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Destroying the Ravana within

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Today is Dusshera also known as Ramvijayotsava, the day of Lord Ramchandra’s historic victory over Ravana, also interpreted as the triumph of the divine over demoniac, of pure good over evil.
Lord Sri Krishna tells in the Bhagavad Gita:

tri-vidham narakasyedam
dvaram nasanam atmanah
kamah krodhas tatha lobhas
tasmad etat trayam tyajet

that three gates lead to hellish conditions, namely, lust, anger, and, greed. Every sane man must leave them because these lead to the degradation of the immortal soul.

Ravana in his character personalized these three anarthas and so from his story, it can be learned how these demoniac tendencies develop within our own hearts. In the second chapter of Bhagavad Gita Krishna tells:

dhyayato visayan pumsah
sangas tesupajayate
sangat sanjayate kamah
kamat krodho ‘bhijayate

krodhad bhavati sammohah
sammohat smrti-vibhramah
smrti-bhramsad buddhi-naso
buddhi-nasat pranasyati

It is a progression of degradation that begins like a small seed within the heart, the seed of the most vicious weed. And if that weed is watered, it will grow into such a hideous and powerful monster of a creeper, that will choke our spiritual prospects and steal from us the precious wealth of life.

yatato hy api kaunteya
purusasya vipascitah
indriyani pramathini
haranti prasabham manah

The senses are so strong and so infectious that they can forcibly carry the mind of a person with discrimination who is endeavoring to control them. Arjuna was a very great personality, the son of Pandu and a dear most friend of Krishna, but he admitted the power of lust, anger, and greed. Arjuna asks Krishna, what is this power that forces a person to commit sinful immoral acts meant for his own destruction. And Krishna replies,

kama esa krodha esa
mahasano maha-papma
viddhy enam iha vairinam

It is lust only Arjuna, which is an all-devouring sinful enemy of this world, the Ravana, which is later transformed to wrath. When the mind becomes influenced (by this enemy of Ravana) it is so difficult to control. Ravana was considered one of the most powerful and deadly enemies in the entire universe. Even the devatas, headed by Indra, were shaking in fear of Ravana. The mere movement of his eyebrows caused them to tremble in fear. He would especially go to the great yogis and rishis as he knew that religious activities and association of saintly people had the greatest power to eliminate him. Ravana knew that to control the world he should extinguish the power that could exterminate him, the power of God.

Ravana was living in Srilanka had he had everything and far more than anyone could possibly need in life. As described in the Ramayan, one day his sister, Surpanakha, came running with a bloody nose and Ravana was outraged. Surpanakha was very expert, for she knew what it took to ignite the fire in the heart of Ravana. She wanted revenge and wanted Ravana to be the instrument for that purpose. So she told Ravana about the most beautiful female form living in all of the creation, mother Sita, living in the forest of Panchvati (Maharashtra), wearing the simple austere clothes of a forest dweller, along with her husband and brother-in-law, Ram and Laxman. She described the beauty of Ravana in such a way that the seed entered into Ravana’s heart. This is exactly what the Bhagavad Gita tells, the progression of downfall.

While contemplating the object of senses, attachment develops. Just by hearing about Sita, Ravana contemplated and contemplated and contemplated and he became attached. Krishna says, from such attachment lust develops. Ravana was victimized, defeated and exploited with lust. He was thinking that he was the king, Maharaj, but the scriptures tell that the real king is one who has controlled his mind and senses. One can conquer the whole world but if one is unable to conquer one’s mind and senses, one will be defeated. Contemplation is the first warning that Krishna gives, when these enemies come in our heart we must divert our attention away from them because we have the free will of what we are going to think about.

So many thoughts, so many ideas, and so many desires may just awaken from our subconsciousness or may be stimulated from our external environment, but we have the choice of what we are going to contemplate. Unless and until we fill our minds with higher thoughts, the mind will certainly contemplate the seeds of our degradation. Ravan could do that, earlier he lived high up in the mountains, fixing his mind on one point without eating, without drinking and without any relationships with others. So he had the power but now as he got the benediction of Lord Bramha, he became proud, he became lax, and he contemplated the beauty of mother Sita.

Now, mother Sita is the goddess of fortune, the goddess of fortune is the eternal consort of the Supreme Lord Narayan, in this case, Lord Sri Ram. If we contemplate on mother Sita in the spirit of being the servant of her servant in her service to Lord Ram, it is the ultimate contemplation in life, bestowing us with perfection, peace and spiritual love. But if we contemplate in the egoistic pursuit of enjoying selfishly for our own purposes, it will lead to havoc, chaos, and destruction. Ravana contemplated, he let lust grow, through his thoughts he watered the seed of lust, and the seed grew into attachment.

Surpanakha told him that how mother Sita is protected by Ram, and under the power of that lust, he became angry and envious of Lord Ram. As far as Sri Ramchandra was concerned he was just a prince who was in no way any threat to him, who was exiled to live in the forest for fourteen years, but now he saw Lord Ram as the barrier between him and mother Sita. So he became angry as fire, envious as a snake, towards Lord Ram for no other reason than he was interfering with the promise of fulfilling his lust. This is Bhagavad Gita’s instruction. While contemplating the objects of senses one develops attachment, from attachment develops lust and when there is an impediment to lust, anger arises. Lord Ram, the all well-wishing best friend of every living entity, became his enemy.

Ravana devised a plan to kidnap mother Sita and approached Maricha. He explained his plan to Maricha. He also told him that even death personified cannot stand in front of Lord Ram. Hearing this Ravana was so disturbed. This is the next stage of Krishna’s explanation, anger, and envy born out of unfulfilled lust that leads to the bewilderment of memory. In fact, Surpanakha told Ravana that Sri Ram himself had killed two of his most formidable brothers, Khara and Dushan, along with Trishira and 14000 highly-trained military troops in a matter of about an hour. He didn’t think about that, Maricha was telling him to stop, but his memory was bewildered. The next stage after bewilderment of memory is the loss of intelligence. Once the intelligence is lost, Ravana fell down in the pool of suffering and bondage. The Ravana of lust makes us deceitful, deceitful to God and ultimately to all the other living entities. Ravana was the son of a brahmana from a very high family of sages, but he became degraded by lust, anger, and greed.

Ravana disguised himself as a harmless sage and came to apprehend mother Sita as Lord Ram and Laxman were chasing after Marichi impersonating as a golden deer. We see in today’s world that promoted by lust and greed even loving friends and family members become deceitful and cheat each other for a little money, for little power and for little prestige to enjoy. Greed creates fear and paranoia. Two principles keep us bounded and attached to this material world, I and mine. Lust specifically pertains to I am the enjoyer and to enjoy more proficiently I need more to call mine. This is greed. We read about Aurangzeb, he killed his brother and imprisoned his father. What to speak of this artificial state of consciousness of envy and deceit towards God, who is the proprietor of everything. Ravana personified these and he stole away mother Sita in the most cowardly way.

Ravana could not hear the advice of Marichi, his loving brother Vibhishan, his chaste wife Mandodari and even Lord Hanumanji to let go mother Sita because his intelligence was gone due to contemplating on the objects of the senses and allowing this enemy of lust, anger, and greed to enter into his heart. This is the power of lust, anger, and greed. We cannot hear from scriptures, friends, sadhus, and best well-wishers. Ravana fell down as instead of becoming the eternal loving servant of the Lord, he became the competitive enemy of the Lord.

And then, there was that great battle. At any time in this battle, what Ravana had to do, was to tell Lord Ram to take mother Sita. He saw his generals killed, his brothers killed, and even his son killed. The vast part of his army was destroyed. Then boarded his own chariot to fight against Lord Ram, and what a battle that was. Lord Ram, being exiled, was on foot, so Indra sent his chariot along with the chariot driver, Matali. Lord Ram graciously accepted the gift and boarded the chariot. Ravana was such an expert fighter and was the personification of lust anger and greed. Lord Ram was playing the part of a human being although being the supreme personality because he wanted to teach the world how to conquer the Ravana within.

Ravana was sending tens and thousands of arrows covering the body of Ram. It appeared that he disappeared in the mass black cloud of arrows, but then he rose like the Sun. Other times Ram covered Ravana’s entire body with arrows. The battle went back and forth, hour after hour after hour. There was no fighting on the field, on both sides of the army everyone just sat or stood practically unblinking watching these two most powerful personality fighting with each other. And it appeared to everyone that neither of them was getting an upper hand over the other.

The battle raged on, Ram took a particular arrow and that arrow simultaneously divided into ten and simultaneously cut off all ten of Ravana’s heads. But then instantly the ten heads grew up. Ram with another arrow expanding into ten removed the ten heads of Ravana, but again the ten heads grew instantly. Sri Ramchandra cut off many hundred heads of Ravana and still, he was fighting with his ten heads intact in the battlefield. Ram turned and expressed his condition that it seems that this battle is going to last forever, as Ravana cannot be killed.

It was then that Vibishan appeared. Vibhishan personifies a faithful devotee. He reminded Ram of a very important secret. He told him that his brother had benediction from Lord Brahma and Shiva that however many times you cut off his arms or head it will grow back. Any art of the body you wound it will grow instantly. There is only one way to kill him. There is a deposit of amrita or nectar within the core of his heart. Lord Ram would have to shoot such an arrow that would drink and suck up all the nectar from his heart and then only can he be defeated.

During his exile, Lord Ram along with mother Sita and Laxman went to the hermitage of sage Agastya. He was a very great sage living near Panchvati. They served him with all humility and offered him all respects, sat at his lotus feet and listened to his vast experience and wisdom and performed very menial services for him. Lord Ram was playing the part of a human being, to set the example that all people who want to understand the truth must follow. Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita, just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth. Ram was the humble servant of his devotee, to explain that being the humble servant of the servant is the only way to conquer the Ravana within. And, when Ram was in the most desperate moments of his life, he was reminded of the prayer imparted to him by sage Agastya called Aditya Hridaya and a special weapon, an arrow empowered by his mercy.

Again, Vibhishan reminded Sri Ramchandra to use the weapon given by sage Agastya and to chant the prayer given by him. Vibhishan here represents the association of devotees, to remind us of what spiritual masters, sages, and scriptures have told us. To refresh our memory because the tendency is to forget, especially when one is attacked by the Ravana of lust, anger, and greed. Without the association of devotees, it is impossible to win this battle against the three enemies. The arrow represents the mercy of great souls.

Lord Sri Ramchandra drew back the arrow which was the mercy of sage Agastya, chanted the mantra, and shot it towards Ravana. The shaft of the arrow was presided by Lord Vayu, the plumes presided over by Agni, the tip of the arrow was presided over by Surya or the Sun and the weight of the arrow was presided over by Mount Mandara and Sumeru. The arrow flew through the air, it was effulgent like the Sun, it made such a sound that the earth trembled and entered right into the core of Ravana’s heart. It sucked all the nectar, by its own powers came out of his heart and returned to Lord Rama’s quiver silently.

Ravana screamed and it was a scream that no man had ever heard before. Blood started vomiting out of his mouth, his limbs trembled, all of his twenty eyes rolled and then he fell from his chariot on to the ground as a mighty mountain is cut down by the thunderbolt of Indra.

This is how lord Ramchandra taught us the only way to conquer the Ravana within. One must chant the mantra because it gives us the power of Vishnu. According to the Kali Santarana Upanishad, in this age of Kali, the most powerful mantra that includes all other mantra is this sixteen word thirty two-syllable mantra:

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

The power of this mantra is it cleans the heart of lust, anger, and greed. Just as the Aditya Hriday manifested the full strength of Lord Vishnu, the holy name of God has all the power and glory of God himself. Lord Ram by his own example took the name from a great saint, Agastya, and chanted the name. But to chant properly we must receive the mercy of great sages, which represents the arrow. He received the arrow of Agastya muni because he heard from him submissively and served him with great sincerity and faithfulness.

These three things combined, the mercy of great sages, the association of devotees and the chanting of the holy names of the Lord, as taught by Lord Ramchandra, can help every one of us to forever kill the Ravana within our heart.

All of us have the experience, every time we control our senses, every time we try to defeat lust, anger, and greed, like heads of Ravana, these appear again. We must go to the heart.

sarva-dharman parityajya
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah

When we surrender to the Lord, he protects us. Lord’s mercy can be accessed through the mercy of his devotees, through the mercy of great sages and through the chanting of the lord’s holy names. It has been sung by the holy scriptures as the only means of conquering the Ravana within.

Wishing you again a very Happy Dusshera!

Jai Shri Ram.

This is a summarised transcription of lecture given by His Holiness @radhanathswami. The complete lecture can be downloaded here:

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