Being the main antagonist of the epic of Ramayana, Ravana is widely considered a symbol of evil. But mythology also portrays him as a great ruler, an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, a maestro of Veena and a learned scholar who was well versed in Vedas and numerous other scriptures. Given his qualities, is there something else we could learn from the life of the Lankan king, besides not adhering to the evil he symbolized?
Here is one instance which showcases Ravana’s spiritual acumen:
Upon defeating the forces of Ravana in the grand battle, Lord Rama was in tears as He witnessed the latter breathing his last. Seeing the elder brother mourning, Laxman asked Lord Rama, “Dear brother, why are you in tears?” Lord Rama replied, “We had to fight the war to re-establish true Dharma and righteousness for which killing Ravana was inevitable. But with the demise of Ravana, the treasure of his knowledge and devotion is bound to fade away soon. Dear Laxman, I want you to go visit Ravana at once and ask from him the valuable lessons he can impart in his final moments.” Thus, Laxman straightaway went to Ravana and told him the purpose of his visit. However, Ravana did not respond and remained silent. Unable to understand, Laxmana rushed back to Lord Rama and conveyed him of Ravana’s silence. Lord Rama said, “Brother, you must regard Ravana as a wise scholar who possesses an immense treasure trove of knowledge. Therefore, you must have a sense of humility and respect in your words and disposition.” Realising his fault, Laxman went back to Ravana and stood near his feet with folded hands and a bowed head, expressing the respect the scholar king deserved. He prayerfully requested Ravana for three most important and useful lessons that one must learn in life. At this occasion, Ravana stated the following lessons to Laxman:
Clarity of Preya and Shreya
In life, you must learn the difference between Pleasure (Preya) and Fulfillment (Shreya), for they are not necessarily the same. What seems ‘good’ for you may not be ‘right’ for you. Consciously choosing the path of fulfillment over pleasure means to do what is right over what feels good. This is essential for a seeker to progress upon the spiritual journey. For instance, Having sweets and chocolates would give pleasure to a diabetic person, but it is certainly not the right choice.
Never Underestimate the Opposition
You must never under-estimate the strength of those who oppose you. Whether it is people outside that are against you, or your own vices within – never misjudge or downplay their power to influence your thoughts and actions. Ignoring and belittling their abilities leads to nowhere but defeat, just as Ravana did with the army of Vanaras, which ultimately brought down the mighty Lankan empire. Thus, if you are on the path of pleasure, do not underestimate the strength of fulfillment, for it can empower you to withdraw from the wrong and embrace the right. And if you are on the path of fulfillment, you mustn’t undermine the power of pleasure, for it can very well distract you from righteousness.
Never Divulge Your Deepest Secrets:
You must not freely disclose your secrets to others, especially when you are in doubt. If you needlessly speak about the deepest, most important secrets of your life in public, people around will start doubting you. This consequently breeds self-doubt within and harms your thought process and the ability to take right decisions. Even on the spiritual path if you reveal the progress of your Sadhana to someone who doubts your ability, then the energy of that suspicion would influence your Sadhana adversely.
These were a few of many teachings from Ravana’s life which edify us about the depth of his spiritual knowledge.
Derived from Sri Guru’s Satsangs on Buddha’s Dhammapada #28 »
Written by Jayshree Khadkiwala
Edited by Avneesh Shisodia