“As Rama is wise, it is not possible for me to be abducted by you. This was ordained for your slaying; there is no doubt.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 22.21)
nāpahartumahaṃ śakyā tvayā rāmasya dhīmataḥ |
vidhistava vadhārthāya vihito nātra saṃśayaḥ ||
The Ramayana is a text of which the Indian population is quite familiar. The work predates any known periods of history. While some scholars will try to date its composition to a few centuries before Christ’s appearance, in actuality the events described took place millions of years ago. The time calculation for the creation, duration and eventual destruction of the cycle of the manifest world is found in the Vedas themselves, with the events of the Ramayana occurring sometime during the second age. There are four ages to the creation, with the divisions allowing for an easier understanding of how dharma, or virtue, deteriorates with the passage of time and how this deterioration influences the members of society.
The Ramayana is known today precisely because of the person for whom it is named. Shri Rama is the central character, and according to the Ramayana itself He is non-different from God. The foolish will try to research for physical evidence of Rama’s appearance on this earth, but the book Ramayana is evidence enough. The author, Maharishi Valmiki, saw Rama, met Him, and heard about Him. Valmiki described in a poem what he would later personally see, witness, and hear. That poem, a rather lengthy one at that, was passed on to successive generations, and it is preserved to this very day in its original language. Therefore Valmiki’s work is sufficient authority for proving both Rama’s existence and His divinity.
The Ramayana is appreciated by the not-so-religiously inclined as well, since there are so many other lessons to take away from it aside from the main fact of Rama’s divinity. There is virtue, perseverance, honor, strength, courage, kindness, compassion, and utmost concern for the welfare of others exhibited by the central characters. Upon initial glance, there are some contradictory elements as well. For instance, in one section Rama’s beloved wife Sita is abducted from the forest of Dandaka. Rama is supposedly God, so how can He let this happen? Rama plays the role of a heroic bow-warrior who pays the utmost respect to the principles of righteousness. He doesn’t lose Sita in a fight. Instead, He is supposedly tricked into chasing after an illusory deer, which leaves Sita open to being taken by the fiendish king of Lanka, Ravana.
Rama is antaryami, or the all-pervading witness. He knows what I am thinking right now. He knows what you were thinking yesterday. He knows how you will react tomorrow to that unexpected news you will get. Thus how could He not know that the deer He was chasing after was the demon Maricha in disguise? How did He not know that Ravana set up the whole ruse as a way to take Sita? The wise souls, who are immersed in Vedic culture and accept higher wisdom from their teachers, who themselves follow in the same line of instruction as Valmiki, know that Rama coordinates events perfectly to suit His desires. Therefore He arranged for Sita to be taken. He did this so that Ravana could be destroyed, for the evil king had been terrorizing the innocent people of the world for too long.
The skeptic may have trouble believing this, as anyone can make up excuses after the fact. “Oh, that’s a a convenient explanation, isn’t it? Rama had planned everything to happen the way it did. So He planned for all the destruction that happens today? So He knows that people will murder and rape? He knows that people will be stricken with cancer? This doesn’t seem to jive. Maybe Rama isn’t really all-knowing. Maybe He isn’t God then. Maybe others had so much affection for Him that afterwards they assigned divine status to Him.”
While it is tempting to accept these speculations, the fact that the events were coordinated by a higher power is confirmed by Sita herself in the above referenced verse from the Ramayana. Here she is speaking to Ravana while in the Ashoka grove in Lanka. She says that her husband is dhimatah, or very wise. Therefore Rama could never be so easily tricked into chasing after a deer. Rama’s protection is perfect. He is known as Krishna in His original spiritual form, and there is a famous saying that one who is protected by Krishna can never be killed and one who is destined to be killed by Krishna can never be protected.
“Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is omnipotent, and if He wants to kill someone, no one can save that person. Similarly, if He wants to save someone, no one can kill him.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 17)
Sita also gives the reason why the abduction took place: for Ravana’s slaying. We can think of it like the undercover sting operation to catch people who are known to be criminals. The authorities may know that a person has dealt drugs to so many people in the past, but since there is no hard evidence supporting such claims, they can’t arrest the offender just yet. Knowing that the offender needs to be apprehended, the authorities will create a scenario where a new crime can be created. Known as a sting operation, someone will pose to be a potential buyer who then approaches the seller. When the alleged criminal makes the sale, and thus commits a crime, the authorities have the evidence they need to prosecute.
Ravana and his ilk had committed many crimes already. They had attacked the innocent sages residing in the forest. Pretend that you want to meditate in a quiet area. You are sick of all the pressures of home and work, so you want to find a peaceful place. You’re not going to bother anyone. You’re simply going to concentrate your mind on the Supreme Lord by always chanting His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” Would anyone be justified in attacking you? Would it be fair to be killed by other men and then devoured for a meal? This is what happened to many ascetics in the forest of Dandaka.
Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana first acted as defenders to these sages. Still, according to the rules of propriety, they had no justification to go to the land of the offenders and kill them. They could defend but not instigate aggression. God surely has the right to do anything, but as Rama He was particularly keen on doing things lawfully, to set a good example.
Ravana’s taking of Sita gave Rama the required justification for attacking Lanka. Even the celestials were somewhat pleased when Sita was taken away. They knew that Ravana’s demise was then imminent. Sita knew this as well, and here she refutes the claims of the skeptics who think that Rama is somehow unintelligent or not the Supreme Lord Himself. Rama would come to rescue Sita and do away with Ravana, and in the process He would reward so many glorious servants with fame and honor for the work they would do on His behalf. In the same way, the kind-hearted saints who continue to chant the glories of Sita and Rama today earn so many meritorious credits.
In golden deer Ravana ruse created,
And Rama into deep forest was baited.
But destruction for Ravana ordained,
Explains why Rama ignorance feigned.
These words from Ramayana itself receive,
If Rama’s divinity you find difficult to believe.
Sita’s husband the most strong and wise,
Ravana fooled by His humble, human guise.