“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।।
“Why didn’t someone ask for the boon of defeating Ravana? I get it that we shouldn’t be after material rewards. We should focus on something superior. It is like asking to be left-back in high school for an extra year. We might have some fun, but it is only delaying the inevitable. Eventually, we will have to leave and enter the real world.
“That is a place with little shelter. Dog eat dog, as far as competition. You better find a job or you are in trouble. Even then, some terrible leader might decide to one day put your company out of business. It has happened before. A crooked federal prosecutor once destroyed a century-old multi-national corporation through a false indictment. That penalty was later overturned by the highest court in the land, but the damage was already done. Everyone lost their job.
“Ravana, the king of ogres, rose to power on the strength of boons provided by Lord Brahma, the creator. In other words, the achievement was not of his own doing. The same can be said of the other Rakshasas, those of Ravana’s ilk living in Lanka.
“One such Rakshasa was Maricha. He was known for regularly attacking the yajna of Vishvamitra. An overseas travel mission, intended to spoil the activities in dharma of an innocent man. Who would stoop so low? Who could be so wicked in character as to interfere with saintly priests living hundreds of miles away?
“Never mind the motive for now. We know the source of the strength, and it was the demigods. Why did not other individuals rise to the occasion and ask for similar powers? Why were not others standing in line asking for retaliatory strength, in order to defend the pious and maintain order in the world?”
The situation is easier to understand if we take a simpler example. Suppose someone is looking for a job. They see an opening at a company, on their website. They apply for the position, and during the interview process they make it known how eager they are to start and do well.
“I promise you, I will be the best employee here. You will not regret the decision. I can step up to the plate. I can withstand the pressure. Look at my track record. I stay with my employers for a long time. I am looking to be in this for an extended period.”
Suppose that the employer agrees. They have thus filled the position. A week later, someone else applies. They are just as eager. They are just as skilled. They make a heartfelt plea to the employer, but to no avail. The reason for the denial is that there is nothing open. It was first-come, first-serve.
In the same way, if Ravana already received the boon of being immune from every type of creature except human being, what can anyone else do? Can they ask to be able to defeat Ravana in battle? If they are not within the human category, then Brahma sure as well cannot nullify his other boons. He cannot go back on his word.
Another factor to consider is time. Known as kala in Sanskrit, the full manifestation, where it is clearly evident, is at the moment of death. Thus time and death are synonymous in Sanskrit. Kala has yet to meet defeat. It began its onslaught long ago and it continues to this day.
Whatever boons someone receives from Brahma or other empowered demigods remain within the jurisdiction of the material world. Again and again the host of beings arrive, remain for some time, and then get annihilated.
भूत-ग्रामः स एवायं
भूत्वा भूत्वा प्रलीयते
रात्र्य्-आगमे ऽवशः पार्थ
bhūta-grāmaḥ sa evāyaṁ
bhūtvā bhūtvā pralīyate
rātry-āgame ‘vaśaḥ pārtha
“Again and again the day comes, and this host of beings is active; and again the night falls, O Partha, and they are helplessly dissolved.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.19)
Despite his protections, Ravana was still vulnerable to time. His eventual defeat at the hands of the avatara known as Rama was simply a special manifestation of time. It is one of the most celebrated instances due to the previous petition by the demigods to have Vishnu intervene.
This is the smarter route to take. Ask for the protection of God the person, who is time itself. When He acts in a personal way, everyone involved benefits greatly. Ravana saw God directly at the time of death. The demigods knew they had made the correct decision. The devotees in Ayodhya and elsewhere were pleased to have had direct contact with the one who gives transcendental pleasure to others. This is the true meaning of an existence.
No matter how much to deserve.
In this way the demigod to grant,
To nullify previously can’t.
Better when on Rama to rely,
Than for temporary stature to try.
Since eventually vulnerable to time,
Different with Bhagavan to find.