Targets for Knowledge

Maharishi Valmiki“I am the appropriate wife for Him, the lord of the earth, just as education is appropriate for those who are knowers of the self and absorbed in their vows.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.17-18)

ahamaupayīkī bhāryā tasyaiva vasudhāpateḥ ||
vratasnātasya viprasya vidyeva viditātmanaḥ |

When picking up a magazine while waiting in the lounge at the doctor’s office, we aren’t likely to find anything about the laws of physics. The magazines won’t touch on chemistry, biology or computer science in-depth. These disciplines represent higher knowledge in the material sphere, and so the information they present is targeted for a specific audience, namely one that has the proper understanding going in. In the same way, the higher knowledge that is the spiritual science is appropriate for those who are steady in their vows and knowers of the self.

What does it mean to know the self?

It means to know who you really are. Knowing your name, age and place of birth is not enough; these are external features. The name is just a sound vibration used by others to address you. Your age indicates how much time has elapsed since you exited the womb of your mother. Your place of birth says what country you belong to.

How can these things really identify you, though? Some people have many names used to address them. In the National Hockey League, for example, players on the same team are rarely addressed by either their first or last name. The coaches and players use nicknames for each other. Sometimes the names are merely derivatives of the player’s first or last name, but sometimes they are based on the player’s style of play. Thus knowing your one name doesn’t necessarily mean you know who you really are.

The age is simply a measurement of time. Today you are a certain age and tomorrow you could be another year older, but what has really changed? Are you not the same person in both time periods? Of course you are, so how can age represent your true identity?

Your place of birth could have been anywhere. It happened to be in a certain land, but that in and of itself doesn’t determine who you are as a person. In the eyes of the government you are entitled to certain benefits because of where you were born, but how a higher authority treats you should not determine your identity.

One who knows the self knows that the self is spirit. Hence they know that they are a spirit soul, part and parcel of the supreme collective spirit known as Brahman. Since they know Brahman, such persons are referred to as brahmanas. Since these brahmanas are wise, they are also known as vipras.

Reading the Bhagavad-gitaThe vipras are worthy of vidya, or education, after having been initiated in their vows. This is the fact mentioned in the above referenced verse from the Ramayana. Sita Devi says that the vipras first become immersed in their vows. The word “snatasya” can mean taking a bath or becoming absorbed in. In Vedic rituals, typically some kind of bathing ceremony takes place at the outset. This cleanses the participants, making them ready for following whatever vows they accept. One who follows such vows is sober in mind, or dhira.

As the vipras know the self, they are worthy of education. Sita says that she is like that education to Rama, who is the lord of the earth. That education is not fit to be given to someone who is not a knower of the self. The animal cannot understand the higher truths of the spiritual science. Someone who is driven by lusty desires will not know how to use knowledge of spirit and matter. Think of it like giving lessons on quantum mechanics to a child. In that scenario that child can mature and increase their knowledge in math and science to eventually make themselves eligible, but with Vedic education the qualification is initiation into vows. Without those vows, the knowledge will not be properly understood, which means it will not be properly utilized.

Ravana is here compared to an animal-like person, one who is not absorbed in the right kinds of vows. Instead of a vipra, he is a mudha, or fool. He exhibited his mudha position by taking Sita away from her rightful husband. She was fit for Rama and none else. Rama was dhira, or sober, and He was so strict in His vows that He voluntarily left His kingdom of Ayodhya to uphold the good name of His father. He was completely renounced, though He didn’t need to be. He was the lord of the earth, which meant that He was more powerful than anyone.

Lord RamaRavana thought that he was the ruler of the earth, so here Sita debunks that notion. She basically says that Ravana is inferior and therefore not deserving of her. The Ramayana itself represents the sort of education that belongs to the brahmanas, except it is presented through a real-life story format. The education deals with God Himself, Shri Rama, and His eternal consort, Sita, so it is actually beneficial to every person. This education is more than just esoteric knowledge, for God transcends all bounds of knowledge, renunciation and ability.

If one is not of sober mind, however, they will not derive the true benefit from the Ramayana. An example of how this manifests today is seen in the bogus commentaries and mental speculations that come from those who are not properly fit to hear about Sita and Rama. They speculate that Rama is not a real person and that the Ramayana refers to the “Rama” within all of us. Some even are angry at Rama for having defeated Ravana, who was very powerful in the material sense.

Lord Rama - The Shelter for the SaintsThough he wasn’t worthy of her, Ravana tried to have Sita as a wife anyway. This caused ruin for both him and his citizens. In the same way, the words of Sita and Rama are meant for the devotees, who become eligible for such education through sincerity and pure motives. All others who try to accept the same words will not derive the proper benefit. In their ignorance they will lead others astray as well, pushing them further and further away from the constitutional engagement that is devotional service.

In Closing:

Knowledge of Vedas for vipras meant,

Who in following vows time spent.


To take knowledge first one must be ready,

Useless for one of resolve unsteady.


For Sita to drive point home,

That she was for Rama alone.


In humble submission your mind set,

So right benefit of Ramayana to get.

Categories: ravana threatening sita

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