“How can that female swan who is accustomed to sporting with the king of swans amidst lotus flowers ever cast her eyes on a water-crow that stays amidst bunches of grass?” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 56.20)
“Our country doesn’t believe in torture. The news reports are disturbing. How could this go on? Who authorized this? What kind of example does this set for the rest of the world? Just because others behave barbarically doesn’t mean that our nation should.”
In the Bhagavad-gita it is said that people take notice of the example set by a great leader.
“Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.21)
In warfare things get ugly, so whatever rules are laid down aren’t necessarily followed. The easy way after the fact is to destroy evidence. Depending on the political will to prosecute further, the violators will likely get away. A little leeway here and there to extract critical information from the enemy.
In Lanka a long time ago the leader had no problem using torture. He wasn’t after national secrets. He didn’t want to prevent a future attack against his nation. Rather, he was simply driven by the senses. The strongest gravitating force, kama, caused him to steal another man’s wife in secret.
Though successful in that operation, there was still work to be done. This wasn’t stealing an inanimate object. For the lust to be satisfied, he needed intimate and willing contact with the participant. To that end the heinous Ravana used dire techniques. He tried to make the impossible possible, but the power of devotion is too strong to overcome.
1. Threat of punishment
This is the easiest method. You don’t have to be particularly smart or clever. Just threaten the other side. “You better listen or else.” If perchance there is clarification requested, the threat-giver provides details about the “or else.”
In the case of Sita Devi, she would be killed and eaten. This was the way of the Rakshasas in Lanka. They were man-eating ogres. Killing was not an issue for Ravana. The ten-headed one had a voracious appetite for wine and flesh. If the prisoner would not agree, he would kill her.
2. Grim picture of the future
Sita was a beautiful princess, happily married to the prince of Ayodhya, Shri Rama. She was so attractive that Ravana completely forgot about his many other queens already living in Lanka. He had plenty of opportunity to satisfy his senses, but lust is such a powerful force that it never leaves a person alone. More indulgence only increases the intensity; something like pouring more fuel into a fire.
The king of Lanka tried to scare Sita into submission by painting a grim picture of the future. She was beautiful now, but wouldn’t always remain so. If enough time passed, she would no longer be attractive to the world. Then who would court her? Who would seek her company? Better to give in now and enjoy with someone. This was Ravana’s presentation, rooted in ignorance of her true nature.
3. Peer pressure
There were other people in the scene. They surrounded Sita in the grove of Ashoka trees. They tried to pressure her into giving in to Ravana.
“Everyone else agrees with this wicked ruler, so what is wrong with you? Why do you want to be different? Don’t you see the way the queens already enjoy right now? You will be made the chief among them. What fool wouldn’t accept such a wonderful offer?”
4. Constant harassment
Of course none of the techniques worked. Pure devotion has that over kama. In fact, connection to the Supreme Lord, true yoga, is the only way to defeat the all-devouring enemy known as lust, which quickly turns into wrath.
“The Blessed Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)
Ravana finally gave up. He instituted a time limit for Sita to change her mind. Once passed, she would be killed. In the meantime, attendants to the king would surround and harass her day and night. These were ghoulish-looking creatures, ready to eat her if given the chance. For the wife of Rama, it was like living a nightmare twenty-four hours a day.
The just reward for this torture would arrive soon enough. The swift-coursing arrows released from Rama would lop off Ravana’s heads and end his very life. The reign of terror would literally and symbolically come crashing to the ground.
Rama’s representative Hanuman witnessed some of the torture. When the day of victory arrived he was eager for payback. He wanted to kill the people who had harassed Sita day and night. She declined the offer, as there was no lasting enmity. The devotee is both strong and tough in their determination and kind and compassionate towards the fallen.
Wanting desperately to enjoy,
Different kinds of torture to employ.
So that princess to change her mind,
And new post of chief queen to find.
With punishment threatening death,
Fear of time’s change with passing breath.
Harassment from every side to surround,
Ineffective since to Rama’s heart bound.
Categories: the four