Ravana was greater scholar than Rama. He was the master of 64 categories of knowledge. He had also the knowledge about the training of cows and elephants. Despite all these accomplishments, Ravana was described by Valmiki is a fool (Moorkha). Rama was described as the very image of righteousness. Despite all his knowledge, Ravana failed to keep his senses under control. Because he let his senses have a free play, he became a fool. Anyone who misuses his senses is a fool, whatever be the extent of his knowledge.
There was no limit to Ravana’s riches. Kubera (the God of wealth) was his cousin. His fort and city was paved with gold What was the use of all riches and affluence? He had no character. Ultimately, he lost everything.
We know that there was not an individual who had access to property and wealth more than Ravana had. He also had all the position which one could command. He had all the authority that one could have. In spite of that Ravana was subjected to great difficulties towards the end and he lost his life in battle. We should compare this with Rama who intentionally and willingly gave up all his property, his kingdom and went to the forest for fourteen years. Ultimately, he was given the honour of having maintained Dharma in this country. From this difference between Rama and Ravana who had all the property, position, and authority, we should conclude that one cannot attach any importance to material wealth. We can only attach importance to the character and to the pursuit of right conduct.
Ravana was a great scholar and master of many arts. Ravana looked at Sita with a bad vision. The eye is a sacred organ. Good vision generates good thoughts. In Ravana, the bad look created bad thoughts, which led to his downfall.
Ravana knew all Dharma, but without putting into practice what is the use of having known them simply through the texts? Ravana had expertise in all the branches of learning. He also knew very thoroughly the four vedas. He was fully aware of the contents of the six Shastras. His knowledge of the six shastras and his knowledge of the four vedas (together ten) is the inner meaning of the belief that Ravana had ten heads. It is a symbolic way of saying that he was an expert in all the ten branches of knowledge. Ignoring this inner meaning we simply keep on saying that Ravana had ten heads, in the ordinary daily parlance, we have to ask how he is going to sleep with those ten heads? How does he go to do his daily duties with those ten heads? This is the short of making things appear ridiculous. The writers and the historians may simply have described him as a person having ten heads, but the inner meaning of such a description is that Ravana was having such knowledge and deep wisdom. He with all those strengths and knowledge, was not minding the people’s security and people’s happiness. To him his own enjoyment, his own safety, his own pleasure were all that mattered. We should note here that in spite of all his great and good qualities, he was behaving in a bad manner. Towards the end of his life, he realised that what he did all was sin and the paths he adopted were bad paths, and that whatever Vibhishana had told him was right and that he could not follow the advice given to him by his wife Mandodari also.
Ravana had fallen from the yogic heights he had reached in his previous lives because of his bad qualities, he was roaming about as Rakshasa (demon), really speaking he was a great devotee of God. He was aware deep within his consciousness of the universal absolute named Narayana. He was aware of the fact that Rama was Narayana himself come in human form in order to confer joy and peace on the Godly and in order to destroy all traces of demonic wickedness an earth. However, since there was no other route for Ravana to reach Narayana, he had to cultivate wanton wickedness, violence and hatred, and invite Rama to kill him. Of course, this might be called a type of devotion that is stupid and infamous. But his inner aim was to cross the ocean of birth and death, through that act of self abnegation and surrender to Narayana.
Ravana was suffering not only from ego, but he had also other bad qualities like jealousy, anger, lust and also power based on a wealth. Ravana was born to parents by name Visrawasa and Kaikasi. He had two brothers with names Kumbhakarna and Vibhishana. From his childhood Ravana was a great devotee and was also habituated to perform tapas. By continuous penance, he earned the Grace of Iswara and secured boons from him.
On one occasion when he was engaged in deep penance, Brahma appeared before him and asked Ravana what boon he wanted. Then Ravana asked Brahma to grant him a boon by which he will not be killed by any being or animal other than a human being. At that time, there lived a rakshasa by name Maya. He had beautiful city for himself. That city was more beautiful than the city of Indra. The daughter of Maya was Mandodari. Ravana married Mandodari. She had many good qualities like, chastity, shanti, kindness and prema and Ravana never had any one of them in him.
The daughter of Maya, Mandodari with all such good qualities was married to Ravana. From the time of marriage, his wife Mandodari tried her best to communicate her good qualities to Ravana and save him, but Ravana made no attempt to change his bad qualities. As a man reaches his end his bad qualities will also go on increasing. So also Ravana’s bad qualities began to increase. His brother Vibhishna tried to teach him several good ideals. Ravana also knew all about good conduct and dharma. What is the use of knowing what good conduct and dharma are if they are not to put into use.
Whatever one may learn it is of no use unless he puts it into practice. Ravana was proficient in all the different branches of knowledge. What is the use of having all these things if one cannot use such knowledge to reach the Lord? If bad ideas enter one’s head, his wisdom and knowledge will dry up. Ravana was ruling over a kingdom and his capital city would compare well with heaven. But because of his bad qualities he lost his own happiness, his kingdom, his life, and everything that he had. In fact, he destroyed his own dynasty and family. He knew all the codes of conduct of a king and he knew everything and yet he was behaving like a monkey.
When Hanuman entered Lanka as Rama’s messenger and spoke to Sita. Ravana came to know about Hanuman’s presence in Lanka and ordered Hanuman to be punished. This is quite contrary to the accepted code of conduct of a king. To kill or punish a messenger on behalf of someone else is not the right code of conduct for a king of the country. Vibhishana tried to explain to Ravana this principle, by which he wanted not to punish.
Vibhishana tried his best to get Hanuman released. Ravana in fact, had so many other bad qualities and bad ideas in him, and he often undertook to do things which he should not have done. Many times, he made attempts to kill even Sita.
Mandodari the wife of Ravana tried to teach Ravana that to kill a woman is very wrong and that by doing so he was committing a great sin. The bad qualities that were in him made him take always the wrong path and subject him to many difficulties.
On one occasion Madodari went to her husband and asked him, "You know all the dharma and all the codes of right conduct. With all your wisdom why is it that you are doing wrong things? What is the matter? How can you explain? What is the inner meaning of your behaviour? Not only this, you have all the capacity and you have all the strength to assume any form that you like. On the day when you brought Sita to Lanka, you were in the form of a sanyasi (ascetic)and you deceived her. Why are you taking all this trouble in order to win over the sacred Sita? If only you assume the form of Ramachandra then Sita would be yours. Why did you not adopt that path?"
Then Ravana replied that Ramachandra’s form was a sacred and Divine one. If he really took that form how will he have any bad qualities at all. This means Ravana knew very well that the qualities which one possesses should be appropriate to his form. Because he had the form of a rakshasa, the qualities of a rakshasa were showing up.
The bad qualities should be given up and sacrificed. Because Ravana had these qualities which go contrary to the purusharthas, he became a rakshasa. Ravana might have been a devotee, might have been a very learned person, but in spite of this, because he had the four bad qualities which, contrary to the purusharthas viz Dharma, Artha, Kama, And Moksha, he became a sinner. To such people, whatever Dharma you may preach it will appear as if it is only wrong.
Ravana had many great qualities, he was a great devotee; earned Gods Grace by his penance and in spite of all that he had no peace and he did not secure a good end for himself. He could invade the city of Kubera defeat him and take away the Pushpaka Vimana (celestial vehicle) ancient flying machine. This showed that in him there was the quality of jealousy. He could not bear Kubera being greater than him. Not only this, he invaded the city of Maya his father-in-law’s, defeated him, took away all his attendants and annexed this city which was the principal city of Lanka in his kingdom.
At the same time we should try to understand the good qualities of Ravana. It is not as if there were not good qualities in Ravana. When he was fully immersed in the thought of God, he was prepared to sacrifice even his entire body. He was truly a follower of Dharma and protector of Dharma. The bad qualities of Ravana did not come as natural qualities to Ravana. All the bad qualities and bad thoughts came to him because of a certain curse to which he was subjected to at one time. For such a curse, his own karma was responsible.
Through Ravana the story of Ramayana is teaching a lesson to the world that no one should have bad qualities as he had. Ravana was a wicked person and he adopted several trickeries. He spoke untruth and told Rama that he brought the head of Sita, while he actually brought only an artificially created head of Sita, a deceit. He told that he killed Sita and brought her head. Since Rama was all knowing, he realised that this was a trick and told Ravana that it could not be the truth. Similarly, he did the trick of getting the head of Rama and showing it to Sita and telling her that he had killed Rama. Ravana could not bear the happiness of other people. The normal human nature should be to become happy by looking at the happiness of others.
Ravana had as his guru Sukracharya who taught him the conduct of a king. Ravana was the one who acquired proficiency in all different kinds of action. His warriors and the leaders of his army were very strong and proficient in the art of warfare.
His wife was a very good and chaste lady (pativratha) with good qualities. In spite of the fact that he had such good teaching from such a guru and a good wife and a strong army, he did not change his methods and this simply means that it is a result of his Janmantara Karma (deeds of his previous lives). He was living in utter foolishness. In his foolishness, he would notaccept any advice from any one else. This foolishness is a great enemy of a human being. We must also remove this aspect of foolishness in us. On certain occasions, Ravana used to appear as a Satwic person and on other occasions, he used to appear as an innocent person. Sometimes, he would pretend and appear as a great devotee. In reality, there is no one greater than him in the matter of wickedness. He would not hesitate to harm even his own wife or son. Vibhishana, his own brother, was a Satwic person. Yet he showed no kindness to him. He simply drove him away. The wife of Vibhishana touched the feet of Ravana and begged him in many ways to save Vibhishana. This lady, who was the wife of his own brother, should be like his daughter, yet he gave so much trouble to her. The significance of all these points is that we should not simply think that Ravana was just a person with that name. The bad qualities and the cruel ideas that are in us are symbolic of the aspects of Ravana.