“Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, are cast by Me into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.19)
तान् अहं द्विषतः क्रूरान्
क्षिपाम्य् अजस्रम् अशुभान्
आसुरीष्व् एव योनिषु
tān ahaṁ dviṣataḥ krūrān
kṣipāmy ajasram aśubhān
āsurīṣv eva yoniṣu
Imagine the situation where we are in a position of authority, overseeing a specific area, safeguarding and protecting. We are on the side of the innocent. We follow righteousness, to the best extent possible. We not only monitor, but we also hand out punishment, on occasion.
Of course the punishment only applies to those who break the rules. Those who violate the rights of others. Those who take advantage of the innocent and law-abiding. Those who prefer to lie, cheat, and steal to get ahead, to get their way, to fulfill their long and short-term desires.
In one particular instance, we have apprehended a culprit. They did something really bad. Their deed is unspeakable; it is not something to be discussed in an informal gathering of friends and family. We are expected to follow through on our role. We have to find a suitable punishment.
Time really is not a barrier. The range of applicability for punishment can be thousands of years. This is with knowledge of the eternal nature of the soul. This means that the only restriction, if we want to call it that, is lack of lethal force.
We cannot apply the death penalty. Everything else is fair game. Working within these parameters, what is the best way to punish? What will appropriately fit the crime? Now is the proper season, when using the comparison made by Shri Rama to describe the ghastly nature of the consequences to horrible deeds.
अवश्यं लभते जन्तुः फलं पापस्य कर्मणः।
घोरं पर्यागते काले द्रुमाः पुष्पमिवार्तवम्।।
avaśyaṃ labhate jantuḥ phalaṃ pāpasya karmaṇaḥ।
ghoraṃ paryāgate kāle drumāḥ puṣpamivārtavam।।
“Just as a tree starts to blossom during the proper season, so the doer of sinful deeds inevitably reaps the horrible fruit of their actions at the appropriate time.” (Lord Rama speaking to Khara, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 29.8)
Vedic literature provides some assistance in this regard. There have been people on the receiving end of such oversight. One punishment we find is birth in the Rakshasa species. The culprit gets cursed to assume the form of a man-eating ogre, who follows impious deeds by nature.
Just how bad are the Rakshasas? Why is such a birth on the inauspicious side? How can there be punishment if there is still the freedom to roam the earth, to do as one pleases? Why would a wise person settle upon such a punishment?
Birth as a Rakshasa is a punishment when considering the purpose of life within the material world. The ultimate objective is getting out. Moksha. Mukti. Release from the cycle of death. No more taking birth in the land of illusion, suffering the various miseries.
Moving closer towards the goal is progress. Moving further away is regression. To really punish someone is to take them further away from the ultimate objective. Birth as a Rakshasa is thus a suitable punishment, since no wise person would be proud of a life based on killing the innocent and eating their flesh.
Maricha was one such Rakshasa. He supposedly had the boons from the creator, Lord Brahma, which included substantial power and the ability to change shape at will. Maricha used to attack without warning, but at an intentional time. He wanted to disrupt the sacrifices of the sages in the forest of Dandaka.
जन्म कर्म च मे दिव्यम्
एवं यो वेत्ति तत्त्वतः
त्यक्त्वा देहं पुनर् जन्म
नैति माम् एति सो ऽर्जुन
janma karma ca me divyam
evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
naiti mām eti so ‘rjuna
“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.9)
Despite the curse of living as a Rakshasa, there was an amazing boon on the other side. Since Maricha was attacking the venerable Vishvamitra Muni, there happened to be Rama standing by, in a posture providing defense. Rama is the ultimate objective. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One who knows the transcendental nature to His appearance and activities does not take birth again.
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।।
“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)
Maricha attacked, but Rama was not afraid. Rama quickly raised His bow. He was ready to defend the ashrama. Maricha would not be successful this time. In this way, we see that any circumstance can be turned around. The worst possible living conditions can become auspicious with the association of Shri Rama, who is the defender of the devotees.
Of devotees a defender,
Humbling the pretender.
Like Maricha attacking that place,
With boons and of horrible face.
At night in ashrama to land,
But Rama with bow in hand.
Without warning he’s there,
But Supreme always aware.
Categories: maricha describing rama