Attacking the Ego

Sita Devi's hand“Thus destroyed by your sinful work, with happiness the people you have brought down will speak of you thus: By good fortune the terrible one has met destruction.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.14-15)

evaṃ tvāṃ pāpakarmāṇam vakṣyanti nikṛtā janāḥ ||
diṣṭyaitad vyasanaṃ prāpto raudra ityeva harṣitāḥ |

In the Vedas it is described that the spirit soul is the identifying force within each living being. As soon as you say “a life,” you are implying the soul. Just as when I mention my cat, my dog, my shirt, my house, I am automatically referring to myself in some way, as soon as you mention a living being or anything relating to them, you reference the spirit soul. Due to the illusion created by the material covering we don’t know that the soul is being mentioned. This covering is both gross and subtle. Part of the subtle covering is the ego, which is false when knowledge of one’s real identity is lacking.

Bhagavad-gita, 7.4“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego-altogether these eight comprise My separated material energies.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.4)

The false ego in the male rises most rapidly through interactions with a female. As a man, if I meet a woman who compliments anything about my appearance, it can very quickly go to my head. “Wow, she must really dig me. It’s probably this shirt I’m wearing. I look great in this shirt. I mean, who wouldn’t be attracted to me right now? Let me check myself out in the mirror. Man, I am looking so good.”

There is every chance that the compliment is not genuine. A waitress is supposed to be polite. It’s part of her job. The same goes for a receptionist, a nurse, and a salesperson. Sometimes people say things just to be nice. It doesn’t mean that they are interested in you or attracted to you. Nevertheless, with the male nothing will inflate the ego more quickly than a compliment from a female. On the flip side, nothing can dampen the ego more quickly than harsh words from a woman. We get an example of this from the above referenced verse from the Ramayana.

Ravana was very puffed up over his opulence. By today’s standards, he would be the wealthiest person in the world. Actually, there is really no comparison available from today’s world. This is because the wealthiest person today isn’t necessarily the strongest. They probably aren’t very courageous either. They have hired help to keep them safe. They may be very smart, but they aren’t necessarily considered the world’s strongest man.

Shri HanumanRavana was all of these things, or so he thought. His kingdom was filled with gold. There was so much opulence that no one would believe it. The opulence of the city of Lanka during that time is partially described in the Ramayana itself through the eyewitness testimony of Shri Hanuman. He had no interest in praising Lanka either. Hanuman was in the city as an uninvited guest, a person who snuck in to crash Ravana’s party. Though Hanuman knew Ravana to be the world’s greatest fiend, he still couldn’t help but admire the city’s opulence.

By any conventional assessment, Ravana earned his opulence. He fought for it. Lanka was basically handed to him out of fear. That fear grew out of Ravana’s reputation in fighting. The demon had ten heads and a tremendous fighting prowess. In actuality, he didn’t earn this ability; it was given to him as a reward for austerities. I can be proud of my beauty, but what hand did I play in getting it? I can be proud of my parentage, but what say did I have in who my parents would be? Thus everything is actually given to us, or at least sanctioned by a higher authority.

Ravana fought with other powerful kings around the world and defeated them. He accepted the queens of the defeated foes as his wives. These were very beautiful women. They were chaste as well, headed by Mandodari. Thus Ravana had so many people around to puff up his ego. Swelling with pride, he thought he could easily attract someone who was off-limits. Sita was Rama’s wife, and she was dedicated to Him for life. She would never accept another man; not even if he forced himself upon her. Ravana tried every which way to win Sita over. He kidnapped her, held her captive, tried to scare her by painting a bleak picture of the future, and even surrendered unto her fully in lust. None of this worked.

The above referenced words from Sita were part of her rebuke. Here she really attacks his ego. She says that he will meet with destruction because of his sinful work. The reactions to work don’t always arrive immediately. The reward of studying for so long in school is increased intelligence in adulthood. The reward for planting a seed and tending to the crop is a healthy plant that produces fruit later on. Ravana had done so many sinful deeds, like killing innocent sages and eating their flesh. He was a man-eater, which is the lowest of the low even by today’s standards.

“Just as a tree starts to blossom during the proper season, so the doer of sinful deeds inevitably reaps the horrible fruit of their actions at the appropriate time.” (Lord Rama speaking to Khara, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 29.8)

Sita DeviOf course his worst crime was stealing Sita away from Rama. Ravana didn’t fight the Lord fairly. He would have lost. Rama was alone with His immediate family in the forest. Though He was living like a recluse, still He could defeat anyone in battle. Ravana was advised of this, and so he used a ruse to take Sita. She had not done anything wrong her whole life. She was extremely charitable. One of her favorite pastimes was going to the forest with her husband and liberally distributing gifts to the sages who lived there. She did not deserve anything bad, and yet she found herself in a terrible situation in Lanka.

This was due to Ravana, who is referred to here as raudra, which can mean one who is very terrible or angry. It also can refer to a worshiper of Rudra, which is another name for Lord Shiva. Both definitions applied to Ravana. He was not a pure devotee of Shiva, who is the deity in charge of the mode of ignorance. All individuals have a worshipable figure. There is thus religion for everyone; with the culmination of all religious practice being love for God; the kind of love Sita had and Ravana didn’t. Ravana worshiped Shiva, but only for material benedictions. Shiva is a devotee of Rama, and so there was nothing Shiva could do to prevent Ravana’s demise. And neither would Shiva prefer to protect Ravana.

Sita here says that Ravana’s foes would be so happy once his destruction came about. Who likes to be embarrassed? Who likes to be laughed at? We especially like to be praised after we have left this earth. We want many well-wishers to come to our funeral and remember us fondly. Not that we want others to suffer in our absence, but it’s nice to know that we’ll be missed. Here Sita essentially says that others will praise God for their good fortune once Ravana is gone. These are the people that Ravana previously defeated. Their joy would essentially nullify the prior defeat at the hands of Ravana.

The ego that is easily manipulated by the reaction of females is false. Praise or ridicule from members of the opposite sex should not make one’s identity. In Ravana’s case, the rebuke was necessary, as his ego was dragging him towards destruction. Already slated for death, not even the harsh rebuke from Sita would save him. All individuals, however, regardless of gender, can take great pride in Sita’s resolve. She is the greatest wife, always thinking of Rama and serving Him. Rama is God, the Supreme Lord for all of humanity. He descends to earth whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, but this doesn’t mean that one can’t serve Him now.

Bhagavad-gita, 4.7“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion-at that time I descend Myself.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 4.7)

Sita DeviSita is very humble, shy, kind and sweet, and her ego is completely real. She takes full confidence in Rama’s prowess. She is sure of herself because she knows that devotion to Rama is beneficial to her. And in the same line, devotion to her is most beneficial for all of us. She persevered through her connection with Rama, and so through remembering her we can fight through the difficult challenges of material life, conditions that are made worse through the influence of the false ego. The ego rightly shifts from false to real through knowledge of our constitutional position, which is servant of God. Sita shows how that position manifests and how one behaves when they have found it.

In Closing:

From words pretty woman tells me,

I know I’m beautiful, in mirror just see.


This shirt does make me look good,

My attractiveness now understood.


From such compliments ego to inflate,

Rebuke also the same to quickly deflate.


Defeated foes of which Ravana mentioned,

Upon his demise they’d get their redemption.


This to Ravana Sita told,

Sadly prediction to unfold.


Through service to God make real,

The false ego, no more hubris to feel.

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