“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)Download this episode (right click and save)
Ravana was consumed by lust. The one of the terrifying roar, given his name by the great god, Mahadeva, already had many beautiful wives. They were chaste as well, led by Mandodari. Still, he heard of the beauty of this one lady, who was residing in the forest of Dandaka with her husband. The brother of the husband was there, too.
“Neither the demigods nor any exalted personalities were there helping Rama, for He acted alone. You should not entertain any doubt on this matter. Indeed, Rama shot feathered arrows, plated with gold, which turned into five-headed serpents that devoured all the Rakshasas. The Rakshasas were oppressed with fear, and wherever they went and wherever they turned, they saw Rama in front of them. In this way, O spotless one, have your Rakshasas been destroyed in the forest of Janasthana by Rama.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.18-19)
Ravana had already defeated many kings throughout the world. He was feared for his great strength. Still, he was hesitant to enter this territory, as his brother Akampana had given a warning. The husband of that lady had destroyed 14,000 of Ravana’s men singlehandedly. He did so in defense, as those ogres had attacked on the order of Ravana, to get revenge for the disfigurement of his sister, Shurpanakha.
Ravana’s plan for satisfying his lust was to go in disguise. He would have a helper, Maricha. Ravana would present himself as a brahmana, one of the priestly order. Maricha would arrive first in the form of a beautiful, golden deer. The idea was that the deer would distract the husband and brother, leaving the wife vulnerable for Ravana to take her.
The plan worked. These events are described in the sacred Ramayana, whose title references the main character, Shri Rama. He is an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, or so say the Vedas and their followers. If He is indeed God, how could He allow Ravana’s plan to succeed? How to explain the many contradictions?
1. Illustrates the propensity towards illusion in women
One of the more controversial teachings in the Vedas is the categorization of different body types, and the rankings therein in terms of potential for understanding spiritual life. The foundation of Vedic teachings is the difference between body and spirit. I am spirit soul. So are you. So is the dog, the cow, the plant, and the insect. I am spirit soul today, I was yesterday, and I will be tomorrow. In fact, spirit never dies.
“This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.24)
The body is different. It does not identify the individual. The body consists of gross material elements of three different kinds: goodness, passion and ignorance. There is a linear relationship between goodness and intelligence. Intelligence in this regard is the potential for understanding the spiritual science and the ability to maintain that realization while living.
The human body is the most auspicious since it has goodness to a high degree. The animals are mostly in ignorance. Within the human species, the females are considered less intelligent; that is they have a greater tendency towards illusion, or maya. They tend to identify more with the body.
“O son of Pritha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth - women, vaishyas [merchants], as well as shudras [workers] - can approach the supreme destination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.32)
All souls are equal, and tendencies are not absolute. Any spirit soul can be rescued from illusion through devotion to the Supreme Lord, but the idea is that certain body types are more conducive to understanding the spiritual nature of the individual than others.
In the incident with the golden deer, the wife Sita saw it and immediately wanted to have it. She politely asked Rama to get it for her, preferably alive. Neither Rama nor His younger brother Lakshmana were drawn by the beauty of the deer. Whether golden, amber, red or black, they had no interest in bringing it back.
2. Shows how harsh words from a loving wife should be ignored
Rama loves Sita so much that He did not hesitate to try to please her. He immediately went after the deer. Sita hardly asks anything from Him anyway. She had voluntarily left home to travel with Him in the forest. That travel was scheduled to last fourteen years. She was roughing it, after having lived in royal palaces her whole life.
Rama told Lakshmana to stay at the cottage to protect Sita. Under no circumstances was he to leave her side. Maricha was expert in illusion in more ways than one. He masked his shape by transforming into a golden deer. At the time of death he masked his voice. Rama shot an arrow right into him, and while dying he screamed out in a voice that sounded like Rama’s.
Sita and Lakshmana heard this from afar. Sita was so worried that she asked Lakshmana to go check on Rama. Lakshmana was skeptical. He thought there was something fishy with the deer to begin with. Plus, Rama had told him not to leave.
Sita then began to insult Lakshmana. Her words were so harsh that Lakshmana eventually left her side to go to Rama. This left her vulnerable to Ravana. From that incident we see that the loving words of an angry wife should not be taken very seriously. Even though she insulted Lakshmana greatly, he did not hold any of those words against her. Indeed, after leaving, Lakshmana was rebuked by Rama for breaking the order. Sita was also remorseful.
3. Shows that Rama will do anything for His devotee
Devotees of the Supreme Lord are known to be vegetarians. They don’t eat meat, fish or eggs. Garlic and onions are on the banned list, too, as they are foods in the mode of ignorance. The Supreme Lord accepts any offering made to Him in devotion, and foods in the mode of goodness are preferred.
If the devotees are vegetarian, why was Rama going after a deer? Why did He shoot it? Indeed, there is no reason for the Supreme Lord to take to violence. In this case He was acting out the role of kshatriya, or warrior. In ancient times, violence against deer was sanctioned since it allowed the warriors to practice their aim with the bow and arrow. The killing was not considered sinful.
Still, Rama is so kind that He will do anything for His devotees. Sita hardly asks anything of Him. When she made the request to Rama, she admitted that she felt it was wrong for a wife to command her husband in that way. Indeed, later on Rama broke one of the rules of warfare by shooting a combatant in the back, while that combatant was engaged with someone else. Again, this was for the sake of a devotee, Sugriva.
4. Shows how Rama gives strength even to the atheists
In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that everyone follows Him in all respects. Krishna is the same Rama; another avatara appearing in the world at a different time. Krishna says that He rewards everyone accordingly.
“All of them - as they surrender unto Me - I reward accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Pritha.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.11)
As the word manushya, or men, is used, atheists are naturally included. They are rewarded by getting continued illusion. The idea is that everyone gets the association they prefer. The atheists like illusion, thinking that one day they can become God.
The incident with the golden deer confirms their suspicions that Rama is not God. He chased after a deer that was in disguise, after all. He was fooled by Maricha and Ravana. In this way, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary found within the Ramayana itself, the atheists can hang on to their flimsy branch of illusion.
5. Gave justification for the destruction of the Rakshasas
The Rama avatara descended to earth at the request of the celestials. Known as devas in Sanskrit, the demigods are mostly in the mode of goodness. They are in constant conflict with the demons, who are in ignorance and passion. Ravana was harassing the celestials, and he had boons giving him immunity from all kinds of creatures. Human beings were exempt, but who was strong enough to take him on?
Rama appeared in the house of King Dasharatha for that very purpose, but He would need justification first. He upheld dharma, after all, and it is not right to invade a foreign territory for no reason. Ravana’s taking of Sita provided the justification. It was the necessary change in the storyline to facilitate the great ending of Ravana’s destruction at the hands of Rama, who is always victorious.
Maricha as golden deer showing,
To area in Dandaka forest going.
Supreme Lord everything should know,
Why after deer did He go?
For devotees anything to do,
Lesson of tolerance of wives too.
For Ravana’s destruction excuse needed,
Rama then towards Lanka proceeded.