“Neither the demigods nor any exalted personalities were there helping Rama, for He acted alone. You should not entertain any doubt on this matter. Indeed, Rama shot feathered arrows, plated with gold, which turned into five-headed serpents that devoured all the Rakshasas. The Rakshasas were oppressed with fear, and wherever they went and wherever they turned, they saw Rama in front of them. In this way, O spotless one, have your Rakshasas been destroyed in the forest of Janasthana by Rama.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.18-19)
नैव देवा महात्मानो नात्र कार्या विचारणा।
शरा रामेण तूत्सृष्टा रुक्मपुङ्खाः पतत्रिणः।।
सर्पाः पञ्चानना भूत्वा भक्षयन्ति स्म राक्षसान्।
येन येन च गच्छन्ति राक्षसा भयकर्शिताः।
तेन तेन स्म पश्यन्ति राममेवाग्रतः स्थितम्।
इत्थं विनाशितं तेन जनस्थानं तवानघ।।
naiva devā mahātmāno nātra kāryā vicāraṇā।
śarā rāmeṇa tūtsṛṣṭā rukmapuṅkhāḥ patatriṇaḥ।।
sarpāḥ pañcānanā bhūtvā bhakṣayanti sma rākṣasān।
yena yena ca gacchanti rākṣasā bhayakarśitāḥ।
tena tena sma paśyanti rāmamevāgrataḥ sthitam।
itthaṃ vināśitaṃ tena janasthānaṃ tavānagha।।
Business in the preceding year went well. More than a million dollars in revenue from one particular item, sold online. You hoped for this day a long time ago, when you first started, and now it has become a reality.
You earned so much, in fact, that you are not exactly sure what to do with the excess income. You did purchase that high-end automobile. Custom-built, through a catalog; certainly no haggling with the salespeople. You are so special that they personally delivered the vehicle to your home.
Recently, you sent it off to another state to get the sound system upgraded. The stock equipment was fine, but why not splurge to improve the quality? You had to go to a place that specialized in this area. Yours is not an ordinary car; any changes to the internals also impacts the externals. If the car isn’t as beautiful on the outside, what is the point? You want to show off, after all.
Another person might spend extra money to buy a bigger house. Remodel the kitchen. Or travel the world for several months at a time, staying at the finest hotels. Enjoy life to the fullest, however that is defined.
Imagine if fortunes went the other way. You had previously been living in wealth. You were born into it, in fact. Forget the silver spoon analogy, there is gold everywhere. Servants to take care of every need. An adoring public, since the family is royalty. The father is the most respected, even by people outside of the kingdom. He is a chivalrous warrior who expertly defends the innocent against foreign attack.
Overnight, suddenly, without prior warning, you go from riches to rags. Not merely a metaphor, you actually have to wear rags for clothing. It is stipulated, as such; almost like terms of a contract. Oh, you also weren’t involved in the negotiation. You are like collateral damage in a bitter feud between queens.
Your father’s youngest wife is incensed that you were set to be installed as the next king. You had the support of everyone in the kingdom, including the three younger brothers. You are the oldest; so this would follow protocols of succession. This queen previously had no issues with you; there was mutual love and respect.
But not now. You are being passed over. Adding insult to injury, you must leave for the forest. Stay there for fourteen years. No access to the riches you have known since birth. No well-wishers or supporters. No cooks to prepare meals. No driver of a chariot. Traveling on foot, looking like an ascetic.
This is what occurred for Shri Rama, an avatara of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. His tale is well-documented in the Ramayana of Valmiki, along with many other Vedic texts. The change in circumstance was not a big deal for Rama. Since He is God, He possess vairagya to the fullest. He is simultaneously attached to His well-wishers and detached from anything otherwise considered enjoyable in the living experience.
The leader of Lanka at the time received notice of this news and couldn’t believe it. Ravana had spent considerable time acquiring power. He dominated other rulers, applying force, waging war without provocation. He had every material enjoyment available to him, in the extreme.
Ravana couldn’t imagine giving everything up in order to save the honor of his father. He would fight everyone around in order to maintain power. He incorrectly assumed Rama was weak for roaming the forest as punishment.
When a person is so immersed in sense gratification and they lose their way with dharma, they can never understand someone who is dedicated to virtue and righteousness. Thus they don’t see clearly. Ravana at one point thought he could overwhelm Rama in battle. Ravana sent fourteen thousand of his men to the forest of Dandaka, as a show of revenge for what Ravana’s sister had previously experienced after she had violently rushed after Rama’s wife Sita.
Rama soundly defeated the attackers. One of them made it back to Lanka and reported on what happened. That supposedly poor person, dressed in rags, released arrows that behaved something like heat-seeking missiles. The attackers, who were man-eating ogres, desperately sought relief, to no avail, no matter where they turned.
Many of the supporters of Sita’s husband follow a similar transition in life. They perhaps grew up in wealth, but due to their dedication in devotion they seek a simpler life later on. They give up everything in order to always meditate on the Almighty, serving Him with mind, body and speech.
Alone against Rakshasas standing,
Control over arrows commanding.
Rags in the forest now to wear,
No hints of regal life there.
But as Bhagavan not to mind,
Most powerful wherever to find.
His servants for similar path ready,
Supported by their devotion steady.