By means of a Brahmana’s curse, the once virtuous King Pratabhandu was reborn as the terrible demon King Ravana.
Ravana had two brothers, Kumbhakarana, who was a powerful giant, and Vibhishana, who was Ravana’s minister. All though each of them performed exactly the same yogic austerities and various kinds of penances, due to their individual natures, they separately desired different things.
The creator God Brahma in recognition of their intense austerities offered each brother a boon. Brahma said, “My child Ravana, in reward for your extreme acts of sacrifice, please choose anything you desire.” Ravana while touching the feet of Brahma said, “I will be the greatest king the world has ever seen. I will be immortal and make it such that no being bar a human or a monkey could ever kill me!”. Brahma granted him his wish.
Then Brahma faced Kumbhakarana and said, “My child, what do you desire?” Kumbharana said, “I wish for the ability to sleep for six months at a stretch!” Brahma smiled and granted him his wish.
Finally, Brahma moved towards Vibhishana, knowing that he was a great devotee of the Lord, said “And you my child, what is it that you desire?” Vibhishana responded, “I wish for nothing my Lord but uninterrupted love of God’s lotus feet.” Brahma, the God of creation, uttered, “So be it.”
The three brothers all performed exactly the same austerities but were desirous of entirely different outcomes. Hinduism teaches us that the world is permeated with three types of dispositions (Guna): Sattva – the mode of goodness; Rajas – the mode of desire and passion; and Tamas – which represents ignorance and is a quality of laziness.
It is clear to see in the passage above that the choices made by the brothers represent three different Gunas. Ravana’s wish for immortality was full of so much ego that he dismissed humans and monkeys from being able to kill him as he thought of himself superior. Kumbhakarana, wished to sleep for six months! He represented the tamasic disposition.
It is Vibhishana who represents the purest of the Gunas. His choices always have the divine in mind, he wishes for nothing but universal love of God and the welfare of all beings. Maharajji said, ‘Nothing in this world is permanent apart from the love of God.’
These different qualities permeate every choice we make and Hindu philosophy implores us to move towards a more sattvic mode of living, leaving behind the tamasic and rajasic tendencies for a more honest and godly disposition.