“Shukadeva Gosvami said: After constructing a bridge over the ocean by throwing into the water the peaks of mountains whose trees and other vegetation had been shaken by the hands of great monkeys, Lord Ramachandra went to Lanka to release Sitadevi from the clutches of Ravana. With the direction and help of Vibhishana, Ravana's brother, the Lord, along with the monkey soldiers, headed by Sugriva, Nila and Hanuman, entered Ravana's kingdom, Lanka, which had previously been burnt by Hanuman.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 9.10.16)Download this episode (right click and save)
Ravana had a role to play. He was cursed from a previous life to appear in the world as an evil, man-eating ogre. He was so low in consciousness that not even seeing God face to face could change his ways. Such is the power of maya, the illusory energy that fools us, following our choice, into thinking that real and lasting enjoyment can be found in a temporary and miserable world.
Indeed, despite so many statements referencing Rama’s divinity and much testimony confirming the fact, the asuras reading the Ramayana still don’t believe that God can be a person who appears on earth every now and then. Shri Rama is so kind to the innumerable souls springing from Him that He increases the faithlessness in different ways. There is always a choice, after all. If someone desires the path of darkness and ignorance, they are more than welcome to it.
1. Taking instruction from a guru
God is supposed to be the original guru, or spiritual teacher. That is one way to define Him. Climb up the chain of ancestry of the race of the entire species as a whole and you’ll eventually come to Lord Brahma, who is thus known as the creator. Vedic literature reveals that Brahma has an origin, the lotus stem emerging from the navel of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu is thus the original person, and through His non-different form of Krishna He speaks the highest wisdom. He did so to the sun-god at the beginning of the creation.
“The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.1)
Rama is the same Krishna, so He doesn’t need to learn anything from anyone. To play along in the role as human being, Rama takes instruction from two gurus. One is Vashishtha, who is the family preceptor. Rama and His three younger brothers learn about how to administer a kingdom. Then later on Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana get further instruction from Vishvamitra. This amazing guide gives them mantras that greatly increase the potency of the arrows released from their bows.
2. Getting exiled from the kingdom
Rama’s father is King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Dasharatha is a little advanced in years, and he doesn’t have a son. Finally, after consulting a sage and performing a sacrifice, the king is blessed with four sons, the oldest of which is Rama. The king is very attached to Rama right from the start.
Later on, one of the queens is jealous that her son, Bharata, is not getting as much attention. Taking advantage of a promise Dasharatha had previously made to her, she asks that Rama be banished from the kingdom. The king is heartbroken, unable to even utter the words to his son. Rama finds out what happened and immediately prepares to leave. If He was God, why would He have to listen to anyone? How can God ever be kicked out of His kingdom? These are the arguments of the atheists, who would never sacrifice anything to uphold the honor of someone else. They are themselves dishonorable, so what do they care of someone else’s reputation?
3. Roams around like a homeless person
Rama not only had to leave the kingdom, but He had to roam around like an ascetic in the forest. He couldn’t just set up shop somewhere else. That would have been easy, as the people of Ayodhya were ready to leave and follow Him. Rama’s wife Sita came along, as did Lakshmana, and the three were like a group of wandering homeless people.
It was this vision that Ravana was most fooled by. He couldn’t understand how a powerful person would ever allow that to happen. Ravana thought material opulence was everything. He thought renunciation was only for the purpose of gaining strength later on. He thus mistook Rama for a weak man, an ineffective fighter. He did not know that one of the opulences belonging to Bhagavan, or God, is vairagya, which is renunciation.
4. Losing Sita
Ravana hatched a plan to take Sita, and it actually worked. For a time, that is. The way the plan went was that a friend changed his shape into a golden deer. Seeing the deer, Sita asked Rama to bring it for her. Rama chased after it, leaving Sita vulnerable. If Rama were truly God, how could He get tricked by a Rakshasa in disguise? If He is truly all-knowing, He would have recognized Maricha to be that deer.
This illusion gives faith to the faithless to continue in their path. Of course, the actual justifications are easy to understand. Karma works along with time to deliver the due results at the appropriate times. One of the reasons for the Rama avatara was to rid the world of Ravana and his terrorizing Rakshasa friends. With Sita taken away, Rama would have justification to march to Lanka and rescue her. The great war with Ravana would accomplish the task of the demigods, who had petitioned Vishnu for help.
5. Needing the help of monkeys
Rama did not have an army with Him in the forest. As per the conditions set by Kaikeyi, Rama could not return home to get the royal soldiers. No problem. God is the best friend of the living entity, as He states in the Bhagavad-gita.
“The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.29)
Rama made friends with the Vanaras in Kishkindha. These were forest-dwellers, a species that were monkey-like. Their leader, Sugriva, agreed to send all his soldiers to help in the rescue of Sita. On one side you had powerful ogres who could use black magic as a weapon. On the other you had monkey-like creatures hurling trees and rocks. But the latter group had Rama with them, so victory was assured.
The asuras can’t fathom God making friends with monkeys. They don’t understand how Rama needed their help in building a bridge to Lanka. He should have been able to do everything Himself, they will argue. Indeed, this is a good argument, justification for continuing in atheism. The devotees know the truth, that the Supreme Lord takes great pleasure in glorifying His servants. Only through devotional service can a person exceed even the stature of God, such as with Shri Hanuman and Shrimati Radharani.
If Rama is God indeed,
Why help from monkeys to need?
How by golden deer was fooled,
And not by force Ayodhya ruled?
Since a choice always in living,
Even to atheists strength giving.
Monkeys for Rama the bridge happily made,
Lord pleased when honor to His servants paid.