“Dwelling in the forest of Dandaka with Rama of immeasurable vigor, I, His lawful wife, was taken away by the evil Rakshasa Ravana.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 33.30)
vasato daṇḍaka araṇye tasya aham amita ojasaḥ ||
rakṣasā apahṛtā bhāryā rāvaṇena durātmanā |
What is immeasurable vigor? For the fallible human being, old age, disease and death reveal that strength is limited. Only the less intelligent would think that life could continue forever. Ignoring the existence of the afterlife, which is nothing more than the extended future, the lowest of the low will stoop to any level to satisfy their present desires. This was the case with the Rakshasa named Ravana. Unfortunately for him, he ran up against immeasurable vigor personified in the person of Rama.
A person gets credit for perseverance. Especially when they continue on after many defeats, others who are watching appreciate their effort:
“I can’t believe how hard they worked. Everyone told them they would fail. The easiest route in life is the one chalked out for you by others. It’s safe. It’s supported by history. But this person had no desire to follow the easy way. They had a dream and they finally achieved it. No one would have imagined their success previously. Their vigor is amazing.”
In this context the achievement is related to something material which is viewed favorably. But vigor can be applied towards the unfavorable side as well. Ravana was cunning in his attempt to take the lawfully wedded wife of another man. He devised a plot whereby he could take her away in secret, without having to fight for her. Her husband was known to have immeasurable vigor, but Ravana seemed to escape without a scratch. He thought he had won.
The woman is named Sita and her husband is Rama, who is the Supreme Lord. It should be obvious to us that God has immeasurable vigor. Without even mentioning Rama the person, we can look to the impersonal force that is time. No one knows from where time came. No one knows how to talk to it, and certainly no one knows how to defeat it. The person who is considered an atheist at least acknowledges one higher authority: time.
prahlādaś cāsmi daityānāṁ“Among the Daitya demons I am the devoted Prahlada; among subduers I am time; among the beasts I am the lion, and among birds I am Garuda, the feathered carrier of Vishnu.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.30)
kālaḥ kalayatām aham
mṛgāṇāṁ ca mṛgendro 'haṁ
vainateyaś ca pakṣiṇām
Time destroys all. Whether you are good or bad, time will operate on you. It does not take into consideration what you have done in the past. It does not ask you what you want or to where you wish to travel. Time erases the bad memory of a traumatic event and also makes you nostalgic for past glories.
Rama is the personal God, the Supreme Lord appearing on earth in a human guise. Because of the external vision, it is understandable if someone like Ravana were to think that Rama’s vigor had a measure. But Rama had already given the fiend a hint. He had defeated 14,000 of Ravana’s fighters singlehandedly. This was in defense, as well. It wasn’t a coordinated attack. Rama did not plot to kill that many warriors at the same time. The situation called for it, and Rama took care of it.
The above referenced verse from the Ramayana is spoken to Shri Hanuman, who through his acts is an extension of Rama’s immeasurable vigor. Hanuman searched tirelessly and bravely through unknown territories for Sita. This was after Rama met Hanuman and the other Vanaras living in the Kishkindha kingdom.
From Hanuman alone we see what immeasurable vigor means. The trait originates in the Supreme Lord and it gets inherited by those who serve Him with love. Sita too has the same vigor, as she steadfastly refused the advances of Ravana, to the point of risking her own life. She would rather die than even think of being with any man other than Rama.
Being a lawfully wedded wife usually protects you from the advances of other men. After all, the bond of marriage generally indicates that the heart has been taken. The heart belongs to the husband, so what fool would try to take it away? Especially with Sita, there was strict adherence to dharma. Her marriage to Rama was of both the love and arranged varieties.
paras tasmāt tu bhāvo 'nyo“Yet there is another nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.20)
'vyakto 'vyaktāt sanātanaḥ
yaḥ sa sarveṣu bhūteṣu
naśyatsu na vinaśyati
Ravana’s vigor had limits, especially since he used it to go against dharma, or virtue. Rama’s vigor, seen in one way through Hanuman, had no limits. This is the power of devotional service, which is easily practiced through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Time may operate on the temporary body and eventually destroy it, but for the devoted soul it will reward the vigor in service with residence in the imperishable realm that the Supreme Lord calls home.
Birth, death, disease and old age,
Against time futile the battle to wage.
Showing that to human strength a limit,
But Ravana sinful life not to quit.
Away from Rama beloved Sita to take,
Viewing Lord as human his big mistake.
In Sita’s husband the vigor without measure,
Same in devotees who His association treasure.