“As you are very strong, the brother of the master of the treasury [Kuvera] and possess a great military force, why did you have to lure Rama away to come and do your wife-robbery?” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand 22.22)
śūreṇa dhanadabhrātrā balaiḥ samuditena ca |
apihya rāmaṃ kasmāddhi dāracauryaṃ tvayā kṛtam ||
One way to know the difference between the material and the spiritual is that the material relies on others for any potency to be exercised. This is true in the obvious sense that matter is dull and lifeless without a spiritual spark and also in the subtle sense when it relates to strength and opulence devoid of a consciousness connected with the Divine. In this instance, the checkmate style question is posed to the greatest materialist, one who thought he had all the strength in the world.
In a material consciousness I don’t know about spirit. Perhaps I have never been made aware. In my youth, I was urged on in my education so that I could get a good job in adulthood. From a good job I could support a spouse and family and thus live happily ever after. As these were my priorities, whatever got in the way became a sort of enemy, something to be defeated. You defeat something by either fighting it head on or removing it from your path.
In another instance I am made aware of the spiritual science, that the soul is the vital force within everything and that life is meant to go beyond the temporary pleasures of eating and sleeping. After hearing such wisdom, I cast it aside out of ignorance. Perhaps I was already too immersed in the previous mindset of “rise in the material ranks as much as you can.” The wisdom itself became one of the aforementioned obstacles. Therefore I tried to eliminate it from my path.
But the wisdom is difficult to remove from the mind when there are others who are following it. Suffering from the fever of my pursuit, I then miss the obvious fact that seeing and hearing this wisdom should have no bearing on my material success. Whether others want to be spiritually immersed or not should not matter where I end up. But I think otherwise. There is competition for material success. Not every person can be the leader of the nation. Not every person earns the top dollars in a company. Top means the highest, and when there is a summit there is naturally so much underneath it. If everyone were at the top, there would be no such thing as a top.
Thus even without touching on the spiritual component, I notice that my success in material life is threatened by others pursuing their own success. Whereas I feverishly pursue a temporary position of prominence, the spiritualists remain to themselves. Outside of the odd fanatics belonging to organized institutions of religious life, for the most part the spiritualists are happy in their own worship space. I should have no reason to be threatened by them.
Ah, but their words can diminish my influence. If my desire is to be at the top of a specific field, that implies that others will honor me. If no one knows that I am the leader of the nation, what is the significance to the post? If I win a championship in a sport and no one watches the game or knows who I am, the joy of the victory is diminished.
The genuine spiritual seekers do not suffer from this problem. Whether others know them or not is of no concern. Those on the godly side take their happiness from their relationship to the Supreme. He is defined in one way as the source of everything. Whatever you think is good in life, He is the original cause. Even if you are mired in alcoholism and can’t live without your beer, you can still appreciate Him, for without Him that taste you enjoy wouldn’t exist.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, the speaker is of the godly nature. She was recently living peacefully in the remote wilderness with her husband and His younger brother. They weren’t bothering anyone. Prior to that they hadn’t done anything to anyone, either. And yet they met this cruel fate through the jealousy of her husband’s step-mother. Still, protocol dictated that they follow the orders of the elders without opposition. The trio did not have a problem renouncing home for fourteen years since they were all righteously situated. They didn’t need opulence to survive. They had their belief in God, and more importantly, they had service to Him directly in the form of Rama.
Rama is Sita’s husband, and Sita is the speaker in this instance. Rama is also the Supreme Lord in a manifest form as a warrior prince. It is not that the attributeless supreme divine energy suddenly accepts material elements and then becomes subject to their influence. He is the source of the material nature, so He is never under its orders. In fact, the dichotomy of spiritual and material applies only to us, His innumerable children, sparks of spirit which emanate from Him. For God, there is only spirit, and that includes His transcendental forms which roam this earth from time to time.
By going to the forest and living peacefully and happily there, Rama showed that God does not require worship from anyone. If no one in the world is honoring Him, He is still in the same position. He is just as great when one person is worshiping as when the entire world is immersed in thoughts of Him. Indeed, in one sense everyone is always His devotee. It’s just that some choose to worship the external energy, which brings inferior results. Worship of the internal energy is superior, as one doesn’t even need the support of anyone else. In worship of the internal energy, what others are doing is of no concern.
Ravana was a worshiper of the external energy. He was a quintessential materialist. He knew the Vedas inside and out, supposedly. The Vedas are something like the Bible and Koran except they are much more comprehensive. They exist since time immemorial, and they are only written down when necessary for man’s remembrance. Ravana knew all the rituals and procedures of the Vedas, but he did not understand their essence. He maintained his materialistic view when executing religious rituals, and therefore he never let go of his fear and envy. He was envious of Rama. This factual emotion in him is also symbolic of the general attitude of the materialist; they are envious of God.
Ravana previously boasted to Sita of his tremendous fighting prowess and strength. He proudly mentioned his relation to Kuvera, the treasurer of the demigods. He also spoke of his military force in the kingdom of Lanka. Despite having these, he had to use trickery in taking Sita away from Rama in the forest. Never mind that Sita wasn’t bothering anyone. Never mind that Rama was part of the warrior race, so He was more than ready to fight with Ravana. The envious materialist ruling the land of Lanka inherently understood that his capabilities were limited. Therefore he had to use backhanded means to achieve his objectives.
His success was only temporary. Though he physically took Sita back to his kingdom, he could never have her. Brute force was useless in that regard. Her heart is always with Rama. The pure devotee can never be bought off with money or promises of an opulent lifestyle. They cannot be forced to give up their devotion. This indicates real strength, one that comes only from genuine spiritual life. The materialist is always helpless in their pursuits, as when they are not supported by the entire world they feel threatened. Sita, on the other hand, was attacked by the greatest materialist and still never relinquished her position in greatness.
As God’s blessings they seek,
Spiritualist is considered weak.
Money instead they should go after,
Be happy now, mind not the hereafter.
But from Sita Devi just see,
How powerful devotee can be.
Her affection Ravana tried to buy,
But unshakeable since on Rama to rely.