“Along with Lakshmana my husband Rama will very soon draw out your life breath with His arrows, like the sun does a puddle of water.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.33-34)
kṣipraṃ tava sa nātho me rāmaḥ saumitriṇā saha ||
toyamalpamivādityaḥ prānānādāsyate śaraiḥ |
“You want to know how powerful the sun is? Watch this. I’m going to drop a little bit of water on the deck. Today is the perfect day to do this. I’m going to make a puddle, taking water from this drinking glass. Here we go. Now we have a puddle on the deck. Don’t worry about cleaning this up. The sun will take care of it. Since there are no clouds in the sky today, the change will happen very quickly. The sun grabs up water from the ocean and turns it into rainclouds to feed the crops. Just by the sun’s arrangement we are able to eat. Without this magical system, we would not be able to survive. Nothing can compare to the cloud’s potency for distributing nourishing water.”
A little later…
“There. See! The puddle is gone. It is not there. How long did that take? Not long at all, am I right? What did I tell you? What you just saw will happen every single time. The sun doesn’t discriminate. A little water like that is no match for the sun. The sun sucks up the puddle without breaking a sweat, no pun intended. The sun doesn’t have to think. Its potency is so great that a little puddle like this is taken care of without much time passing. If you didn’t see it with your own eyes, you probably wouldn’t believe how fast it occurred.”
This example shows the sun’s potency with respect to a tiny puddle. The puddle here is a collection of water that pales in comparison to the great container known as the ocean. The sun takes water from both puddle and ocean alike, but the effect on the ocean is more difficult to perceive. You could stare at the ocean for hours on a sunny day and not notice the water being absorbed by the sun. But with a puddle you can see the difference very clearly. The water has to go somewhere. We don’t necessarily see the sun picking it up, but we know that on the sunny day the reaction occurs more rapidly than on a cloudy one. Therefore the sun must be responsible.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, the beloved wife of Lord Rama continues to show her poetic brilliance. Always possessing the ability to string together the perfect sequence of words to both teach and insult as appropriate to the situation, Sita here wonderfully paints the factual contrast between her husband and the apparently powerful king of Lanka. We say “apparently” because this was a consensus opinion. Ravana had many beautiful wives as queens. He had a kingdom with opulence not seen anywhere on this earth. If you hear about the opulence of Lanka during Ravana’s time you’ll likely think it is a myth. “No way someone could have so many buildings made of gold. No way there would be crystals in the floors and along the walls.”
And yet that is exactly what Ravana’s kingdom was like. Shri Hanuman, the most trustworthy person in the world, vouches for this, for he saw the opulence firsthand. Ravana had also defeated many powerful kings. He was given boons by the celestials that granted him immunity in combat against the fiercest fighters. Therefore it was understandable for others to give Ravana an exalted status due to his strength.
Here Sita compares him to a small amount of water. The Sanskrit words used are toyam and alpam, which mean “water” and “a small amount.” Alpam is often paired with “su,” which means “auspicious” or “great.” A small amount of water can be a puddle, especially within the context of the sun’s ability to extract life.
Sita says that her husband’s arrows will soon extract the life air, prana, from Ravana. Rama will be helped by His younger brother Lakshmana, who also fires arrows of equal potency. These arrows will not have a difficult time extracting Ravana’s life. It will be like the sun, Aditya, drying up a small amount of water.
For that transformation to take place, time is still required. The puddle doesn’t vanish immediately, but it goes away nevertheless. The puddle evaporates sooner than the water on top of the ocean. The absorption into the sun is also an accurate way to describe what happens to spirit souls who die thinking of the Supreme Lord. The consciousness at the time of death determines the nature for the next existence, as is stated by Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita.
“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)
Krishna is the same Rama. The two are identical except for outward appearance. Though they look slightly different, they are still the same personality. Rama is God, the universal Lord. He is the heavenly father others often reference but don’t know much about. Rama is the saguna form, which is drawn out with attributes discernible to the imperfect vision of the human being. Even when He is not discernible, God is still with form, as He is originally a personality.
The water of the puddle sees the sun as it changes to vapor. The water doesn’t actually cease to exist; it just shifts its location and shape. In the same way, the dying person only has their soul transferred elsewhere, to a different body. The next destination is determined by the consciousness. The dying man who thinks of God attains a nature similar to God’s.
There are different ways to think of God as well. In Ravana’s case, the mood would be enmity, for he was jealous of Rama. That is why he stole Rama’s wife Sita away in secret. He could never have her, though, and because of his crime he would lose everything. One who dies while fighting directly with God merges into the body of the Lord. This is a kind of liberation, but not the ideal destination.
The devoted souls are always merged in a sense. They don’t lose their identity, however. They retain a spiritual body that allows them to serve the Supreme Lord in the manner which they most prefer. Whether they are living or dying, they are always with Rama or one of His non-different forms. Instead of evaporating them out of existence, the powerful sun that is Rama continues to give them life to feed their devotional activities. This is what Rama and Lakshmana’s arrows would do for Sita and Hanuman, who continue to serve the Lord to this day.
Like when sun shining its way,
Stripping life of puddle away.
Without much effort to expend,
Water to new destination to send.
Life of Ravana Rama to extract,
With arrows meeting target exact.
Devotees merged always with Raghu’s sun,
In spiritual bodies keeping purpose one.