Preaching Strongly

Tiger“Smelling the fragrance of Rama and Lakshmana, like a dog smelling a tiger, certainly you will not be able to stand.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.31-32)

na hi gandhamupāghrāya rāmalakṣmaṇayostvayā ||
śakyaṃ saṃdarśane sthātuṃ śunā śārdūlayoriva |

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“It’s not a good idea to offend. Why are you calling them dogs and hogs? Why do you call them rascals all the time? This is not a wise policy. How will you induce others to take up the sublime service to the Divine, who is full of form and sweetness? In His original position, He is always happy. He wields a flute and festively sports in the sacred land called Vrindavana. His friends enjoy playing on the field with Him. They arrive at His house in the morning and ask His mother if He is ready to play. If He is not finished getting dressed, sometimes they come in shyly and help with putting on His anklets and jewels. He then mildly rebukes them, though with a smile on His face the whole time. Why not tell people of this? Instead of harshly criticizing them for their sinful ways, why not attract them with the honey of God’s pastimes?”

Whether to preach strongly or not is a constant topic for debate. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we get an instance of very strong preaching; the strongest in fact. It is reserved for someone who is very sinful; someone who has done something extremely bad. Kindness was tried in the beginning, and it had no effect. The man was a brute; he lacked real intelligence. All he knew was force and applying it without discrimination. Here he is compared to a dog, while the Supreme Lord is compared to a tiger.

Bomb-sniffing dogsThe speaker says that a dog runs away at the mere scent of a tiger. The dog has an enhanced ability to smell. Police officials sometimes utilize dogs to find bombs through smell. The dog in the home can notice an intruder more quickly than a human being can because of these extended abilities in the senses. At the same time, compared to other animals, the dog is much weaker. The tiger kills for a living. It won’t eat vegetarian food. It hunts so that it can survive. Necessity is the mother of invention, and the need for survival thus brings out all the ability in the living entity. Mental ability isn’t so much present in the tiger, but physical is there with respect to fighting other animals. So the tiger, with the necessity to live, preys upon other animals.

Comparing a human being to a tiger is complimenting them. A sports franchise with the nickname “Tigers” is seen quite often, while the team name “Dogs” is rarely found. Sometimes the more ferocious dogs are used as a nickname, but even then that species is not superior to a tiger. “A tiger among men” is a description used quite often in Vedic literature, which tells of both material and spiritual truths. The spiritual is more important, and so the more important Vedic works lean more heavily towards the spiritual science. In the original spiritual science, which was first spoken at the beginning of the creation, the term “tiger among men” is used to address a very capable warrior.

Bhagavad-gita, 18.4“O best of the Bharatas, hear from Me now about renunciation. O tiger among men, there are three kinds of renunciation declared in the scriptures.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.4)

In the same Vedas, we don’t find any complimentary address of “dog among men.” A dog among men is someone who is driven by their sense impulses, who doesn’t mind eating garbage, and who has no control over how they behave. The dog among men is frightened of the tiger among men. Upon first sniff of the tiger, the dog will run away.

Rama and LakshmanaHere Sita compares her husband and His younger brother to the tiger and the king of Lanka to the dog. This is a tremendous insult to the king, who is named Ravana. She does not merely describe the glorious fighting ability of her husband Rama. She does not simply mention how Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother, is so courageous on the battlefield that he would die before leaving it. She speaks strongly against the character of Ravana. She gives him a great insult. In fact, this statement is part of a series of strong insults, the best in fact. She previously referred to how the land of Janasthana became Hatasthana because of Rama. It was the land of the living, with Rama, Lakshmana and herself living there. Then it became the land of the dead, Hatasthana, after Rama singlehandedly defeated 14,000 of Ravana’s men who came there to attack.

Ravana had already shown how he was dog-like. He didn’t step up against Rama or Lakshmana in Janasthana. He instead created a ruse to lure them away from the ashrama. He then swooped in and took Sita away by force. Now in Lanka, he was trying his best to lure her to his side. He wanted her to become the chief queen and enjoy the royal opulence in Lanka.

PrabhupadaSuch a person was in no condition to accept any sound words of advice. To him hearing praise of Rama would be like hearing fingernails against a chalkboard. Descriptions of the sweetness of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His blissful nature would not do any good. The fiend knew only of brute force, of fighting and stealing. Therefore the comparison to the dog and the tiger was appropriate here. The words were strong, and they served their purpose.

More importantly, Sita spoke the truth. She spoke strongly, but accurately. Ravana was indeed like a dog against Rama and Lakshmana. He would not survive battle against them. He would have to send his many leading fighters to die in front of them before himself getting routed in battle. One who is too puffed up needs to have their ego crushed before they will accept any wise counsel. In this instance, everything would have to crash for Ravana before he finally understood who Rama was.

In Closing:

Others science of self-realization to teach,

Strong or soft words, in what manner to preach?


With one who any intelligence does lack,

No harm with strong words to attack.


Husband and brother to tiger Sita compared,

And Ravana to dog running away scared.


Though harsh words, accurate were they,

Ravana to learn Rama’s nature the hard way.

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