Five Things Ravana Had Going For Him

[Sita-Rama]“O Ravana, inevitably all of the Rakshasas will be completely destroyed, for they have a person like you, who is stupid, lustful, and unable to control his senses, for their king.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 48.22)

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अवश्यं विनशिष्यन्ति सर्वे रावण राक्षसाः|
येषां त्वं कर्कशो राजा दुर्बुद्धिरजितेन्द्रियः||

avaśyaṃ vinaśiṣyanti sarve rāvaṇa rākṣasāḥ|
yeṣāṃ tvaṃ karkaśo rājā durbuddhirajitendriyaḥ||

In any objective assessment, utilizing a lens from the modern day, Ravana would be the envy of the world, if not the entire universe. A person today is struggling to make ends meet. They work long hours for little pay. They witness egregious overreach and blatant corruption from the people in power.

They are essentially helpless to the entire situation. If they only had more wealth. If there was only more enjoyment available, in a manner to dull the pain. If only there was no longer a worry about what to eat, how much is available, and how to pay for everything.

Ravana, the king of Lanka from ancient times, had these accounted for. He did not have to think twice in any of these areas. That which was in his possession would seemingly remove all of the problems from a person’s life.

1. Gold

The city in which Ravana lived had gold everywhere. It was in such abundance that the buildings were made out of that precious commodity. That leader had the original golden arches.

काञ्चनानि च चित्राणि तोरणानि च रक्षसाम्।
लङ्कामुद्योतयामासुः सर्वतः समलङ्कृताम्।।

kāñcanāni ca citrāṇi toraṇāni ca rakṣasām।
laṅkāmudyotayāmāsuḥ sarvataḥ samalaṅkṛtām।।

“And wonderful golden archways belonging to the Rakshasas everywhere illuminated the well-decorated city of Lanka.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.54)

[gold]Shri Hanuman travelled there one time and observed the situation. His eyewitness accounts are found in the Ramayana of Valmiki. Even that great emissary to the Vanara kingdom was impressed by the opulence of gold and jewels found within Lanka.

2. Wine

Some jurisdictions today do not allow for the sale of beer and liquor in the same establishment. This is to give the pretense of responsible oversight. In truth, the liquor store might be situated right next to the place that sells beer. No one is really deterred by the boundaries created.

Imagine if you had a never-ending supply of your adult beverage of choice. Imagine if you could consume to your heart’s content, without anyone interfering. No one would judge you, either, since the standard is set by the leader of the community, who is always intoxicated.

यद्यदाचरति श्रेष्ठस्तत्तदेवेतरो जनः ।
स यत्प्रमाणं कुरुते लोकस्तदनुवर्तते ॥

yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas
tat tad evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute
lokas tad anuvartate

“Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.21)

Ravana had this going for him. Think of it like a never-ending party. From morning until night. Whenever you want it, you can get it. Temperance was not a consideration.

3. Women

The ten-headed one, of a grim visage, somehow had the most beautiful queens living in his palace. The chaste and devoted Mandodari was the leader, but there were also many others. The same Hanuman witnessed their enjoyment, by accident, after searching through the palaces for a missing princess.

4. Animal flesh

To round out the scene of total enjoyment, there was plenty of animal flesh available in Lanka. Sort of like the restaurants today that come to your table with a giant slab of meat, asking the patrons to pick out which section to cut, there was no shortage for Ravana. One vice feeding the other, intoxication and meat-eating combining to create a delight for the senses, which were always on edge.

5. Power

Ravana was able to live in such a situation due to boons previously received. You could say that he was blessed. He was fortunate. He was living a situation unique to the history of the world. He literally had everything; at least in terms of the gaps people are typically desperate to fill.

The main question is, did all of this make any difference on his disposition? Was he happy? Was he content? Was he at peace? Could he remain satisfied living within that luxury?

Sita Devi, the wife of Shri Rama, gives the best judgment on the situation. She describes Ravana as ajitendriyah. This is two Sanskrit words combined, with a negation added to the beginning. Jita and indriya refer to conquering and the senses, respectively.

Jitendriyah is a compliment. A person who has conquered their senses has done something truly remarkable. It is not easy. The senses are always dragging us in this direction and that. The mind contemplates the objects of the senses, and so the mind can turn into something like a chariot [manoratha].

Ajitendriyah is the negation of this concept. Ravana was conquered by his senses. He was defeated. He was a loser. He really had nothing going for him, if you can believe that. Since he was leading others, this defect would prove to be disastrous for the entire community.

Studying his situation should have the immediate impact of realignment in priorities. Maybe wealth and enjoyment are not everything. If I will be miserable in that situation, should that be my focus moving forward? It is said that Kali Yuga personified lives in a place where there is gold, as there are accompanying negative conditions.

पुनश् च याचमानाय
जात-रूपम् अदात् प्रभुः
ततो ऽनृतं मदं कामं
रजो वैरं च पञ्चमम्

punaś ca yācamānāya
jāta-rūpam adāt prabhuḥ
tato ‘nṛtaṁ madaṁ kāmaṁ
rajo vairaṁ ca pañcamam

“The personality of Kali asked for something more, and because of his begging, the King gave him permission to live where there is gold because wherever there is gold there is also falsity, intoxication, lust, envy and enmity.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.17.39)

[Sita-Rama]Ravana received the ajitendriyah classification directly. He was insulted to his face by someone who had conquered their senses. They were not allured by that which was in his possession. Though he had the power to defeat kings, he could not sway Sita Devi away from her love and affection for Shri Rama, who is the king of the universe.

In Closing:

Original golden arches placed,
Never shortage of wine faced.

Meat as much as could consume,
Enjoyment at any time to assume.

But Ravana never satisfied in condition,
Ajitendriyah a perilous position.

Never Sita Devi could sway,
Who always with Rama to stay.

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