“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)
In this passage, Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama, is chastising the Rakshasa demon Ravana for trying to kidnap her. Ravana was the king of the island city of Lanka, so Sita is referencing the fact that all of the citizens of Ravana’s city will meet with destruction due to his impious deeds. As events would play out, Sita’s words would prove to be true, but we don’t need to focus exclusively on Ravana’s actions to see this principle in action, for recent history shows us the dangers caused by impious leaders.
The 20th century was famous for its two world wars. These wars were described as such because they involved many countries joining together and fighting for a common cause. The geographic locations of the participating countries spanned the globe, thus the wars truly took on a global nature. What resulted was the death of thousands of soldiers, and also the complete destruction of many cities. The second war was more famous. Its protagonists were the leader of Germany, Adolph Hitler, and the emperor of Japan. Hitler is one of the more famous dictators in history, with his name now being synonymous with tyranny, bigotry, and an overall lack of character. Hitler was indeed stupid, harsh, and lustful in his actions, and thus his countrymen had to suffer as a result. Germany was utterly destroyed during World War II, and the country required a committed effort from the United States, through the Marshall Plan, to rebuild it. The United States still has a military presence in Germany to this day.
Germany’s main ally was Japan. World War II had already started without the United States participating. Due to its geographic location, America was isolated from the war’s hotspots of Europe and Asia. This all changed on December 7, 1941, when Japan attacked an American naval base in Pearl Harbor. This one act brought America into the war, and it would prove to be costly for Japan. The United States committed thousands of troops to the war effort, and they employed all the military weapons that were common at the time, including guns, tanks, and fighter jets. The U.S. government was primarily concerned with winning, so they knew that conventional fighting wouldn’t guarantee an immediate victory. After President Roosevelt died in office, Harry Truman took over the reins and decided to drop two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The effects were devastating and it immediately led to Japan’s surrender.
The decision to drop the two bombs has been the subject of much controversy ever since. Many view it as an extreme decision, something outside the rules of warfare. In any military engagement, there are certain rules and regulations that the parties adhere to. Yet at the end of the day, war is war, meaning it is gruesome in nature, with men taking arms for the express purpose of killing one another. People value their own lives after all, and also those of their countrymen, so they are bound to look for ways to achieve victory more quickly and in a decisive manner. Harry Truman certainly was responsible for deciding to drop the bombs, but a greater fault lay with the government of Japan. Like Germany, Japan had a leader who was sinful, stupid, and acted against the rules of propriety. He had no justification for bombing the United States, and for this impious act, thousands of his citizens were killed in an instant. The effects of the bombs were devastating on the Japanese people, and to this day, the country is still not allowed to have any type of military.
World War II was only one example out of hundreds that show what can happen when a country has a bad leader. Most of the governments of the world today are led by atheists, or people who aren’t God conscious. They take the body to be the beginning and end of everything, so they gear their policies around satisfying the demands of the body. To this end, they gladly sanction the practices of animal slaughter, and even abortion, to meet the dietary and sexual desires of the citizens. The Vedas tell us, however, that the first duty of a king is to protect innocent life, especially those of cows.
The cow is considered to be a mother since it freely provides milk to the rest of society. Even meat eaters make use out of milk products, such as butter and cheese, so there is really no justifiable reason to kill a cow. Today’s situation is so bad that millions of cows are gathered in an organized way and sent to slaughterhouses. A government leader is responsible for stopping this practice, or at the very least, raising objections to it. Yet we see that most don’t have any problem with slaughterhouses or abortion. If innocent life is not protected, how can a society claim to be civilized?
The Vedas tell us that the other primary duty of a government leader is to imbibe God consciousness in the citizens. This makes sense because realizing God is the actual purpose of human life. Sense gratification is reserved for the lower species which aren’t intelligent enough to conceive of a creator. A fish doesn’t even know that it is wet, nor does it know when to stop eating, so it surely can’t understand that it is destined to die some day. Human beings have the ability to not only understand mortality, but to take steps to stop it. How does one stop death? Lord Krishna gives us the answer in the Bhagavad-gita.
“The wise, engaged in devotional service, take refuge in the Lord, and free themselves from the cycle of birth and death by renouncing the fruits of action in the material world. In this way they can attain that state beyond all miseries.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.51)
We can’t avoid dying in our present body, but we can make sure that we never take birth again. The soul is eternal, but our material bodies are not. Material bodies are compared to clothing; they are put on at some time, and then given up later on. The soul, which forms the basis of identity, remains intact. A person who thinks of Krishna, or God, at the time of death, never has to take birth again, which also means that they will never die again.
It is the responsibility of a king or government leader to make sure that their citizens are taking steps to liberate themselves from the cycle of birth and death. Protecting innocent life is the first step in the process. If we are allowed to kill the innocent, we surely will have to suffer in the afterlife. Just as a good king helps people to make spiritual advancement, a poor leader takes people further and further away from the aim of life. This was the case with Ravana, a Rakshasa demon who terrorized the people of the earth many thousands of years ago.
Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as stated in the Vedas. Essentially, Krishna is God, but the title of “Supreme Personality of Godhead” more accurately describes Him. God is someone that most of us know exists, but we’re not really too sure of anything beyond that. What does He look like? What does He teach? What are His names? The Vedas try to answer these questions by describing His names, qualities, forms, and pastimes. By stating that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Vedas tell us that Krishna is a person, the most powerful of all, and the source of all incarnations. Godhead means that God can take unlimited numbers of personal expansions. A personal expansion is equal to God in potency. For example, Lord Krishna’s primary personal expansion is that of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu then descends to earth in various forms known as avataras to perform pastimes. Though the names and activities may be different, all of these forms, technically known as vishnu-tattva, can be taken as God, .
One such incarnation of Lord Vishnu was Lord Rama, a handsome and pious kshatriya prince who appeared on earth during Ravana’s time. In fact, Rama’s appearance was the direct result of the petition of the demigods, who were cowering in fear of Ravana. The demon had procured several boons that granted him immunity in battle from celestials, animals, and all other living entities, except human beings. Lord Vishnu thus appeared in the form of a human being specifically to kill Ravana and alleviate the suffering of the world.
Rama’s wife was Sita Devi, the princess of Videha. She was extremely beautiful and pious. Her glories were further enhanced by her pure devotion to Lord Rama. They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, meaning that what one person finds beautiful, another person may not. This was not the case with Sita, for she was universally appreciated. There is no woman on this earth more beautiful than one who is devoted in thought, word, and deed to God. In this way, Sita possessed both inner and outer beauty. Ravana was the king of Lanka, and had hundreds of beautiful queens. As the leader of the people, he set the example to follow. Spending all his time eating meat, drinking wine, and cavorting with his many wives, Ravana wasn’t satisfied. He became lusty after Sita, and was dead set on doing whatever it would take to have her as his wife. It was due to this lust that Sita described Ravana as ajita-indriyah, meaning one who has not conquered the senses.
Lord Rama was extremely powerful and unbeatable in battle, so there was no chance for Ravana to steal Sita away while in Rama’s presence. To accomplish his desires, the demon created a diversion whereby Rama and His younger brother, Lakshmana, were lured away from the group’s camp in the forest of Dandaka. Ravana then appeared before Sita in the guise of a brahmana, or pious mendicant. Sita received him nicely, not realizing it was Ravana. The demon tried his best to win Sita over peacefully, but she was having none of it. Finally, Ravana revealed himself and demanded that Sita come with him. Sita Devi sternly rebuked him and in the above referenced quote, she warns him that his impious act will lead to the destruction of his city.
Sure enough, her words would hold true. Ravana would kidnap Sita, forcing Rama and His army of Vanaras, led by Hanuman, to march to Lanka and battle the Rakshasas. The city of Lanka was destroyed, all the great Rakshasas killed, including Ravana, and Rama emerged victorious. The people of the city of Lanka surely were worthy of pity, for their lives were ruined due to the actions of their leader. More than anything else, Ravana made the mistake of offending God and His devotee, Sita. Leaders of society should not cause enmity with the saintly class of men. The devotees are the best welfare workers; they love God and try to spread His glories to others in a peaceful manner. The Rakshasas were addicted to their sinful way of life, thus death was a very painful experience for them. In a similar manner, death can be very painful to us if we keep an attachment to impious activities.
Sita Devi was very intelligent. She knew Rama’s greatness and His dedication to His bhaktas. She knew that Ravana didn’t stand a chance if he were to kidnap her. She tried her best to warn the demon, but he wouldn’t listen. She, being a saintly person, felt pity for Ravana’s associates since they were destined to die due to Ravana’s actions. The lesson we can learn is that it is better to associate with Lord Rama’s associates, the devotees, than to be with Ravana’s associates, the Rakshasas. The demons meet with doom, while the devotees are always protected. In this age, the only way to have true peace in society is to associate with God by regularly chanting His holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.