Q: Gurudev, yesterday you said that anyone who has surrendered to God cannot do anything wrong. Even Ravana (the King of Lanka in the Ramayana) was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. Then how did he commit such a misdeed (referring to his abducting Lord Rama’s wife Sita)?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: There seems to be a different Ramayana that is followed in Sri Lanka. According to that, it was Lord Rama who made a big mistake (of leaving his wife unattended in the forest during their exile).
See, this is a matter of perception. In Sri Lanka they narrate a totally different story as to why Ravana, though being a king, abducted Sita.
Ravana’s sister (Surpankha) was attracted to Lord Rama and fell in love with Him. When she approached Him, He insulted her by refusing her proposal. And not just that, Lakshmana (Lord Rama’s younger brother) also cut her nose to discourage her from making further advances. Now, would a king forgive someone who has cut his sister’s nose? No king, or human being for that matter would forgive another person who harasses and harms their own sister. Would any person tolerate this? No, because tolerating such a thing would be a crime in itself. So, Ravana abducted Sita in order to avenge his sister’s honour.
But it is also said that Ravana kept Sita very respectfully.
Also, if Ravana was such an evil person, then he would not have agreed to be the priest for the pooja that Lord Rama did in Rameshwaram. Do you all know this story?
Lord Rama wanted to do be victorious in battle against Ravana, and for that He wanted to establish a Shivalinga and worship it. Now to do this, a priest was needed, but in those days there were no priests found in Rameshwaram. So Lord Rama was in dire need of a good priest to perform the rituals.
Ravana was a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva and was also a Brahmin by birth. So Ravana’s brother Vibhishana (who was on Lord Rama’s side), told Lord Rama that Ravana was very well-versed in the rituals. So Lord Rama sent an invitation to Ravana to come and preside as the priest for the pooja at Rameshwaram.
Ravana accepted the invitation and came. But then he told Lord Rama that the pooja would be incomplete without his wife being present. No pooja or yagna can be performed without the wife’s presence. So he told Lord Rama, ‘Since you are a married man, both you and your wife have to sit together for the pooja, otherwise you cannot perform the pooja’.
Then Lord Rama said to him, ‘It is the duty of the priest to provide an alternative for anything that is missing. Since my wife is not with me (having been kept in captivity by Ravana at that time), please tell me what the alternative for this problem is. Can we keep a doll in her place as a substitute?’
Then Ravana said, ‘I do not believe in alternative. I would want everything to be present for the worship of Lord Shiva. So I will call your wife here for the pooja. After the pooja, please send her back to Lanka’.
So Ravana brings Sita for the pooja. After the pooja, when Lord Rama and Sita bow down to touch the feet of the priest, that is, Ravana, to take blessings, then Ravana blesses Lord Rama by saying ‘Vijayi bhavaha’ (May victory be yours!). He had no choice but to do so.
When someone touches the feet of a priest, he is left with no choice but to bless that person. So Ravana had to give that blessing to Lord Rama for which He had organized the pooja. He also blessed Sita by saying ‘Sumangali bhavaha’ (May you receive all that is best and auspicious always!) Such was Ravana’s magnanimity. After blessing both of them, Ravana took Sita back to Lanka with him.
This is a very exciting story. We always perceive Ravana as a villain, but even Ravana had many good qualities in him. This is why when Ravana was counting his last breaths and was at his death bed on the battlefield, Lord Rama told Lakshmana to go and touch the feet of Ravana and receive knowledge from him as he lay dying on the battlefield.
Lord Rama said, ‘If I go to him (Ravana) then he will leave his body and his soul will merge into Me. So before that happens, go and learn all that you can from him’.
Do you know, there is a Gita by the name Ravana? It is called Ravana Gita.
Of the five Gitas that are present, it is one of them. Just like you have the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Ashtavakra Gita, Udhhava Gita, and Guru Gita; there is another Gita called Ravana Gita (the song of Ravana). In it, Ravana teaches many sermons to Lakshmana.
After Ravana completes his teaching, Lakshmana gives a signal to Lord Rama to come to Ravana. When Lord Rama comes to Ravana, his soul leaves his body as a bright light and merges with Lord Rama. This is a story from the Adhyatma Ramayana. I have not read it fully, I have only heard this story. But all of you should read it.
When you read it, you find that Kekayi (one of the wives of King Dashratha and a mother-like figure for Lord Rama) was actually a very noble lady. We usually think of her as a deceitful and evil woman. But it is not so at all. She was not a bad lady. She instructed Lord Rama to go into exile in the forest because He wanted to go.
So this is why it is said, ‘Sarvam Vasudevam iti’ (Everything is Vasudeva).
Both Ravana and Lord Rama are Vasudeva only (meaning both are manifestations of the One Divinity).