“The difference between the son of Dasharatha and yourself is like the difference between gold and a base metal, sandalwood water and mud, and an elephant and a cat in the forest.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 47.46)
यदन्तरं काञ्चनसीसलोहयोर्यदन्तरं चन्दनवारिपङ्कयोः।
यदन्तरं हस्तिबिडालयोर्वने तदन्तरं दाशरथेस्तवैव च।।
yadantaraṃ kāñcanasīsalohayoryadantaraṃ candanavāripaṅkayoḥ।
yadantaraṃ hastibiḍālayorvane tadantaraṃ dāśarathestavaiva ca।।
Everything comes from God, and so in that sense there is no such distinction as spiritual and material. There is always some purpose, as there are no blemishes in the perfect one, the Supreme Divine Being. Whatever He has done has a benefit in some way or another, though it requires advancement in the spiritual science to be able to view the world with such a lens.
Despite every condition, object, action, and living entity sharing a kind of oneness in the link to the Divine, there are still distinctions. For instance, the tiger is not the same as a dog. The train to Chicago is different from the train to New York. A man is not a woman, and vice versa, no matter how much modern “science” gets applied.
From the Vedic point of view there is the most basic distinction of matter and spirit. Prakriti and purusha. Maya and Brahman. Within the spiritual side, there is a difference between individual spirit and Supreme Spirit, jivatma and Paramatma. This simultaneous oneness and difference is the true depiction of the situation, a hallmark of the philosophy of the Vaishnavas, who worship the personal God.
To no avail, the challengers of God try their best to disprove the truth, tattva. This contentious spirit has existed before anyone can remember; hence the perennial conflict between the suras and the asuras, or better known as the good guys against the bad guys.
One of the strongest bad guys in history is Ravana, who is described in detail in the Ramayana poem of Maharishi Valmiki. That wicked character tried his best to woo the goddess of fortune, to win her affection, not understanding that she is eternally the consort of Narayana. This is one manifestation of the personal God, and in Ravana’s time the goddess of fortune was in the vision of Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka.
To help Ravana understand his subordinate position, Sita one time made several comparisons between her husband and the king of Lanka. Shri Rama was the best of the best, and Ravana was not even close. There are no words to fully appreciate the poetic beauty of the verbal takedown.
1. Gold and a base metal
There is a reason for the term “gold standard.” This is the topmost mineral, used as currency since before anyone can remember. No matter the time or place, the language spoken, the conditions of the world, the foundation of the local economic system, gold will always be in demand.
It glitters. It sparkles. Those who possess it are known to be in wealth. Those who don’t have it hope to one day cure the deficiency. The value of paper money fluctuates based on the political climate, the manipulation of speculators, or world events, but gold will always remain steady in significance.
Sita Devi compares Rama to gold and Ravana to a base metal. In other words, Ravana does not have much value. He can try to dress up his condition, with false coverings and deflection in attention, but at the foundation is something different. Ravana is a bad person, a Rakshasa in behavior and mentality, and so there is no measuring up to the prince of Ayodhya.
2. Sandalwood water and mud
A fragrant and effective substance to apply to the body, sandalwood water is cooling and healing. In temples in India, there is a specific period during the year when sandalwood paste is applied to the deities. This is thought to have a cooling effect, to give relief from the extreme heat of summer.
Ordinary mud is something entirely different. Those who are covered in mud are considered to be unclean. Children get chastised by their parents after playing in the mud. They have to take a shower to clean themselves. The clothes have to be washed to remove the stains.
3. An elephant and a cat in the forest
A cat in the forest cannot do much. It will wander here and there, but no one is really afraid of it. It won’t command much respect. People will not alter their movements due to the presence of the cat. Ravana was like the cat, though he thought himself to be much bigger.
Shri Rama is like the elephant. It is large and makes an impact through something as basic as walking. Others can make use of the elephant for their benefit. The elephant carries respect based on who it is.
Comparing every category, it is better to be associated with Shri Rama than Ravana. The leader of Lanka could not have the goddess of fortune. Physical force cannot win over a person’s heart. In the same way, the devotee will always give their steady allegiance to Sita and Rama, not being trapped by the temptations of the illusory energy of maya.
The wicked leaders of the world might offer cash incentives and free food in order to take a dangerous, experimental injection, but no incentive can work on the person whose consciousness is fixed on the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, who is always served by the beautiful and wise goddess of fortune.
Like poison to take,
With proposal to make.
That devotee with asura to side,
And in wrong way to reside.
Rama better in every way,
Authority of Sita to say.
Ravana and ilk with value some,
But compared to Almighty none.
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