Question: Swami, Vibhishana [brother of Ravana] was a rakshasa [demon]; yet he was a devotee of Rama. Kindly tell us about Vibhishana.
Bhagavan: Vibhishana’s devotion to Rama was unique . God is unconcerned with your position, property, scholarship, caste, and creed. What God expects and receives from you is only pure love. With devotion, you can achieve anything in this world. Only this kind of devotion transformed:
A monkey known for unsteadiness into Hanuman, worthy of worship;
A bird known for flipping looks into a Garuda, vehicle of Vishnu;
A bull into Nandi, the vehicle of Siva;
A peacock into the vehicle of Lord Subrahmanya; and
A lion into the vehicle of Goddess Durga.
It is noteworthy that these animals and birds, by their sheer devotion and love of God, could give up their innate qualities and transform themselves into vehicles of Gods, and are now worshipped along with Gods and Godesses.
Similarly, Vibhishana, though a rakshasa himself, was an ardent devotee of Lord Rama, and hence he deserved His grace. He repeatedly advised his elder brother, king Ravana, not to abduct Mother Sita. He also warned him of dire consequences if he waged a war against Rama. Yet, Ravana didn’t pay heed to his words of devotion and wisdom, and the rest is the story you all know. Ultimately, Vibhishana forsook his brother, Ravana, and sought refuge in Rama. This is an instance that illustrates how a devotee left his own brother when he stood in the way of the onward journey to God.
In my opinion, Vibhishana is greater than Bhishma [the patriarch of the Pandavas and Kauravas of Mahabharata]. Bhishma was a wise, devoted, determined individual and an expert in warfare. Yet, he led the unlawful, unrighteous and mean-minded Kauravas in their war against the Pandavas. He didn’t help the Pandavas who were pious, righteous, and noble.
As for Hanuman, when he entered Sri Lanka in his search for Mother Sita, he stepped into the bedroom of Vibhishana and saw him immersed in chanting the holy name of Rama. He made Vibhishana aware of his presence by making loud sounds. Vibhishana opened his eyes and saw Hanuman. After they had acquainted themselves with each other as devotees of Rama, Hanuman asked Vibhishana, “Oh King! You say you are a devotee of Rama. You do japa, repeat His holy name; but it is not enough. Besides chanting His name, you should also participate in His karya, His divine mission. Have you ever visited Sita? Have you made any attempt to set her free? In what way have you helped Rama in His mission? Don’t you know that chanting His name and contributing to His mission are complementary to each other, and should go together? You have not informed Rama of the whereabouts of Sita! Have you made any attempt to set her free? In what way have you helped Rama in his mission? How do you call yourself a devotee of Rama then?” Since that day, Vibhishana became a part of Rama’s divine mission.