Happy new year all :) Belated wishes and wishes still even if somebody moved your new year to a different date :P On Vishu day, (apparently) it is tradition to pick a random chapter in the Ramayana early in the morning, and whatever is read is said to have some impact on the reader’s life in the coming year. I tried it yesterday and the chapter I picked was about Vibheeshana’s confrontation with Ravana. It was quite serendipitous as the event has constantly been a source of confusion to me. To elaborate …..,
Two of Ravana’s brother are source of particular interest – Kumbakarna and Vibheeshana. Both, at some point advise Ravana against a war with Rama. However Vibheeshana is shouted at for this advise and leaves Lanka to join forces with Rama and betrays many of Lanka’s secrets to Rama. He is later anointed King of Lanka after Ravana’s death. Kumbakarna makes the same advice but follows it up by comforting Ravana speaking of an assured victory despite knowing fully well what was in store for him. Kumbakarna is eventually killed in battle.
Kumbakarna’s actions are all too familiar. Actions like his are replicated in the Mahabharatha and is generally seen as the nobler of the two courses. Vibheeshana is often criticized for betraying his King and is commonly seen as an usurper and traitor. So then what is the confusion? Vibheeshana is (at the end of the epic) ordered by Lord Vishnu in the original form to guide people towards Dharma. He also becomes an immortal joining the ranks of Hanuman, Parasurama and Mahabali. What the _?
For those of us who are used to seeing the epics in black and white (no, not literally) – and thanks to Ramanand Sagar for this - this situation is confusing. What is correct here? Too often in life we are faced with similar situations. When and why is it ever right to be a snitch!! And the epics seem to be of no help here – both courses are shown as good and not against Dharma. All along, Valmiki continually praises the qualities of Vibheeshana – he is at no point portrayed as greedy or selfish. Instead, the descriptions are
“Vibheeshana spoke to powerful Ravana the words convinced of reason and which were very much beneficial. He, who could discriminate between good and evil things in the world, having sought the favour from his eldest (half-) brother by means of soothing words arranged in an order, spoke in consonance with place, time and purpose.”
I am not still fully clear why this action is considered correct. I am not at that level yet. But the original author clearly seems to think so. Feel free to read the original text and make sense of it. If you come by interesting commentaries, I would love to be notified.
The intention that drives your action is perhaps more important than the action itself. From a different perspective, this episode reinforces the idea that there is no distinct line between black and white in such situations.
I want to make a special note of this because it is very easy to get lost in the strongly polar natures of the main characters in the epics. The epics would seem to be of no practical use as situations or characters as seen in them would never happen in real life. In fact however, there is a large trove of such useful tips and indicators buried within them. Many answers are here. So take a closer look.
References and Further reading: