Ravana: The shadow side!

Hello all,

Namaste! Hope all of you had a great week pursuing what you wanted to show up in your life. For the last few weeks we were discussing the philosophy and how many of the laws can be applied to our life from a Self-point of view. Pretty heavy stuff. So to make it a bit lighter, instead of just discussing pure philosophy, let us this week discuss, of course again philosophy with a touch of mythology. Stories make any write up more interesting.

We have discussed before, how in every human being there are seeds of opposite sides of the same quality. For example, the same person has the seeds of good/evil, knowledge/ignorance, humility/ arrogance, compassion/cruelty or loyalty/treachery. It is up to the person to choose, which seeds to nurture. So the same person has the light side comprising of all the good qualities and the shadow side with all the bad qualities. Every opposite is the other side of the same coin.

For a person to be truly 'authentic', they have to acknowledge the fact that indeed both sides do exist in them and the best way is to live from the center with a balanced view of both. Not too much going to one side. If we are too nice, totally to one side, people can take advantage of us. But if we are too arrogant, people would move away from us and we end up alone. So the best route is to be balanced where we can take care of our interests well while helping others to achieve theirs as well. Not to be a doormat or a showboat. But to be truly balanced. 

We have discussed before the good qualities, the light side, and the Universal spirit a lot. Today let us discuss the dark side or the shadow side. What does it have to teach us? Investigating it would reveal true gems of wisdom, we can collect for our life. So instead of just discussing it in a dry fashion, let us take the story of Ravana as an example and analyze.

Ravana-The demon king -The good side: As many of you know, I take the Hindu mythological stories to analyze human emotions, characters, and perspectives. Hindu mythology is a treasure trove for every kind of situation. The story of the demon king, Ravana shows how if the shadow side takes over, what would happen. Ravana comes in the Hindu epic, Ramayana and was the king of Lanka (Present day SriLanka).

Ravana was born as the son of the sage Vishravas as well as daitya (demon) princess Kaikasi. He is depicted as a person having ten heads and twenty hands. In others words, he was very much intelligent. Even though Ravana, was a demon, by virtue of being the son of a sage, he was very knowledgeable. He was a very good astrologer (He was said to have written the astrological treatise 'Ravanasamhita'), knew to play the musical instrument Veena, so that the Goddess of knowledge, Saraswathi would herself come before him. It seems he had the ability to play different musical instruments with his different hands, could involve in debates with ten different people on ten different subjects at the same time, by virtue of his ten heads and ten mouths.

Ravana, ten, heads, twenty, hands
Ravana-The demon king!
By Scan/photo by: User:Henryart,[Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

He was good in Yuddha as well as Rajya Tantra (strategy of war as well as the rule of a country). He had in-depth knowledge on philosophy, military as well as the economic Strategy. He also had enormous muscle power, was good in mace fight, archery, the formation of the army and leading it. As he was a demon, he also had magical powers and could disguise as anyone he chooses to be and could fight a battle using his magical powers. So this shows even if he was a daitya king, he was well versed in many subjects and had huge wisdom.

Veena, Ravana, music, instrument, percussion
Ravana was a Veena, the musical instrument maestro
By Veena.svg: Sreejithk2000derivative work, via Wikimedia Commons

Ravana-The dark side:  Even though he had all these good qualities, he was basically very egoistic, arrogant and had a huge ego as big as the Universe. And that ego and arrogance brought him down and his eventual death. Let us look at some of his arrogant acts to start with.

Act 1: Before Ravana became the ruler of Lanka, his half-brother Kubera, who was also the treasurer of the Devas (divine beings) was ruling Lanka. But without much concern for his brother, Ravana fought Kubera and kicked him out of Lanka to become the ruler. That shows clearly what type of a person he was.

Later to get the boon of immortality he went and started doing penance to Brahma (the creator God). But Brahma didn't come for a long time. So Ravana, in his devotion started sacrificing each of his head into the ritual fire. As he started to cut his last head, Brahma becoming happy with his penance granted him the wish for a boon. Ravana asked for immortality and Brahma said he cannot confer that and asked Ravana to ask something else. Ravana asked that he should not be killed by any divine heavenly beings, Gods, or celestial residents. Brahma blessed him with the boon.

Act 2: Once Ravana became happy with the boon, he went to Kailas (abode of another God, Shiva). He wanted to meet Shiva. But Shiva's abode guard Nandikeswara, who has the body of a bull, stopped Ravana from entering. Becoming angry with that Ravana, went at the bottom of the mountain Kailasa, plucked it out of its foundation and started tilting it side to side. Remember, Ravana had magical powers. He could have taken the size, two times as that of the mountain. Anyway, he started to tilt the mountain. 

Becoming angry at this Shiva, being the God he is, used his small toe in his leg to press down the mountain. Now Ravana's few hands were under the mountain, and he got stuck. He understood the power of Shiva and using his nerves to make strings (mythology, magical things can happen ;-))) on his Veena, played divine music, and  Shiva happy at the devotion of Ravana, removed the pressure of his toe and Ravana could take his hands out.

Act 3:  Once Ravana had gone to help his half-sister Kumbinasi (the same sister of half-brother Kubera, whom Ravana kicked out of Lanka) for another demon ( demons only had the job of messing up others life, kidnapping or killing), and was returning back to Lanka. On the way, he met the celestial dancer Rambha, who also happened to be the wife of the son of Kubera, Nalakubera. Becoming enchanted by her beauty he wanted to spend time with her. Then Rambha made him aware of the fact that in the relationship, she would become his daughter-in-law as she was the daughter-in-law of his half-brother, Kubera and pleaded him to let her go.

But enchanted by her beauty, having the ego as big as a mountain, and without the awareness of virtuosity in the situation, he violated her and didn't consider any of her pleas. He also told her that she was not the wife of his son Indrajit, which would make her his direct daughter-in-law and instead, she was the daughter-in-law of his half-brother (in his mind a relation not so close). Becoming angry, upset, violated, and taken advantage of, Rambha rushed to her husband Nalakubera and told him everything that happened with sadness and tears in her eyes.

Now Nalakubera becoming angry, took a palm full of water and cursed Ravana, that any day Ravana tries to touch a lady without her total permission, his heads would break into pieces. So this curse really sent a sword through Ravana's heart. Even then he was not ready to change his behavior.

Act 4: After a few decades, Ravana's sister Surpanakha, met the heroes of the epic Ramayana, Rama, Lakshmana, and Seetha. Falling for the handsomeness of Rama as well as Lakshmana, she wanted to marry one of them. Both rejected her, and the younger brother Lakshmana using a sword cut off every part of Surpanakha that was sticking outside. Bleeding and upset she rushed to the court of Ravana, and narrated what happened and let him know that the lady Seetha, was one of a kind and very beautiful and would look very good as the queen at the side of Ravana.

Ravana,Seetha,abduction, hermit
Ravana approaches Seetha as a hermit
Raja Ravi Varma [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
  
Now, Ravana forgetting that Seetha was the wife of another man and that he already he had a curse by virtue of another lady, disguised as a hermit, went and kidnapped Seetha and brought her to Lanka. In Lanka, she was placed in a forest called 'Asoka Vana' (Asoka forest) where he used to visit her every day to plead with her to make her change her heart. Remember, according to the curse, Ravana could not touch another lady without her permission. Seetha was sure, Rama her husband would come, save her from the custody of this terrible demon.

Exactly that was what happened. Rama with the help of a group of monkeys (actually in truth, more evolved beings than humans according to mythology, but with a tail called Vanaras), fought with Ravana's son Indrajit, his brother Kumbhakarrna, and finally with Ravana and killed every single one of them and the whole clan of the Lanka demons to save his dear wife, Seetha. (This is an extremely shortened version, with just a few main points. Whole Ramayana, cannot be put in a single blog post.)

Analysis:
Even though Ravana, had a lot of virtues and had numerous good qualities like knowledge, strategy of war, how to rule a country, occult subject like Astrology, musical talents, etc, these qualities became overshadowed by his negative qualities like arrogance, lust for another woman or someone's wife, having an attitude he was invincible, hatred for sages, virtuous people and celestial beings, and an unconquerable ego.

Here the shadow side was at total display. That might of the shadow side over the virtuous side, both sides residing in him, brought his total destruction. This shows if the shadow side and the shadow qualities are not controlled, not brought to balance and be in a balanced state of the mind, that can bring the total decimation of a person. In Ramayana, Ravana has a virtuous brother, Vibhishana, who pleads with his brother to give back Seetha to Rama, with proper respects to another man's wife. But Ravana blinded by his ego and lust for Seetha didn't even have the patience to listen to his brother.

If a person as knowledgeable as Ravana had a tough time to control his shadow side, think about us the mere humans? What would be our state? As previously mentioned each one of us has a light as well as a shadow side. It is up to us to control our dark side and bring it into balance with our light side. 

We can even go one step further and compare our shadow side as the Ravana, sitting inside every one of us trying to take advantage of us through our ego and arrogance. If Ravana is inside us, the same way the virtuous one Rama also is inside us. Seeds of potential sitting side by side as good, virtuous qualities as well as bad, vicious qualities, ready to sprout into action when we nurture any of the both with care and concern. 

So as mentioned before, the seeds of potential for both good/bad, ego/humility, compassion/cruelty, everything is inside us. It is up to us to be balanced without going too much to the good side where everyone is taking advantage of us or too much to the bad side where our ego comes out as our total arrogance.

Ravana, shadow,ego,arrogance
Ravana, our shadow side!
Image courtesy -Pixabay.com
But one thing is for sure. If we are not careful about our shadow side and acknowledge it's existence and give it the proper respect it deserves, it surely can create havoc in our life as well as it created in the life of Ravana. Whoever is a Star Wars movie fan knows the quote, "Don't underestimate the power of the dark side." 

I wish you a good weekend and I'll see you next Friday! 😉

Next week: Kali-The dark goddess!

Note: Images from Wikimedia Commons, and Pixabay.com.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes, "There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance ; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his portion that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried".  

 
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