“Ravana was very advanced materially, so much so that he turned his kingdom, Lanka, into pure gold, or full material wealth. But because he did not recognize the supremacy of Lord Ramachandra and defied Him by stealing His wife, Sita, Ravana was killed, and all his opulence and power were destroyed.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.7.23 Purport)
The Forbes 100 List. The athletes with the highest net worth. The massive contract signed by that free agent in baseball. The new per episode deal for cast members of the hit television show. The stock options offered to the outgoing CEO, who was also the founder of the company.
It is only natural for the general public to take an interest in the wealthy. It’s a form of competition, as well, to see if a preferred celebrity is earning more than those not preferred. There is additional interest in seeing what people do with so much money. In the 1980s the television show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous satisfied such intrigue.
Despite what is seen today with the wealthiest of people, they don’t hold a candle to one notable figure from history. His story is described in Vedic literature, particularly the Ramayana, where he is the main antagonist to the hero Shri Rama, who is an incarnation of the Supreme Lord.
This villain has ten heads, an ogre-like body, and is not very nice. He embodies the materialistic mindset to the highest degree. He had real wealth and opulence, enough to put everyone else to shame.
1. A city of gold
A wealthy CEO may fit gold to their private jet, and they may own jewelry made of gold, but what about an entire city? That’s what Ravana had. The floors and walls had crystals in them. Rama’s most trusted servant, Shri Hanuman, witnessed the opulence firsthand. He was in Lanka searching for Sita, Rama’s missing wife. Hanuman was taken aback by the great wealth, which wasn’t reserved to a single palace or dwelling.
2. No governing authority
Rags to riches. One day a person is poor, and later they rise to the top in terms of wealth. In modern times the opposite can occur, also. From the penthouse to the penitentiary. There have been famous swindlers, who earned a lot of money but through illegal means. They were eventually caught, losing everything.
The idea is that there is a governing authority which has control over even the wealthy. A corrupt person can rise to the top in government, and unless the wealthy are friendly with them everything can be taken away. Ravana had gold everywhere, and he was in charge of his city. In fact, he was feared throughout the world, as he had great ability in fighting.
3. Many beautiful wives
Ravana had so many wives, and they were the most beautiful women in the world. Many came to him after victory over rival kings. The vanquished leaders had their own queens, and it wasn’t that they were left stranded afterwards. They came under the protection of the victor, who was Ravana.
4. Benedictions from demigods
Upon first glance the character of Ravana may be mistakenly considered fictitious. After all, who do we know who has ten heads? Who can change their shape at will and exhibit such great ability in fighting? The Vedas provide the proper understanding. In a material existence practically anything is available. You can become king of the world. It’s not likely. It’s not easily achieved, but the potential is still there.
Ravana rose to the top through benedictions from higher beings. These are devas [gods] but not identical to the Supreme Lord. The main distinction is birth and death. Even the devas go through the cycle of reincarnation, so this means they can’t grant immortality to their worshipers.
Up to the point of immortality; that was the limit for Ravana. In modern times there is hardly any authorized worship of devas or other figures conducted. Neither is the required austerity practiced in order to earn their favor to the degree that Ravana did.
5. Many mouths for enjoying eating and drinking
Ravana had loads of animal flesh and wine available for consumption in his kingdom. His ten mouths were there to accommodate in enjoyment. With only one mouth the amount of eating is limited. The same goes for drinking. Ravana did not have such limitations.
Despite reaching such heights of material wealth, was Ravana happy? Did he have peace of mind? He became so infatuated with a particular woman that it led to his downfall. He didn’t think there was a governing authority above him, but time has hold over every person. Time is the foggy picture of God known to the atheists.
For Ravana time arrived in the personal form of Shri Rama. Since Ravana committed the grave sin of stealing Sita Devi, Rama punished him in a commensurate way. Sita is the goddess of fortune, and she is the rightful property of God. Those who have the attitude of Ravana try to steal fortune and end up losing everything. The devotees, on the other hand, are blessed by Sita with sufficient opulence required for their devotional practices, which continue even after death; meaning that they never lose the possession having most value.
Net worth of richest we are told,
With homes and opulence untold.
But to Ravana not holding a candle,
With food only ten mouths could handle.
Entire city of gold was made,
Obeisance to no authority paid.
Still not forever with him to stay,
Paid dearly for taking Sita away.
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