“Your sinful act of coming to the forest and taking me away from the side of my husband will not result in future happiness for you.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 56.13)
We often hear the phrase, “cheaters never win.” This is certainly true in the long run, but in the short term, we see that cheaters and thieves certainly do get away with transgressing laws. Some of them rise to great fame through underhanded methods. This doesn’t mean that they completely get away with their sinful actions, for cheaters end up paying big time in the end. The same principle holds true for aspiring transcendentalists. There is no quick and easy path to God; we have to put in great time and effort to achieve success. If we try to associate with God or one of His devotees while remaining committed to sinful life, we will surely meet with trouble.
There are countless examples of people who got away with committing crimes but then later on suffered the consequences. The famous football player, O.J. Simpson, is an example of this. Accused of murdering his ex-wife and her boyfriend, Simpson tried to flee the country and escape a trial. After a high-profile, high-speed chase with the police, Simpson eventually turned himself into authorities and faced a trial which was followed by millions on television. To the average observer, the evidence seemed overwhelmingly in favor of Simpson’s conviction on the charges of murder. Nevertheless, with the help of an all-star legal team, Simpson was acquitted of the charges. His defenders rejoiced, but many across the country were flabbergasted, including the friends and family of those who were killed. It seemed that Simpson had gotten away with murder.
As time went on, however, Simpson’s true colors would show. Instead of staying out of the public eye and living a peaceful life, Simpson took to some bizarre behavior. He wrote a book titled, If I Did It, where he pondered the question of how he would have gone about committing the murders had he actually been the culprit. The book was cancelled shortly after its release. Simpson couldn’t stay out of trouble, however, as he was later arrested for breaking into a hotel room and stealing memorabilia which he claimed others had stolen from him. Simpson eventually was convicted on the charges brought against him and forced to go to jail.
“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)
These situations occur all the time on a lower scale. The forces of nature delude us into thinking that just because no one is looking, we can get away with committing crimes. For the serial cheaters and serious law breakers, the consequences to their actions are sure to bear fruit. There is another famous saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” All of our actions have consequences. If we want to achieve something, we have to work hard for it. There are no short-cuts. If we try to cheat our way to success, we will eventually suffer the consequences. For example, students in grade school or high school may cheat on their exams and even get good grades. But later on in life, there will come a point where they won’t have the opportunity to cheat. The things they should have learned in school will then be forced upon them. When this time comes, there will be no one around to help the cheaters. In America, there are some who actually graduate high school without knowing how to read. Obviously for these situations to occur, there must be some serious cheating that goes on, either by the student or the administrators of the school.
The Vedas tell us that the material world is governed by a force called maya. She is described as an illusory force; she fools us into thinking that we can cheat nature. We are all susceptible to maya’s influence, and if we don’t learn how to control our desires, she can lead us astray. This was the case with the Rakshasa demon Ravana many thousands of years ago. Ravana was born as the son of a brahmana, but he had the qualities of a Rakshasa. Brahmanas are the priestly class of men, so named because they know Brahman, or the all pervading impersonal energy of the Lord. Since a brahmana is required to know Brahman, it stands to reason that simply taking birth from a brahmana father doesn’t automatically grant brahminical status.
Though Ravana had a pious father, he himself was deluded by maya. He was a gross materialist who viewed satisfying the senses as his only business in life. Trying to meet the demands of the senses is not anything out of the ordinary, but there are different ways to go about it. The Vedas provide the system of varnashrama-dharma, where one is allowed to live a life of regulated sense gratification, all with the aim of advancing spiritually. There is another path, however, known as adharma, or irreligion. This was the path taken by Ravana. He certainly performed great austerities and worshiped the devatas, but this worship was performed in the mode of ignorance. He had no desire to improve the future fortunes of his soul; he was only worried about the demands of his body. He used his acquired powers to harass the saintly class of men.
Lord Krishna, or God, is the original proprietor of everything. Since He created the universe, it stands to reason that He is the rightful owner of everything. The Lord is very kind to us though, so He allows us to borrow His property while we perform our activities on earth. Those who act with this knowledge have no desire to encroach on others’ property or to harass other innocent living entities. Sadly, Ravana lacked this knowledge. He wanted to possess all the wealth in the world, and he didn’t care how he got it. The ends justified the means as far as he was concerned.
In the early stages of Ravana’s life, it appeared that cheating was paying off. He and his Rakshasa associates would regularly harass the peaceful brahmanas residing in the forests. These sages weren’t harming anyone; they had taken to forest life since it was quiet and peaceful. By harassing these exalted personalities, Ravana showed just how vile he was. He had no regard for innocent human life. Nevertheless, the demon amassed great wealth, and he ruled over an opulent kingdom in Lanka. He had every material object at his disposal. He regularly drank wine, ate meat, and had sex with a multitude of partners. He was living in his own version of sin city.
As mentioned before, cheaters never win, and Ravana would find this out the hard way. Though he had ample opportunities for sex with his hundreds of beautiful wives, Ravana became infatuated with one woman in particular: Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama. In today’s society, men and women are allowed to freely intermingle. Due to the natural psychological make-ups of the two genders, men and women have different ways they go about seeking a mate. They also find different qualities appealing and attractive. Generally speaking, if a man is interested in a particular woman and he finds out that she is either married or in a relationship, he immediately runs the other way. Men tend to prefer women who are completely devoted to them and don’t harbor feelings for other men.
This was not the case with Ravana. He became infatuated by Sita simply from hearing of her beauty. At the time, Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, had incarnated on earth in human form as Lord Rama. His wife was Sita Devi, an incarnation of the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi. The couple was roaming the forests of India with Rama’s younger brother, Lakshmana. Ravana came to the group’s camp in Dandaka, set up a diversion, and then kidnapped Sita. Taking her back to his island kingdom of Lanka, Ravana tried his best to win her over, but Sita would not budge. She was wholly committed to the lotus feet of Shri Rama.
In the above referenced statement, Sita is informing Ravana that his sinful act of stealing another’s wife would never lead to his felicity. He would be forced to suffer the consequences. Her words would indeed prove true as Rama would eventually march to Lanka, kill Ravana in battle, and rescue her. All of Ravana’s sins caught up to him. What turned out to be the tipping point was his sinful desire to enjoy God’s wife.
Krishna, or God, represents the energetic and His pure devotees are His energy. The energy works at the pleasure of the energetic, meaning the pure devotees always act to please the Supreme Lord. Not only do the devotees enjoy pleasing God, but the Supreme Lord enjoys associating with them through various rasas, or transcendental humors.
For us conditioned living entities, association with God and His devotees can come about easily, provided that we remain on the virtuous path. Ravana tried to steal God’s wife and paid dearly for it. By the same token, we cannot achieve transcendental perfection through underhanded methods. If we try to approach the Supreme Lord or one of His devotees while remaining committed to sinful life, we will never make progress. In order to associate with God, we have to sincerely change our desires from all things material, to all things spiritual.
In this age, the easiest way to remain in contact with the spiritual energy is to constantly chant the holy names of God, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. At the same time, we should abstain from the four pillars of sinful life: meat eating, gambling, illicit sex, and intoxication. The idea is to always think about God and always be working for His satisfaction. We don’t need to give up all our activities; we just need to spiritualize them. Chanting Hare Krishna wherever we are is a great way to purify any activity. By using the fruits of our labor to meet our spiritual demands, we can slowly become purified.
“Those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form-to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.22)
God is not mean. If we sincerely desire His association, He will gladly grant it to us. Simply abiding by rules and regulations is not enough; the goal is to foster a deep attachment for the lotus feet of the Lord. Seeing how difficult spiritual life can be, many of us choose to put it off until later on. “Let me earn some money now and I’ll take to religion when I get older.” Yet if we remain servants of maya throughout our lifetime, there is no guarantee that we will think of God at the time of death. Even if we take up a little devotional service immediately, we can make tremendous strides.
Let us take up the sublime engagement of devotional service today. If we remain on the righteous path, we will surely be granted the association of Sita and Rama very quickly. Unlike Ravana, we won’t have to steal Sita Devi, for she will kindly appear to the devotee of Shri Rama. As we see from Ravana’s example, the path to perfection does not go through cheating God and His wife, but rather through sincerely serving the Supreme Lord and all His devotees.