“It must be that either there are no saintly people here to follow or that you do not follow them, for your mind is perverse and devoid of etiquette.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.9-10)
iha santo na vā santi sato vā nānuvartase ||
tathāhi viparītā te buddhirācāravarjitā |
Either the association of saintly people was missing from his kingdom or he wasn’t following the advice of such people. In either case the result was the same, and since that result was not good the king was doomed. Here he had the chance to correct himself. He had the association of a saintly person. She was right in front of him. She also offered him kind words of instruction. It was once said by her husband that good counsel is only offered by someone who really cares for the other person.
“Certainly all these words were spoken by you due to your kind-heartedness and affection for Me. I am very pleased with you, O Sita, for indeed one does not offer instructions and advice to another without caring for them.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.20)
“Why are you lecturing me? Who are you to tell me what to do? Why can’t you just leave me alone?” Indeed, the path of least resistance is always easier. It takes more effort to stop and pull over when you see someone in trouble on the side of the highway. It takes more effort to go up to a stranger and tell them that they’re doing something wrong. With a friend or loved one there is no barrier of formality. That person already likes you and knows so much about you, so it doesn’t matter whether what you say is palatable to them or not. You’ll give it to them straight when required, the truth and nothing but the truth.
It is thus a very kind act on the part of a person who offers the same counsel to pretty much anyone. It shows that their affection is greatly expanded; it is not just limited to their own close circle. After all, every person is the child of someone else. We may have affection for our children, but why not for children of others as well? Also, every person is a friend of someone else. We are good to our friends, so why not to other friends as well?
The woman in this instance really had no reason to talk to the king. He was a fiend of the worst character. He had forcibly taken her away from the side of her husband. He initially approached her under false pretenses. Taking advantage of her good nature, the king disguised himself as an ascetic. The woman offered him the best hospitality, but he wasn’t interested in being received that way. He wanted to take her away and make her his chief queen. Her spotless character includes her chastity, so there was no way she would agree to his proposal.
The king was very proud of his fighting prowess. Previously he had defeated so many other powerful kings. Yet on this occasion he would not fight for the woman who consumed his thoughts. He knew that her husband would defeat him. Her husband has been defeating fiends like that king since time immemorial. In His impersonal form, He pervades the entire universe. His energy expansion known as time has defeated every single living entity. That time is known as kala in Sanskrit. That word also means death, and no one has yet found a way to beat it.
The king, named Ravana, took Sita, the princess, away in secret, against her will. Thus Sita had no reason to talk to Ravana at all. And yet she still offered sound words of advice. All he had to do was return her to Rama. This would be a sign of devotion, the opposite of his present attitude of hostility. If you are hostile towards God you will never get anywhere. The Ramayana informs us that Rama is God, an expansion of His original form. Whether you believe that or not, you must still acknowledge the existence of an origin of matter and spirit. You yourself came from the union of a man and a woman, so there must be an origin for the entire creation. If you are hostile towards that origin, how can you expect to live happily?
His instructions given in scriptures and sacred texts are also a way to get His association. These works give a path to follow. The path of devotion, known as bhakti-marga, is the best one. It is the straightened path towards transcendence, which is above birth and death. All other paths are indirect ones. They zigzag here and there, with many different rest stops. At those stops one is vulnerable to the many distractions. Then they can get lost in their way and have to start all over again.
Ravana thought that he was religious, but he was actually stuck on the path of ignorance. He was essentially heading backwards through his horrible behavior. Sita correctly asserted that either there were no saintly people in his kingdom or they were there and not being followed. Nevertheless, he had a saintly person right in front of him now. If he listened to her, all would end well. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t listen.
In the modern age, there are so many areas where the influence of the saints is not prominent. Therefore the kind-hearted souls who follow bhakti-marga, the same path that Sita is always on, try their best to extend the godly influence. They travel here and there and chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” They have written and continue to write so many books. They try to distribute those books to each and every person. Any such book in the home has the chance of being read. When it is, it is like the sunlight revealing the saint’s path, a path which leads to the best destination.
To find a way in this troubled world to live,
Scriptures of all faiths many paths do give.
By devotees of personal God best path shown,
Bhakti-marga, leads to Lord’s abode alone.
All others zigzag along their tract,
So many objects then serve to distract.
Ravana headed in totally the wrong way,
Not to listen to wise words that Sita did say.
God’s influence saints try to extend,
Thus on their words the wise depend.