“Or you do not accept the good words spoken by the wise, as your mind is led towards something false. This will bring the destruction of the Rakshasas.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.10-11)
vaco mithyāpraṇītātmā pathyamuktaṃ vicakṣaṇaiḥ ||
rākśasānāmabhāvāya tvam vā na vratipadyase |
In Sanskrit, the word “mithya” means false. The word is quite prominent in books of higher knowledge, as it is used to explain the material energy, particularly with respect to how that energy is viewed by the person who doesn’t know their true identity. The words “neti neti” are also found quite often, which point to the fact that the real truth is “not this” and “not that.” Though some things are indeed false, it doesn’t mean that the objects which they pretend to be are non-existent. Here the princess of Videha warns the demon-king Ravana that his mind is set on something false. That something is the princess herself. And yet if the princess weren’t real, she couldn’t speak these words. Therefore it must be that the impression Ravana has of the princess is what is unreal.
Sita says that since his mind is driven towards mithya, he must not be listening to the pure advice of the saintly people. We should be familiar with this effect, as throughout life we make so many mistakes that are unseen by us but which others can spot out immediately. “Why are you hanging out with such and such person? They are bad news. You need to cut them out of your life immediately. Don’t buy that shirt. It is ugly. You won’t look good in it. You don’t have to have another beer. You will not be able to control yourself afterwards. Don’t have that extra slice of pizza. You’ll regret it later on.”
Because of the false image in our mind, we reject the advice. For the man, the embodiment of the illusory potency of the material energy is the woman. Many a powerful man has been brought down by the influence of a woman. The sight looks like something that it is not. It looks like something that will provide endless enjoyment. It looks like something that the man can love without inhibition. It looks like the gateway to happiness.
If the man is not of the proper consciousness, that false vision can lead to his ultimate destruction. Rather than stay on the straightened path, he can go down the route of sense gratification, which is not the real business of the human being. In the other species, there is no restriction on sense gratification. If you are a dog or a monkey, who is there to stop your chase for sex life? What harm is there if you’re not celibate? In the human species, however, the more you can control sense desire, the more powerful you will be. This is known especially by the wise saints, who either shun sex life completely or only follow it within the bounds of religiosity.
“I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O Lord of the Bharatas [Arjuna].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.11)
Here, Ravana’s lust will bring about the destruction of the Rakshasas. Though he already has so many beautiful women as wives, his mind is driven towards something false. He thinks that the princess of Videha, Sita, should be his wife. He thinks that he will love her as his chief queen and then finally be happy. This vision is false on many fronts. Sita can only be with Rama, who is the Supreme Lord in His avatara fit for the Treta Yuga. Rama is a powerful and chivalrous prince. He and Sita are together for eternity. She is His wife both religiously and in spirit. Nothing can break her resolve in this regard. Imagine trying your whole life to move a pillar that cannot be moved. If you spend your life in this way, you will waste so much valuable time. You could be doing so many other things.
In Ravana’s case, the damage would be twofold. He would be wasting his time in trying to win over Sita, who couldn’t be won over. His lust would also lead to the destruction of his praja, or protected citizens. If you can’t move the pillar, you bring in reinforcements to apply more force. And if you can’t win over a woman, you try even harder. Ravana’s extra effort involved kidnapping and coercive techniques employed by his attendants. Because of these two transgressions, his entire kingdom would be smashed to dust. The punishment was completely fitting, and Sita warned him many times what was going to happen.
When your mind is driven towards something false, what can be done to save you? You must get the right vision in order to turn things around. The Vaishnavas, who follow the devotional attitude of Sita, try to give everyone in the world the proper lenses with which to see. They don’t say that everything is false. Rather, it is just the current way of seeing things that gives the impression of falsehood. The tree and the sky do exist. When we take them to be objects only for sense pleasure devoid of God consciousness, then the images are false. When we use them to glorify the origin of matter and spirit, then they are surely real.
Sita’s good counsel found here in the Ramayana are sound vibrations recreated through seeing them in written word. The words presented in ink or in digital form are part of the material nature, and one who thinks nothing of them or considers them only to be part of some great literary work sees a false vision. The wise saints, who always offer wholesome advice, see these words as a way to associate with the sweetheart wife of Shri Rama. They see these words as sagacious advice that every person can take to heart. Thus what they see is real, and from that vision they can help others to see the reality as well.
Brahman is truth and everything else is false, or mithya. Brahman is the source of everything as well; therefore what it produces must also be real to a degree. The false turns into truth when its relationship to Brahman is understood. The reality is quickly found when one knows the source of Brahman as well. That source is Sita’s husband, and He is known by many names in the Vedas. Krishna and Rama are two of the primary names, and another name for Sita is Hare. They are all addressed in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Chanting this mantra in the devotional attitude, where one realizes who God is and the need for serving Him, brings one towards the ultimate reality. In that mindset, one takes good advice. Instead of leading to the destruction of their dependents, they rescue them from the cycle of birth and death. The material creation is part and parcel of God, though it is separate from Him at the same time. It can be used to further forget Him or to go back to Him. Ravana used it to stay as far away from Him as possible. He was so deluded that he couldn’t recognize Sita or Rama for who they were, and so he met with destruction. On the flip side, if you know the reality then you can see God all the time, even though He may not be standing right in front of you.
When mind set on something real,
For myself destruction I will seal.
Stunning woman of beauty so fine,
Will think she is for enjoyment only mine.
All objects of this world seen the same,
Deluded by maya, ultimate result is pain.
Ravana had chance of Sita Devi’s sight,
In delusion couldn’t see her right.
Destruction for him, but easy to turn around.
When seen as Rama’s beloved vision on solid ground.