“Those arrows, decorated with the feathers of a heron, will strike this city from all sides, sparing no space, and destroy the Rakshasas.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.26-27)
rakṣāṃsi parinighnastaḥ puryāmasyāṃ samantataḥ ||
asampātaṃ kariṣyanti patantaḥ kaṅkavāsasaḥ |
“How can a lowly forest-dweller cause me any harm? I was able to trick Him into chasing after a golden deer. That deer was none other than my associate Maricha in disguise. Then I was able to take away His beautiful wife without a problem. He is only a single man. Thus far I have not had any trouble routing my rivals. They have all submitted to my will, which is tremendous. I live on a far away island, with the vast ocean as my fortress. There is no way for a weak man like Rama to come and hurt me.”
This sums up Ravana’s mindset. Based on visuals alone, he had reason to feel safe. He didn’t see God. He didn’t see that the Supreme Lord’s influence is everywhere. What he saw was God’s beautiful wife in her incarnation as Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka. Ravana also saw his own tremendous opulence won through the use of excessive force. He applied that force whenever he desired, and not necessarily when it was called for. Taking all these factors into consideration, Ravana thought that he could get whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. Among those desires was insulation from sinful behavior. Sita here reminds him that such security was not possible.
And how would that security break down? How would his fortress of solitude be torn asunder? The attack would begin with swift arrows shot from the bow of her husband. The arrows would also come from her husband’s younger brother, Shri Lakshmana. Those arrows would arrive from all directions, not leaving an inch of space safe. The arrows would be decorated with heron-feathers, which would allow them to course through the sky very quickly.
Ravana lived on an island called Lanka. It was surrounded by a vast ocean. Ravana brought Sita there by a celestial airplane. Rama travelled by foot. He initially went to the forest by chariot, but pretty soon that chariot was sent back home to Ayodhya. Rama voluntarily accepted this renounced lifestyle, though Ravana couldn’t understand how any person of the princely order would leave opulence like that at the drop of a hat.
Rama ate fruits and roots and did not engage in amorous sports, though travelling with the most beautiful woman in the world. These were the conditions set by a promise granted to Rama’s step-mother Kaikeyi. Rama followed these guidelines to uphold the good name of His father, the famous King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Ravana, on the other hand, wanted to be famous for his ability to terrorize. Through fear alone he gained his reputation.
While he aroused fear in others, he thought that no one could make him afraid. Here Sita tells him that he has good reason to fear. Whether he lived in Lanka, the heavenly realm, or many miles underneath the ground, he would not be spared the arrows from an enraged Rama. Rama would forgive Ravana if the fiend returned Sita to Him. If Ravana didn’t, he would face the onslaught of the beautiful arrows, which would have the names of Rama and Lakshmana on them.
In our own lives it’s very easy to think that no one is watching what we do. Therefore we can do whatever we want. If we take money from someone else, without them knowing about it, what’s the harm? If we lie to our friends and family about certain things, who is it going to hurt? If we eat the flesh of innocent animals that someone else killed, who really cares? If we don’t think of God all the time, how is it going to harm us?
In actuality, the spirit soul is constitutionally fit to be a servant of God. The punishment is automatic when the constitutional position is denied. If I am a member of a certain team, but I act as if I’m on a different team, just from my mindset I will meet so many negative conditions. If I’m driving on the left side of the road when in that nation I’m supposed to drive on the right side, I will meet with trouble. In the same way, if I’m not serving God, not thinking of God, or worse, denying His existence, my punishment is automatic. The negative consequences are due to arrive no matter where I am; no place is safe.
Sita offered Ravana a chance for forgiveness. In a humble attitude, surrendering to Rama all the past mistakes would be forgiven. Ravana didn’t choose this option, and so his punishment was set to arrive. He did more than just forget God. He went beyond ignoring the existence of a supreme controller. He directly offended Him by causing harm to one of His dearest devotees. Therefore the punishment was to be more severe.
While Sita’s words paint a bleak picture for Ravana, who is of the miscreant class, they offer something very positive for the pious. As there is no escape from the punishment resulting from sinful activities, there is no way to run away from the rewards of pious behavior. If I regularly chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” the Supreme Lord will take notice. If I talk about His glories, as they are presented in works like the Bhagavad-gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam and Ramayana, even if no one else is in the room, He will hear me. Then, whether I want His favor or not, it will come to me. It would come to Sita as well, though she was many miles away from Him at the time.
Heron-feathers to quicken the pace,
Rama’s arrows to spare no space.
Since on distant island to reside,
Thought that from God he could hide.
Since on keeping Sita Ravana’s heart was set,
Due punishment from Rama to get.
Devotional activities Lord also sees,
So on chance to chant holy names seize.
Categories: ravana threatening sita