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CHAPTER 8: BACKGROUND STORIES
Shri Lanka was built on top of a mountain called Tri-kuta Giri. This Tri-kuta was a piece of rock that broke from Mount Meru. Long ago, there was some discussion between two Gandharvas. One Gandharva said, "Vasuki is such a powerful strong snake, that when the Lord took incarnation as Matsya, he used Vasuki as a rope to tie the horn of that fish to the boat where Maharaja Satyavrata and the sapta-rishis were travelling. In the dissolution water, this boat was kept safe due to Vasuki binding Matsya and the boat." The other Gandharva said, "Maybe he is strong, but do you think he could be as strong as Vayu, Varuna or Agni?" The other said, "He must be stronger than them, otherwise why did the Lord select Vasuki?" While they were discussing in this way, Vayu, the god of air, who is present everywhere, he couldn't tolerate this discussion. He personally came in front of them and asked them, "What is this useless discussion?" "Who are you?" they enquired. "I am Vayu," he replied. "Is there anyone as strong as me? Why do you even discuss these things? Don't you know that I am everywhere and I am listening to these things?" One Gandharva said, "Well, I have seen Vasuki. I was the last one to creep into the water at that time. I've seen how strong he is." Vayu said, "Bring that Vasuki, and we can test." Then Vasuki was brought, and he challenged Vayu. "What do you mean? I am so strong! Every time the Lord selects me, so there must be some reason." Vayu said, "Then we can test our strength." Vasuki said, "I will coil around the Meru three times, and you blow and see if you can open my coils." But they never consulted Mount Meru whether they could do it. Around Mount Meru were so many insects and creatures. All the planetary systems were going around it. Vasuki went on there, and Meru did not mind. So many snakes were on there already. But he didn't know there was going to be some sports. Vasuki coiled around Meru three times and started getting tighter and tighter. And then Vayu started blowing against Mount Meru in full force. Mount Meru started moving back and forth, because Vayu was using all his strength, and Vasuki was not going to give up. So it was not just Vasuki, but Vayu had to work on both, the strength of Mount Meru and the strength of Vasuki. And then Mount Meru started complaining and screaming. "What is this? There are three parties involved in this, but I was never consulted. Why am I being given trouble like this? I am going to turn upside down and create trouble. All the planetary systems will fall." Brahma heard all this, and he appeared on the scene, telling Vayu and Vasuki, "You have your kind of strength, and he has his kind of strength. In your kind of strength, you are the most strong. And in his strength, blowing, that you cannot do. So in that way he is strong." When Vasuki uncoiled after the sports, one rock was broken from Mount Meru, and it fell in the salt ocean. This rock had three peaks, so it was known as Tri-kuta. It was on the salty ocean for a long time. And then Visvakarma, for the purpose of making a nice palace for the pastimes of the demigods, he made this Shri Lanka city on top of Tri-kuta mountain. Later, Kuvera, the cousin brother of Ravana, took over this place. He also got an appointment as the treasurer of the demigods, so they didn't mind him using it. Kuvera was there for a long time. When Ravana, Vibhisana, Kumbhakarna and Surpanakha went there for performing austerities, Ravana's mother Kaikashi became very envious that Kuvera was sitting on this wonderful Shri Lanka city, so she told Ravana, "Why don't you perform some austerities so that you can get a benediction and kick him out of this place." Kaikashi was the wife of Vishravas, and Vishravas had another wife through whom Kuvera was born. These were co-wives, and they were rivals. Kaikashi was inciting Ravana, "You must perform some tapasya, some great austerities." Ravana performed austerities, Kumbhakarna performed austerities, Vibhisana performed austerities, and Surpanakha also performed austerities as well as Khara and Dusana. Each one was born with 1 hour 45 minutes difference between them. Ravana, then Kumbhakarna, then Vibhisana, then Surpanakha, then Khara and Dusana. So they were all in Himalayas performing austerities. When Brahma appeared before Ravana, he asked for all kinds of greedy benedictions, and he got them. Kumbhakarna was thinking to ask for a benediction by which he will live forever. The word in Sanskrit is "nitya-tvam." nitya means eternal and nitya-tvam means eternity. "I want eternity." But somehow the material nature tricked Kumbhakarna. The word Devatta, the power of speech came in his tongue, and tilted his tongue. Instead of nitya-tvam, he asked for "nidra-tvam." Nidra means "sleep", so he asked for sleep. Brahma said, "Tadastu, you can have it." Kumbhakarna said, "What? No! I wanted to live forever, not sleep! Please stop this benediction!" Brahma said, "No, I have given you this benediction, I cannot take it back." He begged, "This is not fair! It is a trick of the demigods! I did so much austerity, and now I am simply going to sleep. This is not proper! Why would a person ever perform austerities so that he can just sleep forever, and then die at the end?" So Brahma felt very compassionate. "All right, Kumbhakarna, you sleep for six months. And then you get up, and you eat for six months." So Kumbhakarna went to sleep. At the end of the sixth month, waking him up was very difficult. They had to bring a huge army. The army would march on his body. Elephants and camels would walk over him, and they would play bugles and put fire on his chest. Still he would be snoring and wouldn't get up. After all the army marched past shooting astras and creating a lot of noise, then slowly he will feel some pain somewhere and then he got up. When he got up he would smash half of the army. He was a huge big figure. As soon as he got up he would ask, "Where is food?" He hadn't eaten for such a long time, so he eats for six months. This is what he did before he went back to sleep again. While he ate, his education was done. Pandits would sit on both sides and read books to him. He would be simultaneously eating and listening to the shastras. In this way, he also became an expert archer. He got other benedictions also. He was a great yogi, and while sleeping he would come out of his body in his subtle body, and he would travel around and find out everything. One body was asleep, but in his sukshma-sharira, Kumbhakarna visited Kailash, performed austerities and got astras from Lord Siva. Only his gross body couldn't be seen. Vibhisana was also praying, and when Brahma came, he said, "Give me devotion to the Supreme Lord." Ravana said, "Oh no! One more in the family. First Prahlad, and now him! What are you doing? Brahma is here, so get something worthwhile. But no, `devotion to the Supreme Lord.' What will you do with this? You have become a demon!" For the demons, a devotee is a demon. "You are not against Hari, you want to worship Him." That was Vibhisana's benediction. And Surpanakha got a benediction for changing her form. Whatever form she wanted she could take. That was how she was trying to attract Laksmana and Ramacandra. She became a beautiful girl, and she was saying, "Ramacandra, I'm so attracted by you." Ramacandra said, "Yes, anyone will be attracted by me. The only problem is that my wife is here. If she was not here, I wouldn't mind. But look at my brother! He is also married, but his wife is not here. You check with him." Laksmana said, "How is it possible? When my elder brother is in front of me, how can I do it? You go to my elder brother, he is just joking with you." So she went back to Ramacandra, and said, "Your younger brother is not interested in these things. You are the older one, why aren't you interested?" He replied, "Yes I am the elder, but the point is that my wife is very wild. If she ever finds out that I am talking to you, I don't know what will happen. He is free, an individual separate from his wife. Go to him." She went to him, but Laksmana said, "Yes his wife is wild, but she is not here now. You should be utilizing this opportunity. You go try with him, and if that doesn't work you just come back to me." So she went back to Ramacandra, saying, "See? Your wife is not here now." Ramacandra said, "Yes, my wife is not here, but this brother is very political. When she comes back, he will tell her. So you first go to him, and if he is happy then he won't tell." So she ran back to Laksmana. By that time Sita came. Surpanakha said, "All this trouble is because of you!" And she ran and picked Sita up. As soon as she did that, Laksmana came with his sword, and cut off the tips of her nose, ears and breasts, and the original Rakshasi form came out. She was crying, and then she disappeared into the sky. Then Khara and Dusana came with 14,000 able fighters from the demon dynasty. Ramacandra finished all of them with one arrow. Janasthan was a very strategical point. Janasthan was the last point in the mainland. If anyone could conquer the soldiers in Janasthan, then they could dare to cross the ocean and come to Shri Lanka. Ravana was so happy because Janasthan was there, and Khara, Dusana and Surpanakha were just exploiting the area, eating rishis every day. He was so happy. "Who can come to Shri Lanka?" But then, this so-called human being, Ramacandra, he told Laksmana, "Don't even move. I will do it." He killed 14,000 demon soldiers, and Khara and Dusana were destroyed. When the news reached Ravana, he was thinking, "No this is not true. It cannot be true. How can a human being kill 14,000 demons?" Always Ravana was thinking, "No, it's not true. It's not true." But it was true. Everything he heard seemed to him to be like it was not true. When he went to Marica and said, "Please go and become a deer," Marica said, "What? Become a deer and do what? What can a deer do to Rama? I still remember how he pushed me right across the mainland and threw me into the salty ocean with only a blade of grass. That is why I became a babaji, not for searching after the Absolute Truth. In fear of the blade of grass I became a babaji, an ascetic. Don't drive me in front of Ramacandra again." Ravana said, "If you don't go, I will kill you." Marica was thinking, "Ravana will kill me anyway. Ravana or Rama, but it's better to die in the hands of Rama. Why die in the hands of this demon?" So Marica said, "I will go." Ravana said, "Ahh! I always knew you had great affection for me." "No, I don't have any affection for you." "Then why do you want to go?" Ravana asked. "Well who wants to die in your hands?" Marica said. "I would rather die in the hands of Rama. And I know I will die, so I am going." Ravana made the biggest mistake in his life by kidnapping Sita. Ravana was a great scholar and pandit. He was known as Shastra-jna. He knew all shastras, in all the Vedas he was expert. Nobody at that time had the expert pronunciation of Ravana. Even in the demigod's assembly sometimes when they held sacrifices, they would bring Ravana for chanting verses. If someone is chanting Sanskrit verses, that does not necessarily mean he is a great devotee. Demons are also chanting Sanskrit verses. Vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyah. Ravana read all the Vedas, yet due to his lust he could not even accept that another man's wife should not be taken. Ravana's lust was exemplary. Once he was performing a fire sacrifice, and Agni appeared there with his wife, in spite of Brahma telling him not to go there, this Ravana was a trouble-maker. Agni said, "Look at his chanting, so perfect. Such wonderful installation of fire, so I must go there personally." Brahma said, "All right go, but don't take your wife." So then Agni said, "How is it Vedic that one goes without his wife? If I go without her I will only be 50%. I must go with my wife." Brahma said, "Well, if that is written in your head, what can I say? You go." So Ravana was circumambulating the fire with folded hands chanting mantras, and then Agni came. "Ravana! I am here." Ravana looked around. Not only was he there, but Agni's wife, Swaha, was also there. She looked so beautiful, as beautiful as fire. She is actually the flame of the fire. When Ravana looked at her, he immediately lifted her and flew away in the middle of his yajna, before completing it. The priests were shouting, "Ravana! At least do the purnahoti!" "What purnahoti?" Ravana replied. "Woman is more important." So Agni was shouting, "Please, please Ravana, give me my wife back! I'll give you anyone, but don't take my wife." Every husband thinks like this, "If my wife goes, how will I eat?" The wife is supposed to be the saha-dharmani, one who helps the husband in his religious practices. After Ramacandra had said, "I will finish all the demons in Dandakaranya," Sitadevi was looking so worried that Ramacandra asked her, "How come you are so unhappy after your husband made such a wonderful promise, and flowers fell from the heavens?" She said, "You took the vanaprastha life to live in the forest for fourteen years, as an ascetic. Only for defending me did You say you were carrying your bow and arrows. You have come here, and now, instead of living as an ascetic, You are beating on Your shoulders, saying You will kill the demons. That is one point. Another point is that a king of noble quality should not become the enemy of someone unless that person has given him some trouble. The demons have given you no trouble. They are eating rishis, but they are not troubling you. And if rishis are being eaten then it is the responsibility of Bharata, he is the king. You are not the king, and You said that you did not want to be, so you are breaking your word." Women give very technical arguments, but sometimes they are totally useless. At least in this case they were. Sitadevi was saying this, but then another time when Gautama Rishi's wife gave her cosmetics which were in two big heavy baskets, she asked Laksmana, "Can you please carry this for me?" Laksmana said, "But mataji, we are in the forest. We are supposed to be wearing tree bark. Only because Dasaratha begged did you get some silk saris, and I am already carrying one basket full of silk saris. We have to climb mountains, cross rivers, I have to carry sword, shield, bows and arrows, an axe, and now cosmetics? What for?" Anasuya, Gautama's wife, was no ordinary woman. She had heavenly cosmetics. You only had to put this make up on once every five or six days. You can take bath, do anything. Laksmana was complaining, "These cosmetics will smell for ten kilometres distance. It is dangerous. We are moving in the forest, and ten miles around we are propagating that we are here. It is unsafe. A tiger, a lion or even some demon may come." Actually these cosmetics were so dangerous that she had so many problems. Even demigods were attracted to her. "But I won't use them," Sita argued. "Then what is the use of carrying them?" Laksmana said. This is also traditional for women to carry things that they never use. Poor Laksmana left his wife in Ayodhya, and he had to carry these cosmetics for fourteen years. Even when they crossed the ocean he had to carry it. She said, "When I am back in Ayodhya I will use it." When she was sitting in the Ashoka-vana, she was lamenting, "What did I do? I said such bad words to Laksmana who was carrying all that weight for me. He was even carrying all those useless cosmetics on his shoulder. I criticized him, `You want to enjoy me, that is why you are not going'. Why did I say that? Now I am suffering because of it." In this way Mother Sita was lamenting. So back to the original story. Ravana knew all these mantras, but why was he a demon? Being the son of Vishravas, he is a Brahmin, not a ksatriya. He is the grandson of Brahma, and a very learned pandit. Still he is a demon. What makes him a demon? He does not accept that the Supreme Lord is the enjoyer, the Supreme Lord is the controller and the Supreme Lord is the friend. Bhoktarama yajna tapasam sarva loka mahesvaram / suhrdam sarva-bhutanam jnatva mam santim rcchati. So Ravana lost his shanti, he had no peace. Why? Because he was not accepting the Supreme Lord's sovereignty. Ravana was thinking, "Why not me? I am the lord." That is why he called himself, "Trilokeshvara Ravana." This means "the controller of the three worlds." That was his ambition, even while he couldn't control a common cold. But still he was Trilokeshvara. In any case, Ravana got so many curses. He was cursed that a monkey would burn his city down. Another curse was that monkeys will spit on his face. When a monkey spits on his face, the tenth day after that he would die. He would be killed by human beings who were surrounded by monkeys. This was all predicted, but the foolish Ravana with his ten brains couldn't accept this, because of lust. Ravana did not carry his ten heads all the time. If he lost one head, another would come. And if he lost that head, the previous one will come back again, because his life point was somewhere else, not in the neck or the chest. This was one trick of the demons. They would keep their life point somewhere else. It may be in a bird, a lizard or a lotus flower, and from here they extend their power. If you killed him, slashed him or did anything to him, he wouldn't die because his life was somewhere else. So these heads were coming whenever one was removed, and these ten heads possessed ten kinds of intelligence. This was the benediction he got from Brahma. One head was expert in politics, one in Vedic dharma, one in administration, one in how to enjoy, another in travelling plans, etc. In this way when he was going to take Sita, he consulted all the ten heads. Nine heads refused, "Don't kidnap Sita." Only his own head refused to listen to that instruction. So many powerful things he had, but by exploiting the property of the Supreme Lord, Ravana met his death. Once he even challenged Narada Muni. Narada was flying, and Ravana saw him. He called out, "Hey! Come here." Narada Muni thought, "Why should I be of any trouble? Let me go there." Ravana said, "You teach me the meaning of om, right now." Narada said, "No. Meaning of Om is not to be taught to people like you. I won't teach." Ravana said, "Why not? I am a disciple, and you are a guru. You must teach me." This started in Treta-yuga, the disciples telling their guru what to do. So then Narada said, "This is not for this age, Ravana. You please wait." Ravana said, "No! Do you know who I am? I am Trilokeshvara Ravana. Here is my sword!" He had a sword called Candrahasa. This sword was so wonderful, that you can just tell the sword, "You go and kill him." It will chase you through the fourteen planetary systems, kill you and then return. Such a missile he had. Candrahasa can go through steel, through brass, even through illusion. Suppose a person creates an illusion by magic, Candrahasa would go through the illusion and kill that person. This is the sword he used when fighting with Airavata, the white elephant. So Narada said, "You are showing me some sword, and you think you are going to frighten me into teaching you the Vedas? This is not the principle for learning Vedas. What kind of knowledge will you get from me? That knowledge will become useless, so I will not teach you." Ravana said, "All right Narada, get ready." "I am always ready," Narada said. "What do you mean? Get ready now!" So he took the Candrahasa sword and slashed Narada. It went right through him, but nothing happened. Narada was standing there smiling. Ravana got so angry. "I am going to finish you!" he screamed and took his trident which emits fire, which is only used by Lord Siva and which is more powerful than the Brahmastra. It went right into him, but Narada was still standing there chanting, "Hari! Hari!" Ravana took all his astras and weapons at his command and threw everything at Narada, who was catching them and giving them back, "Don't lose this, you may need it." So then Ravana put all his weapons aside, touched Narada's feet, and gave him a seat. "Please tell me," he inquired. "How come you are not killed?" Narada said, "This is a benediction from the Supreme Lord, that I have got a spiritual body. You don't understand this. Once upon a time you also had one, but you lost it because of some mistake. Don't waste time trying to kill me, because I won't die." Ravana said, "That's what I want also! Can you teach me the trick?" Narada said, "Very simple, just accept Vishnu as the Supreme Lord. Surrender to him." Ravana's face screwed up. "Oh! Aaargh! Again that Vishnu! I don't want to listen to this name! Get out of my palace, you and your transcendental body. All bogus!" So then Narada Muni said, "But Ravana, you have unnecessarily used your anger on me, so this will not go in vain. A monkey will spit on your face, and the tenth day after that you will die, although you are thinking you are so powerful." Narada Muni cursed him. Actually it was a benediction. All curses by Narada are benedictions. Because of that curse that he would get spat on by Sugriva, he got the arrow of Rama in his chest. Sometimes when a Vaishnava is agitated, that is also auspicious. But we have to be a demon to agitate a Vaishnava. If we are not a demon, and he becomes agitated, he may not curse us but the material nature will take action. In any case, Hanuman thought, "Let me go and find Sita."