“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)
You shouldn’t steal, right? Does this need to actually be explained to anyone? The human being has some intelligence at the time of birth. Otherwise there wouldn’t be potential for reading, writing, speaking, walking, talking and other such things we take for granted, things we expect the adult to be able to do.
The Bhagavad-gita says that the intelligence comes from the source of all intelligence, the Supreme Consciousness that pervades the entire known space. Basically, wherever we see life, there is some connection to this consciousness, who is responsible for both intelligence and forgetfulness.
“I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)
There is potential to learn, but someone has to do the teaching. It’s difficult to arrive at the proper conclusion through personal experience alone. There is no guarantee to survive through trial and error. As an example, a child may learn that fire will burn, but only after several times testing the fact. The easier way is to have someone offer the instruction, if even in a forceful way, to get the point across.
Instruction can similarly be passed on about the need to respect the property of others. Don’t steal. Don’t take what doesn’t belong to you. There is logic behind the teaching, as well as lessons from the past, from people who were forced to learn from their mistakes.
1. It’s the right thing to do
Consider your favorite possession, something that means a lot to you. Would you like it if someone else took it from you, without asking? It’s a change of possession, not just borrowing. Treat others the way you would like to be treated. That is a quick way to determine right and wrong.
2. Karma comes back to you
The Sanskrit word karma means “fruitive activity.” Action-reaction. Deeds with consequences. The results don’t necessarily manifest immediately. It may take another lifetime before the phala, or fruit, arrives.
“Just as a tree starts to blossom during the proper season, so the doer of sinful deeds inevitably reaps the horrible fruit of their actions at the appropriate time.” (Lord Rama speaking to Khara, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 29.8)
Nevertheless, the reaction will arrive. This is karma coming back. If you steal from someone, it stands to reason that someone will steal from you. If you honor the property of others, it is likely others will offer the same respect to you.
3. You’ll have to give it up at the time of death anyway
Say that you steal something, get away with the crime, and take enjoyment from the stolen goods. You could have it for decades without issue. Irrespective the amount of time, eventually there will be separation. You have to leave everything behind at the time of death. With stolen property, you’ll have to give it up in a manner involving some kind of punishment; sometimes through violence.
4. Learn detachment
Jnana and vairagya. The human being advances through knowledge and renunciation. The potential is not the same with the animals. They don’t know about going on a diet. They don’t realize that death will arrive someday and that steps should be taken to make the most out of the existence.
Giving up stolen property is one way to get detachment. Attachment to the material body means future births. Reincarnation is fueled by karma, and with detachment there is less chance for fruitive activity. The proper way to live is bhakti, which is respecting God’s property and the innocent lives of His innumerable sons and daughters living in this world and others.
5. Learn from the examples of Ravana and Duryodhana
The leader of the Kurus, Duryodhana took property that didn’t belong to him. It was a massive and influential kingdom. The rightful heirs to the throne, the Pandavas, were wickedly cast aside. Duryodhana tried to kill those five brothers, who were his cousins, so that they wouldn’t have the chance to right the wrong. In the end it was Duryodhana who learned the hard way. He lost his life on the battlefield against his fiercest rival. No more kingdom to enjoy, even though for a while it looked like he had gotten away with stealing.
Ravana’s lesson was even harsher. He took the kingdom of Lanka from his half-brother Kuvera. He instilled fear in the kings around the world. Ravana attacked and killed innocent priest-like men living in the forest of Dandaka. The life of sin was paying off, it seemed.
Then Ravana took fortune personified. She was on earth in the form of Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka. Sita was married to Shri Rama, an incarnation of God. Ravana stole Sita and then paid dearly for it. He learned the hard way what happens when you go the way of the thief. Ravana had a city of gold and an expansive ocean surrounding that city. At the time of death all he saw was the fierce arrows released from Rama’s wonderful bow. What he knew as his property previously was now gone from his possession forever.
Gone from vision forever,
To see again never.
Though to protect property trying,
Ravana in this way dying.
Duryodhana similar lesson to learn,
The result from stealing to earn.
When property and life to respect,
Then same from others to expect.
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