“O Rakshasa, It might be possible for a person to live for a long time after forcibly taking away Shachi Devi, a woman of unmatched beauty and wife of the wielder of the thunderbolt [Indra]. But a person who abuses me shall not be released from death even if they were to drink amrita [nectar which grants immortality].” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 48.24)
जीवेच्चिरं वज्रधरस्य हस्ताच्छचीं प्रधृष्याप्रतिरूपरूपाम्।
न मादृशीं राक्षस दूशयित्वा पीतामृतस्यापि तवास्ति मोक्षः।।
jīvecciraṃ vajradharasya hastācchacīṃ pradhṛṣyāpratirūparūpām।
na mādṛśīṃ rākṣasa dūśayitvā pītāmṛtasyāpi tavāsti mokṣaḥ।।
There is the saying in Sanskrit about using the branches from a tree to observe the moon. Understand one object through another object. The point of reference helps to explain a corresponding concept or item. But since the Supreme Personality of Godhead is beyond the limits, anupama, it is a mistake to rely on limitations.
“First a child is shown the branches of a tree, and then he is shown the moon through the branches. This is called shakha-chandra-nyaya. The idea is that first one must be given a simpler example. Then the more difficult background is explained.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 21.30 Purport)
When a new player emerges in a particular sport, there are comparisons to players from the past. This is in the case of prominence, of achieving new heights and pushing the boundaries of excellence. Sometimes there is a direct comparison in terms of statistical accumulation, which makes the process easier.
If the player shatters the previous records, they will receive more accolades. More commentators will invoke comparisons in order to portray greatness. They wish to back up the claim that this player is the greatest of all-time.
From reading the histories contained in Vedic literature, we find many challengers to the Divine way of living. They have the mindset of the asura, which loosely translates to “atheist” in modern conversation. The idea is that they wish to be the greatest, in a demonstrable way.
The asuras view the suras as their rivals. One way to achieve greatness is to defeat your rivals. In the case of Ravana, there was the ability to handle the leader of the suras, who is known as Indra. According to the thinking of the asuras, if they can conquer the suras, there will be no dispute left. Like the wrestler dubbed the “undisputed champion of the world,” they will be the best.
Everyone must acknowledge the conqueror’s greatness. Everyone must submit to their will. Everyone must show respect, either directly or indirectly. There is no other choice.
Except in the case of Sita Devi. There was defiance from beginning to end. She was not impressed with Ravana’s supposed greatness. She did not view any of his characteristics as auspicious. From his ten heads to his lack of control over the senses, nothing compared to her husband, Shri Rama.
She once remarked that someone might be able to carry away the wife of Indra and get away with it. They think they have succeeded and that no one is there to punish their unlawful act. They might be proud of the achievement and boast about it to anyone who is willing to listen.
Taking away Sita Devi would always be punishable. Ravana would not be able to survive long after stealing that blameless lady, in the cowardly way that he did. Shri Rama would eventually arrive and ruin the party for the Rakshasa leader.
This indicates that Rama is beyond the perceivable limits. He is greater than the greatest. His effulgence is brighter than the sun. His potency, tejas, is beyond any measurable value.
न तद् भासयते सूर्यो
न शशाङ्को न पावकः
यद् गत्वा न निवर्तन्ते
तद् धाम परमं मम
na tad bhāsayate sūryo
na śaśāṅko na pāvakaḥ
yad gatvā na nivartante
tad dhāma paramaṁ mama
“That abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by electricity. One who reaches it never returns to this material world.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.6)
It is wise to be a supporter instead of a challenger. The rival might think they have amassed victories, that no one must be watching as they continue to intimidate and trample others. They feel they will remain in their position of power in perpetuity, that everyone else is powerless.
Rama is watching the entire time. His eyes are everywhere. Not a blade of grass moves without His sanction. Ravana’s days were numbered. His time was dwindling down. He was too foolish to notice, lost in a stupor over his temporary achievements.
The asura uses the limits of this world as a benchmark. They are the records to be broken, the achievements to be surpassed. The Supreme Lord is well beyond any such benchmarks. There is no way to compare against Him. The wise daughter of King Janaka gives the lesson for the challengers to remember.
Wise lesson to give,
That not with accomplishments to live.
Since false impression to show,
For limits only to know.
Since Rama those and more,
Endless arrows in quiver’s store.
Such that Ravana eventually to lose,
Since dreaded path to choose.