“At Rameshvara, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had a chance to read the Kurma Purana, in which He discovered that the form of Sita kidnapped by Ravana was not that of the real Sita but a mere shadow representation.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 1.117)
ताहाञि करिल कूर्म-पुराण श्रवण
माया-सीता निलेक रावण, ताहाते लिखन
tāhāñi karila kūrma-purāṇa śravaṇa
māyā-sītā nileka rāvaṇa, tāhāte likhana
Friend1: One of my favorite exchanges from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s lila is the meeting with the brahmana who was living in the mood of the Ramayana.
Friend2: Where he was waiting to serve the Supreme Lord, Shri Rama?
Friend1: As if he were living in ancient times, several thousands of years ago. Do you remember what I am referring to?
Friend2: Yes. This was the guy who was so distraught over the fact that Ravana had touched Sita.
Friend1: Ravana, the ten-headed one. The wicked ogre-like character who had no shame in his deeds. He ruled over the city of Lanka. Sita, the wife of Shri Rama. The goddess of fortune, pure in every way.
Friend2: Ravana with adharma and Sita embodying dharma. As a daughter, as a wife, as a sister-in-law – exemplary behavior.
Friend1: I mean I would be equally as bummed out that someone so sinful could ever put their hands on someone so pure and chaste. Sita had not wronged anyone. She was caught in the middle of Ravana’s uncontrolled lust.
Friend2: That is why kama is declared to be the all-devouring enemy of this world.
काम एष क्रोध एष
विद्ध्य् एनम् इह वैरिणम्
kāma eṣa krodha eṣa
viddhy enam iha vairiṇam
“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)
When left uncontrolled, it turns into wrath and from there leads to destruction.
Friend1: Which is certainly what happened with Ravana. Sita even warned him of that later on. She said something to the effect that bad things occur once a person is on the verge of death. In other words, Ravana had gone too far in his kama precisely because kala was ready to strike.
Friend2: It is an interesting way to look at it. The prediction was certainly accurate. Ravana was ready to lose everything. Shri Rama would reclaim His missing wife. Ravana would not get away with the horrible deed.
Friend1: Mahaprabhu showed His amazing kindness to the brahmana by explaining that Ravana touched only the maya version of Sita.
Friend2: An illusory form. You have hints of this in works other than the Ramayana of Valmiki. The real Sita enters fire for a brief period of time. She emerges later on, after the battle of Lanka incident.
Friend1: It is reassuring. Mahaprabhu did not chastise the brahmana for living in the past. He did not tell the guy to wake up, to become level-headed.
Friend2: That is because the Supreme Lord always encourages pure devotion. He supports it. Lord Chaitanya went so far as to find pages from a Purana that supported His claim.
Friend1: That was going to be my question today. Shouldn’t Mahaprabhu’s word be enough? Why did He have to go and get proof?
Friend2: Several reasons. One is that the proper etiquette is to quote authority. You don’t just make stuff up. People speculating and presenting erroneous conclusions as factual is what sullies genuine religion for generations.
Friend1: What else? You said there was more than one reason.
Friend2: The support aspect I just referred to. The evidence from shastra is additional validation. Let there not be any doubts. The brahmana felt free to voice his concerns. He did not keep them hidden. Mahaprabhu, like the ideal spiritual master, accepted the mood of the inquiry and resolved it satisfactorily. He would do anything in His power to encourage such devotion. That is why bhakti stands above any other kind of religious practice. There is favoritism on the other side. Bias towards bliss.
Though bhakti path to find,
Still living doubts of mine.
But Mahaprabhu so kind,
That of truth to remind.
Supported even by book,
Like in Kurma Purana to look.
So that always encouraging,
And confusion not discouraging.