“With Vaidehi [Sita] being thus insulted, all the moving and nonmoving beings of the world were put into a chaotic condition and were surrounded by a dense blinding darkness. The wind did not blow and the sun did not shine. Seeing with his divine vision that Sita was overcome, the illustrious great-father [Brahma] said, ‘My work is done.’ All the supreme rishis who were present felt both pleased and distressed.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 52.9-11)
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The kidnapping of Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama, is one of the more troubling incidents to hear about for devotees. Sita Devi was beautiful, kind, chaste, and never bothered anybody during her time on earth. She was the embodiment of the perfect woman. Simply hearing about her being forcibly dragged into the aerial car of the demon Ravana and made to sit on his lap, is enough to make devotees cringe. This incident leads many to scorn God Himself for allowing such an insult to take place. On the flip side, however, Sita’s kidnapping was a very joyous occasion for the demigods.
Sita Devi is considered an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, the wife of Lord Narayana in the spiritual world. The Vedas tell us that the original form of God is Krishna, but that He then expands into several vishnu-tattva expansions to perform specific duties. Lord Vishnu, or Narayana, is Krishna’s primary expansion. The only real difference between Krishna and Vishnu is that Vishnu has four hands, while Krishna has two. Again, these differences exist simply because of the different functions that each must perform. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna states that He rewards devotees in the manner in which they worship Him. Some devotees prefer to worship Narayana, while others are Krishna bhaktas. In the end, there is no difference between the two.
God is not alone in the spiritual world. Just as we have our own family members in this world, the Lord has eternal associates in the spiritual world. Krishna is the energetic, and His pleasure potency expansions represent His energy. God derives pleasure from His devotees through their engagements in different transcendental mellows, or rasas. The most advanced devotees know how to give the most pleasure to God, thus they are classified as hladini-shakti, or pleasure potency expansions. Krishna’s pleasure potencies are the gopis of Vrindavana, the chief of whom is Shrimati Radharani. In a similar manner, Lord Narayana’s eternal consort is Goddess Lakshmi, a beautiful devi who provides wealth and good fortune to her devotees. Since she is God’s wife, it makes sense that Lakshmi would be in charge of fortune. No one is more fortunate than God due simply to the fact that the goddess of fortune serves Him.
Vishnu appears on earth from time to time to enact specific pastimes. He takes birth in the guise of a living entity, but His body always remains spiritual. God usually doesn’t come alone either, as His closest family members appear with Him. One of God’s most famous appearances took place during the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation. At the time, the demon class of men, the Rakshasa, was steadily ascending to power all over the world. Human beings are considered the most elevated species since they have the brain capacity to understand God. Not only can they learn about spiritual matters, but they can use that knowledge to free themselves from the repeated cycle of birth and death. This liberation is known as mukti, and it is the opinion of the Vedas that the human being has the best chance at achieving this.
The human beings aren’t the only species on earth. Scientists posit various theories about creatures who previously lived on the earth but that are now extinct, like the dinosaurs. We also see that scientists always seem to discover new species that they never heard of before. The Vedas, which serve as the original knowledge base for all things material and spiritual, tell us that there are 8,400,000 different species. This number is so high because the living entity can possess the three qualities of material nature [goodness, passion, and ignorance] in various combinations and permutations. One species can be in 50% goodness, while another may be in 25% goodness and 75% ignorance. The human being mostly lives in passion, but there is a catch. We have a choice as to which mode we want to associate with. Not only can we choose to act in goodness, passion, or ignorance, but we also have the option to rise above these three modes and engage in pure goodness, known as shudda-sattva. The lower species don’t have this choice due to their lack of intelligence.
“The Vedas mainly deal with the subject of the three modes of material nature. Rise above these modes, O Arjuna. Be transcendental to all of them. Be free from all dualities and from all anxieties for gain and safety, and be established in the Self.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.45)
The Rakshasas are a human-like species, so they have similar features to humans, except that they live mostly in ignorance. When someone is associating with the mode of ignorance it means they are performing activities that don’t help their soul advance in the next life. The soul is eternal, but the body is not. Therefore, we can conclude that it is more important to take care of the soul than it is to take care of a body that must eventually be given up. Everyone on earth performs some sort of work. The Vedas tell us that we should perform work that will allow our souls to eventually reach the final destination of Krishnaloka, or the spiritual sky. Once a soul goes back to God’s spiritual world, it never has to come back to the material world.
Acting in the mode of goodness allows one to take birth in a pious family in the next life, or even in the body of a demigod, an elevated living entity. The mode of passion allows one to remain a human being, thus it is essentially a mode of neutrality. The mode of ignorance causes one to descend to a lower species in the next life. This mode is characterized by excessive eating, sleeping, intoxication, and a general disregard for the laws of dharma. The Rakshasas of the Treta Yuga fit right into this mold. Their leader was Ravana, a ten-headed monster who ruled over the kingdom of Lanka. He was always drinking wine and having sex with his innumerable wives. He loved to eat meat, especially the flesh of sages that he and his Rakshasas had personally killed.
Ravana was very powerful and a staunch enemy of the demigods. Krishna and Vishnu represent the Supreme God, and the demigods represent His chief deputies. The demigods are in charge of various departments of the material creation. Though they are also very powerful, they are still fallible living entities. This means that they too are subject to the forces of material nature as manifested through birth and death. Since the beginning of time, the demigods have been engaged in a battle with the demons. The demigods, or godly people, are referred to as suras and the demons as asuras. Ravana was an asura who regularly fought with the demigods. Since he was too strong for them, the demigods were deathly afraid for their lives and also for the future condition of the earth. As a last resort, they sought the shelter of Lord Vishnu. They begged Him to come to earth and kill Ravana, and thereby relieve their suffering.
There was a catch to this though. Lord Brahma had granted Ravana several boons due to austerities he had performed. God is never forced to answer anyone’s prayers since He is aloof from the day-to-day affairs of the material world. The demigods, on the other hand, are duty-bound to grant benedictions to anyone who pleases them properly. Ravana took advantage of this by performing great austerities to please the demigods. They in turn granted him several boons which boosted his strength. They also granted him immunity in battle against all the demigods and other celestial beings. Thus Ravana thought he was immortal. He made a costly mistake, however, in that he forgot to ask for immunity from human beings. Ravana thought that if a celestial couldn’t defeat him, surely no lowly man could.
Lord Vishnu used this loophole to appear on earth in the form of a human being, the prince of Ayodhya, Lord Rama. One more issue remained though for the demigods. Rama took birth in a very pious kshatriya family that traced their ancestry all the way back to Maharaja Ikshvaku, the first king on earth. This meant that Lord Rama was obliged to adhere to chivalry and the established rules of conduct for a king. One of the most important rules for the warrior class is that they are not allowed to attack another person without just cause. This means that technically Rama couldn’t attack Ravana or take him on in battle without a legitimate excuse. This is where Sita Devi came in.
At the same time that Vishnu was appearing on earth as Rama, Goddess Lakshmi was appearing as Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka of Mithila. Sita and Rama were eventually married, as was their destiny. After twelve years of marriage, the pair roamed the forests of India along with Lakshmana. Ravana, hearing of this beautiful woman staying in the forest of Dandaka, decided that he had to have her. He set up a diversion which lured Rama and Lakshmana away from their cottage, leaving the door open for Sita’s abduction.
While Ravana was flying away on his aerial car with Sita, the king of birds, Jatayu, intercepted him and took him on in battle. After a fierce fight, Ravana eventually killed Jatayu, and then safely flew back to his island kingdom of Lanka with Sita. In the above referenced quote, Lord Brahma is remarking how his work has been accomplished, and the saints living in the forest are described as being both aggrieved and delighted over the incident. The saints were aggrieved because Sita was forcibly taken away from her husband. Yet they, along with Brahma, were happy because they knew that this incident signaled the end of Ravana. Lord Rama now had the excuse He needed to take on Ravana and kill him in battle.
The pious never attack without just cause. Even in today’s world, the police are never allowed to search someone’s property without probable cause. Police officers and FBI officials must obtain warrants prior to searching someone’s house. If evidence is obtained without following the proper protocol, it becomes inadmissible in the court of law. This may seem unfair, as it leads to criminals getting off on technicalities, but these laws are put into place to protect the innocent. Lord Rama, being especially dedicated to dharma, believed in these laws as well. His younger brother Lakshmana once noted that not even the people punished by Rama could find anything bad to say about Him. This was because even the criminals knew that Rama didn’t hold any personal grudges and that He always adhered to the righteous path.
The lesson here is that there is no need to become distressed from hearing of Sita’s kidnap. Lord Rama’s wife was certainly delicate, beautiful, and full of class, but she was by no means weak. Ravana was an extremely powerful demon who could not be defeated by even the greatest celestials. It was his addiction to illicit sex that led to his downfall. In this way, Sita Devi proved to be the secret weapon, the ticking time-bomb so to speak. She singlehandedly took down one of the greatest demons of all time.
This shows the power of God’s pleasure potency. Sita Devi is meant to associate with God and His devotees. When put into the hands of the demons, or the enemies of God, she proves to be deadly, as was the case with Ravana. When she associates with the devotees, however, she bestows eternal fame and fortune. Lord Hanuman is a great example of this. Unlike Ravana, Hanuman had love and respect for Sita. He served her to the best of his ability, and as a reward, Sita and Rama granted him eternal devotion to their holy feet. To this day, Hanuman is known throughout the world as the greatest servant of Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana. If we kindly pray to Sita Devi to allow us to love her and her husband, she will surely be pleased with us and fulfill all our desires.