“(Hanuman did not see Sita) who (in Lanka) was like a crescent moon having its outline blurred, like a streak of gold covered by dust, like an injury left by an arrow (a scar), or like a series of clouds broken up by the wind.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 5.26)
avyaktarekhāmiva candrarekhāṃ |
pāmsupradigdhāmiva hemarekhām |
kśataprarūḍhāmiva bāṇarekhāṃ |
vāyuprabhinnāmiva megharekśām ||
To find success In his search for Sita Shri Hanuman would have to go by certain features as clues. He had not met the divine princess up until this time, and to properly identify her he had to go off of her qualities described to him and also her presumed current state of mind. Having met the lord of his life breath, Shri Rama, Hanuman knew that anyone who would ever be separated from His company would be in a troublesome situation. If a lover is forced to leave the side of their beloved, it is natural for them to feel distressed. When the mind is constantly focused on one object, on meeting this object’s needs and putting a smile on its face, and then that object of affection is suddenly removed from the vision, the living being will have nothing to do but lament. Bearing this in mind, Hanuman knew what signs to look for. He was searching for the most beautiful princess in the world, whose irradiant beauty and grace were now somewhat covered up by her tremendous grief.
Wouldn’t this be a difficult task? For starters, how many of us are always happy? What area could we travel through where we’d find everyone either completely miserable or fully satisfied? In Hanuman’s case, the job was made easier by the fact that the women residing in the location he was searching were well-dressed and enjoying the pleasures of home life. The land where Sita had been taken was called Lanka, and it was the capital of the vilest Rakshasa community of the world. A Rakshasa is a sort of human-like species that is more prone to sinful activity than ordinary human beings. A sin is anything that goes against the law codes of shastra, or scripture. These edicts are not put into place to punish or to make others suffer, but rather to ensure that everyone can live together peacefully, remain happy, and continue on a steady march towards a purified consciousness. When the mind is fixed on the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead at the time of death, the cycle of birth and death immediately ceases.
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)
We get more than one life to live? Just as the measurement of our lifetime gets divided up into smaller units such as days, weeks, months, and years to make things easier to analyze, the infinite duration of the soul’s existence is grouped into units of time based on its residence in various body types. To make this easier to understand, let’s say that we didn’t even know what a “day” was. We consider a day to have passed when we wake up each morning, but this is an entirely relative delineation, for what if we stayed awake the entire night? Does not a day pass then? Even the calendar is subjective, for it operates on the movement of the sun, which means that any person could take any point in time and use that as their starting point instead of the regular calendar days. Just as not every person lives for only one day, the soul does not remain in a specific body type forever. The soul’s qualities of knowledge, eternality and bliss are always present; it’s just that in the conditioned state of being awareness of these features remains lost. Through instruction from the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India and the original set of law codes to be followed by the human society, steps can be taken that allow the soul to break free of the cycle of birth and death and thus achieve a spiritual body that is permanent in its existence.
The relevance of sin shouldn’t be too difficult to understand. The rules of the highway are meant to ensure the safety of all drivers. Running through a stop sign or a red light is considered sinful because it goes against the established law codes and it leads to a negative condition. If one person runs a red light, the crossing traffic that has a green light is immediately put into danger. Adherence to the rules, or piety, is followed for a purpose. Similarly, the restrictions on illicit sex life, gambling, intoxication and meat eating are present to allow the consciousness of the individual to fully develop. When dissociated from the Supreme Person, the entity most of the world refers to as God, the individual consciousness is left to seek out sense pleasures, which constantly suggest the breaking of the laws of regulated spiritual life. Just as running the red light has negative consequences, so does the flaunting of the laws of God.
The most obvious detriment to sinful activity is the fuel it adds to reincarnation. With material desires driven by lust, anger and greed, the soul remains tied to material bodies, i.e. forms which are temporary in their existence. When something is temporary, it automatically becomes the cause of lamentation. This may be a little difficult to understand, but if we review the cycles of different experiences undergone in life, we’ll see that this is entirely true. For instance, when a new child is born there is great celebration, elation and expectation. The child’s early years are especially enjoyed by the parents. The child is the final piece of the puzzle to family life, which acts as a support system ensuring that comfort and security are always there.
“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.27)
Life in a particular form of body is not permanent, however. Though the soul remains in existence forever, its temporary coverings do not. Therefore the elation that comes with birth is automatically coupled with the sadness that comes at death. When there is birth, there must be death. When there is the creation of something temporary, there must be the sadness that results from its destruction. In this way material desires are ultimately the source of misery and thus should be avoided. By following the principles of spiritual life passed down by the Vedas and their followers, one doesn’t even need to know the ins and outs of matter and the illusory component of material nature. Just following the instructions keeps one on the straightened path.
The Rakshasas so flaunted the principles of dharma that they took their sinful way of life to be the right way. This is akin to thinking that stopping at a red light is sinful and that going through it is pious. In their community the Rakshasas especially enjoyed eating human flesh and drinking wine. Why was Hanuman traversing through such an area, especially considering that he is today famously known as Lord Rama’s greatest devotee? Rama is an incarnation of Godhead who roamed the earth many thousands of years ago in the guise of a warrior prince. When His wife Sita Devi was taken away from Him behind His back, He enlisted the help of a band of Vanaras, or human-like monkeys, residing in the forest of Kishkindha.
Sita had been taken to Lanka, where the leader of the Rakshasas, Ravana, tried his best to win her over. But just as Rama was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Sita was an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, Vishnu’s wife in the spiritual world. Hence she never desires to even look at any man except her husband. Hanuman was the most capable of the Vanaras in so many different categories of ability, with his most outstanding feature being his eagerness to please Rama. He was fully committed to finding Sita, handing to her Rama’s ring, and returning the information of her whereabouts to Rama and the monkeys back in Kishkindha.
After infiltrating Lanka, Hanuman scoured through the streets in a form that went unnoticed by others. He saw all sorts of beautiful women engaged in different activities. The common trait shared by all of them was happiness through association with their beloveds. They were all enjoying the company of their Rakshasa husbands in some way or another. Hanuman thus understood that he had yet to find Sita. There was no way she would be enjoying with anyone else. Plus, none of these women could classify as the most beautiful in the world, nor were they capable of fully enchanting Shri Rama’s mind. Just as Sita always thinks of Rama, the Lord always thinks of her happiness and welfare.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we get a few more details of Sita’s distinguishing features at the time, clues that Hanuman could use to identify her. It is said that Sita shone like a crescent moon that had a blurred outline. Lord Rama, having a dark complexion, was often compared to the dark raincloud, and since Sita was fair-skinned, she was often compared to lightning, that which is white in color. Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother, was sometimes described in the same way. When Rama and Lakshmana would walk together in the forest, the onlookers would compare the scene to a dark raincloud coupled with streaks of lightning walking through. In this respect, the comparison to the crescent moon is very appropriate. The moon shines bright in the sky and is noticed very easily because of the contrast to the darkness of night. Similarly, Hanuman was in a region ruled by the mode of ignorance, the level of material activity which has the least deference to piety. Sita would be the moon that stood out in the dark city of Lanka, but her brightness wouldn’t be complete, as her sadness due to separation from Rama would blur her outline.
Sita’s appearance in Lanka would also be like that of a scar on the body. If we get mosquito bites in the summertime or get a prominent injury on the body that leaves a scar, the marks are distinguishable. If someone were to see us, they would immediately ask what had happened. “How did you get that injury? Are you okay?” Comparing Sita’s presence in Lanka to a scar is very appropriate because she would certainly stand out. Hanuman knew that none of the women he had seen thus far could be the princess of Videha, Rama’s beloved, because their features weren’t noteworthy. Sita would also be a wound that ultimately would prove fatal to all the sinful residents of Lanka, and especially Ravana. Though Rama would later march to the city with the Vanaras and do away with the Rakshasas, Sita would actually be the real cause of Ravana’s demise. If he had not unlawfully taken her away from her religiously wedded husband, none of the resulting destruction would have taken place.
Sita would also appear like a streak of a series of clouds that had been swept away by the wind. When there are lots of clouds in the sky, it is difficult to distinguish which ones are which. On an overcast day, it doesn’t even appear as if there are many clouds in the sky; just one giant streak of covering to shield the sunlight. When the clouds part, however, due to the force of the wind, some streaks are left, allowing certain areas of the sky to be noticed. Sita could be recognized in the same way in Lanka.
These clues helped Hanuman continue ahead, for he was not happy to have not found Sita yet. He knew she wouldn’t be in a good condition, but since she was Rama’s wife, Hanuman was very eager to meet her. When it comes to achieving perfection in consciousness, just the mere desire to seek out God and His pleasure is enough to secure liberation. What then to speak of those who actually follow through on their desires and make bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, their way of life? With a sincere desire to serve comes the helping hand of God. Without the hankering to connect with pure spirit, adherence to dharma and the accumulation of spiritual knowledge can only take us so far.
In this respect the solution to life’s problems is very simple. Just chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” as often as possible and hear about the glories of divine figures like Shri Hanuman and Sita Devi. Just as Sita’s presence was distinct in the thick cloud of darkness that was Lanka, Hanuman and his acts always remain resplendent and superior to the activities of any mundane figure or hero. Whoever is fortunate enough to hear of Hanuman and honor him just once will have the seed of devotional service planted within them. When that seed, which is anxiously awaiting growth into a full blown tree, is regularly watered through devotional acts such as hearing, chanting and remembering, the return to the spiritual world is guaranteed.
Hanuman was desperate to meet her soon,
Sita, who looked like the indistinct crescent moon.
Natural brilliance hidden by her sadness,
Like dust covering streak of gold and its brilliance.
Injury from an arrow leaves on the body a scar,
Sita looked similar, though Hanuman not found her thus far.
In Lanka, strong were the forces of darkness,
Residents mistook their sin for righteousness.
Thus Sita, wife of Rama, would certainly stand out,
Her location, to please his lord, Hanuman must find out.
Discover her he would, ultimately to find victory,
Etched his place in the Ramayana, heartwarming story.
That Hanuman in his search for Sita we remember,
Consciousness thus saved from maya’s forces that blur.
Fruit of happiness in following piety in mood of bhakti,
Live happily thinking of Shri Rama and Sita Devi.
Categories: searching for sita