“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।।
“From reading the Ramayana, I am fascinated by the story of the Rakshasas. These are essentially the bad guys. Spirit souls at the core, mind you. Everyone should be looked upon equally in that light; the designation of species is based only on the outside covering.
ब्राह्मणे गवि हस्तिनि
शुनि चैव श्व-पाके च
brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śva-pāke ca
“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)
“We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but here the distinctions have to be made due to the behavior. The Rakshasas are wicked in intent. They do not leave well enough alone. They are something like man-eating ogres.
“What I find interesting is that they weren’t originally that way. Such births were not accidental. In the case of Maricha, he was directly cursed. Agastya Rishi does not like to be harassed. Such saintly people dedicate their entire lives to worshiping the Almighty. There is no reason for someone to interfere. Sometimes they pay dearly for it.
“I guess I am comparing to the modern day. If you told someone that they would get the ability to change shapes at will, they would probably love it. If they knew that they could attack others undetected, seeing through the dark of night, I think they would take advantage. They would view it as a blessing, not a curse.”
The key is to think long-term. Focus on the larger picture. In our childhood, we think that the happenings within school are everything. What the teacher says. The gossip about the child who sits in the back of the classroom. Who will be attending the big dance at the end of the year? Will the school football team finish first in its division?
Years later, when the same students have become parents of their own, they barely recall any of those issues. The old setting turns trivial rather quickly. If I knew then what I know now, I would have behaved differently. The saints of the Vedic tradition are fully aware of the transition. They know how I will think towards the end of life, long before I reach that stage.
When reviewing the cycle of birth and death, the rational person indeed views birth as a Rakshasa as a curse. Because the sinful behavior associated with that form must manifest. We may not see the results immediately, but they are guaranteed to arrive.
The optimistic outlook essentially sees an opportunity to lie, cheat and steal with impunity. The truth is that there is never such license. Maricha learned this the hard way. He and his friends were accustomed to attacking Vishvamitra Muni in the forest. They would intentionally disrupt a yajna, taking great pleasure in spoiling the dedicated efforts in dharma of the other side.
Maricha should have known that his form was a curse, that he was previously in a similar situation with Agastya Rishi. An aspect of the curse is forgetfulness. Making the same mistake twice. Ignoring the lessons from history. Maricha continued in his sinful ways, until one day a stronger force was on the other side.
This was the embodiment of dharma. Shri Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, stood guard at Vishvamitra’s yajna. Though only a youth at the time, though supposedly the pupil learning from the teacher, Rama was ready to defend.
He did just that, successfully thwarting the attack of the proud Maricha. The Rakshasa later recounted the story as a warning to Ravana, the king of ogres in Lanka. The supposed blessing of the Rakshasa form was no match for the Supreme Lord, whose many faces include all-devouring time.
The human birth is the most auspicious form due to the ability to connect with Rama, to remember Him, to serve Him, and to remain conscious of Him up until the time of death. This is superior to cheating others, to intruding areas undetected, to enjoying eating and sleeping in excess, and being falsely proud over temporary achievements.
Birth as curse considered,
Since difficult to be delivered.
In sinful life staying,
Illusion strongly swaying.
Even if previously without defeat,
Changed when Shri Rama to meet.
Like Maricha the hard way found,
By arrow learned lesson sound.