“The materialists, who are after opulence and material prosperity, may take lessons from the Ramayana that the policy of exploiting the nature of the Lord without acknowledging the supremacy of the Supreme Lord is the policy of Ravana.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.7.23 Purport)
An acknowledged rapist. A thief. A person who went against his own brother, for no reason other than to exercise power. A man-eater on the largest scale. A murderer. The original state sponsor of terrorism, in the form of night-rangers attacking innocent sages living in the woods.
These are different accurate descriptions of the ten-headed one, Ravana, the king of Lanka from a long time ago. He is the main antagonist in the real life drama that is told in the Ramayana, an ancient Sanskrit poem from Maharishi Valmiki.
How could anyone not have a negative opinion of such a person? Is it possible that there are some who look up to him, who continue to hold him up as some kind of role model, a person to emulate?
1. Martyr for the materialists
Ravana had so much. Sure, it didn’t come by itself. He had to undergo rigorous austerities for pleasing Lord Brahma. He had to get benedictions from high above, first. But some sort of struggle is involved with any difficult achievement.
Ravana is a hero to the materialists, who at their core envy God. They wish to be the greatest enjoyer, wielding the most power in the world. Ravana had that, if only for a brief moment. In fact, time was ready to act at the appropriate time. When death was slated to arrive, Ravana took actions that invited his demise.
“When the time for the destruction of living entities arrives, people are seen to perform activities that endanger themselves due to the influence of that all-devouring time.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 56.16)
The staunch materialists don’t hate Ravana; they are more upset that Shri Rama ruined the fun. The Supreme Lord in an incarnation form ended everything for the ten-headed one. To make themselves feel better, the more atheistic make up excuses, creating fiction. They say that Ravana only stole Rama’s wife as revenge for the sister being disfigured by Lakshmana. They conveniently forget to mention that Ravana’s sister had tried to attack Sita, and that Lakshmana acted in defense of his brother’s wife.
Those who view Ravana as a martyr make up other similar excuses. They say that the real reason Rama killed Ravana was jealousy. They say the prince of Ayodhya couldn’t bear to have someone so powerful living on this earth. In fact, so many saintly kings of tremendous fighting prowess have wielded similar power without issue. They were on the side of dharma, so their end was auspicious instead of tragic.
2. Worshiper of Lord Shiva
Along the same lines, the materialists who have some understanding of Vedic culture are quite fond of worshiping Lord Shiva. They don’t know much about the person being worshiped; they just know what he can offer. Ravana himself only became a devotee after being defeated by Mahadeva when trying to move a mountain.
Lord Shiva himself is a great devotee of Rama. Mahadeva did not interfere to help Ravana in the final battle to win back Sita. Prior to that, when Shiva’s bow was at the center of the contest to determine Sita’s husband, again help to Ravana was lacking. The destiny was for the incarnation of the goddess of fortune to be married to the incarnation of Bhagavan.
3. Glorifier of God
It’s interesting that even Vaishnavas, those of the saintly character, have reasons to appreciate Ravana. In many respects the atheists pay more homage to God. This is because they extend the range of applicability of the illusion of the material world.
In other words, the maya created by Rama is so great that people get fooled into thinking that everything came about through nothing. Though they see everyone before them passing on, they think it won’t happen to them.
Ravana was the greatest materialist since he amassed so much opulence. He, too, never considered the future. He completely forgot about his benefactor, Lord Brahma. Ravana figured he was invincible. This mentality, though flawed, pays great respect to the illusion created by the Supreme Lord for the enjoyment of the wayward souls, who want to compete with Him. Indeed, Ravana was a devotee from the spiritual world, cursed to appear in a Rakshasa form to serve as the great adversary to the hero Rama and the principles of righteousness.
Rapist, murderer and a thief,
Committed heinous crimes beyond belief.
Then how any could show honor,
To one so worthy of dishonor?
To the materialists a martyr,
Shiva-bhakta after trouble starter.
To Rama’s illusion homage paying,
In last battle His potency displaying.
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