“To a man who is not satisfied with his own wives, fickle and mean-minded and of diverted senses, others’ wives lead him to ruination.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.8-9)
atuṣṭaṃ sveṣu dāreṣu capalam calitendriyam ||
nayanti nikṛtiprajñaṃ paradārāḥ parābhavam |
This verse from the Ramayana presents a profound truth that is commonly voiced today, though maybe in a slightly different way. The interesting aspect is that the words from this verse were spoken many thousands of years ago, in an ancient time period. The ruination would indeed come, as through coveting another’s wife, the king Ravana would lose all of his accumulated gains. These were difficult to get in the first place, but losing them wouldn’t be as much. Because he was not satisfied, because he was fickle, mean and of diverted senses, he was drawn to a woman he couldn’t have. And from that attraction he would be left with nothing.
“Many a great man has been taken down by a woman. If only they had kept their interest focused, they wouldn’t have been defeated. Indeed, if there is no other way to defeat a powerful figure, insert the beautiful female into the picture and see her work her magic. In spite of being happily married, having everything around you, lust for a desirable female is so strong that it can lead astray even the most sober person. Thus man should always beware of the attractive female whose association is forbidden. For the man, such a woman is like a she-wolf who kills her mate while in disguise.”
Such thinking is not out of the ordinary. The thesis comes about through basic observation, of both the present and the past. We see famous world leaders succumbing to the temptations of illicit sex. Sometimes they engage in affairs while in government buildings. Being married doesn’t stop them. Perhaps the association of the wife isn’t good enough, either. When a man gets married, he essentially invites into his life someone who is going to pick out his flaws on day one. This is only natural, as familiarity breeds contempt. In contempt there are arguments, and in order to win arguments one must know the weak points of the adversary. Who better to observe, remember and then later point out weaknesses than the spouse, the most intimate partner?
A person in high office gets treated with respect by everyone. The spouse is in a different position, however. The same holds true in marriages for athletes and celebrities. It is not surprising, therefore, to see frequent divorces among famous people who marry other famous people. If others know you for your fame, they will be adoring in the beginning. But as the relationship continues, the veil of reverence gets slowly pulled back. While all of this is happening, the same celebrity meets with adoring fans and peers in the outside world. If an attractive female happens to be part of the adoring group, it is natural to feel some reciprocal affection for them. The illicit affair thus becomes an outlet for finding a fulfilling relationship, one where the other party doesn’t tear you down by repeatedly pointing out your weaknesses.
Such conditions don’t apply to this instance, because the king in question had adoring wives. They were quite beautiful as well. It is for this reason that Sita Devi, the object of desire for the lusty king, advised him to remain satisfied in the company of his current wives. Why chase after someone else when you have supportive companions already? You have desires for sex life, that is for sure. Every animal has these desires. In the human species you can control them, but even if you can’t, you’re allowed to get married. If you have one wife, that should be sufficient, but a king like Ravana had many wives. They allowed for his sexual desires to be met. Why, then, did he have to petition Sita, who was already married to someone else?
It is the desire particular to this instance which brings about ruination. We see that there is already humiliation for celebrities, politicians and athletes when they engage in illicit affairs simply to compensate for lack of affection at home, but the ruination is even greater when there is already ample and worthy companionship at home. The pure heart loves the religiously wedded wife, while the black heart looks for illicit affairs in the wrong areas. That heart scars over and over again when it is scorned, rebuked, or completely rejected.
With a scarred heart Ravana continued to plea for Sita’s acquiescence. He wanted her to become his chief queen. He offered her everything that was available in the material domain, but she had no interest. She was married to Rama, and she wanted no other husband. She was still kind enough to give Ravana sound words of advice. She could never be accused of flaunting her beauty at Ravana. She never gave him one sign of hope in his illicit desires. And yet she still looked out for his welfare. The advice given above is applicable to all men, not just to the lusty Ravana.
Sita provides additional detail into the cause for the ruination. Being unsatisfied with the wife is only one condition. Being fickle and mean-minded and having unrestrained senses is what strengthens the forbidden object of desire. There are many wives of other men and there are many men who are unsatisfied with their own wives. Yet these two factors alone don’t lead to ruination. Being fickle means you are not strong in your loyalties. This allows you to easily give up the association of your wife or wives. If you are mean-minded, you have no shame in courting the wife of another man. And if your senses are unrestrained, you will not be able to tolerate unfulfilled desires. The overweight person has trouble shedding pounds precisely because their senses cannot be controlled. All weight loss regimens involve some type of control on the senses. Even the surgeries aimed at weight loss eventually tackle the appetite, which is a vehicle for the senses.
The conditions mentioned by Sita were met with Ravana. Therefore the wife of another, who was in this case Sita, led to his ruination. Who would ever think that a beautiful princess who was quiet, kind, peaceful, and observant of all religious etiquette could destroy a king whose fighting prowess was known throughout the world? And yet that is exactly what happened, and through no fault of Sita’s. The same beautiful princess, when loved and adored for her character, high standing, and unwavering affection to her husband Shri Rama, can make any person eternally wealthy. The wise, of steady intelligence, kind-hearted and of restrained senses, always think of Sita and her husband by chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
Mean and of fickle mind,
And unrestrained senses to find.
Then not even if most adoring wife given,
By desires for another still to be driven.
With these qualities in continuation,
Man destined for ruination.
This sober advice Sita Devi gave,
For Ravana and his kingdom to save.