“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 |
“I tell you from the bottom of my heart, there is no tangible result from fruitive activity alone. You’re worried about money right now, but everything will be alright eventually. You’re worried over this and that, but why are you not concerned over why birth and death take place? You know that despite the best efforts of government, no matter what laws they do or do not pass, tragedies will occur. Even if you are able to prevent all bombings and horrific acts of violence, will everyone be happy?
“As recently as five years ago, the price of gasoline was much less than it is today. Were people happy back then? The unemployment rate was much lower and so was the cost of healthcare. Were people thrilled about those things? Actually, they weren’t. They were worried about something else. Therefore I’m telling you that whatever problem you think exists right now, solving it will not put an end to your distress. Birth and death are the real problems, and they are caused by an error in consciousness. If you fix your consciousness, you won’t have to deal with these things anymore.
“You fix your consciousness by thinking about God. You may take me to be a religious zealot, a fanatic who is trying to force their religious model upon you, but why should you feel threatened? You worship already. Everyone does. Just change your primary focus of worship. Don’t give up being nice. Don’t give up caring for others. Don’t give up being charitable. Just offer those things first to God.
“Originally He is all-attractive. He has a beautiful, youthful form that never changes. Because of these features, the Sanskrit word used to address Him is Krishna. He is also the reservoir of transcendental pleasure. This reservoir is shared with those who connect with Him. Therefore He is also addressed as Rama. The energy of God is so attracted to Him that it thinks of nothing else. This is the never-contaminated energy. It is addressed as Hare.
“Even if you’re thinking that Krishna is the God of the Hindu faith, that He can’t be your God as well, then at least remember Him within the heart. This feature is known as the Paramatma, or Supersoul. It has a form as well, but if you don’t believe that, at least know that it’s there. Since the Supersoul is God, He has no interest in temporary things. He has no interest when there is no interest in serving Him. It makes sense if you think about it. Food, shelter and clothing are there for the animals. They don’t think about morality at all. They don’t worry about the poor or how to protect the innocent. They are more or less focused on their own desires, which are based on instinct. They are provided everything, so why should the human being make these worries their primary focus in spiritual life?
“Rather, the advanced intelligence of the human being is specifically earmarked for God consciousness. If you can’t think of Him within the heart, know that He is the universal energy of spirit. Every living being we see is spirit at the core. The nature we are controlled by is also originally spirit. All fragments of spirit are the same, and taken together they are known as Brahman. In the case that you can’t believe in a personal God, at least know that there is Brahman. Become Brahman realized by thinking of spirit and not matter.”
Such good advice will largely go ignored if one is focused on something false. The false objects typically fall into one of three categories. The category with the most objects is karma, or fruitive activity. Think of money. If you’re around family life so much, all you’ll hear about is money. “This car costs that much. This house is escalating in price. This relative bought such and such car. This person is so cheap. This company tried to rip me off.” Money is the primary focus, and it is something false because it doesn’t bring the person to where they think they are going. You think that if you win the lottery that all your problems will suddenly vanish, but actually so many new problems crop up.
The false objects in fruitive activity ultimately relate to sense gratification. “With more money I can eat better. I can sleep better. I can spend more to attract a better mate. I can spend more to protect my stuff. With all this stuff, I’ll be able to enjoy perpetually, without having a care in the world.” This is all false because sense gratification is not the ultimate objective for the spirit soul. In so many cases less is more. If you limit your sense enjoyment, you will actually find so much pleasure.
This brings us to the second category. It is the inverse of the first. This mindset tries to negate everything. “Money, wine, women, sense pleasure in general – they all suck. Let me get rid of all these things. Then I will be happy.” This is also a false objective because the end result is a state of nothingness, or void. You cannot remain in the void for too long. As is the nature of spirit, eventually there will come a time where activity is craved.
The third category has hints of the first two. In this one the individual desires mystic perfection. “Let me meditate so that I can block everything out. Eventually I will reach a status where I can do amazing things, like become very light or heavy. I can travel outside of my body and then return. I can read minds and predict the future. How cool will all of that be?” If there is no tangible purpose served by these abilities, what is the use in having them? It’s like buying an expensive car that will only sit in the garage, never to be driven.
All three categories can have hints of religion. The fruitive worker can pray to get money. The person who wants to negate everything can think of Brahman and hope to eventually merge into the transcendental light. The mystic yogi can recite specific mantras and holy names in order to stay focused in their meditation. Since these objectives are ultimately unreal, or mithya, the processes used to attain them don’t bring the best result.
The devotees of the Lord always present something real. They are not afraid to speak the truth, and they find ways to inject cogent points into even the oddest of circumstances. From the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we get one such example where good advice is offered. Here Sita Devi ponders the thought that Ravana, the king of Lanka, might be rejecting the wholesome advice of the wise people in his country because his mind is being drawn towards something false. That mistake will lead to the destruction of his entire clan, the Rakshasas.
The false object was Sita herself. Ravana looked at her with an eye towards sense enjoyment. He wanted her for his wife. The problem was that she was already married, and to someone who wouldn’t lose in a fair fight. The bigger problem was that Sita can never be with anyone except her husband. He is Rama, the same Krishna but in His avatara form famously known through Vedic works like the Ramayana. If you see enough false things, if you are so deluded that you won’t listen to anything reasonable, you’ll descend to the point where you’ll even try to enjoy with God’s wife, who is also known as Lakshmi.
Despite his blindness, Sita tried to counsel Ravana. She told him to let her go and return her to Rama. Then all would be forgiven. This would be an act of service, a kind gesture towards Rama. The same offer is there for everyone. At any point, in spite of many lifetimes spent chasing false objects, if the turn is made to Rama in earnest, the situation can flip in one second. Rama is the ultimate reality, but seeing Him properly is very difficult. Therefore so many procedures and policies are instituted by the keepers of religious traditions. If we’re so accustomed to not seeing things right, how will we accept wise counsel when it is offered to us? The person stricken by a disease will spit out food that is perfectly prepared. When the disease is cured, the same food then tastes exquisite.
In devotional service, the remedy for both the sick and the well is identical. Just chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Hear from divine figures like Sita, Hanuman, Lakshmana and those who follow their example of devotion. If you can’t understand right away or if your chanting seems like it’s not very rewarding, just keep going. You taste the association of false objects all the time and somehow think that the next time the taste will be better, though it never is. As God is the ultimate reality, He is worth trying to find.
A little trouble at start never mind,
Ultimate reality worth effort to find.
Bitter things of maya already taste,
In hoping for better only time to waste.
Seeing things as false we’re accustomed to,
In devotion a perspective gain fresh and new.
To fiend Ravana queen Sita advice gave,
Sadly not even sound words his kingdom could save.