“Thus addressed, Saumitra, a knower of speech, politely addressed that monkey, the son of the wind-god, counselor of Sugriva, and one himself well-versed in speech.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.36)
When involved in a conflict or grand struggle, several tactics can be employed to increase the chances of victory. Normally when we have a heated conflict, the basic instinct is to take on the aggressor head-to-head in a fair fight. While this method is often employed with varying results, the wise can go about achieving their desired aim, i.e. victory, while exerting the least amount of effort. If you can win without fighting or by limiting the amount of direct conflict, the better it is for your side. In this regard, one of the age old tactics employed by crafty diplomats and strategic fighters is the formation of alliances. One alliance in particular proved to be very helpful many thousands of years ago in taking down a powerful demon who had been terrorizing the world.
In the past ten years or so, the landscape of television in America has drastically changed. Gone is the domination of the four major networks with their nightly newscasts and primetime sitcoms and dramas. Now there are hundreds of channels, with the internet quickly becoming the primary source for information. Changing times call for new strategies and new business models. As a result, many of the new shows that air are reality series. A reality show can be thought of as a low-budget documentary, where cast members are grouped together in situations which are conducive towards the arousal of conflict and intense personal interaction. The name of the game is conflict, for the more fighting there is, the more entertaining the show will be.
A game show or contest really lends itself to the reality television format. A contest already involves a struggle, with contestants competing hard for the ultimate prize. With this type of show, there is no storyline to think up, no writers to hire, and no high paid actors to find. The cast and the struggle are already there; all that is required is a television crew and some fancy editing. Of the reality game shows, the most popular ones have been those focusing around some type of physical exertion, with contestants either forced to live in an exotic destination or pitted against one another in various physical challenges. The struggle for victory is entertaining enough, but what makes these shows even more interesting is seeing the personal interactions. On the surface, one would think that those who are the most physically capable would end up winning these contests. But what we see is that those who are the craftiest in forming alliances and friendships are the ones who actually end up winning.
The physically strong can certainly win challenges and advance far in these contests, but their ultimate victories aren’t guaranteed. Sometimes all it takes is one loss in a competition for a person to get booted from a show. Those who form alliances, however, have a much better chance of winning because they often times end up not having to compete in an elimination round. In many of these shows, the contest is broken down into weekly episodes, with a one-on-one duel concluding each episode. The choosing of the participants for these duels is what makes for good television. The duel contestants are typically chosen by the other members on the show; thus allowing alliances to have a major influence. If a contestant on the show can make friends with enough people, they can form an alliance which determines the duel contestants every week. Through this strategy, one can insulate themselves from having to compete, thereby clearing their path to the final challenge and increasing their chances of winning.
Alliance building certainly isn’t a new concept. The two world wars of the twentieth century involved major alliances in each conflict. Sometimes even enemies joined forces, such as when the United States and the Soviet Union allied against Germany and Japan in World War II. The Treta Yuga, a time period occurring many thousands of years ago, saw one of the greatest struggles in history. According to Vedic information, the duration of each creation is so long that it is nearly impossible to identify major events based on the exact year of their occurrence. To make things easier, the creation is divided into four time periods, or Yugas. The second Yuga is known as Treta. We currently live in the last Yuga known as Kali.
During the Treta Yuga, there was one king in particular who had amassed great power. This ruler resided on the island of Lanka, which was situated far away from any mainland. He would fly around the world and defeat many great kings, thus establishing his supremacy over all. This king was not very pious, however. Therefore he was considered a threat to the innocent people of the world. Wanting to alleviate the threat, the saintly class of living entities, the suras, petitioned the Supreme Lord to help them. Hearing their appeal, the all-pervading Lord Vishnu agreed to appear on earth in the guise of a human being to defeat this demoniac king, who caused so much terror to others that he was named Ravana.
In order to defeat Ravana, the Lord would have to take him on in battle. In order to battle him, the Lord would have to appear in the guise of a living entity whose occupational duty it was to fight. Therefore Lord Vishnu appeared in a famous dynasty of kshatriyas, or warriors, known as the Ikshvakus. Taking birth as the eldest son of the King of Ayodhya, the Lord was given the name of Rama, meaning one who gives pleasure to all. Simply taking birth in a famous dynasty and learning the military arts weren’t enough justification to take on Ravana in battle. The monarchs who ruled over Ayodhya had established a tradition of chivalry and adherence to the proper codes of conduct as enjoined in the shastras, or scriptures. This meant that they never took on another king in battle without due cause. The most common cause for fighting was an attack by an aggressor. Since Ravana hadn’t directly attacked Ayodhya, Rama didn’t have any justification to go after him.
For the benefit of the innocent people of the world, justification would come soon enough. Rama would roam the forests of India for fourteen years with His beautiful wife Sita Devi and His younger brother Lakshmana. Ravana would come and kidnap Sita while the trio was in the forest. Ravana’s transgression was all the justification Rama would need to kill him. First things first, however, as Rama needed to find out where Sita was. He wasn’t by her side when she was kidnapped, so He didn’t know who had taken her or where she went. While travelling through the forest, Rama was advised to form an alliance with a monkey-king named Sugriva. This intelligence brought Rama and Lakshmana to the forest of Kishkindha where Sugriva had set up camp.
Sugriva saw Rama and Lakshmana approaching, and not knowing who they were, he feared they had come to kill him. Thus he sent his chief emissary, a monkey named Hanuman, to greet them and see what they wanted. Hanuman gladly obliged and presented himself before Rama and Lakshmana while in the guise of a mendicant. This was done at Sugriva’s command, as the monkey-king thought that by Hanuman masking his appearance, the princes would let their guard down. Hanuman immediately took to praising Rama and Lakshmana. It was as if Rama was the one person Hanuman had waited his whole life for. Not holding anything back, Hanuman spontaneously composed beautiful Sanskrit poetry and directed these kind words to the Supreme Lord.
Lord Rama was extremely impressed by Hanuman’s words, tone, and demeanor. He conveyed these feelings to Lakshmana, who in turn relayed them to Hanuman. In the above referenced passage, Shri Rama is directing His response to Hanuman through Lakshmana. Lakshmana was instructed by Rama to let Hanuman know that they came in peace and that they were ready to join forces with Sugriva.
Once this alliance was formed, results came rather quickly. Hanuman leapt his way to Lanka, found Sita, relayed information to her, set fire to Lanka, and returned to Rama. Then Rama, Lakshmana, and Sugriva’s entire army marched to Lanka, where Rama would take on and defeat Ravana in battle. As a result, Sita was rescued and everyone lived happily ever after. Lord Rama certainly didn’t need this alliance, for God can defeat anyone by Himself, but He enlisted the help of the monkeys because they were all devoted souls. For the identity of a declared devotee to mean something, they must have a way of showing their devotion to the Lord. Usually this love manifests through religious activities: attending church, singing songs, remembering the Lord, speaking about Him to others, etc. For the most exalted devotees, their faith in God is shown through direct service offered to Him. This was the case with Hanuman.
In order to achieve success in spiritual life, one must be crafty enough to form the proper alliances. By default, man allies himself with material nature, an illusory energy which keeps him focused on everything except the interests of the only person who truly matters. Some may be strong enough to break from this fatal alliance on their own, but as we see with other aspects of life, victory is not guaranteed in every battle. We may be able to fight off the urges of the senses a few times, but eventually we will lose. In order to guarantee success, an alliance with a devotee of God is required. This relationship will guarantee victory in the end. Just as Hanuman brought Sugriva together with Rama and Lakshmana, our alliance with the spiritual master, the purified representative of the Supreme Lord, will bring us together with the Supreme Lord. Once this relationship is established, we can go about directly offering our services to God. This service will substantiate our identity as a devotee, while giving pleasure to the Supreme Lord at the same time. Only through devotional service can the most beautiful and permanent of alliances be formed, the synergy of the energy and the energetic.
“It is not possible for a conditioned soul to directly meet Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but if one becomes a sincere devotee and seriously engages in devotional service, Lord Krishna sends an instructing spiritual master to show him favor and invoke his dormant propensity for serving the Supreme.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 1.58 Purport)
Where do we go to find a guru? Where do we go to meet devotees to ally ourselves with? If there is sincerity in the desire to take up spiritual life, the Supreme Spirit will kindly send the pure devotee to the rescue. To give an indication to the superior authorities that we are sincere in our desire to return to the spiritual realm, we should regularly chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This mantra is a call for help, the ringing of the siren bell. Chanting this mantra with faith and devotion puts a call in to the Supreme Lord, who in turn sends one of His deputies to come and rescue us. Shri Hanuman proved all-auspicious for Sugriva and his numerous monkey soldiers, bringing them together with the Supreme Object of Pleasure, Shri Rama. Anyone who is associated with a sincere a soul as Hanuman will never have to fear returning to the endless mire of pain and misery brought on by material contact.
Shri Hanuman is an ocean of mercy, a friend of the fallen living entities desperately seeking release from the constant pressures brought on by hankering and lamenting. Hanuman is not only a devotee in thought, but in word and deed as well. He is so exalted that he never falls out of favor with Rama. Wherever there is Rama, there is Hanuman. And wherever there is Hanuman, there is victory in devotional service and the defeat of opposing elements. Ravana didn’t stand a chance against the forces of Rama, Lakshmana, Sugriva, the Vanara army, and Shri Hanuman. Thus anyone tied to Hanuman through a bond of respect, love, and affection will surely make the most out of this wonderful opportunity of human life by returning to the spiritual world when their time here is over.
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