Blessings on Dusshera
Dear Divine Souls,
I hope that – by God’s grace – this finds you all in the best of health and happiness at this holy time of Dusshera. We have just completed the sacred nine days and nights of Navratri, the worship of the Divine Mother. The day after Navratri (frequently referred to as the 10th day of Navratri) is Dusshera, which commemorates the day on which Bhagwan Rama vanquished the 10-headed "Demon King" Ravana, thereby rescuing his wife Sitaji who had been kidnapped by this egoistic and passion-filled ruler of Lanka. The story of the war and Lord Rama's victory is re-enacted with great fervor on this holiday. All over India on Dusshera people will burn effigies of Ravana and revel in his defeat as the effigy becomes engulfed in flames.
However, embedded within this scriptural epic are vital messages for our lives today. We must not let the deeper lessons and meaning get overshadowed by the joyous festivities of the day.
The word "Dusshera" refers to the ten heads of Ravana, and the defeat of this ten-headed demon is a symbol of the defeat of: passion, pride, anger, greed, infatuation, lust, hatred, jealousy, selfishness and crookedness. These are the ten demons that bring misery in own lives, that keep us hostage and hold us prisoner, as Ravana held Sitaji. Therefore, on this day we must pledge to free ourselves from them as Lord Rama freed Sitaji.
As we celebrate this holiday, as we revel in Lord Rama's victory, let us ask ourselves, "Has the Rama in us been victorious over our own Ravana? Is the good in our hearts conquering the evil? Have we decapitated the 10 headed demon within us? Have we annihilated passion, pride, anger, greed, infatuation, lust, hatred, jealousy, selfishness and crookedness from our own lives?”
It is imperative to remember that Dusshera is not only a holiday about Lord Rama and the demon Ravana. Rather, it is a holy day, about examining ourselves. When faced with a choice of how to act, do we act like Rama or like Ravana?
After the battle in Lanka, when Lord Rama was showing Sita the battlefield, he did not say "This is where I slaughtered the evil Ravana." Rather, he said, "This is where Ravana died." Even after achieving the momentous task of killing the demon king, Lord Rama was still humble. On the other hand, in our own lives we usually crave the attention, the praise and the respect of others. We are so quick to point out our own achievements. We are so quick to put ourselves in the center. Let us take this beautiful lesson of how to remain humble, pious and selfless. "This is where Ravana died," not "Look, this is where I bravely conquered Ravana."
Also, while Ravana lay dying, Bhagwan Rama did not revel in the victory. Rather, he sent his brother Lakshman to learn from the dying demon. For, Ravana was a great scholar, a peerless Vedic scholar who through his own ego, pride, vanity and insatiable desires became a demon. So, Bhagwan Rama sent Lakshman to go and listen to words of wisdom from Ravana as the latter lay on his death bed. Bhagwan Rama knew that, although Ravana's vices had brought about his downfall, he still was a venerable scholar and one from whom great wisdom could be attained.
Further, remember that the war was won because Rama had built a bridge to Lanka, a bridge to the enemy. This is also an important lesson. In our lives we should learn to build bridges between ourselves and others, even with those whom we may consider enemies. Rather than isolating ourselves from others, let us learn to build bridges.
So, on this day in which we celebrate the demise of Ravana, let us ask ourselves if our inner Ravana is dead as well.
These 10 heads of our inner demons – the ten vices – are more dangerous than any external enemy may be. They slowly and insidiously carve away at the very core of our beings; they fester within us causing disease and pain, both of the body and of the mind. The enemy standing in front of us with a sword is obvious. He is visible. We can must our strength to fight him off. But the enemies within ourselves, these demonic vices, also hold swords over our heads. However, they are not as obvious and thus we rarely find it worth our while to try to defeat them. Yet, these inner demons are more poisonous and more dangerous than the outer demons, for they tear us apart from our very own divine nature. They blind us in the veil of maya, of greed, of jealousy, of anger and of ego. We must have the courage to stand before these inner enemies and muster the strength of spirit to fight them off. Only then we will truly be free.
At this holy and auspicious time, let us pray to God for the strength to be selfless, pure, humble, accepting and loving every day of our lives. Let us take steps EACH DAY (not only on Dusshera) to become more and more like Lord Rama. Let us build bridges between ourselves and others.
At the end of every day, when we introspect and examine our actions, our thoughts and our words, let us open our balance sheets and see whether we are acting more like Rama or more like Ravana. Let us vow that we will strive to bring forth the inner Rama (divine nature) and to vanquish the inner Ravana (negative nature).
With love and blessings to you all and all your loved ones,
In the service of God and humanity,
Swami Chidanand Saraswati