Qualification for attaining Bhagavan
Many times spiritual aspirants feel that god realization requires special qualifications. If we lack a special virtue, we are ineligible for spiritual pursuits. This thought process is negated when you study the lives of Sugriva and Vibhishana. The lives of Sugriva and Vibhishana are full of differences. Yet they attain Bhagavan. The Ramcharitmanas describes so many characters, all unique and different, reassuring to the common man that one need not pursue an exceptional virtue to qualify in attaining Bhagavan. There is great disparity in the lives of Sugriva and Vibhishana. Thriving in the adverse conditions of Lanka, in the rule of Demons, Vibhishana kept firm to his spiritual discipline. Vibhishana is hence a jeeva who is a Sadhaka. And this spiritual proclivity has its deep roots in the samskaras of his previous birth. In his previous birth, Vibhishana was the minister of a righteous king Pratapabhanu. He was called Dharma Ruchi. Even in his previous birth, he firmly upheld the principles of dharma. He had great Ruchi for Dharma as his name announces it.
सचिव धरमरुचि हरि पद प्रीती| नृप हित हेतु सिखव नित नीती|| He was a great source of inspiration and preached noble ethics to king Pratapabhanu.
No Jeeva is bad
There is a great significance in recollecting the past lives of Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Vibhishana. Even if the rendition was skipped, it wouldn’t matter. Yet the Ramayan urges us to study their previous births and understand the hidden significance behind the narration. Ravan, Kumbhakarna in their previous births, retold as per various versions, were Jay- Vijay, the doorkeeper of Vishnu while some call them the two righteous kings Pratapabhanu and Arimardana while others call them ganas of Lord Shiva. Yet these personalities were upright and tall-sighted. The principal teaching is that no Jeeva is bad. As Vishnu Parshadas, Shiva Ganas and two noble kings they were crest amongst righteous men, upright, and upheld a high character. Yet they became demons? What is the mystery behind this conversion? In the Ramayan, the start and end of a jeeva has been weaved together. When Ravana died, his glow merged into Shri Rama. Hence, being a fragment of Bhagavan, the Jeeva is always pure, unsullied and free from contamination.
Who is a jeeva? ईस्वर अंस जीव अबिनासी| चेतन अमल सहज सुख रासी||
Indestructible, pure, sentient and the very delineation of bliss. Fundamentally, the jeeva is pure and possess the highest intelligence. This truth has been conveyed through the lives of these characters. Ultimately the Jeeva has to unite with Bhagvan. Yet, in the middle, due to conflux of bad propensities, his heart appears polluted. It is a common myth that good virtues must be consciously cultivated. But, from the spiritual parlance the jeeva from the very beginning is a reservoir of all excellent virtues but it is only in the middle phase that he becomes Ravana and Kumabhakarna due to demoniac influence. In the middle phase the jeeva gets deluded by the glamor of materialistic life. Ravana is attachment personified. Kumbhakarna is ego personified. While Meghanad is lust personified. The pure jeeva appears demonaic due to the terror of the demoniac forces of Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Meghnad. Hence, Shri ramcharitmanas renders the tale of uprooting these vices.
The primary cause for Pratapbhanu’s downfall was his bodily attachment, a mark of ignorance. When Kutila Muni asked him to voice his wish- Pratapbhanu requested him to grant him immortality. Pratapbhanu had accepted affinity with the body which ultimately caused his downfall to a Rakshasa.
Vibhishana’s attraction for Dharma
Vibhishana as Dharmaruchi (previous birth) displayed intense attachment for Dharma. The tale sets the premise for the Sadhana path. Dharma ruchi literally means that the seeker must first display ruchi (interest) for Dharma, attraction for Dharma, as a result… धर्म तें बिरति जोग तें ग्याना| ग्यान मोच्छप्रद बेद बखाना|| When he is reborn as Vibhishana, Brahma and Shiva descend to grant boons to Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Vibhishana.
Is Sadhana difficult?
Now, Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Vibhishana undertook equal amounts of pain. Placed at an equal position, they attained different rewards. Ravana, Kumbhakarna, and Vibhishana underwent the same degree of austerity, yet Vibhishana attained Bhagavan while others did not. So if one considers god-realization to be a tough venture, this episode proves them wrong. Vibhishana had made a wise choice. Likewise, in our lives, we have all the tools necessary to attain Bhagavan, but what is our aim, our intention? What we wish to attain through Sadhana? We need to introspect. This is most important. Ravana in the guise of Pratapbhanu is bodily attachment personified. When a Jeeva firmly accepts, his body to be “I”, even on seeing Brahma and Lord Shiva, his bodily attachment doesn’t end.
Ravana says- If you are pleased with my austerity
“Make me immortal. हम काहू के मरहिं न मारें| His body shouldn’t perish. Ravana fears bodily death.
Ravana would not insist on becoming immortal if he had recognized his true self as atma. He repeated the same folly of his previous birth with strengthened fervor. Ravana and Kumbhakarna present the two facets of bodily attachment, Rajas and Tamas, through bodily passion and sloth. Ironically Ravana demanded a wasteful boon. When Shankarji returned after bestowing the benediction, Parvatiji enquired- What did Ravana ask? Lord Shiva sighed: What to tell, Ravana has asked his own death from me. The next line is- रावन मरन मनुज कर जाचा | The body can never be immortal. In his spree of becoming immortal he underestimated the strength of humans and monkeys. His calculation was that humans and monkeys were his diet. And food increases the strength of the body. But Lord Shiva laughs at his folly- Doesn’t overeating kill? The health policy shows that the overeating folks die at a faster rate than the starving ones. This is the power of attachment. Ravana himself was a great scholar. He had before him the entire document of scriptural evidence that showed none can escape the clutches of death, be it a Rakshasa or a Danava. Yet, he believed that he could rewrite history. If others couldn’t he surely can. This is demonism. This is Ravana. The Mahabharata recalls this irony when Yudhistira answers the Yaksha- अहन्यहनि भूतानि गच्छन्तीह यमालयम् | शेषाः स्थावरमिच्छन्ति किमाश्चर्यमतः परम् || We see people constantly dying before us yet we take it for granted perhaps our turn might never come. We see this aspect, not just in Ravana’s life but this is a common man’s story. How popular is this Ravana Vritti. We have everything we ever need for attaining Bhagavan. The Shastra beautifully glorify the virtue of renunciation and detachment. Through Nishkam Sadhana we can attain Bhagavan. But Goswamiji here presents a different viewpoint.
Lord Rama gives a boon
Bhagavan asked Tulsidasji to ask a boon for his selfless service of writing His pastimes. What is your desire? In turn Tulsidasji firmly asked the Lord to bless him with selfless love for Him. Then Shri Rama enquired- “What type of Love do you desire? Like Bharat, Lakshmana, Hanumanji,…” presenting him with a list of choices. Goswami ji said :”Oh Lord, How to say? Can their lives ever be compared to mine? Can their conduct ever be compared to mine? They are such elevated devotees.” “Then what type of love you wish to have?”
Goswamiji wrote a doha in reply- कामहि नारि पिआरि जिमि लोभहि प्रिय जिमि दाम | तिमि रघुनाथ निरंतर प्रिय लागहु मोहि राम ||
Without mentioning the names of the above devotees, he said- “Just as a miser hoards his wealth, a lustful man appreciates beauty, I should be attracted to you with the same fervor.” Tulsidasji redefines the methodology to approach Bhagavan. When material vices are directed towards Bhagavan they become fruitful. Renunciation and detachment are always helpful but the supposed material contamination can also be made fruitful by directing it to Bhagavan. This is the gesture of Tulsidasji.