“After having rested on the worshiped arm of the Lord of the world, how can I now take rest on the arm of any other?” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.16-17)
upadhāya bhujam tasya lokanāthasya satkṛtam ||
katham nāmopadhāsyāmi bhujamanyasya kasya cit |
That worshiped arm learned the art of hunting while growing up in the royal order in Ayodhya. Though it was powerful and dexterous from the time of birth, to give respect to the honorable teachers in the royal kingdom, it perceivably honed its skills through instruction. When the person the arm belonged to was still not yet a teenager, the arm was called upon by the venerable Vishvamitra Muni to defend the innocent sages in the forest against the attacks of the deadliest creatures. That worshiped arm did not let the sages down.
It was used to take down Tataka and Subahu. Without fear or hesitation, it quickly dispatched the evil Maricha, hurling him hundreds of miles away into an ocean. In the assembly in Janaka’s kingdom, the beautiful Sita saw the strength in that arm for the first time. The world knew of it instantly once it lifted the amazingly heavy bow, the object central to the contest. The daughter of the king, Sita, then took protection from that arm through the covenant of marriage. She was very familiar with it, as she used to take rest on it. That arm was then used to protect her in the forest, where she resided with her husband and His younger brother, Lakshmana. That arm is all that one needs for protection, survival, and enjoyment in life. It belongs to the Lord of the world, and so it is not an ordinary arm. One who has really taken protection from it will never seek another arm for rest. This was something the fiend Ravana could not understand.
Is it possible to take false protection from that arm?
When symbolically relying on that arm, or even literally in the presence of others, my heart may not be in it. Someone may buy me some designer clothes and I may wear them occasionally, but this doesn’t mean that I like them. If I am not so keen on the clothes, I can quickly change and start wearing something else. Thus I change the protective covering on my body. I didn’t really take protection from the other clothes since I had no attachment to them. The clothes may have been fine, but since I wasn’t so dedicated to them, I jumped ship and chose something else.
If you take the protection of someone, but you’re not really dependent on them, then your desires can easily change. This somewhat explains the practice of religion. One adopts a certain kind of faith, but if the faith isn’t real, it is easy to change. Also, if the object of faith isn’t fully capable of protecting the person who invested the faith, then it is easy for the person to change their object of protection.
The arm in question belongs to Shri Rama, who is the Supreme Lord in His manifestation as a prince in Ayodhya, the eldest son of Maharaja Dasharatha. Everything comes from God. This only makes sense. At the same time, this doesn’t mean that everything is God. I can’t go up to a parking lot and pretend that I’m in God’s kingdom and enjoying His association. Sure, He created the elements that are used in the parking lot, but this doesn’t mean that the lot directly represents Him. All trains are generally made of the same materials and they all typically have the same behavior. This doesn’t mean that the trains all go to the same destination. To go where I need to, I must board the right train.
Rama is the right train when one is interested in connecting with God directly. There are other non-different manifestations of the original Lord, and they are all equally as worshipable. All other personalities are not. The many gods mentioned in the Vedas are not the same as Rama. To say so is utter nonsense. The purported uniformity is not mentioned anywhere in shastra; it is a mere concoction of those who are too envious of Rama to accept His superior position, one confirmed by Sita herself.
Sita took protection from Rama’s arm. She had sole dependence on it for protection. That is why she comfortably took rest on it. At the time these words were uttered, that worshiped arm had done so many amazing things already. It belonged to the Lord of the world, someone who was the kindest person in the world as well. If you take rest on that arm, you will not take rest anywhere else. Think of it like having the most comfortable bed to sleep on and then having to spend a night elsewhere. You wouldn’t volunteer for this option. You might suffer through it if there is no other choice, but still you miss your bed at home.
The difference between getting real protection from that arm versus only partially depending on it is nicely explained in a short song from Goswami Tulsidas. He is a saint from the medieval period in India, and Shri Rama is his worshipable figure of choice. In this song, Tulsidas describes different kinds of people and why they have trouble sleeping. It is a technique used often now in television and film. If you show different people having trouble falling asleep and then finally turn to someone who is sleeping peacefully, the situation leading to the last person’s peace is highlighted. The specific condition is more pronounced than if you were to try to have the person explain it.
Tulsidas says that the king is worried about ruling over his kingdom. The strict ascetics, which include the yogis and the sannyasis, are worried over staying renounced while having to live in this world. The fruitive workers are always consumed with thoughts over amassing more and more wealth. The mental speculators stay awake from having to study all the time. While all such people stay awake, Tulsidas has no trouble sleeping. This is because he has full faith in Shri Rama.
The same faith was there in Sita. She directly took rest on Rama’s arm, while others take rest on His names, forms and pastimes. There was no way that Sita was now going to take rest on any other man’s arm, as Ravana was proposing. He wanted Sita to become his wife. He already had many wives, but he wanted Sita to be the chief among them. She never gave him any hint of interest, but that didn’t stop him. He forcefully took her away from Rama’s side in secret, for in the presence of that worshiped arm Ravana would not survive.
Those who take shelter of that arm and really rely on it for protection never waver in their devotion. They cannot be bribed to change their ways. Since their decision is rooted in the highest truth, the one person whose protection spreads across all boundaries, they are protected through their fidelity.
That strong arm a precious gift,
One time Shiva’s bow to lift.
Against Rakshasas trying to rattle,
Did away with them in battle.
Sita thought arm was the best,
Comfortably on it took rest.
On another arm now for her no way,
This to fiend Ravana she did say.
Categories: ravana threatening sita
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