Selectively Applying Principles

Sita Devi's hand“O vile one, you entered that ashrama only when those two brothers, lions among men, were absent from having gone out to the forest. Only then did you take me away.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.30-31)

aśramam tu tayoḥ śūnyaṃ praviśya narasimhayoḥ ||
gocaraṃ gatayorrbhātrorapanītā tvayādhama |

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A person who is a thief for a living has at least some credibility. You know how they are going to act. You know that they won’t change their behavior. They wait until no one is looking and then take what doesn’t belong to them. They do this on more than one occasion. At least they are consistent. No one would mistake them for an honest person. The lowest among men, however, selectively apply principles. They boast about being honest, strong and intelligent, and yet when driven by their senses they cast everything aside. Then, a few minutes later, they want everyone to forget about their transgression. “That was in the past. Let’s just move on already.”

The saintly characters know better. They don’t obey the order to move on, for if they did they would get burned again. Here Sita Devi remembers Ravana’s iniquitous deed. He was the king of Lanka and very proud of his fighting prowess. He conquered so many rivals. He drove his own brother out of Lanka. He did not fire a shot in that case. Kuvera left Lanka because he knew of Ravana’s invincibility in fighting. No need to waste time in a battle that he was going to lose.

Roulette wheelThe gambling addict employs a similar approach with applying selective memory. They will only tell you of their winnings. “Oh, I predicted this game right yesterday. The odds makers had it going the other way, but I knew that this team was going to lose.” “Oh, I did so well at the blackjack table last night. The casino authorities eventually had to come and tell me to go home; that’s how well I was doing.” They won’t remind you of their many losses, however. They won’t bring up the many games that they predicted incorrectly.

Ravana, in trying to woo Sita, failed to mention his most cowardly act. He chose to boast of his fighting prowess and his many conquests instead. The initial view of his kingdom seemed to back up his claims. Shri Hanuman, a faithful servant sent to look for Sita, noticed this beauty upon first entering Lanka. He was so awestruck that he thought about returning home immediately. The opulence in Ravana’s city was so intimidating, what to speak of Ravana himself.

“Seeing that city to be as such and difficult to overcome for even demigods and demons, Hanuman, sighing again and again, reflected.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.36)

Shri HanumanBut how did Sita get to Lanka? Did she just magically appear there? Ravana seemed to forget what had happened. He seemed to have amnesia with respect to her sudden appearance in the Ashoka grove. Of course Sita did not forget. This is because she always remembers her husband, Shri Rama. Rama is complete with every opulence. He holds them simultaneously and to the fullest degree, being thus worthy of the name Bhagavan. Bhagavan is the more complete term for the elusive entity we generally refer to as “God.”

Sita remembered how she got to Lanka because it was the beginning of her separation from her husband. Despite his vaunted fighting prowess, Ravana did not combat Rama face to face. Rama and His younger brother were lions among men. They were not afraid of anyone. Nor were they afraid of many people attacking at the same time. Rama previously had appeared on earth as a man-lion aptly named Narasimhadeva. Lakshmana was there too providing shade as Ananta Shesha Naga. The two are not scared of anyone and in character they are straight and predictable. They are always chivalrous. They are always brave in combat.

Contrast this with Ravana, who created a ruse to first lure the two brothers away from the ashrama in Janasthana. This is where Sita, Rama and Lakshmana were staying, not bothering anyone. Only when the lions among men were not on the scene did Ravana pounce. He first disguised himself as a priestly mendicant, and then revealed his true hideous form to take Sita back to Lanka by force. Where was his famous courage? Where was his famous strength? They were conspicuously absent during a moment in Sita’s life that she would not forget.

Sita and RamaSince she has the saintly qualities, Sita always remembers Rama. This is her foremost characteristic, and it is entirely predictable. She doesn’t only remember Him when times are tough. When times are good she rejoices in His company as well. The predictable saints are thus always better to follow than the miscreants who selectively apply principles based on their whims. Would we rather depend on someone who is dependable or someone who is not? Would we rather follow the advice of someone who is benevolent or someone who is selfish?

In rebuking Ravana, Sita rightly predicted that the two lions among men would eventually arrive to her rescue. They swiftly travel to the devoted soul today as well, provided that one is courageous enough to constantly think of them. That thinking is best strengthened through the regular chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” One who regularly chants this mantra becomes very predictable in their saintly behavior, making their association so beneficial for anyone fortunate enough to have it.

In Closing:

One day kind words to give,

And then after as thief to live.


Thus talking giving only service to the lip,

When convenient, righteousness to skip.


Like Ravana who proclaimed he was strong,

But cowardly took Sita when husband was gone.


In behavior Rama’s wife always straight,

For her rescue not much longer to wait.

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