In Asura, by Anand neelakantan., The great King Mahabali, advises Ravana to shun the nine base emotions of anger; pride; jealousy; happiness; sadness; fear; selfishness; passion and ambition. Intellect alone is to be revered.
Ravana responds :
“Your highness, these are noble thoughts, but what you are demanding is impossible. I am sorry to say this, but is the shedding of the nine emotions or nine thinking heads as you call them, which I need to shed for the sake of success, practical? I am a good student and I have learnt my lessons well but I shall always have my own opinion about things. Do not think that I am arrogant. Please hear me out.
You were talking about anger, your Highness. I agree, that misdirected anger can cause harm. But is it not a basic emotion of life? If I do not get angry at the plight of the Asura tribe, that once-mighty race which Sy rut built the greatest civilization the earth has known till now, how can I claim to be one of its worthy sons? Can’t I be furious when thousands live in inhuman conditions under the yoke of Deva kings and their vassal Asura fiends? If I cannot feel frustration about the forgotten Asura arts, demolished Asura religion, pulverized Asura temples, destroyed Asura kingdoms, and cowering cowards who drag themselves on all fours in front of Deva kings and petty nobles claiming to represent Asura interests, tell me sir, what emotion should I feel? Is it not anger that will electrify my thoughts and push me into positive action? I am sorry sir, but I will never lose this emotional head – the head of anger.
Why should pride and vanity be held in contempt? I feel proud about my people, our race, our culture, language art and music. I feel proud about myself for having immense energy and the will to succeed. I do not believe that a person should always be meek, beg for food or live in eternal poverty and all the stuff which Brahmins preach but not a single one ever practises.
If I struggle hard in my life to achieve success, I have every right to be proud of it, I have every right to bask in vanity and luxury. Why did the kings of the past build great temples and cities? Why did the nobles donate towards charity and religion? Is it not to exhibit their vanity and pride? Most humble men are either hypocrites or have much to be humble about. Success breeds pride and vanity. And pride is the only reward of success.
Jealousy is the biggest force that motivates humankind. Why do empires compete with each other? Why do kings try to outsmart each other in what they do, if not motivated by the jealousy they feel? Jealousy is the driving force of progress, envy is the motivating motivating force of life. The need for importance is the most important of urges after the basic physical urges of food, shelter and sex. Even these basic urges have their root in jealousy. To deny jealousy is to deny the basic instincts of man. Sorry sir, but what you are asking is impractical.
You talk about equanimity in sadness and happiness. Is this possible ever? When my beloved ones depart from this world, should I remain calm? Should I deny myself the consolation of crying? If I become incapable of feeling happiness, what shall become of me? If I do not find happiness in the beauty of the rising sun, if I cannot feel ecstasy in the smile of a little baby, if I cannot lose myself in the happiness of music, is life worth living? Fear is the greatest instinct of man and beast, and you ask me to ignore it. Sir, I am not afraid to say that I am scared. I am frightened of many things. I am no coward but fear sleeps somewhere in my heart. I am afraid of death and the people who claim they are not afraid of death. They are either foolish and will drag others down with them also, or they are evil men who hate everybody.
I am afraid of losing many things, worthless though they may be, but I would have gained them through my sweat and blood. I am afraid that my loved ones may fall prey to disease. I am afraid that some battles might claim my faithful brothers. Strong rain can wash away my sister and mother into the waiting ocean. I am aware with every breath I take that I take steps towards my death. But I do not fear fear so much as to deny its very existence. It is this fear that helps me remain prepared for dangers that I must face. It is fear that makes me understand that there are things that I cannot control and helps me to understand God and myself.
You call selfishness a base emotion. But it is this trait which has built great cities around the world and the very foundation of ambition. Without a highly centered ego and the desire to achieve the treasures of this world, would one succeed in life? When I see a lovely girl, a fascinating place, a charming village, a sparkling diamond, a prosperous S a fascina country, ambition flutters in my soul. I want the charms of this world to be mine and mine alone. You may try to kill my base thoughts, but my King, pardon my impudence impudence and tell me in all honesty, was it not from the same selfishness that you built an empire? You did not become a mendicant, but strived to become the Emperor of the whole world. If it was not for this base instinct of selfishness, why did you slay thousands in war? Why did you lead your mighty armies against the Devas? You had one aim only, you wanted glory for yourself, your clan, your tribe – whichever way one looks at it, the word you is prominent. I want to achieve whatever you achieved and much more. I am willing to risk being known as the most selfish man in the world, rather than dying unknown as a selfless non-entity.”
The old man sat there with fire in his eyes. I felt myself cowering. But, as I had started, I did not want to leave things unsaid. I collected my thoughts and pressed on, “It’s pity that you and Brahma look down on love as a base emotion. Without love, without the king of emotions, nothing exists. There’s nothing more pure than the love of a mother for her baby. If one has not felt the painful need to be with one’s lover, if you do not feel the love for your own brothers, sisters, your father who made you, your mother who carried you in her womb and raised you with her blood and milk, for friends and those little cherished moments of togetherness, your wife for sharing your life with you and for your children for carrying your life forward, then is this life worth living? Is it not love for your country, tribe, language, religion, Gods, and so many other things, which may seem trivial but which are so preciously held in the bosom of men, that has led to so much bloodshed and war? People have died for love in the past and will continue to do so as long as the world exists. I shall always love the things I have told you about. But yes, I shall love myself above them all. Without me, nothing which is lovable has any meaning to me. I love because I exist and I exist because I love – I love myself.
Ambition is the key to progress. Without ambition, the kings of Egypt would not be so busy building those pyramids right now. Without ambition, men would have remained hunters. There would not have been wheels, horsecarts or chariots, magnificent cities, temples and palaces, nor majestic sailing ships. Without ambition, we would not have had a Mahabali or Indra. Ambition is the horse that pulls our lives forward.
The amazing speed of progress man has achieved in the past few years would have not been achieved without that small flame of ambition in the minds of a few men, which was fanned to become a huge fire by the other emotions you have urged me to shun. Pride in one’s capability gave men the confidence and ambition to grow; jealousy that someone else would achieve more prodded him to work hard and more efficiently; the quest for happiness resulted in ever-expanding ambition; the fear of sadness kept him awake at night and pushed him further; the fear of failure made him more careful and God-fearing; selfishness glued his family, city, clan, tribe and country together and made him strive even harder. Love for life and the things which made life precious, made him protect his achievements. and I am sure an undying ambition for more will lead mankind to progress. Progress, which we cannot even imagine, can never understand in our short lifetime.
My beloved Emperor, please do not feel sorrow if I speak my heart. You were talking about intelligence being the only head worth having. I agree it is important. But history teaches us that without any of the other emotions, it is just an empty skeleton. There is no life in it. Sir, it was not the maharishis or sages who built civilizations but extraordinary men, who never controlled their emotions, b Sr eifeut let them flow in the direction which nature intended. No mendicant living in a forest ever conceived a great city, no sage was determined to built the great temples, no Brahmin desired to built great ships for commerce and trade. These were built by men who had pride in their veins, anger in their minds, who cried when they felt sad and laughed when they were happy, who were frightened when confronted by forces or events bigger than themselves, but strove forward with determination and a selfish love for all that they cherished. They constantly kept raising their levels of ambition. Intelligence is just a tool to serve our emotions and I want to live as God intended man to live.
My aim is neither become God nor achieve moksha. At best I think, those are old wives tales. I do not believe in a heaven where you will be given all that you purposefully denied yourself in this world. I do not believe in rebirth, when I will be born as a Brahmin if I do good deeds in this life – good in the way the Brahmins describe. If being born a Brahmin is the ultimate reward, then I may even refuse to die for fear of being reborn.
I am sad to disappoint you, but I shall live like a man and die as one. I will never try to be a God. I will live exactly as my emotions tell me to. I do not want to be a model man for future generations to follow. My life begins with me and ends with me. But I will live my life to its full and die as a man should. So borrowing from your words, I shall be a man with ten faces – I am Dasamukha.”