Know And Over­come The Ra­vana Within

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - An Ecstasy Of Ideas - B K Brij Mo­han

Vi­jayadasami marks the cul­mi­na­tion of Durga Puja, com­mem­o­rat­ing god­dess Durga’s vic­tory over the de­mon Mahisha­sura to re­store and pro­tect dharma. The fes­ti­val is also called Dussehra and marks the vic­tory of Rama over the de­mon king Ra­vana.

The fes­ti­val is cel­e­brated at the end of Navara­tri ev­ery year, and the chief fea­ture of Dussehra cel­e­bra­tions is the burn­ing of ef­fi­gies of Ra­vana, his brother Kumb­hakarna, and his son In­dra­jit, also known as Megh­nad. This rep­re­sents the fi­nal de­struc­tion of evil and the vic­tory of good.

In Hindu mythol­ogy, Ra­vana is de­picted as hav­ing ten heads, which are in­ter­preted in var­i­ous ways. The heads are said to sym­bol­ise six shas­tras and four Vedas, as Ra­vana is said to have been a great scholar who had mas­tered 64 types of knowl­edge and all arts of weaponry. A learned man, Ra­vana also has to his credit more than a dozen texts, in­clud­ing the Shiva Tan­dava Sto­tra, a pop­u­lar hymn in praise of Shiva.

But Ra­vana’s 10 heads also sym­bol­ise vices. In spite of his great in­tel­lect, the de­mon king is said to have been a slave to his senses. He could not con­trol his de­sires, and as a re­sult he not only brought about his own de­struc­tion, but also had the whole of his king­dom re­duced to ashes. Hav­ing vast knowl­edge and yet be­ing un­able to har­ness his pow­ers was one of Ra­vana’s big­gest re­grets as he lay dy­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Ra­mayana.

Ra­vana may have been a mytho­log­i­cal fig­ure, but his story holds a les­son for us. We also be­come like Ra­vana when, un­der the in­flu­ence of vices, we cre­ate waste­ful and neg­a­tive thoughts that spring up like the heads of the de­mon king. When we stop one thought, an­other arises, and this goes on un­til we end up spend­ing a lot of time and en­ergy bat­tling these thoughts or sim­ply sub­mit­ting to them. Waste­ful and neg­a­tive thoughts come fast, sap our en­ergy, clut­ter the mind, rob it of clar­ity, and erode our power of judg­ment. Scrip­tures speak of how dis­cern­ment gets af­fected when a per­son is a slave to the senses. When a man thinks of ob­jects, at­tach­ment to them arises; from at­tach­ment de­sire is born; from de­sire anger arises. From anger comes delu­sion; from delu­sion the loss of mem­ory; from loss of mem­ory the de­struc­tion of dis­crim­i­na­tion; from the de­struc­tion of dis­crim­i­na­tion a per­son dies spir­i­tu­ally, they tell us.

The mind that fol­lows in the wake of the wan­der­ing senses car­ries away one’s dis­crim­i­na­tion as the wind car­ries away a boat on the wa­ters.

So how does one over­come all the neg­a­tiv­ity sym­bol­ised by Ra­vana? By aban­don­ing all de­sires and ego, liv­ing in this world and per­form­ing ac­tions, but with­out at­tach­ment. This is pos­si­ble only when the mind has been em­pow­ered with knowl­edge and by com­mu­nion with God through med­i­ta­tion. Spir­i­tual knowl­edge re­veals the true na­ture of things, what is of last­ing value and what is worth­less. As a con­se­quence, we stop chas­ing af­ter mo­men­tary plea­sures and getting dis­tracted by de­sires.

Med­i­ta­tion, re­mem­brance of God, boosts the soul’s im­mu­nity to even­tu­ally make it im­per­vi­ous to ex­ter­nal in­flu­ences. When noth­ing at­tracts or re­pels the soul, un­nec­es­sary think­ing stops. Doubts, fears and wor­ries no longer sprout like the heads of Ra­vana to be­wil­der and dispirit us. This is the true vic­tory we should re­solve to at­tain this Vi­jayadasami.

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