MEANWHILE Ravana did something foolish. He sent a scout to seduce Sugriva from his loyalty to Rama. This Rakshasa, Suka by name, flew across and in disguise met Sugriva in secret and with every appearance of benevolent solicitude spoke to him thus:
"Ravana, the king of Lanka, has sent me because of his affection and regard for you. He sends you his fraternal greetings. You are a king and he is another and there is no sense in your staking your high heritage and making common cause with a disinherited prince against an all-powerful king. If Ravana desired Rama's wife and carried her off, how does it concern you? What do you lose by it? Consider well and choose your course with description. It is most expedient that you and your army should return forthwith to Kishkindha."
But Sugriva's response was scornful and definite:
"Base fellow! Go and tell your king that he is no brother of mine. He is wicked and, being an enemy of my friend Rama, he is my enemy too and we are out to rid the world of him and his wicked gang. He is a fool to imagine that he can offend Rama and still survive. Tell him that there is no escape for him, tell him all this as from me."
When Sugriva delivered this message to the Rakshasa spy the Vanaras caught hold of him and began to handle him roughly but Rama sternly forbade it and set him free to go the way he came. The spy rushed back to Lanka and conveyed the result of his adventure to Ravana.
As soon as Vibhishana's adherence was accepted by Rama, Lakshmana and Sugriva crowned Vibhishana king of Lanka and performed the abhisheka with seawater. Vibhishana pledged unchanging friendship to Rama and Rama in turn gave his word that he would not return to Ayodhya without slaying Ravana.
Then Sugriva, Vibhishana and Lakshmana deliberated on how to cross the sea. They thought it best to begin with a prayer to the ocean-god and submitted their opinion to Rama.
Rama accepted their counsel and, spreading darbha grass on the seashore and laying himself on it, began a fast, addressing his request for a passage across, to the king of the sea.
For three days he prayed to the god of the sea but received no response. Then Rama, his eyes glowing with anger at the sea-god's arrogance, turned to Lakshmana and said:
"The low-minded mistake courtesy and gentleness for want of strength. Mildness is simply wasted on them. See now how I shall bring this misproud sea to its senses with my arrows which shall not only choke it with the carcasses of mighty fish but even dry it up with their fierce odour. Bring me my bow and quiver, O Soumitra!"
Then bow in hand and blazing with wrath like the destroying fire at the end of the world he shot arrows irresistible as thunderbolts into the bosom of the sea. These missiles of power disturbed the sea to its depths carrying death and dismay to all it contained and presently the tortured waters began to exhale steam in their agony.
It looked as though Rama in his wrath would convert the sea with its infinitude of waters into a desert of blazing dust bereft of all life. The sea-god could stand it no longer. Shining like the rising sun behind Mount Meru, he appeared and stood before Rama.
With folded hands he said:
"My Lord Ramachandra! I am subject to the laws of nature like the earth, the air, space, light, and all constituents of the universe. How can I depart from my nature, which is to be vast, deep, wave- filled, and impassable? But this I can do. Ask the Vanaras to bring boulders and trees to build a causeway. I shall permit it. I shall help you by receiving and keeping in place the rocks and trees. This is all that I can do and I shall also show the most favorable place for this causeway. There is Nala, son of Viswakarma, with you, who has the ability to build this path. May victory be yours."
Rama, true to his nature, graciously accepted the sea god's apology and offer of help. And then, ordered by Rama, they all began to work. Thousands of Vanaras went at it with enthusiasm and soon finished building the causeway.
Valmiki describes the work at length. He sings with gusto of the noise and confusion of the gigantic project. The Vanaras went to the mountains and forests and, plucking rocks and trees, dragged them to the shore. The bigger Vanaras brought big boulders and threw them into the sea. As they fell down, the water splashed up sky-high.
Nala stood and supervised their labors. The leaders in charge of companies kept them active. On top of the rocks and trees, when the base was firm, a dressing of grass and little pieces of wood was given to produce a level surface. The noise raised by the dam-builders drowned the roar of the ocean.
The construction was complete. The new path shone across the sea like the milky way in the sky. Hosts of gods above rejoiced, as hosts of Vanaras shouted below in exultation. The gods and the rishis uttered benedictions.
Then they went on the causeway. Hanuman carried Rama on his shoulders and Angada carried Lakshmana on his. The Vanara army crossed the sea. There is a principle expounded here. As Rama stood bow in hand, the ocean-god bowed before him with clasped bands and said:
"Dear Ramachandra! Earth, air, ether, water, fire, these five elements must follow the eternal laws of their nature. Tempted by pleasure or reward or frightened of punishment, can I ever swerve from my nature? Can water harden and become stone? Or can I reduce my depths into a shallow pond for your easy crossing?"
Thus the ocean king protested with all politeness to Sri Rama. Valmiki puts into the mouth of the ocean king a fundamental of our religious philosophy.
He explains the primordial relationship between God and Nature.
God's law operates in and through Nature. The laws of nature were created so that the universe may proceed by itself. So too the law of Karma. The five elements, all objects without life as well as all living creatures, must follow their own permanent laws.
According to the Hindu Shastras, Nature itself, the sequence and chain of cause and effect, the properties of matter, and the law of Karma, all are ordained permanently by God.
Nature itself is a witness to God. He is not proved by a suspension of the laws of nature. This is expounded clearly in the ninth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita:
"Under my supervision Nature gives rise to all that exists movable and immovable, and the universe, evolves from this cause."
This is put briefly by Valmiki in the speech of the ocean king. Malyavan, the aged Rakshasa, tried his best to impress on Ravana the error of his ways. He said:
"Your time of good fortune is over. Your sins have begun to bear their fruit and to dim your radiance. You can trust no longer the boons you have obtained from the gods. Make peace with your enemies. Look at the army that has arrived, the terrible host of Vanaras and bears. Look at this wonderful causeway so quickly built. It seems to me, this Rama is Vishnu himself come in human form."
Ravana had no patience with such talk. "Your words are wormwood in my ear," he cried. "It looks as though you too have joined my enemies. Are not human beings well known to be weaklings? Why are you afraid of this wretched man driven into the forest by his father? And he relies on the support of monkeys and bears! Of such a man you are afraid.
Really I am ashamed of you. Or could it be that you cannot bear to see me happy? Why do you talk like this to me? I cannot bend before Rama. If it is wrong policy or wrong ethics, I cannot help it. You may take it that it is part of my nature and I cannot change it. I would far rather die fighting than sue before Rama for peace!"
Malyavan replied: "Consider well and do what you think best." And he returned home, uttering the usual benedictory words: "Victory to the King! Victory to Ravana!"
The old man was Ravana's grandfather.
Ravana carefully stationed his warriors. He posted Prahasta at the eastern entrance, Mahaparsva and Mahodara at the southern entrance and Indrajit, his illustrious son, accomplished in the arts of secret magic, at the western entrance, while he decided himself to guard the northern entrance. Virupaksha, the mighty, was appointed commander of the army within the city.
Having ordered the disposition of his forces and chief warriors, he felt he had ensured victory. As his end was approaching, he listened to no one and foolishly believed himself unconquerable. The ministers raised shouts of victory to please the King and then dispersed.
Rama, Sugriva, Vibhishana and others held a council of war. Vibhishana duly laid before the council the information gathered by scouts who had gone out and watched Ravana's arrangements.
"In numbers, strength and courage," Vibhishana said, "the army now mobilised by Ravana surpasses that with which he opposed Kubera. Still I have no doubt of Rama's victory."
Rama distributed his forces to meet Ravana's disposition and assigned to each commander the task he was to perform. He ordered Nila to meet Prahasta at the eastern gate. Angada was to meet Mahaparsva and Mahodara at the southern entrance. At the western entrance Hanuman was to encounter Indrajit, the master of black magic.
"Lakshmana and I shall meet Ravana, the terror of the world, and we shall direct the assault on Lanka. Sugriva, Jambavan and Vibhishana shall stay behind with our main army." The army rested for the night on Mount Suvela. The following morning, standing on the mountaintop, they took a good look at Lanka.
The beautiful city on the summit of Trikuta seemed as if suspended from the sky. Behind the thick fortress wall the Rakshasa army stood sentry, looking like another massive wall. Observing the great and beautiful buildings in Lanka, Rama was moved to pity. And he said:
"Alas! Because one person, drawn by the noose of time, has committed a sin, all this wealth and the whole Rakshasa race must now be destroyed. Alas that this scion of a noble race should forget his real greatness and pull death and destruction on himself and his people!"
Rama continued: "However, we should now bend all our thoughts to the task before us to win this battle and destroy Ravana. There will be much confusion in the course of the battle. The Rakshasas will try to deceive us with many disguises. Let the Vanaras and bears retain their own shape while fighting. Vibhishana and his friends alone need assume human forms, like Lakshmana and myself. The Rakshasas, our enemies, will never take the form of man or monkey. They would think it beneath their dignity to do so. If we stand together maintaining due order we can know who is who, slay our enemies and help our friends."