“Then I, resembling a cloud and having molten-golden earrings, made my way into Vishvamitra’s ashrama, for I was very proud of my strength due to the boon given to me by Lord Brahma. As soon as I entered, Rama quickly noticed me and raised His weapon. Though He saw me, Rama strung His bow without any fear.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.16-17)
बली दत्तवरोदर्पादाजगाम तदाश्रमम्।।
तेन दृष्टः प्रविष्टोऽहं सहसैवोद्यतायुधः।
मां तु दृष्ट्वा धनुस्सज्यमसम्भ्रान्तश्चकार सः।।
balī dattavarodarpādājagāma tadāśramam।।
tena dṛṣṭaḥ praviṣṭo’haṃ sahasaivodyatāyudhaḥ।
māṃ tu dṛṣṭvā dhanussajyamasambhrāntaścakāra saḥ।।
1. Words of derision
“You are one of these thumpers now? Follow my book or else. You don’t want to risk living in hell for eternity. If you don’t accept, then you’re in deep trouble. No second chances. This is the last opportunity. Sign up, accept the savior, and then I will leave you alone.
“Come on, man! Don’t you see it’s all a scam? They’ve made a sucker out of you, knowing you were in a vulnerable state. Life is confusing. I get it. Who really knows what is going on, why we are here, what to do moving forward, and so forth. But don’t be fooled by these conmen. They are only after money. I thought you were smarter than that.”
2. Shutting down houses of worship
“This is for your own good. We have to keep people safe. No more meetings larger than ten people. Even then, every person is to keep their distance from each other. You can say hello and bye-bye, but no embracing.
“Don’t worry, this is just for a few weeks. Make this sacrifice now and everything will be better. Don’t be selfish. God is not helping you. Science will save the day. We are following science. You don’t need the house of worship in order to be happy and fulfilled.”
3. Physical violence
As if the two preceding cases weren’t egregious enough in violation of the rights of the individual, who has an inclination to follow its dharma, there is the extreme case of physical violence. This has occurred many times throughout history. Several of the greatest wars have been predicated on a difference in spiritual practice, in the acceptance or lack thereof regarding a particular faith.
The Ramayana describes many historical incidents of violence which interfere with basic religion. In one case Vishvamitra Muni wanted to complete a specific vrata. This is a vow or observance. There were accompanying rules. He had gone to a remote area to focus. This was his playing field. Fewer distractions. Difficult for others to locate.
The timing was the dark of night. Vishvamitra required several consecutive nights of a sacrificial fire burning. This is known as yajna, and the Sanskrit word is synonymous with the Supreme Lord. Yajna is another name for Him, though often times the person conducting the sacrifice may not be aware.
The interference came from two notable Rakshasas. This is a species of man-eating ogre. The spirit is still alive today, though we may not see the exact same features. The Rakshasas during the Ramayana time could change shapes at will. They arrived in these inauspicious births through curses applied by venerable sages. The curses were in retaliation to impious behavior. Instead of a lengthy prison sentence, you could be cursed to take birth as a Rakshasa.
The ogres arrived from Lanka. It is as if they knew what was going on. They timed the strikes perfectly. Right as Vishvamitra was about to succeed, Maricha and Subahu would throw blood and pus onto the fire. They would ruin everything and then leave.
This was a terrible disruption to religious activity. Completely unnecessary, but the demon class never has sufficient justification for their interference. They are wholly against any exercise of devotion to the Almighty, who is their sworn enemy. The demons understand that if real religion, dharma, rises to prominence, then more eyes will notice the sinful activity in others. More observers makes it more difficult to steal, to kill for flesh, to invade on territory that doesn’t belong to you.
This was the strongest kind of opposition to devotion, but Vishvamitra had a last resort. He visited the town of Ayodhya. After exchanging pleasantries with the king, Dasharatha, the sage asked for the king’s eldest son as a bodyguard.
Shri Rama was but a youth at the time, and Dasharatha was completely attached. The king was mortified at the request. A sage was asking for Rama’s assistance in the forest. Rama was supposed to be a pupil in the military arts. How was He supposed to defend against the worst Rakshasas in the world?
Dasharatha trusted his instinct to not deny the request of a brahmana. Vishvamitra brought along Rama’s younger brother, as well. The next time Maricha and Subahu attacked was the last. Rama defended the yajna perfectly. The great sun of the solar dynasty strung His bow without hesitation. The arrow released knocked the villains backward and away from the yajna.
The same Rama continues to protect to this day. Instead of travelling to Ayodhya to request assistance from the king, we can simply sing the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The demons will continue in their interference, but the relief from the Almighty is an undefeated force.
The sage brilliant and austere,
But Rakshasas trying to interefere,
Extinguishing fire from blood thrown,
Vile nature in violation shown.
But then from Ayodhya getting,
Help by Rama there setting.
So that tall and fearless to stand,
Enemies hurled back to their land.