“Being under the influence of illusion, I underestimated Rama and took Him to be a mere child. Thus I ran towards Vishvamitra’s sacrificial altar. With that, Rama released an acute arrow capable of destroying His enemies. Upon hitting me, that arrow forcefully threw me away to an ocean one hundred yojanas [eight hundred miles] away.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.18-19)
अवजानन्नहं मोहाद्बालोऽयमिति राघवम्।
विश्वामित्रस्य तां वेदिमभ्यधावं कृतत्वरः।।
तेन मुक्तस्ततो बाणः शितश्शत्रुनिबर्हणः।
तेनाहं त्वाहतः क्षिप्तस्समुद्रे शतयोजने।।
avajānannahaṃ mohādbālo’yamiti rāghavam।
viśvāmitrasya tāṃ vedimabhyadhāvaṃ kṛtatvaraḥ।।
tena muktastato bāṇaḥ śitaśśatrunibarhaṇaḥ।
tenāhaṃ tvāhataḥ kṣiptassamudre śatayojane।।
Spend enough time on internet forums and social media comment sections and you will think that you are in the minority. It is like going straight into the lion’s den, battling it out on their territory. An away game for a powerful team in professional sports. A travelling tour for the itinerant preacher, speaking particularly to those who are hostile to the message.
Opinion polling says the majority believes in God. They may not belong to one tradition of spirituality, but they at least agree that there is something beyond this world. Outside of life and death, the origin of everything, a Divine Being, who is infallible and not subject to the fluctuations and flaws of the standard way of living.
The believer is sometimes surprised at the hostility in skepticism and disbelief when entering an online discussion group. One of the common retorts is that religion is just make-believe. People who congregate at a house of worship on a regular basis are going to meet their “imaginary friend.”
The argument seems logical enough. Who has actually seen this person? Man has travelled into outer space, beyond the clouds, and not come upon an old and angry man looking to punish the sinners.
The reality is that there is proof all-around. The denial is something like being in a sunlit room but refusing to acknowledge that there is something called the sun. From the encounters of the Rakshasas of Lanka with Shri Rama, we see that the worst in human society quickly learned that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is well beyond anything the mind could imagine.
Speaking of images, consider man-eating ogres who possess the ability to change shapes at will. One minute they are hideous to look at; grim-visaged. The next minute they look like a deer.
Maricha was one such demon. When enlisted for a task of deceit by Ravana one time, he tried to give proper warning. The leader of the Rakshasas in Lanka needed to hear a story.
Maricha had previously encountered the eldest son of King Dasharatha. This was in the forest. Maricha and his mates had a routine of attacking saintly people during the time of yajna. This is sacrifice. To translate to modern day, it would be somewhat analogous to a terrorist attacking a church during a sermon.
During this particular attack, the hermitage of sage Vishvamitra was protected by Shri Rama. The warrior-in-training barely had any signs of manhood on His face. Rama was a beautiful youth, so what harm could He do against professional attackers?
To Maricha’s surprise, Rama deftly let fly an arrow that packed such a force that it hurled the demon eight hundred miles away. The Rakshasas thought that God wasn’t watching; that there was no supreme controller to deliver destiny. Fate was entirely in their hands, until it wasn’t.
Part of Ravana’s extended family, Khara met God face to face. He was part of a group of fourteen thousand Rakshasas attacking Rama. Not a fair fight. If they were so proud of their ability in combat, why stack the deck?
The matchup was indeed uneven, but not in the way the Rakshasas thought. Shri Rama can successfully defend Himself from fourteen million of the best fighters, if necessary. He was only following in the line of leaders in which He appeared. King Dasharatha was so named because he could defend against attack from the ten directions, simultaneously.
Rama personally delivered the sinner’s fruit to Khara. He explained that the inevitable rewards arrive in the proper course of time, similar to how flowers blossom on trees. What had been done to the innocent sages prior would be returned to Khara and his men.
This God-denying Rakshasa somehow managed to escape and report back to Ravana what had happened. It wasn’t a pretty affair. Things did not go according to the plan of the leader of Lanka. Ravana knew that extra force was required, but he could never possibly imagine the way in which his men were tormented.
Akampana described that the arrows released from Rama’s bow turned into heat-seeking missiles. They chased their targets wherever they went. Nowhere to hide. In the end, the arrows showed the image of a five-headed serpent. This was death-personified. This was the imaginary friend, now clearly visible, albeit too late to make a positive impression.
Then there was Ravana himself. He heard the eyewitness testimony. He listened to the warnings from Maricha and also Vibhishana later on. They told him not to tempt fate. The entire Lanka would be destroyed.
Sita Devi explained that the kingdom which Ravana enjoyed would crumble. She knew her husband best. She said that when the time of death arrives, people are known to act in ways that essentially invite the very end. This was her explanation for Ravana having done something as stupid as taking Sita away by force, while Rama was not there to defend.
Ravana saw the same arrows that previously chased his men out of Janasthana. This was death, kala, and its controller in the visible form. The wise take notice. They would rather not wait until the end to be taught a lesson. They prefer to bask in the sweetness and kindness of the vision of the personal God, whose influence is all around, should we be fortunate enough to want to see.
Look closely and you will see,
That God all-around us to be.
Not imaginary as fools thinking,
Who further into illusion sinking.
Maricha and friends the same thought,
When sneak attack to forest brought.
But Rama with arrows the world extending,
To their demise the Rakshasas sending.