“Why is that your cruel, crooked, blackish and yellowish eyes do not fall to the ground while looking at me, O uncivilized one?” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 22.18)
ive te nayane krūte virūpe kṛṣṇapiṅgale |
kṣitau na patite kasmānmāmanārya nirīkṣataḥ ||
Ravana’s eyes were cruel. They didn’t look upon others with compassion, as is the natural tendency. If there is a bird fallen on the ground after having accidentally run into a wall, others will look upon it with a saddened heart. The wing or some other vital part is broken, and nothing can be done to save the bird from the unhealthy condition. The same eyes look upon the poor and the downtrodden with pity, an emotion which then causes some action for redress to be taken. Ravana’s eyes had the wrong intentions, and so Sita wondered why they were still in its sockets and not fallen on the ground.
If there is a part of the body that is diseased, all effort is taken to cure it. For instance, if someone breaks their leg, the doctor will place a cast around it. This keeps the bone in place for a time commensurate with healing. Once the bone heals, the cast is removed. If treatment doesn’t work, the next course is removal. Like having a boil or unwanted growth on the body, the diseased portion needs to be removed completely, lest other negative affects arise in the aftermath.
Ravana’s eyes were like this. Simple corrective lenses wouldn’t fix the situation. It wasn’t like he had been watching too much television and then developed myopia. He was nearsighted in his vision, for sure, but this was with respect to seeing the future results to action. A person who has 20/20 vision can still be foolish enough to eat an entire pizza pie placed in front of them. The person who never has to wear glasses or contacts can still go for too many rounds at a buffet restaurant. Their vision of consequences is shortsighted. They see the immediate enjoyment of the food, without considering the aftereffects of overeating.
Ravana’s eyes were crooked as well. If they were aligned properly, they would see the beautiful daughter of King Janaka and remember from where she came. If they were straight in their sockets, they would cause Ravana to immediately remember Janaka and Rama, both of whom were very pious. Instead, those crooked eyes, which were dark yellow in color, saw Sita as an object for enjoyment. They didn’t see that she was already married, that her heart was given over to Rama. They didn’t see her kindness, her sweetness, or her forgiving nature.
Instead, those deformed eyes looked upon her only with lust. Sita thus naturally wondered why those eyes hadn’t dropped to the ground yet. They weren’t serving their purpose. All abilities in man are to be utilized for understanding God and then serving Him from that understanding. One way to understand is to see, though this method is inferior to hearing. Hearing is less prone to defect, for if someone relays flawless information to me, I can accept it immediately in hearing. If someone shows me the same flawless information, I could easily get distracted by the visuals. If I watch a debate on television, I could just as easily focus on how the candidates look and how they are handling the pressure of the moment. In hearing the same debate, I am more likely to take note of the arguments made, focus on the content.
Ravana was fortunate in the sense that his eyes had the chance to see Sita. This vision is very rare. Her beauty is typically reserved for her husband Rama. This doesn’t mean that others can’t look at her, though. The devoted souls see her every single day, but the difference is that their vision functions properly. Their eyes are not diseased. The healthy eyes bask in the devotion shown by the sinless Sita, who loves Rama more than any person can love anyone else. Hers is prema, or real love, and not kama, or lust. With kama, the sentiment can turn on a dime. If the object of affection does something unpalatable, the previously professed love can vanish. With prema, nothing can be done to change the sentiment. Because of its nature, prema can only be offered to God. No one else can be loved unconditionally, without vulnerability to time and space.
Despite the chance to see Sita, because of his faulty vision Ravana viewed her in completely the wrong way. If he had just closed his eyes and heard her sound words of advice instead, perhaps things would have ended differently. She taught him in the way that a spiritual master instructs a disciple. But instead of being humble and inquiring submissively, Ravana was lusty and made demands. He forced Sita back to Lanka, his kingdom. She wasn’t bothering anyone in the forest of Dandaka, where she was living with Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana.
Nature gives us the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and hands and legs for realizing God. He can be found through any of the senses; sight is not the lone option. As we see with Ravana, sometimes the vision is faulty and can cause a skewered understanding of the Supreme Lord and those closest to Him. From hearing of this incident, and especially accepting Sita’s cutting and accurate words, we can learn her true position. The diseased eyes see everything as vehicles for personal enjoyment, while the healthy eyes notice the presence of the Divine everywhere. Those eyes look upon Rama’s wife with compassion and admiration, bringing inspiration for pleasing her in the way of praising her husband.
With eyes dark, wicked and cruel,
Faulty vision for Ravana the fool.
Compassion should have shown,
Treating her like citizen his own.
Instead Sita’s devotion tried to take,
As his own queen attempted to make.
Seen as beloved of Rama in vision pure,
Her love through infinite time to endure.
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