“(Hanuman did not see Sita) who was firmly situated on the eternal path of devotion to her husband, had her gaze always fixed on Rama, was always possessed by love for Rama, had entered the glorious mind of her husband, and was always the most exceptional of women.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 5.24)
sanātane vartmāni samniviṣṭām |
rāmekśaṇāṃ tāṃ madanābhiviṣṭām |
bharturmanaḥ śrīmadanupraviṣṭām |
strībhyo varābhyaśca sadā viśiṣṭām ||
For a government services company, a firm which takes on those tasks which are rarely needed in the private sector, being awarded a no-bid contract is like being sent a lifeline, a gift basket of fruits that continuously yield even more fruits in the future. Whether an oil pipeline needs to be erected offshore or some major construction project needs completing, the task itself is not what benefits the company hired to do the job. Rather, just being chosen to take on the responsibility is reward enough, as the work keeps the company afloat and the employees occupied. Whether the completion of the task takes months or years is really of no concern, as the employment brings renewed opportunity and enthusiasm with each successive day. In a similar manner, a most difficult task was handed to a Vanara warrior many thousands of years ago. Though he was handed the tough assignment of infiltrating enemy lines and gathering intelligence information without being recognized, Hanuman truly benefitted from this gift in the form of a mission because of the person he would be hopefully meeting. Because of her divine qualities, just having the good fortune of remembering her for even one second, let alone meeting with her personally, is the greatest reward. Thus the nature of the mission was the more important benediction for Hanuman, with success in it relegated to secondary importance.
Who is Hanuman? Who was this lady he had to meet? Many thousands of years ago, during the Treta Yuga, a powerful king by the name of Ravana was wreaking havoc throughout the world. Though he had hundreds of beautiful princesses for wives, he had his mind set on the princess of Videha, Sita Devi, who was the religiously wedded wife of Lord Rama, the jewel of the Raghu dynasty and a powerful prince in His own right. Rama was an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, so He was fully endowed with the divine qualities exclusively found in the Supreme Person. Sita, as the wife of Rama, was also perfectly qualified in every way; hence she was the ideal wife for any man. Though her qualities as a princess and woman made her awfully desirable, she is only capable of being married to Rama, or God. She can never be with any other man; something Ravana failed to understand.
Forcibly taking her back to his island kingdom of Lanka while Rama wasn’t by her side, Ravana hoped to win Sita over. As that plan failed pretty quickly, he held her captive in an ashoka garden, where the clock ticked on an ultimatum given to her. She had a set period of time to make up her mind: either agree to become Ravana’s wife or be killed. Meanwhile, Rama set up a massive search for Sita’s whereabouts. Entrusted with the most difficult task was Hanuman, the chief emissary of the Vanara warriors living in Kishkindha. Sugriva was the king of this monkey community, but Hanuman was his most trusted aide and the most capable as far as abilities went.
Sugriva’s tagging of Hanuman as being the best warrior would be validated during the subsequent search. It would be Hanuman alone who would cross over the massive ocean and reach the shores of Lanka. Then taking a diminutive stature, Hanuman scoured the city, searching every inch of space for Sita. Up until this point he had never met the wife of Rama. He knew of her divine qualities though, the foremost being her unbroken link in consciousness to her husband. Imagine if someone had asked us to identify someone unknown to us and the primary characteristic we had to go by was their level of devotion. Obviously such a person would be in a distressed condition, as they would be separated from the person they were always thinking about. When together, thinking of your beloved results in happiness and joy through association. But when apart, the same thought processes bring tremendous pain, grief and fear. Sita would have been terribly afraid of not meeting Rama ever again.
In his search, Hanuman saw many beautiful princesses. With each one he was hoping that maybe they were Sita, the beloved of Rama. But he found that the princesses were enjoying. Some were getting ready for a night of fun and frolic with their husbands, while others were already having a good time. Hanuman instinctively knew that none of these women could be Sita. Soon afterwards, dejection overcame him, as he had not met the person he was tasked with seeing. In his lamentation, he remembered some of Sita’s foremost qualities. This review, which is provided in the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, also adds a nice contrast between Rama’s wife and the wives of the Rakshasas of Lanka.
Sita was on the eternal road of chastity, which meant that she could never be in a pleasant condition when separated from her husband. These other women were too happy to be Sita, and their chastity could never compare to the princess of Videha’s. Sita always had her gaze fixed on her husband. Yogis, mental speculators and fruitive workers have spent many lifetimes trying to understand the Absolute Truth and find a mental position where all thoughts are focused on Him, but Sita, though in the form of a woman, had already attained this perfectional stage of consciousness. She did so without any extra endeavor as well, as she was not formally educated in the Vedas, nor had she adopted a fixed discipline of meditational yoga and austerity. Her penances came in the form of heaps of tears shed while thinking of her beloved. Though she found herself in the most dangerous situation, she always thought of how her husband might be feeling while separated from her. Sita had firmly entered Rama’s mind, for who could ever forget her level of devotion and her beauty for even a second?
Sita also felt guilty about having chastised Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother. When Ravana set up the ruse in the Dandaka forest to lure Rama away from the group’s cottage, Lakshmana was still by Sita’s side. Yet she sternly rebuked him when she heard a loud wail that sounded like Rama. Lakshmana knew that Rama couldn’t be hurt, but Sita insisted that he go and check on Him. When Lakshmana still didn’t budge, Sita started to insult him very strongly, enough to the point that Lakshmana finally left to go find Rama. This then allowed Ravana to swoop in and take Sita away while she was unprotected. Knowing that Lakshmana is always sinless, Sita understood that he would feel bad for having left her side.
Hanuman’s mission was to find Sita, give to her Rama’s ring, and then return to Kishkindha with information of her whereabouts. From the grief he felt over having not found her while in Lanka, we see that Hanuman was fully engrossed in thoughts of Sita and Rama. Just being able to think of the Lord in a mood of pure love and devotion for even one second is enough to secure perfection in consciousness. Hanuman’s devotion to Rama was already well established, but here we see that his love extended to the Lord’s devotees as well. Sita was in a perilous situation, where her life was in danger, but she nevertheless remained steadfast in her devotion.
Since the events of the Ramayana took place many thousands of years ago, it’s a little difficult to relate to Sita’s predicament, especially since we now know that everything would eventually end well. But we know from our own experiences that there is sadness and dejection whenever we have nothing to do, especially during time off from work or school. We work hard during the week and follow routines and disciplines, so we expect to have fun on the weekend. But if we have no friends, family or significant others to share our experiences with, there can be great sadness. Now just imagine if that same dejection was there constantly, day in and day out, month after month. This is what Sita was facing, for she found herself amidst vile creatures who had no respect for her husband. While living in Ayodhya, everyone loved Rama, as He is the Supreme Lord in the guise of a human. Therefore Ayodhya was just like the spiritual world, for wherever devotion to God is strong, the material elements can never have an inhibiting effect.
Sita’s dedication was so strong that even in the face of total despair and utter hopelessness in Lanka, her thoughts never turned away from Rama. The audience of such an exalted person was Hanuman’s reward for taking up Rama’s service. Therefore the ultimate success of coming back to Kishkindha with information wasn’t even the main benefit for Hanuman’s travelling to Lanka. Just meeting Sita and providing her the pleasure of knowing that Rama was looking for her and dedicated to rescuing her were enough gifts to satisfy him.
What other mission can bring about such benefits? If we are given a task to complete at work, the result is that the boss will be pleased and maybe the profit margin of the company will increase. In the process of successfully completing the job, skills can be acquired and confidence in future tasks can also be increased. With the mission of bhakti-yoga, however, which is best furthered in the modern age by regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, there are benefits to be found in the beginning, middle and end. Never is there a time in the devotional process where the consciousness isn’t steadily being purified. What other discipline allows one to think about Sita Devi in a mood of love and devotion nonstop? Ravana also had the opportunity to meet Sita, but he tried to enjoy her for himself, without pleasing Rama. Hanuman, on the other hand, got the full benefit of Sita’s company even before he met her.
Hanuman would become eternally famous because of what he would do in Lanka. He was a one-man army, a person shouldering the burden of success and failure for all the members in his party. The fame itself would be taken as the greatest reward for anyone, as Hanuman is worshiped regularly to this very day, but the adulation that comes with success was of no concern to the Vanara warrior. When bhakti is practiced perfectly, it is done without motivation and without interruption. Rama wanted to find Sita, and Hanuman took this as his mission, but he was not personally motivated. And after he found Sita and then later played a significant role in her rescue, he continued thinking about both she and Rama. To this day he sings their glories on a daily basis, and his humility and kindness melt the hearts of sincere souls throughout the universe.
For struggling business, important it is to find work,
To have a source of income, avoid apathy’s murk.
Just having regular tasks is what really counts,
Else the pain of boredom steadily mounts.
With finding a famed princess was Shri Hanuman tasked,
To give to her Rama’s ring and return home was he asked.
Sita was her name, and she was famous for her devotion,
When with her husband Rama, she felt blissful satisfaction.
Entering enemy land of Lanka after assuming a small size,
Hanuman would search for Sita, bewailing princess to recognize.
Surely she would be filled with sadness and dejection,
Not by her husband’s side, she would feel the separation.
By having sadness over not seeing her, one thing we can tell,
That Hanuman was aware of her nature, Sita he knew very well.
Hanuman didn’t need success; chance to think of Sita was reward enough,
But meet her he would, for in persevering no one is more tough.
Categories: searching for sita