“It is known that He is a knower of religious principles and very much affectionate towards the surrendered souls. Thus you should make a friendship with Him, if you desire to continue living.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.20-21)
viditaḥ sa hi dharmajñaḥ śaraṇāgatavatsalaḥ ||
tena maitrī bhavatu te yadi jīvitumiccasi |
Everyone is eligible for God’s affection, as scientifically there is a relationship between the individual and the Supreme. Whether one belongs to a particular faith or not is of no issue. Even the vilest creature, who previously ate human beings, drank wine, terrorized the innocent, and committed the greatest offenses, can still get the affection, provided they make the proper turn.
“Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, are cast by Me into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.19)
In the Bhagavad-gita we learn that the lowest among mankind, who are obstinate in their refusal to accept the righteous principles, are repeatedly cast into the lowest species and lower planets. This seems like a punishment, but it is actually just the proper reward. If you overcook the dish you’re making for dinner, the result is a burned food item. This seems like a punishment, but it is actually the right outcome. Some people prefer to have their dishes “well done,” which means “overcooked” to someone else. Once the food is overcooked, the person who wanted it less done will have no way of getting it back to the proper state. At the same time, the person who prefers “well done” will be more than satisfied with the outcome.
In the same way, for one who is envious of the Supreme Lord and an enemy to those who are not envious towards Him, residence in the lower planets and lower species is required. The lower planets are the equivalent of what we normally consider hell. It is a miserable existence. Glimpses of hell are found in the nightclubs, where the music is very loud, the lighting is dim, and intoxication is a must for survival. This life is not considered hellish by those who don’t know any better. In the same way, the animals also don’t know that they are in a lower species. They don’t know that there is a higher taste to be had.
The above referenced words from the Ramayana were spoken to a person of the demoniac nature. He was in a lower species, namely the Rakshasa. He thought that he was God. He thought that no one in the world was more powerful than him. He had plenty of visible evidence to support his claim. He had tremendous opulence in the city of Lanka. He enjoyed constantly with his many wives. And who was there to stop him?
Ah, but one time he stepped too far, and that step would do him in. He tried to take the one woman he couldn’t have. He brought her back to his kingdom against her will. For this he deserved the harshest punishment. It was brought on by himself. No one else was to blame. He had enough wives. Why did he have to go to the forest and take away Sita, who was known for her devotion to her husband Rama?
Despite his transgressions, here Sita gives a surprising offer to the demon Ravana. She says that her husband is known for his dedication to righteous principles. One of the righteous principles is honesty. This means that what He says is true. He will not promise one thing and then go back on it later. This was important here because of the offer being made.
“Rama always gives in charity but never takes any. He always speaks the truth and never tells a lie. O brahmana, this is Rama’s highest vow and He is incapable of deviating from it.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 47.17)
Sita also says that her husband is affectionate towards those who surrender to Him. Surrender means to give up the fight; end the struggle and simply give way to Rama’s mercy, which was guaranteed to come even to Ravana. Despite what Ravana had previously done, Rama’s affection was there for him, provided he surrender. His mode of surrender would be the return of Sita to Rama. Seems simple enough, no? What would be the difficulty? No shame would be involved. Ravana would be famously known as a reformer afterwards. He could then use his position to sway others towards the path of transcendence. “Stop ruining your lives, my friends. I was previously like you. I committed the greatest offense. I ate the most impure food. I couldn’t control my senses at all. But simply through following the sagacious advice of the eternal consort of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, I got the Lord’s affection. And now I take that affection as my most valuable possession. It is something I never want to live without. Whether in heaven or in hell, I will be able to survive as long as I have that affection.”
Sadly, Ravana would never utter these words. Nevertheless, we see that the issue is not a matter of faith. Ravana didn’t take Sita’s advice, though she said it would allow him to continue living. Sita does not speak falsehoods, either. Since Ravana lacked that friendship with Rama, he lost everything. Indeed, everything is eventually lost for everyone, so the special mention here was in relation to the offense Ravana had committed. More importantly, Rama had that affection for Sita, the very one she mentioned. From that affection, Rama made sure to protect Sita. He made sure to find her, defeat Ravana, and bring her back home. He did this through both His own effort and that of His servants, like the courageous Hanuman and the Vanaras of Kishkindha.
It seems that every religion recommends surrender as a way to achieve transcendence. But without knowing God, how can there be surrender? How can the surrender be real if you don’t know what it is you’re relinquishing? In the Vedas we get so many descriptions of God, too many to consume within a single lifetime. Yet just from a little knowledge, such as that presented in texts like the Ramayana, one gets a glimpse into the Supreme Lord’s nature. One learns that He is for every single person, regardless of where they were previously, and that His affection is guaranteed for one who gives up the fight against Him.
Not just matter of faith is His affection,
Guaranteed for any who turn His direction.
Despite what you did or who you were,
Best reward to come from surrender.
For this gift Sita gave the chance,
Ravana chose his fame not to enhance.
Thus responsible for destruction that came,
For demoniac’s fate God not to blame.