Ravana’s two brothers, Kumbhakarna and Vibhishana, disagree about supporting him.  Assess which brother is correct.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I tend to think that this becomes one of the most important issues in the work.  I am not entirely sure if this is focused upon when discussing the work, as the discourse tends to focus on Lord Rama and Ravana or Lakshmana's devotion to his brother, or even Goddess Sita's austerity and sense of adherence to duty.  Yet, the rift between Ravana's brothers is very important to the overall message of the sacred text.  Kumbhakarna's general state is one in which he covets and devours based on his senses.  His existence consists of eating, sleeping, and fighting, reflecting a condition that is one bound to the contingency of the senses.  Vibhishana is shown to be devout to the tenets of bhakthi to Lord Vishnu.  When asked what he would want for a boon from Lord Brahma, Vibhishana says he wishes to meditate on the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu.  This division reflects how each perceives reality and the choices made accordingly.  One can say that Vibhishana is disloyal and Kumbhakarna is loyal, but the real beauty of the work is that is argues that such terms have to be seen in context.  Loyalty to that which is wrong and immoral is not admirable, and disloyalty to that which one knows is repugnant is admirable.  Kumbhakarna believes that loyalty to his brother will continue the satisfaction of contingent needs.  This is where he is motivated in terms of defending his royal brother, while Vibhishana recognizes that what Ravana is doing is wrong and must be criticized.  In a larger sense, the choices of each represents the challenge between the contingent and the transcendent.  Kumbhakarna chooses to support the contingent, while Vibhishana opts for the transcendent.  In this, there is the basis of their choice and I think that assessment of whose path is "better" or more superior has to be made along these lines and with this understanding.