“Thereafter, the heart of that great soul, who had contemplated on the self in many ways, had a disciplined mind, had good eyesight, had ranged about everywhere in Lanka and had followed the righteous path, became filled with grief over not having found the daughter of King Janaka.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 7.17)
tataḥ tadā bahu vidha bhāvita ātmanaḥ |
kṛta ātmano janaka sutām suvartmanaḥ |
apaśyato abhavad atiduhkhitam manaḥ |
sucakṣuṣaḥ pravicarato mahātmanaḥ ||
Lord Rama’s faithful servant, Shri Hanuman, one of the kindest people to have ever graced this earth, whose devotion to God is unmatched and whose every action is worthy of praise, adoration, glorification, remembrance, honor, discussion and contemplation, is a real mahatma. Atma can mean body, mind or soul, and maha means great. In this respect Hanuman is great in soul, body and mind, so the term mahatma applies to him in every meaningful way. When he went searching for Sita Devi, the abducted princess and wife of Lord Rama, through the enemy territory of Lanka, the temporary bouts of depression he encountered only further increased his mahatma status. Just as no one is more dedicated to Rama and pleasing Him than Hanuman, no one feels more dejected and unhappy over failing in his devotional efforts than Hanuman. This very quality actually ensures his ultimate success and also the success of any person who is fortunate enough to think about him on a regular basis.
Hanuman proved to be a great soul when he first met Shri Rama in the forest of Kishkindha. The Ramayana is a poem celebrated not only for its scholarship and entertainment value. Composed in the Sanskrit language, the work sings about the glories and pastimes of a non-different form of Godhead. Rama is ever glorious and brilliant. Aside from the authority of the Vedas, Rama’s divinity can be proven simply by His exhibition of divine qualities. Though roaming the earth as a seemingly ordinary human being, Rama could enchant anyone who met Him, provided that their vision was pure. If someone were to present before us a beautiful painting, depending on our consciousness we may or may not appreciate it. If we are in an angry mood, intoxicated, or distracted by other concerns, we may not appreciate the beauty of the painting.
Similarly, God’s influence is all around us, but unless and until our consciousness is purified, we cannot notice the divine presence. Just imagine then the misfortune of those who get to see God in person and then mistakenly identify Him to be an ordinary human being. Worse, some even take the Lord to be their greatest enemy, as was the case with Ravana, the King of Lanka. During the Treta Yuga, Ravana was the most materially opulent ruler of the world. If there were television and print media back in those times, he would have been talked about and followed every single day. His lifestyle was just like that of the rich and famous. Beautiful palaces, elegant jewelry, heaps of gold and loads of women and wine filled his kingdom.
Despite his possessions, when he heard about God roaming the forests, Ravana couldn’t accept Him for who He was. Rather, Ravana was jealous of everyone. While Hanuman is a mahatma, Ravana and characters like him are just the opposite. They are petty misers that recognize their inferior nature. To compensate, they try to tell themselves otherwise; eliminating any and all competition at the same time. Hearing of a beautiful princess residing in the forest of Dandaka, Ravana had to have her. He paid no attention to the fact that she was already married to Rama and that she would never become his wife. He went ahead anyway with his plan to take her, a plot that would temporarily succeed in separating the beloved couple, Sita and Rama, who are forever in each other’s company, for they share one consciousness, a bond of love and affection that can never break.
The mahatma Hanuman first met Rama when the Lord and His younger brother Lakshmana made their way to the Kishkindha forest in search for Sita, who had been taken behind their back. Unlike Ravana, Hanuman recognized that Rama was the person he would devote himself to for the rest of his life. If he had failed to notice Rama’s divine qualities he would have been excused, for there was a pretense related to their first meeting. Sugriva, the king of the Vanaras living on Mount Rishyamukha, was afraid that maybe his brother Vali had sent assassins to do him away. Sugriva and Vali were mortal enemies, and since Vali was more powerful, Sugriva sought refuge on Mount Rishyamukha. A curse had prevented Vali from entering that area.
Hanuman’s job was to see what the two princes wanted, for their presence in Kishkindha was conspicuous. Just imagine two identical looking youths, decked out in the military garb of the time [bows, arrows and swords], approaching your area. If we see that the cops have come to our house, we will surely be alarmed. Hanuman’s duty was to see why such powerful fighters had made their way to a peaceful forest. Though initially taking on a false guise to trick the two princes into remaining calm and benign, Hanuman couldn’t help but appreciate their divine qualities. Eventually he shed his false form and revealed everything about himself, something that didn’t square with the instructions given to him.
In one second, in an instant, not even waiting to check with the scriptures to see who Rama was or if He was worthy of service, Hanuman turned into the greatest friend. Placing the two princes on his shoulders, Hanuman leapt up to Mount Rishyamukha and then arranged a meeting with Sugriva. An alliance was born, one that would seal Ravana’s doom. Sugriva’s massive army was then dispatched around the world to search for Sita. Though they searched far and wide, there was no success. Finally, it was learned that Sita was on a distant island called Lanka. Only Hanuman was capable of reaching it; therefore the success of the mission was suddenly entrusted to him.
Though he faced many obstacles, Hanuman finally made it to Lanka. The above referenced quote from the Ramayana describes his dissatisfaction over not having found Sita after searching for so long. In describing Hanuman’s qualities, it is said that he had contemplated on the self in many ways. The aim of human life is to perform yoga. When it is practiced perfectly, yoga brings so many extraneous benefits. Just as any object of beauty is appreciated more when we are sober and clear of mind, the Supreme Lord is honored, remembered and delighted in when the mind is fixed on His transcendental name and form. Only with a human birth can the spirit soul understand the need for yoga and then take the necessary steps to practice it perfectly. Hanuman had contemplated on Rama’s lotus feet many times. Therefore his practice of yoga was absolutely perfect. Yoga has changed from a spiritual technique to a meditational and health routine today because of the tremendous benefits that come from trying to connect the soul with God. If we remain steady in mind on contemplation of the Supreme Absolute Truth, naturally the functions of the senses will be in equilibrium. Every distress of the body can be attributed to an imbalance of various forces. Anger is an increase of rage, disease a disproportionate rise of different substances internally, and distress the rise of frustration. As there can be none of these effects in yoga, anyone who practices it well can find many health benefits, including a longer life expectancy.
Though it is explicitly stated here, it should go without saying that Hanuman had a disciplined mind. No one can meet God and directly undertake His service if their mind is always jumping from one thing to another. In fact, the root cause of this unsteadiness is frustration and lack of enjoyment found in personal sense gratification. If the mind should settle upon something that provides it tremendous pleasure, there is no reason for it to become undisciplined. Who would ever want to leave the company of the Supreme Lord and His associates within the mind? Hanuman was disciplined because he always thought of Rama and how to please Him.
Hanuman also had good eyesight. This quality is specifically mentioned here because of the nature of the mission. Hanuman had to find a princess amidst hundreds of the most beautiful women in the world. His eyesight had to be very good; otherwise he had no chance of success. He was also roaming through Lanka in the dead of night, as this would keep the chances of the Rakshasas discovering him low. Since his eyes were always alert, Hanuman had not glossed over Sita. He had already searched through many places and saw basically all there was to see in Lanka. Every type of engagement was going on in the nighttime in the sinner’s paradise ruled over by Ravana. Though he saw everything, Hanuman had yet to find Sita. This meant that she must have been somewhere that he hadn’t yet searched.
The presentation of this verse is purposeful. Hanuman’s divine qualities are listed, and they all relate to his ability to find Sita. Even though he is a mahatma and was armed with every quality necessary for finding Sita, he still became dejected over not finding her. He was depressed that he had not pleased Rama in spite of his many so-called gifts. What’s ironic is that though Hanuman’s sadness can be taken as a contrast to his great qualities, it actually further enhances his glorious stature. A true mahatma would behave in the way that Hanuman did when faced with the same conditions. The only cause for sadness in this world is failure in devotional activities. Otherwise, in every other type of endeavor there will be temporary bouts of success and failure. These events rush in like the waves of the ocean. There doesn’t even have to be much effort put in, for time ensures that the sting of defeat will eventually wear off and that the thrill of victory will eventually subside.
Only a person who didn’t love Rama with all their heart would have not been dejected over failing to find Sita. In this way Hanuman’s depression further endears him to the pious souls around the world. Though he possessed the necessary divine qualities, he didn’t expect anything to be handed to him. He would have been excused for wallowing in self-pity. “I abide by the scriptures, meditate on the self, follow the Lord’s orders, brave through every obstacle thrown my way, and still I can’t succeed. Life is not fair. No one is as unfortunate as I am. Why does it feel like it only rains on me?” Instead, Hanuman continually shrugged off his despair and forged ahead with the mission. He would eventually succeed and become forever celebrated for his heroic determination in the fight against the evil forces of this world.
Because of the disgust that comes with the cycle of temporary ups and downs encountered in the material world, hearing of Hanuman’s glorious activities brings tremendous joy to the heart. Just seeing his face one time is enough to bring a smile to the distressed soul looking for meaning in life. The Vaishnava acharyas, those who maintain the same love and affection for God by teaching others by example, strongly recommend that anyone who is looking for pleasure in life simply chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This chanting, when done in the proper mood and practiced on a regular basis, is as good as meditation. Without the holy name of the Lord, the many methods of religion are like zeroes. Without the higher numerals, zeros are always nothing in value. But as soon as a single one is placed in front, the zero becomes ten. Then the more zeroes you add the greater the value you get.
Shri Hanuman keeps Sita and Rama always within his heart, so his activities never become zero. On the contrary, just as God’s glories remain manifest for all of eternity, so do Hanuman and his wonderful activities documented in the Ramayana. As a true mahatma, Hanuman brings peace to the mind of anyone who is wise enough to connect with him, honor him and follow his example of dedication in bhakti-yoga, or devotional service.
Hanuman, he of terrific eyesight,
Can see in Lanka, though city not so bright.
Had contemplated much on the self,
Thus followed bhakti to Rama and none else.
That he had not found Sita was strange,
With attention all of Lanka he did range.
His qualities made him all the more sad,
Not succeeding in mission made him feel bad.
Overcoming obstacles made his stature increase,
Would eventually find Sita, from distress gain relief.
Categories: searching for sita