Orthodox Hindus consider the Ramayan a complete guide to God-realization, the path to which lies in righteousness. The Ramayan portrays human beings at their most ideal, so people can emulate those ideals to become ideal human beings and ideal citizens.

Show Leader Resource 2, Sita, to participants. Then, tell or read the story and discuss it with the following questions:

  • Now that you know Sita's story, why do you think Hindus would pray to her? What traits does she represent? What is she the goddess of?
  • Does Sita seem too good to be true? Is she too patient, too loyal, too self-sacrificing? Remember that the Ramayana is intended as moral instruction. Sita is the incarnation of a goddess in human form. She therefore embodies perfect patience, perfect chastity. She is worshipped as the perfect daughter, wife, and mother.
  • Sita's husband, Rama, who is also the reincarnation of a god, put the good of the city above what was fair to Siva. Is Rama the perfect husband?
  • Though we might consider this story sexist in that Sita is expected to be patient, long suffering, and obedient, it may not mean the story has no value for us today. One way of thinking about Siva is that she was confined by the gender roles of her time. Have you ever felt that way? Are gender expectations different today, or pretty much the same? Are males, or females, expected to have more integrity than another gender? Or are our standards for integrity the same for all genders?
  • Have you been in a situation where people believed you had done something wrong, but you had not? In your school or with your peers, do people gossip about someone's wrongdoing at times when they have no proof of it?
  • How important is your reputation?
  • What are some things that can damage your reputation?
  • What can you do if your reputation is unfairly damaged by rumors, gossip, and lies?
  • Despite what others thought, Siva knew she had stayed true to herself and that she was morally uncompromised. Because of her integrity, she was able to do great and miraculous things. She withstood a trial by fire, raised her twin sons alone, and is credited with being the true destroyer of the evil Ravana-after all, it was his desire for her, her standing up to him, and Rama's desire to rescue her that caused his ultimate downfall.
  • Have you ever had a moment when you had to act with moral certainty? What was that like?