“Just as the unintelligent, without knowing the future bondage caused by their actions, are vanquished very quickly, so shall you meet with your own destruction in a short time.” (Jatayu speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 51.26)
Friend1: I was thinking about the different pairs of brothers from the Ramayana.
Friend2: Which ones exactly?
Friend1: All of them. Rama and Lakshmana. Bharata and Shatrughna. Rama and Bharata, too.
Friend2: Vibhishana and Ravana. Sugriva and Vali.
Friend1: Different relationships. Really a hidden lesson from the Sanskrit work; that not every experience in life is uniform. There isn’t just one way to act with a brother.
Friend2: Oh yeah. For sure. Unique circumstances. You have the full spectrum. Lakshmana was ready to kill anyone who came against Rama. Bharata was ready to give up everything he had so that Rama could become king. Then you had Vali, who wanted to kill Sugriva.
Friend1: And in between there is Vibhishana. He had affection for Ravana, but not to the point that he would tolerate grievous sin.
Friend2: Yeah. He had enough when Ravana stole another man’s wife in secret, without fighting for her. Vibhishana also was kind to Hanuman, from the start. Hanuman remembered that when he later set fire to the entire city. He intentionally skipped Vibhishana’s palace.
Friend1: So there is one more pair that I was thinking of. Often forgotten, because they are birds.
Friend2: Jatayu and Sampati.
Friend1: Sampati was so sad to learn about Jatayu’s death. It got me to thinking. I’m pretty upset by it, too. Jatayu was on the side of righteousness, dharma. He was a friend to Dasharatha, the king of Ayodhya.
Friend2: An unsung hero, for sure. The odds weren’t in his favor. He was going against a fiend with ten heads and twenty arms. Ravana had an aerial car, also.
Friend1: Really the worst person, if you think about it. Dushkritina, naradhama, as mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita.
Friend2: “Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons, do not surrender unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.15)
Friend1: Love that verse. As we both know, Rama from the Ramayana is the same Krishna from the Gita. Ravana not only refused to surrender to God the person, he directly went against Him by stealing His wife Sita.
Friend2: That’s how we know Jatayu was on the side of good. He tried to stop that from happening. He was really the only person to put up opposition to Ravana at that time, who had come to the forest in disguise, using his assistant Maricha in the plot to take Sita away in secret.
Friend1: I’m getting upset just thinking about what happened. Poor Jatayu. He fought valiantly, but the struggle eventually cost him his life. He failed. He tried devotional service, but he didn’t succeed in his objective. Shouldn’t Rama have been kind and given him victory?
Friend2: That is an interesting viewpoint.
Friend1: Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita tells Arjuna to declare that the devotee never perishes. What about Jatayu?
Friend2: So many ways to explain what happened. The one I’ll use here is that there is no shame at all in what happened to Jatayu. Ravana’s victory was only temporary. It piled on to the sinful reactions that were set to come his way. It is a standard law of karma that a person who gives up their life while fighting valiantly on the battlefield is immediately rewarded with a spot in heaven in the afterlife. It is something like a religious sacrifice.
Friend1: That’s to stress the importance of military men, of people who protect others from injury.
Friend2: And remember that it goes both ways. Even the supposed bad guys get this result, provided they fight somewhat honorably. Proof is there in the battle between Rama and Khara, one of Ravana’s brothers. Khara and the other Rakshasas had previously killed and eaten so many sages living in the forest. Prior to their battle, Rama remarked that Khara was set to receive the same destination as those sages. The sages went to heaven because of their pious behavior, and Khara would get the same result for dying honorably in battle.
Friend1: Doesn’t someone who dies at God’s hands get liberation, release from the cycle of birth and death?
Friend2: There’s that, too, but Rama was relaying the general principle. So Jatayu died valiantly; there was no shame. Moreover, Rama found him later on. Rama held Jatayu in His hands as the bird quit his body. Jatayu got the ultimate benefit of being God conscious at the time of death. The end was practically identical to his friend Dasharatha’s. Both were thinking of Rama.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: The incident also shows Rama’s mercy in allowing everyone to practice devotion to Him. It is not limited to the human species. A forest-dwelling monkey like Sugriva can make the sacrifice. A Rakshasa in a sinful land like Lanka can come over to Rama’s side. And birds like Sampati and Jatayu can play vital roles as well. No one is shut out, provided they have the desire in their heart.
When injustice against Sita to see,
Jatayu fought, valiant was he.
Unfortunately this time not to win,
Against Ravana of so many a sin.
Why Supreme Lord help not to give,
And allowing the bad guy to live?
Not a loss, for Jatayu no shame,
Saw Rama at death, gained eternal fame.