“With great effort the brother Vibhishana tried to convince him about returning me, but he was not inclined.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, 37.9)
vibhīṣaṇena ca bhrātrā mama niryātanam prati |
anunītaḥ prayatnena na ca tat kurute matim ||
A scene commonly depicted on the screen, both large and small,a family member or friend is in trouble. They’ve sunk in the deep end, gone to a place from where seemingly no one returns. The descent has begun to affect others, who can’t bear to witness anymore.
The issue is drug or alcohol addiction. It is indeed an addiction, as nothing is working in terms of stopping the behavior. They keep saying they will get their act together. The latest episode was only a minor slipup. Pretty soon they will kick the habit altogether.
The friends and family decide to stage an intervention. Under false pretenses, invite the addict over to someone’s house. Once they are inside, ambush them about the problem. One by one, go around the room and have each person explain what they are seeing, with the testimony piling up.
The idea is that the forceful delivery of the advice will hopefully sober a person up. They might realize that they actually have a problem. If so many people decided to take such an extreme measure to try to help them, perhaps it is worthwhile to listen.
A similar situation arose many thousands of years ago in the city of Lanka. The king was a heavy abuser of intoxicants, namely wine. He consumed an amazing amount of animal flesh. He was bent on sinful life in whatever way it was defined, narrow or broad.
None of those things were an issue. The people were Rakshasas, after all. This is a kind of man-eating ogre. They are not known for deference to piety and righteousness. The body-type is conducive to sin.
An intervention was looming after Ravana, the king, held a princess against her will for many months. She was the wedded wife of Shri Rama, the prince of Ayodhya. That couple was known for their piety, for their kind nature, and for their dedication to the brahmana class, which are the priests.
Ravana mistook Rama’s kindness for weakness. He misjudged Sita’s loyalty towards her husband. In the end, after everything else failed, Ravana resorted to the threat of lethal punishment to win her over. The king already had so many beautiful queens living with him, but the lust-sensation could not be checked. He had to have Sita.
The king wielded so much power that there was no one in the kingdom dissuading him. No one advised him to stop his heinous ways. The lone exception was Vibhishana. The younger brother was on the side of dharma since birth, despite living in such inauspicious conditions. He tried his best to change Ravana’s mind, but nothing worked. Though Ravana refused to believe any negative consequences would attach to his taking Sita in secret, by force, Rama would arrive eventually to take back His wife.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sita is informing Hanuman about Vibhishana’s attempt. The conversation is noteworthy for many reasons. Ravana could not be convinced of dharma even if the words came from his own family. It is unusual for an older brother to be suspicious of someone so close like the younger brother.
The exchange also shows that pious deeds are never forgotten. They do not go to waste. Devotion to Sita and Rama fills a bank account that never diminishes in value. Very soon Hanuman would show how this kind act was remembered. Shri Rama would reward it as well, giving further confidence to those who chant the holy names with faith, love and attention: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Sinful deeds too many to count,
Weight of pressure starting to mount.
That Lanka soon to burn,
Demerits of leader to earn.
So Vibhishana the initiative taking,
Advice like intervention staging.
Ravana not swayed, but benefit to last,
Burning tail brother’s palace past.