“After obtaining a king who is engaged in bad conduct and whose mind is not controlled, even opulent states and cities will be destroyed.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.11-12)
ākṛtātmānamāsādya rājānamanaye ratam ||
samṛddhāni vinaśyanti rāṣṭrāṇi nagarāṇi ca |
“Boy, I’ve had my eye on this car for a long time. I’ve followed along with the news updates once it was announced that the car was going to be manufactured. I think it’s the coolest thing out there. In one sense, it’s a work of art. Never before has a car like this been made. The internals are great; such a remarkable engine. The exterior is befitting the superior make. I can’t wait to get my hands on this.
“Normally, I negotiate when buying cars, but not with this. I will have to struggle to get first in line. I will have to beat other customers to the punch. This car will be in such high demand that I will have to stay tuned to the latest news in order to make sure that I’m able to purchase one. Cost is no concern here. Sure, this car is worth a pretty penny, but I think it’s better to pay a little extra for the finer things in life. Don’t you agree? Granted, this is paying a lot extra, but so what? You only live once, so why not take hold of the chance?”
…a little later
“I love this car. It’s my baby; such a smooth ride. I’ve gotten rid of my other cars. I only want to drive this one. Sure, I have to get it washed like once a week, but it’s worth it. Sure, I have to park it all the way in the back of public parking lots so that no other cars come near it, but protecting this bad boy is worth the extra effort.
“I have to go out of town this weekend. My youngest son is the only person who will be home. I’ve given him explicit instructions to not drive the car. We’ve had trouble with him in the past, as he likes to party and have fun with his friends. He also really likes my car. He doesn’t really listen to what my wife and I tell him, but we have no choice in this situation. I can’t bring the car with me. He’s our only option. As I conveyed the gravity of the situation to him, I’m sure he will do the right thing.”
In a situation like this, it’s easy to predict what will happen. Putting an irresponsible person in charge of something that warrants responsibility is not a good combination. The object of attention here is an expensive car. The worst that can happen is the car gets damaged or ruined. Surely this is bad, but hopefully everyone is safe and sound afterwards. The car here is very opulent. It is a wonderful object. And yet from just one weekend in the custody of someone bereft of a controlled mind and who is given towards impious behavior, it can get ruined. The same happens when you have a kingdom that falls into the hands of a lusty fiend. This is the point made here by Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama.
Her statement makes complete sense if you think about it. We used the example of an expensive car, but so many other situations can be referenced as well. You wouldn’t put a teenager in the cockpit to steer an airplane, would you? Especially if they had no training whatsoever in flying, such a decision would lead to peril. The leader of the state makes decisions that affect everyone’s lives. If they are not of the right caliber, even the most opulent city or state can be ruined.
This fact is worth mentioning precisely because of the visual. The opulence creates a sort of illusion within the mind. If we see so much opulence, it’s difficult to picture destruction. It’s hard to imagine being poor if you are so wealthy. And yet poverty is exactly what will result if all of your wealth is gone. If it is put into the hands of someone whose mind is not controlled and who is always engaged in bad conduct, then there is every chance of the wealth being squandered. Think of the person who hires a financial manager and puts all their trust in them. The manager, who is not very wise in this case, then invests in something very risky. In an instant, the life savings of the customer vanishes.
If you choose a leader of bad qualities, your state that once had high employment rates and low crime can take a turn for the worse overnight. Ravana needed reminding of this because his city was very opulent. He thought no one could harm him due to many reasons. First, he was very powerful. He took over the city by force. It was also strategically located. It was an island situated far away from any mainland. An army would need to build a bridge to the city in order to attack it. What army would take the effort and how would they successfully build such a bridge?
With his false sense of security, Ravana went ahead and did the worst possible thing. He kidnapped the wife of Lord Rama, the most capable bow-warrior this world has ever seen. Ravana had an idea of Rama’s abilities. The Lord had defeated 14,000 of Ravana’s men singlehandedly. He did this in defense; Ravana’s army had attacked first.
Because his mind was not controlled, Ravana threw aside common sense and went ahead and took Sita. He did so in secret. He figured nothing bad would come of it. If she refused, he could try to persuade her. If that didn’t work, he could try to scare her into submission. In fact, the retort offered by Sita here is in response to Ravana’s most heartfelt pitch. He practically begged her to become his queen, but she wouldn’t budge.
Sita’s wise words apply to both prince and pauper alike. We are all ruling over something, as at the most basic level we steer the direction of our life through actions. If our mind is not controlled, we are in trouble. Weight gain, drug addiction, anger, greed, wrath, and so many other negative things can be avoided with a controlled mind. If we are engaged in bad activities, we can quickly destroy our lives. The homeless are pitied upon first glance, but with so much social welfare available in industrialized nations, how does anyone become homeless? Only through the combination of an uncontrolled mind and bad behavior can someone fall so quickly.
Sita is a Vaishnavi, which is the feminine form of the word Vaishnava, which means a devotee of the personal aspect of the Supreme Lord. The personal is the origin of the impersonal. The foggy conception of a supreme controller is a derivative of the original personality. Rama is considered an expansion or incarnation of the original spiritual personality known as Krishna. A Vaishnava is someone who worships either Krishna or one of His direct expansions like Rama.
As a Vaishnavi, Sita tries to steer others in the right direction, no matter how vile they may be. Ravana here was being warned so that he could avoid ruin for both himself and his kingdom. Meditational yoga is the mechanical way to control the mind, but it doesn’t necessarily guide conduct. You can try to do good deeds, but if your mind is fixed on sinful behavior, those thoughts are like seeds waiting to bloom.
Devotional service combines both aspects [controlling the mind and doing good deeds] to bring about the best possible end. Devotional service is simple: worship God. Do it through any of nine different ways, the two foremost being hearing and chanting. Accomplish both through constantly reciting the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Sita always chants the names of her beloved husband, who is with her for life. Her mind is thus always controlled, and in deeds she can never do anything wrong. She showed Ravana the right path through her rebuke, but unfortunately he didn’t listen. The Vaishnavas of today offer the same path, and since it is so wonderful, it can maintain any good condition. A controlled mind and good deeds can maintain a wealthy state, but most importantly they can maintain an unbroken link to the beloved husband of Sita, who promises that the devotional service of His devotees is never destroyed.
With this car in luxury to live,
Care for weekend to son I’ll give.
In this I have no other choice,
Gave stern warning to him with raised voice.
Taking expensive vehicle as toy,
Surely will do something to destroy.
Leader of the nation has responsible post,
Therefore his misdeeds cause suffering the most.
With Ravana’s bad deeds and uncontrolled mind,
Destruction opulent city of Lanka sure to find.
Best if the Supreme Lord instead to know,
This path devotees like Sita to us show.