The obedient Lakshmana rushes to Ravana’s side and whispers in his ears,“Demon king, all your life you have taken not given. Now the noble Rama gives you an opportunity to mend your ways. Share your vast wisdom. Do not let it die with you. For that you will be surely be blessed.” Ravana responds by simply turning away. An angry Lakshmana says “He is arrogant as he always is and is too proud to share anything”.
Rama looks at his brother and asks him softly, “Where did you stand while asking him for knowledge?” “Next to his head so that I hear what he had to say clearly.” Rama smiles places his bow on the ground and walks to where Ravana lies. Lakshmana watches in astonishment as his brother kneels at Ravana’s feet.With palms joined, with extreme humility, Rama says, “Lord of Lanka, you abducted my wife, a terrible crime for which I have been forced to punish you. Now, you are no more my enemy. I see you now as you are known across the world, as the wise son of Rishi Vishrava. I bow to you and request you to share your wisdom with me. Please do that for if you die without doing so, all your wisdom will be lost forever to the world.”To Lakshmana surprise, Ravana opens his eyes and raises his arms to salute Rama, “If only I had more time as your teacher than as your enemy. Standing at my feet as a student should, unlike your rude younger brother, you are a worthy recipient of my knowledge. I have very little time so I cannot share much but let me tell you one important lesson I have learnt in my life. Things that are bad for you seduce you easily; you run towards them impatiently. But things are actually good for you fail to attract you; you shun them creatively, finding powerful excuses to justify your procrastination. That is why I was impatient to abduct Sita but avoided meeting you. This is the wisdom of my life, Rama.”With these words, Ravana dies.
Now lets see what happens in the Mahabharata.
The war is over and the Kauravas are all dead. As the victorious Pandavas areabout to assume control of Hastinapur, Krishna advises them to talk to Bhisma,their grand uncle, who lies mortally, wounded on the battlefield. As a result of ablessing, death would elude him for some time. “Make him talk until his last breath. Ask him questions. He has a lot to tell,” says Krishna.Sure enough, when prompted, the dying Bhisma spends hours discussing various topics: history, geography, politics, economics, management, war,ethics, morality, sex, astronomy, metaphysics and spirituality. Bhisma’sdiscourse is captured in the Shanti Parva (discussions of peace) and AnushasanParva (discussions on discipline) that makes up a quarter of the Mahabharata. After listening to their grandsire, the Pandavas have a better understanding of the world, and this makes them better kings.
Both these stories draw attention to the value of knowledge. In triumph, it is easy to claim the material possessions of the defeated but it is not easy to claim one’s knowledge. When someone dies, their knowledge and all the experience goes along with them. It is made sure that the knowledge outlives death in both these cases. Regardless of victory, the winners make sure that they get the knowledge even if they have to let go of the ego.
Now here is a question for all of us – are we ready to get knowledge from the fallen one when we win and are we ready to impart knowledge to the winner when we fall? Something to ponder on…