A Rebuttal of a Grave Misconception
Recently, due to the degrading influence of the age of Kali (kali-yuga), a profane story deprecating Lord Rāma has been making its rounds on social media and, thanks to a population largely uneducated in spiritual principles, it has become quite popular among the public. So we have decided to present the truth of the matter to those who are actually interested in the truth.
A PROFANE STORY
The story goes as follows:
A pregnant mother asked her daughter, “What do you want – A brother or a sister?”
Mother: Like whom?
Daughter: Like Rāvaṇa
Mother: What the hell are you saying? Are you out of your mind?
Daughter: Why not, mom? He left all his royal life & kingdom, all because his sister was disrespected. Even after picking up his enemy’s wife, he didn’t ever touch her. Why wouldn’t I want to have a brother like him? What would I do with a brother like Rāma who left his pregnant wife after listening to a dhobī (washerman) who falsely criticized her though his wife always stood by his side like a shadow, after having thoroughly excelled in the fire test of purity and suffering 14 years of exile. Mom, you being a wife & sister to someone, until when will you keep on asking for a “Rāma” as your son???
The mother was in tears.
RĀVAṆA WAS NOT A SAINT
It is imperative to note that these baseless stories stem from a lack of knowledge of the scriptures. With half-knowledge and an eagerness to “kill’ God, these people think themselves very intelligent but their foolishness is exposed when they face the authorized devotees of the Lord. Let us now address the claims of the above-mentioned story.
First of all, Rāvaṇa pursued against Lord Rāma not primarily because his sister was humiliated. That was the initial reason but the real impetus came when the beauty of Sītā was described by his sister Śūrpaṇakhā. That ignited his lust, which led him to kidnap Mother Sītā. This is clearly mentioned in the Rāmāyaṇa itself.
Secondly, why did Rāvaṇa not violate Sītā after having captured her? The answer is mentioned right in the beginning of the Rāmāyaṇa. The history traces back far before the advent of Lord Rāma. Rāvaṇa was a ruthless and a cruel king. He went around the heavenly, earthly and subterranean planets defeating all the kings and violating the women thereof. Just after killing King Anaraṇya (a greatly powerful king in the ancestral line of Lord Rāma) on earth, he proceeded to the heavenly city of Amarāvatī and raped Rambhā, the wife of Nalakūvara, who was the son of Kuvera, the treasurer of the heavens.
When Rambhā, crying, went to her husband after the ordeal with Rāvaṇa, the husband Nalakūvara pronounced his curse saying, “This evil Rākṣasa (demon) has violated a celestial lady. If he ever again rapes another maiden he will immediately fall dead.” It was due to this curse that he stayed away from violating Sītā against Her desire. He therefore, was trying all means to get Her to accept him but Sītā was so chaste to Lord Rāma that She did not deviate from Her meditation on Him for even the period in which to blink an eye.
Therefore, Rāvaṇa could do nothing. He was in no way a saint who respected women. The destruction of Rāvaṇa and his dynasty is a direct result of his grave offence towards Mother Sītā and Lord Rāma thus teaching us a lesson in the consequences of offending the Lord in any way.
SĪTĀ AND RĀMA WERE FAULTLESS
Let us now address the accusation made about Lord Rāma. Lord Rāma made it very clear just after slaying Rāvaṇa that the chastity of Sītā has to be established before She could be accepted back into His home in order to silence anyone who would speak ill of Mother Sītā after that. He made Her walk through fire and if She were indeed pure, She would be untouched by the fire.
And, actually She emerged untouched by the fire and all the exalted demigods of the universe had attested to Her chastity. Despite all that, some citizens were still doubtful and were saying, “Because, Lord Rāma allowed Mother Sītā back into His house, we will have to tolerate similar unchaste behavior from our own wives.”
Although these are false accusations against both Mother Sītā and Lord Rāma and could have been written off as such, it has the potential to throw the entire population for all time into irreligion. How is that so?
THE IMPORTANCE OF CHASTITY OF WOMEN
According to Vedic culture, if the man is trained from childhood to be austere and spiritually educated, and the woman is trained from childhood to be chaste and modest; a union of such man and woman in marriage is very conducive for good progeny and for the advancement in spiritual discipline of the entire human society.
But if such rules are neglected, the result will be a population of lusty men and unchaste women, causing a progeny that would greatly hamper the human mission of life, which is to attain the kingdom of God just after quitting this present material body. This is confirmed by Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gītā [1.40-42] as follows:
“When irreligion is prominent in the family, O Kṛṣṇa, the women of the family become polluted, and from the degradation of womanhood, O descendant of Vṛṣṇi, comes unwanted progeny. An increase of unwanted population certainly causes hellish life both for the family and for those who destroy the family tradition. The ancestors of such corrupt families fall down, because the performances for offering them food and water are entirely stopped. By the evil deeds of those who destroy the family tradition and thus give rise to unwanted children, all kinds of community projects and family welfare activities are devastated.”
THE UNBOUNDED COMPASSION OF LORD RĀMA
So although both Mother Sītā and Lord Rāma were absolutely faultless, Lord Rāma perfectly knew that the entire universe, for all time, would look up to Him as an ideal role model. As Bhagavad-gītā [3.21] enjoins:
yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas
tat tad evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute
lokas tad anuvartate
“Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.”
Lord Rāma, or any incarnation of Kṛṣṇa for that matter, descend into this material world in order to reestablish the eternal codes of religion that promise a happy and peaceful life in this world and liberation in the next. Lord Kṛṣṇa confirmed this in the Bhagavad-gītā [4.8] as follows:
sambhavāmi yuge yuge
“To reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium.”
Although we have forsaken Him and entered this material world to our own peril, Lord Kṛṣṇa (or Lord Rāma), out of His causeless mercy and out of His paternal affection for us, repeatedly comes to rectify the situation that is caused by us ungrateful children.
If women in the future would quote this particular incident and behave loosely, it would be a hellish situation for everyone. So in order that the whole world be happy following religious principles, He relinquished His beloved consort who was pregnant at that time and for whom He fought so valiantly against Rāvaṇa.
When Lord Rāma banished Mother Sītā, was He not mindful of the difficulty of the great war that He had fought against Rāvaṇa? Was He not mindful of the intense trauma that Mother Sītā had undergone during Her captivity? Did He not remember the fire test that Sītā had undergone and which was witnessed and attested to by the ever-truthful demigods?
Was He not grateful to Hanumān and Sugrīva who made superhuman endeavors in rescuing Sītā or to the innumerable Vānaras (monkeys) who laid down their lives in battle for Sītā? Did He forget His promise to His father-in-law Janaka Mahārāja that He would give all protection to Sītā? Did he forget that His wife was pregnant? Did He not care for His future offspring?
The answer is an emphatic NO! Despite all the considerations mentioned above, He weighed our benefit more than all those put together. He became ready to take any blame on His personal account but remained ever-vigilant to His mission of maintaining religious principles in the human society. We implore the reader here to try to understand the Lord’s unbounded compassion! It constitutes a great offence at the lotus feet of Lord Rāma to blame Him despite His great sacrifice.
THE GREAT TRANSCENDENTAL SECRET
The pitiable condition of Mother Sītā is taken to pull the cords of sentiment of the general population but herein lies a great transcendental secret about the Lord’s pastimes which is only understood by pure devotees of the Lord but is never understood by either the non-devotee class of men or the inexperienced devotees.
In the scripture called Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, chapter 34, it is mentioned as follows: “An apparently pitiable condition in devotional service may appear distressing to the inexperienced student, but the feelings of the devotee in this pitiable condition are considered to be ecstatic by expert devotees.
For example, the subject matter of the Rāmāyaṇa is sometimes considered pitiable and distressing to the heart, but actually that is not the fact. The Rāmāyaṇa narrates how Lord Rāma was sent to the forest by His father just when He was going to be enthroned. After Lord Rāma’s departure, Mahārāja Daśaratha, His father, died. In the forest His wife, Sītādevī, was kidnapped by Rāvaṇa, and there was a great war. When Sītādevī was finally delivered from the clutches of Rāvaṇa, Rāvaṇa’s whole family and kingdom, and Rāvaṇa himself, were vanquished.
When Sītādevī came home she was tried by fire, and after some days she was again banished to the forest. All of these subjects in the Rāmāyaṇa seem very pitiable, and they may appear very distressing to the reciter, but actually they are not. Otherwise, why would Hanumān, the great devotee of Lord Rāmacandra, relish reading daily about the activities of Lord Rāmacandra, as described in the Rāmāyaṇa itself?”
Separation from a loved one in this material world is very painful. But in spiritual affairs, although it looks exactly the same superficially, it is indeed the platform of the greatest ecstasy, even more than the ecstasy of meeting. This is possible due to the omnipotence of the Supreme Lord. Technically, this ecstasy is called vipralambha-bhāva. When Sītā was separated from Rāma, She was rapt in thought of Him. This remembrance of Rāma is as good as meeting Him personally due to the absolute nature of the Lord.
THE OMNIPOTENCE OF THE LORD
For example, if we are thirsty, we have to drink water. If we chant the name “water, water” we will not be benefited. It will not quench our thirst. But when we chant the name of Kṛṣṇa, we are actually associating with Kṛṣṇa directly.
When we are reading Bhagavad-gītā, we are actually hearing directly from Kṛṣṇa. When we remember Him, we are directly associating with Him. This is explained very nicely in the Padma Purāṇa as follows:
nāma cintāmaṇiḥ kṛṣṇaś
pūrṇaḥ śuddho nitya-mukto
“The holy name of Kṛṣṇa is transcendentally blissful. It bestows all spiritual benedictions, for it is Kṛṣṇa Himself, the reservoir of all pleasure. Kṛṣṇa’s name is complete, and it is the form of all transcendental mellows. It is not a material name under any condition, and it is no less powerful than Kṛṣṇa Himself.
Since Kṛṣṇa’s name is not contaminated by the material qualities, there is no question of its being involved with māyā. Kṛṣṇa’s name is always liberated and spiritual; it is never conditioned by the laws of material nature. This is because the name of Kṛṣṇa and Kṛṣṇa Himself are identical.”
LOVING KṚṢṆA IN SEPARATION IS HIGHEST ECSTASY
Even Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī loved and served Kṛṣṇa in the mood of separation, vipralambha-bhāva. At the age of about eleven, Kṛṣṇa left Vṛndāvana and the next time He met Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and the gopīs was only after a lapse of hundred years in the holy place of Kurukṣetra.
The gopīs and all the residents of Vṛndāvana loved Kṛṣṇa so dearly that they could not remain alive without Kṛṣṇa even for a moment. How then did they survive the hundred years without Kṛṣṇa? It was possible only because of their uninterrupted remembrance of Him. By their remembrance of Kṛṣṇa, they constantly associated with Him. This is a great transcendental secret.
Lord Caitanya, although Kṛṣṇa Himself, professed Himself as a devotee of Kṛṣṇa and adopted the mood of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and exhibited various ecstatic symptoms in the mood of separation from Kṛṣṇa. He Himself proclaimed, ramyā kācid upāsanā vraja-vadhū-vargeṇa yā kalpitā. “There is no conception of worship better than that which was conceived by the damsels of Vṛndāvana.”
LEARN FROM THE DEVOTEE
In this way, one has to understand the proper conclusions about Lord Kṛṣṇa or Lord Rāma from His pure devotees because only they can enter into the mysteries of the Lord’s activities. Lord Kṛṣṇa confirms this umpteen number of times.
sa evāyaṁ mayā te ’dya
yogaḥ proktaḥ purātanaḥ
bhakto ’si me sakhā ceti
rahasyaṁ hy etad uttamam
“That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend and can therefore understand the transcendental mystery of this science.”
In Bhagavad-gītā [18.55], He says, bhaktyā mām abhijānāti yāvān yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ — “One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service.” In the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam [11.14.21], Lord Kṛṣṇa again proclaims, bhaktyāham ekayā grāhyaḥ — “Only by executing devotional service can one appreciate Me.”
Hearing from non-devotees will have poisonous effect on the hearers. One will lose whatever devotion he has if he hears from them. This is confirmed in the Padma Purāṇa:
śravaṇaṁ naiva kartavyaṁ
sarpocchiṣṭaṁ yathā payaḥ
“One should not hear anything about Kṛṣṇa from a non-Vaiṣṇava. Milk touched by the lips of a serpent has poisonous effects; similarly, talks about Kṛṣṇa given by a non-Vaiṣṇava are also poisonous.”
We should also not interpret the words of the Vedic scriptures in our own ways. We should accept them as they are, without adulteration. To understand the truth as it is, we have to approach a bonafide spiritual master.
Therefore, Kṛṣṇa advises us further in Bhagavad-gītā [4.34]:
tad viddhi praṇipātena
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ
“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.”
Further, in the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 6.23, it is stated:
yasya deve parā bhaktir
yathā deve tathā gurau
tasyaite kathitā hy arthāḥ
“Only unto those great souls who have implicit faith in both the Lord and the spiritual master are all the imports of Vedic knowledge automatically revealed.”
Jaya Śrī Rāma!