It Tolls For Thee

Rama's arrow“Even if you go to the mountain abode of Kuvera or go to the assembly house of King Varuna, you will not be able to escape from Rama, as a giant tree, whose time of death has arrived, cannot escape a thunderbolt.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.34)

giriṃ kuberasya gato.athavālayam |
sabhāṃ gato vā varuṇasya rājñaḥ |
asaṃśayaṃ dāśaratherna mokṣyase |
mahādrumaḥ kālahato.aśaneriva ||

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“I love this tree. It is so tall. In the peaceful woods, this is my favorite tree to use for shade. I come here to get away from the stresses of city life. Even in the suburbs things can get hectic. Whether one has a job or not, there always seems to be so many obligations. It’s nice to get away and relax. My favorite spot is underneath this huge tree. I bring a blanket with me to act as a matt. Then I sit on the matt and read my favorite book.”

After some time has passed…

“No way? You’ve got to be kidding me? How is it that my tree is knocked down? I never would have thought this possible. This tree is so large that its fall must have created the loudest sound in the forest. Whether anyone was here or not makes no difference; that sound must have been tremendous. Obviously this tree was struck down by lightning. It had been here for so long. It was dependable. It did so much good for me. But alas, I guess its time was up. Nothing could be done to save the tree. Unless we built a giant structure around it, it wasn’t going to be spared the wrath of the thunderbolt. Even that protection would have been susceptible to the same influence of time. Time does indeed take away everything. When the time for leaving arrives, there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.”

Tree fallingSita Devi references the tree being killed by time in the form of a thunderbolt to explain to Ravana how he will not be able to escape his own death, which would come in the form of illustrious arrows shot by her beloved husband, who is pious in every way. Rama would not kill Ravana without cause. His arrows of justice would rid the world of a terrorizing figure, who was so low that he took away another man’s wife in secret and then never told Him where she was. As time heals all wounds, the dreaded disease that was Ravana would be cured by time acting through Rama.

“No one knows where time began and where it ends, and it is time only which can keep a record of the creation, maintenance and destruction of the material manifestation. This time factor is the material cause of creation and is therefore a self expansion of the Personality of Godhead. Time is considered the impersonal feature of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.10.11 Purport)

Rama is superior to time. Rama is the personal and time is the impersonal. The personal represents a singular entity, though the visible manifestation isn’t limited to a single form. The original Personality of Godhead has two hands and a beautiful smile. Rama is considered an incarnation of the original, but the transcendental features are there all the time.

The impersonal emanates from the personal. It is like an effulgence, something that indicates the potency of the personal without representing Him fully. Time is but an impersonal representation. Known as kalah in Sanskrit, time is also death. Death is the exit of the spirit soul from the body, and while outwardly this is effected through various mechanisms, the actual cause is time. Therefore kalah is synonymous with death.

Shri RamaSita knew that her husband was the source of time. In His realm time has no influence. This means that in His realm there is no such thing as birth or death. No one fights against Him, so no one has to be destroyed. As no one has to meet destruction, no one has to die. If the Supreme Lord should happen to be desirous of combat, He descends to the material world and brings His associates with Him. The divine play then satisfies His desires for sport, while simultaneously teaching so many valuable lessons.

The lesson in this instance comes from the foreshadowing words of Sita Devi. Here she makes reference to Kuvera and Varuna as a way to describe the inescapable nature of time. Kuvera is Ravana’s half-brother. Ravana had actually driven Kuvera out of Lanka; that is how Ravana became the king of Lanka. As Sita points out, Kuvera’s home is in the mountains. He is the treasurer of the demigods, and the treasury’s location is in the mountains, where gold and other real commodities are found in abundance. Kuvera is also a guardian of one of the directions. Varuna guards a particular direction as well. He is the demigod in charge of the waters. He operates in an assembly, where he takes interest in justice.

“Kuvera is one of the eight demigods who are in charge of different directions of the universe. It is said that Indra is in charge of the eastern side of the universe, where the heavenly planet, or paradise, is situated. Similarly, Agni is in charge of the southeastern portion of the universe; Yama, the demigod who punishes sinners, is in charge of the southern portion; Nirriti is in charge of the southwestern part of the universe; Varuna, the demigod in charge of the waters, is in charge of the western portion; Vayu, who controls the air and who has wings to travel in the air, is in charge of the northwestern part of the universe; and Kuvera, the treasurer of the demigods, is in charge of the northern part of the universe.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.23.39 Purport)

If Ravana were to travel to Kuvera’s mountain abode he would not escape the influence of time. The same if he were to travel to Varuna’s assembly in the water. In either case it looks like there is protection. Ravana would think that the mountain or the water would shield him from Rama’s arrows. But Sita appropriately mentions time and how it kills even the large tree. The tree looks like it is safe and sturdy. It looks like nothing will kill it. But the thunderbolt drops it instantly. Nothing can be done to save the tree in that instance.

Lord RamaIn the same way Ravana would not escape Rama’s arrows. Rama is referred to here as the son of Dasharatha, who was the king of Ayodhya. Dasharatha could fight in ten directions simultaneously, which is what earned him his name. Similarly, Rama’s arrows would penetrate all the directions, irrespective of who was guarding them. Ravana would have no place for comfort, as the time for his death was approaching.

In Closing:

When for death time has come,

To prolong life nothing to be done.


Like tree in forest standing tall,

Single thunderbolt to bring its fall.


For Ravana from arrows nowhere to hide,

Not even if in mountains or water to reside.


As Rama son of king who fought chariots ten,

No direction safe for Lanka’s king then.

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