Did Ravana Lack Common Sense

[Shri Rama]“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)

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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।।

Friend1: One thing I noticed in the Ramayana story, which is an account of historical events put to beautiful Sanskrit poetry by Maharishi Valmiki, is that Ravana, the main villain, received ample warning to not mess with Shri Rama.

Friend2: Who is the prince of Ayodhya. This is the one exception, the loophole, if you will, to Ravana’s boons.

Friend1: Explain that.

Friend2: The demoniac always think they can outsmart the laws of the universe. For instance, if there is gender determined by birth, simply go through a medical procedure to change that. It doesn’t really do anything, but if anyone dare challenge you, it is easy to suppress their opposition.

Friend1: Through name-calling, threats of physical violence, and so forth.

Friend2: In another example, if the laws of nature dictate that every person must die, try your hardest to nullify. Live forever.

Friend1: Which is not possible.

Friend2: But that didn’t stop Ravana from trying. He asked the creator, Lord Brahma, for immunity from so many beings. Immortality in the round-about way. Ninety-nine percent safety.

Friend1: Which is not immortality. As long as there is the slightest vulnerability, you are in trouble.

Friend2: Rama was the one percent. The Supreme Lord is always smarter. Ravana failed to ask for protection against human beings, but he was so powerful that he never thought anyone on earth could match up.

Friend1: God thus descended. Hence the term avatara.

[Shri Rama birth]Friend2: Yes. Rama is an incarnation of Vishnu, who is the personal God. He is the same entity that everyone worships to some degree. In some cases, He is the one that receives curses and harsh rebukes.

Friend1: Getting back to the original question, it seems Ravana received sufficient warning. His advisors and eyewitness testimony gave a strong message: don’t mess with that guy from Ayodhya.

Friend2: Absolutely. Look at the incident in Janasthana. Ravana sent fourteen thousand of his men to do away with Rama, who was living in that forest area.

Friend1: No military to support Him. Rama could not go back home and call for reinforcements.

Friend2: Akampana went back to Lanka and told Ravana what went down. The fourteen thousand were defeated. Rama acted alone.

Friend1: No one helped Rama, right? Not even Lakshmana.

Friend2: The younger brother took Sita Devi, Rama’s wife, to a nearby cave. It was literally one against fourteen thousand.

Friend1: Did Ravana lack common sense, then? It doesn’t square with the rest of his behavior, since he would otherwise be considered intelligent.

Friend2: For starters, Shri Krishna declares that a person who worships the demigods for material favors has had their intelligence stolen. The same is said of the lowest among mankind, who do not surrender unto the Supreme Lord:

न मां दुष्कृतिनो मूढाः
प्रपद्यन्ते नराधमाः
आसुरं भावम् आश्रिताः

na māṁ duṣkṛtino mūḍhāḥ
prapadyante narādhamāḥ
āsuraṁ bhāvam āśritāḥ

“Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons, do not surrender unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.15)

Friend1: I see. Wouldn’t this fall into the category of placing your hand in fire?

Friend2: What do you mean?

Friend1: Well, it is one thing to say that a person’s intelligence is stolen. They screwed up. They overlooked the obvious. But this level of ignorance is off the charts. It would be like putting your hand in fire. Everyone knows better, except for maybe small children.

[Shri Rama]Friend2: Hence the comparison to the lowest among men, naradhamah. The thieves are never perfect in their crimes. They always miss something. In Ravana’s case, he missed a considerable amount of direct evidence. He thought that God didn’t exist. He was fortunate in that he maintained the inimical attitude until the very end, until he was forced to see, as a result of Rama’s arrows targeted directly at him.

In Closing:

Though entirely obstinate to be,
Finally forced to see.

That God in this world found,
Not just to imagination bound.

From destructive defeat earned,
Lesson should have learned.

But Ravana the harder way taking,
Target for Rama’s arrows making.

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