“Since you have spoken such sinful words to the wife of the immeasurably resplendent Rama, to what place will you go to be free, O lowest of the Rakshasas?” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 22.15)
rākṣasādhama rāmasya bhāryāmamitatejasaḥ |
uktavānasi yatpāpaṃ kva gatastasya mokṣyase ||
In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna describes how the naradhama, or the lowest among mankind, do not surrender unto Him. Even if they hear that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the detail behind the abstract conception of a supreme being, they choose to find their own path towards transcendence. They fail miserably in this endeavor, and since they received the chance to know Krishna and serve Him, they are considered worse than the middle tier class of men, who may not know any better. In this verse from the Ramayana, Sita addresses Ravana as the lowest among the Rakshasas, which is a pretty strong indictment considering the fact that Rakshasas eat human beings.
“Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons, do not surrender unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.15)
In the modern world eating meat is very commonplace. It is such a staple of the many societies and communities that those who eat only vegetables, fruits, milk and grains are given a special title. They are known by such terms as “vegetarian” and “vegan.” They are out of the mainstream, though all they are doing is choosing to eat living beings that don’t eat, sleep, mate or defend. They choose to eat plants and vegetables, a choice which doesn’t require violence towards other creatures. While the meat eaters carefully protect their pet cats and dogs, the non-meat-eating population chooses to extend that compassion to all animals, especially the cow, which produces milk out of love for its calves.
If you kill your dog you are a criminal, but if you kill a cow it is no issue. Eating cats and dogs makes you an oddball, while eating other kinds of meat is acceptable. Eating other human beings earns you the title of cannibal. Cannibals are considered the lowest among men. They are very hard to find in the world, as a civilized person would choose to eat other meat first.
The Rakshasa is a species of living entities that generally has bad qualities. A person can be a Rakshasa in behavior also. While the human being is supposed to be more intelligent than the animals, you can still find human beings who behave like animals. You can also have human beings who behave like Rakshasas, though they may not be born into the species.
So, based on their habit of man-eating alone, a Rakshasa is pretty low. To be the lowest among the Rakshasas means you must be really bad. This is the point made by Sita here, as Ravana had addressed her in a sinful way. He first behaved sinfully towards her, taking her away from the side of her husband in secret. A wife is a dependent of the husband, at least under ideal circumstances. If a husband is dependent on a wife, it means that he is weak. Weakness in a man is not meritorious, like promiscuity in a woman.
Ravana then used sinful words against Sita after she repeatedly refused his advances. She had no desire to be with him. He didn’t even fight for her fairly. If Ravana had taken on Rama, a fellow warrior, in battle, Rama would have defeated him soundly. Here Rama is described as immeasurably resplendent. Tejas can also mean strength, so Rama’s strength cannot be measured by any instrument. This is a feature found only in the Supreme Lord. Rama is the same Krishna but in a different manifestation, an incarnation specific to the time period in the Treta Yuga when Ravana roamed the earth. God has beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation at immeasurable levels. Since His transcendental features cannot be measured by blunt instruments, one name for Him is Adhokshaja.
“Being beyond the range of limited sense perception [adhokshaja], You are the eternally irreproachable factor covered by the curtain of deluding energy. You are invisible to the foolish observer, exactly as an actor dressed as a player is not recognized.” (Queen Kunti speaking to Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.8.19)
With that immeasurable resplendence, Rama can distribute His energies anywhere. If I can speak very loudly, it means that someone across the room can hear me. If I can teach very well, it means that even the person with the least intelligence in the classroom can understand what I am saying. If I have more renunciation than anyone else, it means that I can live without friends, family, fine food, water, a fancy home, and so many other things for a very long time.
Rama’s strength can penetrate any area. This means that Ravana had no place to find comfort. Sita asks the rhetorical question of where he will go to escape Rama’s wrath. There indeed will be wrath since Ravana behaved sinfully towards Rama’s beloved wife. Other Rakshasas simply ate human flesh, drank wine, and sunk further into ignorance. They were low in terms of the spiritual evolutionary scale, but they still weren’t the lowest. Their leader in Lanka had exclusive claim to that title, and the reward for his behavior would be the swiftly coursing, well-jointed arrows of Rama’s penetrating his body.
More than just any kind of meat,
Flesh of man Rakshasas specifically eat.
Of carnivores this makes them low,
With Ravana we see further can go.
First took her and then spoke in sinful way,
Forcing her away from her husband to stay.
Sita on Rama having full dependence,
Soon to arrive in all His resplendence.