Burn The Ravana Within

by February 13, 2012

The basic storyline of Ramayana is very similar to that of a typi­cal movie. Both feature a hero, a heroine and a villain; both depict the villain lusting for the heroine; both delineate an exciting con­frontation between the hero and the villain, culminating in the

destruction of the villain and re­union of the hero and the heroine. However, there is one vital difference in the movie, the hero, the heroine and the villains are all actually villains. Many people think of a villain as a person who enjoys by exploit­ing and harming others. Though not wrong, this conception of evil is naive as it ignores a fundamental reality: our supremely responsi­ble and loving father God, who provides us our daily food. Our work to earn our food is secondary, like the work of the birds in finding grains. All our other necessities ­heat, light, air, water, health– are similarly fulfilled – primarily by divine provision, secondarily by human endeavor.

Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, just as healthy fear of a loving father is necessary for a naughty, restless child to become disciplined and responsible. And love of God is the culmination of wisdom, just as gratitude and love for a benevolent father shows the maturity of a grown­up son. Sadly however our society fosters neither love nor fear for God, but glamorizes godless selfish mate­rialism instead. In a family, if a son doesn’t care for his father, who is his connecting link with his brothers, very soon he will stop caring for them too. Similarly selfishness towards God is the origin of all evil. We have all sown that evil seed in our own hearts and are now force­feeding each other its bitter fruits – terrorism, corruption, crime, exploitation – all due to fighting with each other for the world’s resources, which are God’s inheritance for us.

In the Ramayana, Lord Rama and His consort Sita are the eter­nal hero and heroine. Hanuman, the godly hero, personifies the ten­dency to selflessly assist the Lord in His divine love, whereas Ravana, the godless villain, personifies the tendency to selfishly grab the Lord’s property for our own lust. The godly hero aspires to enjoy with God, whereas the godless villain wants to enjoy like God.

On the other hand, in a typical movie, all the protagonists – the hero, the heroine and the villain – have the same evil mentality of wanting to enjoy without caring for God. In the hero and heroine, that mindset is masked in the guise of romance, whereas in the villain, it is expressed without reservation. But they are all Ravanas; the difference is merely in the shades of black. Our selfish attempts to be imitation heroes and heroines – whether in the movies or in real life – are intrinsically evil and they fuel and fan all the greater evils that we dread. Ultimately our evil boomerangs on us, for it perpetuates the illusion of our bodily misidentification and our body subjects us to the tortures of old age, disease, death and rebirth – again and again and again.

The festival of Dusserha commemorates the ultimate defeat of Ravana and reminds us of the destiny that awaits our society, if it continues in its godless selfishness. But Dusserha is also a festival of hope and joy. The destruction of Ravana teaches us that the Lord is competent to destroy the evil within and without. The same Lord Rama who destroyed Ravana millennia ago has re­appeared as His Holy Name to destroy the Ravana within the hearts of people. The holy name offers us real happiness – not by imitating God, but by loving God. So on Dusserha let us not be content with burning life­less effigies of Ravana; let us also burn, with the purifying fire of the holy names, the living Ravana in our own hearts.

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