By Purushottama Nitai Dasa
From Ravana’s life we can understand a dangerous inclination of ours that can ruin our life.
An enemy lurks within our hearts, always ready to destroy our lives.

Lord Ramachandra, the Supreme Lord, did not have to personally appear in this world to free it from the atrocities of the demon king Ravana. The Supreme Lord creates this universe and also destroys it by His will. So He could have killed Ravana just by desiring to do so. But He incarnated in this mortal world to reveal that He is so magnanimous that He is always willing to forgive the conditioned souls for even the greatest sin and is ready to give His shelter to anyone who seeks it.

In the Ramayana we see that Lord Rama was willing to forgive Ravana for all his misdeeds. He gave the demon king several chances to rectify his mistakes and become His devotee. But sadly, overpowered by lust and false pride, Ravana refused to take shelter of Lord Rama, who is celebrated as the supreme shelter of the universe.

Lusty Ravana Disregards Godly Advice

Ravana’s brother Vibhishana, a devotee of Rama, tried his best to counsel Ravana, but the arrogant Ravana rebuked Vibhishana and threw him out of the kingdom. The monkey soldier Hanuman, one of the most celebrated devotees of Lord Rama, advised Ravana to return Sita Devi, but Ravana, devoid of good sense, insulted Hanuman and tried to torture him by setting his tail on fire. Hanuman showed his prowess by setting fire to the entire golden city of Lanka. Also, just before the beginning of the battle to rescue Sita Devi, the monkey commander Angada went as a peace messenger, requesting Ravana to follow the principles of dharma and return Sita. But the ten-headed Ravana was so full of ego, arrogance, and pride that he thought he would be able to enjoy Sita by killing her husband, the Supreme Lord Rama.

Ravana’s stubbornness did not just cause his own death; his sons, brothers, ministers, and uncountable soldiers were also killed. In Lanka, women became widows, children became orphans, and elderly parents had to suffer the agony of the death of their sons and witness the suffering of their daughters-in-law and grandchildren.

Lust, the Gateway to Hell

In Bhagavad-gita (16.21) Lord Krishna says that lust, anger, and greed are the gateway to hell. Ravana is a symbol of lust, or uncontrolled desire, especially in the form of sexual desire. From Ravana’s life we can understand how dangerous lust is and how it completely ruins one’s life.

As soon as one develops lustful thoughts and starts acting on them, one’s misery begins. Ravana’s suffering and humiliation began as soon as he desired to enjoy Sita Devi and started acting on his lustful propensity. Although he succeeded in kidnapping Sita, he was not even able to go close to her. He foolishly thought that Sita, the eternal consort of Lord Rama, would be captivated by his heroic deeds and vast wealth and kingdom.

For his lust, Ravana was rebuked by his near and dear ones constantly. In fact, he became a laughingstock. Even his sons advised him to return Sita. Just imagine if today the prime minister of a country who is married and has grown-up children were to kidnap someone else’s wife and try to marry her against her will? What would be his image among the people? From the example of Ravana we learn that we should never entertain lustful thoughts even if they come to our mind because of our past conditioning. They will ruin our life.

Help from Lord Rama

Lord Ramachandra killed Ravana long ago, but the demon still resides in our heart – as lust. If we are not vigilant, it will force us to indulge in sinful activities that will bring misfortune in our life. Lust is our greatest enemy, and we should put in our best efforts to free ourselves from all lusty thoughts. As Lord Rama gave Ravana many chances to reform, the merciful Lord gives us many opportunities to destroy the Ravana within us.

We contemplate lustful thoughts and act on them because we think they will give us the highest pleasure and we do not want to deprive ourselves of that pleasure. But if we analyze our own life, we will see that although lust-driven acts may give some temporary feeling of happiness, ultimately they bring misery. If we study the lives of great spiritual personalities in the Ramayana, we find that instead of engaging their mind and senses in lusty thoughts and activities, they engaged them in serving Lord Rama and experienced great bliss. Monkeys are considered inferior to humans, but the monkeys who assisted Lord Rama in His mission became so glorious that great scriptures and great devotees of Lord Rama sing their glories. By serving Lord Rama, the monkey warriors enjoyed every moment of their lives and also perfected their lives.

The happiness one experiences in serving the Lord is trillions of times greater than any material happiness, including the happiness of sexual pleasure. Transcendental joy, which is everlasting, can be achieved if, like Vibhishana, with determination and courage we give up the shelter of Ravana. The all-loving Lord will happily accept us as He accepted Vibhishana.

One of the best ways to take shelter of the Supreme Lord is by chanting His holy names, especially the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. In Sikshashtakam (verse 1) Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says that chanting is so potent that it cleanses the heart of all the impurities we have accumulated life after life. Once one starts developing a taste for chanting the holy names of the Lord, one begins to lose interest in trying to satisfy any material desire. Sri Yamunacharya, a great devotee of Lord Krishna (who is none other than Lord Rama), says, “Since I have been engaged in the transcendental loving service of Krishna, realizing ever-new pleasure in Him, whenever I think of sex pleasure I spit at the thought, and my lips curl with distaste.” (Quoted in Bhagavad-gita As It Is 5.21, Purport)

The fire of lust will destroy our life, but love for the Lord will purify it. Let each of us kill the Ravana within before it kills us by becoming a sincere devotee of the Lord and by engaging our mind and senses in His constant devotional service. The Supreme Lord, who conquered mighty Ravana, will help us conquer lust, a great destructive force, and open the gateway to unlimited transcendental happiness

Purushottama Nitai Dasa is a member of congregation at ISKCON Kolkata. He writes at