Thursday, 7 July 2011

Interpreting Ramayana - Vibhishana’s betrayal

It is said that it was only because of Vibhishana, Ravana’s brother, who guided Ram and his army to a weaker section of the Lanka fort that Ram was able to penetrate into Lanka. One conversation between Sri Ram and Ravana in the battle field in this regard is as follows:.

Ravana: “O great soul, I have a question that I am unable to answer for myself. Soon the war will start. It is predestined that only one of us will survive this war.”

Ram: “Ravana, you are a learned Brahmin and the fame of your wisdom has spread far and wide. What further can I do for you?”

Ravana: “Hey Ram, I have a moral question. I want to know it’s answer according to our Shastras (scriptures) and Dharma (religion).”

Ram: “O Shiv bhakta, your knowledge in this regard is far greater then me and with blessings of Lord Shiva, your wisdom is unparalleled.”

Ravana: “I am uncertain between moral ethic and dharma. I need your guidance.”

Ram: “I will help you if I can.”

Ravana; “It is about Vibhishana. I want you to hand over Vibhishana to me so that I can give appropriate punishment to him for his betrayal before the battle starts.”

Ram: “That I cannot do. I have given him shelter. It is not only my duty but also my dharma to protect him.”

Ravana: “Vibhishana is a traitor and it is my dharma to punish him.”

Ram: “He is on the side of Satya (truth). He did what he felt right.”

Ravana: “O Vishnu avatar, that of course, is your point of view. For me and my countrymen, he is a traitor.”

Ram: “In that case, either both of us are right or both of us are wrong.”

Now here in Ravana’s reply lies his greatness. His sermon shows how widely knowledgeable he was and how he could do Chintan (meditation) on every issue from all different angles.

Ravana: “Hey Veer Purushottam, I dare not say what you suggest is wrong. And yet, TRUTH, according to my knowledge, is but one. Either Vibhishan is right or he is wrong. He cannot be both. He cannot be punished and rewarded for the same single act. According to you Vibhishana has sided with truth. My Shastra says he is a traitor, not because he sided with you. If he had fought this battle alongside you, I would have accepted that fact as truth. I would have even admired him for his courage to stand by what he believed in. But, O Ayodhyanaresh, my Shastra, my ethics say that the greatest sin on this universe is betraying trust. I repeat, there is no sin greater then betraying and breaking one’s trust, not even my sin of abducting your beautiful wife. Vibhishan is my brother. I trusted him with a state secret, that secret on which my entire county’s safety and lives of thousands of people depends. I trusted him with the weak spot in my fort because in case of emergency, that is the place he and a trusted few others should protect. Instead, he gave away my secret to you and the existence of my entire kingdom is at stake. This is the truth, a stark truth. If Vibhishan had disclosed some of my personal secrets and thereby staked my life, I would have still accepted it. But this is the betrayal of the nation. I once again say, O savior, that if he had fought against me face to face, I would have been proud, but not this. A holder of a secret entrusted to him should die and take that secret to his grave, irrespective of circumstances facing him. Even an enemy entrusted with a secret should respect its sanctity and that is Shastra. I would prefer an open enemy any day than a traitor brother like Vibhishana.”

It is said that Ram, even after much deliberation, could not reply to Ravana and suggested him to act on his own judgment.

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