“Indeed, Ravana is not agreeable to the idea of returning me. Ravana has come under the influence of time, who is seeking his death in battle.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 37.10)
The king of Lanka wouldn’t listen to good advice. It came from close by, within the same family in fact. The words weren’t agreeable to him, however. Why change course after so much effort for an investment in the future? A famous person stays with a lie for many years. They were defiant at first, angry to be questioned. Later on they feel like repenting, wanting to come clean. But they spent so many years lying that it wouldn’t make sense to suddenly tell the truth.
The ten-headed Ravana was in a similar predicament. He took Sita Devi a while ago. This was another man’s wife. A capable fighter himself, Ravana was accustomed to accumulating earnings through victories. With Sita he chose the cowardly route. He continued to lie to himself that he was the most powerful fighter in the world, when in fact he was too afraid to take on Sita’s husband in battle.
What he didn’t know was that the husband was a manifestation of time. Shri Rama is time itself. Showing special favor to Ravana, Rama wiped away so much that was earned through great effort. These things are already crushed under the wheels of time, and Ravana’s case is a more gruesome example of an aspect of nature that has operated long since before anyone can remember.
Wine. Women. Animal flesh. Gold. Jewels. Ravana had it all. There was actual wealth in Lanka; not some bank statement reporting a number that translated to a specific net worth. These were real commodities, and any person would be in awe at witnessing firsthand.
Feared throughout the world, Ravana received his name from the respected Lord Shiva. The name struck fear in the hearts of others, especially those who might come in the Rakshasa’s path. Ravana and his men were man-eating ogres, and they would attack the most innocent in society specifically to curb the influence of dharma, or righteousness.
Plenty to enjoy. Expert ability in fighting. Ravana also held a high stature. He was king of Lanka. He could basically get whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. There were many powerful people working under him. The advisor Maricha was both evil and cunning.
Ravana even boasted of his stature to Sita, but she was not interested. She compared him to a dog and a jackal. Her husband was like a lion, and so was her husband’s brother.
“Smelling the fragrance of Rama and Lakshmana, like a dog smelling a tiger, certainly you will not be able to stand.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.31-32)
With the qualities came fame. Ravana’s abilities and accomplishments were broadcast throughout the world. Even if such a feature were to remain into the future, how would Ravana enjoy it? There is no immortality. The devas worshiped by him couldn’t offer that as a benediction.
The truth is that everything gets wiped away at the time of death. Death is the most visible instrument of the force known as time, which can be compared to a chariot riding through an area, crushing everything under its wheels.
If the destination for every person is destruction, what is the point to living? What should be done every day? What is the objective of working, of expending effort? While the temporary material body gets destroyed, the soul within does not. Moreover, the soul travels to another destination after quitting the body for good.
Works in devotion help to purify consciousness, which accompanies the individual soul to the next life. As bad as Ravana was, his consciousness was on Rama at the time of death. This was the special benediction for playing such a worthy adversary, whose example would be studied by countless future generations, exhibiting exactly what should not be done in life.
Rama’s associates stay with Him in the spiritual world, and those who follow devotion to them have their consciousness purified even before all-devouring time arrives. That is to say they don’t need to wait until the afterlife to experience the true ananda, or bliss, that living has to offer.
Principles of dharma as useless brushed,
Not knowing how everything under crushed.
By wheels of undefeated time,
Demise despite at present to shine.
For Ravana, city of Lanka’s king,
Soon to be left without a thing.
Name, fame, stature and possessions too,
But for devotees of Rama not true.
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