“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)
As with Hiranyakashipu, the case of Ravana can be studied for a lengthy period of time. Not necessarily staying on one aspect, as the journey through life continues from boyhood to old age, so there are new ways to apply the lessons from the life of the king of Lanka. Vedic literature is magical in this way; the historical incidents are presented in such a manner that they provide valuable teachings for every age group and every kind of situation encountered.
One lesson to take particularly from Ravana’s time in Lanka after stealing the princess of Videha is the illusory aspect to a still image. While a picture may say a thousand words, there is a lot it does not say. Conjecture alone won’t fill in the gaps. It takes a wise person such as Sita Devi to know what is actually occurring.
1. Showing victory
Ravana was in Lanka. Sita Devi was there, held against her will. The image displays victory. The king of Lanka has won in his quest to take the woman that he wanted. Never mind that he already had hundreds of beautiful queens. Kama is such that it can never be satisfied through indulgence alone. For this reason it is considered the all-devouring enemy of this world.
“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.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)
Ravana was victorious, but for how long would he stay in that position? The professional athlete celebrates their championship at the end of the season. There is a trophy presentation, pictures taken, and perhaps even a parade afterwards. Yet are they guaranteed to remain in the respected position in perpetuity?
2. Showing sensual enjoyment
There was so much gold in Lanka that it was included in the construction of the buildings. This is a sign of real wealth. Not just some skyscraper erected in a crammed city to make room for spacious housing and office space, Ravana had palaces. There was crystal in the walls and floors. The visual alone was breathtaking.
There was an endless supply of wine and animal flesh to consume. The residents were constantly intoxicated. Hanuman witnessed firsthand. He was there later on, after time had moved on from the still image of the victorious Ravana.
3. Showing security
The people were enjoying because they thought there was security. Ravana had ten heads and twenty arms. The material world is such that the elements can come in different levels and combinations. Ravana received a ghastly form to match his nature. He wanted dominance over rival kings. He wanted supremacy and respect through fear. He succeeded.
There was also the physical barrier. As an island, Lanka was protected on all sides by the ocean. If someone wanted to enter, how would they arrive? Maybe one person, by themselves, but what damage could they do? Certainly an army would not be able to make their presence felt without some prior warning, to which Ravana and his men could appropriately prepare.
Yet the king forgot about time. He thought there was no such thing as karma. Both operate as though invisible. It is difficult to notice their influence, but there is an impact at every moment.
Sita Devi could recognize. She was not fooled by the still image. She refused Ravana’s advances, and so the king used the last resort of the threat of lethal punishment. Hanuman was Rama’s messenger, sent to look for Sita. Rama is actually the Supreme Lord, responsible for both time and karma. Ordinarily, the delivery of results is automatic and beyond the interest of God. In this special case there would be visible indications, plain for any sober person to see. Hanuman was one such sign.
In a conversation with him, Sita said that it looked like death wanted to meet Ravana on the battlefield, to kill him. This was the only logical explanation for the king of Lanka’s behavior. The changing images of life apply to every person. Nothing material remains in the same manifestation. Change is the law of nature, and the creator of those laws is the Supreme Lord.
While the still image of enjoyment in Lanka was soon to change, the fame, good character, and glorious nature of God’s servants, such as Hanuman, never diminish. That heroic servant is just as powerful and devoted today as he was during the mission in Lanka. Sita Devi, the goddess of fortune, is just as connected to her husband in thought, word and deed now as she was during the trying time spent in separation. This is the power of connecting with the inexhaustible one, who secures the work done in His favor from future calamity.
Area of fruits of work securing,
So that efforts for Him enduring.
Like with Sita Devi shown,
Suffered times worst ever known.
And Hanuman heroically going,
To change that still image showing.
In illusion Ravana protected to be,
Soon a different picture to see.
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