On Second Thought

Shri Hanuman“Separated from Rama, that noble lady is not able to sleep, eat, drink, or even decorate herself.” (Hanuman thinking about Sita, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 11.2)

na rāmeṇa viyuktā sā svaptum arhati bhāminī |
na bhoktum na api alamkartum na pānam upasevitum ||

“Alas, I have finally found her. My hard work has paid off; it was not in vain. This most beautiful woman must be the person I am looking for, for her features do not resemble any of the others’ that I have seen thus far. I am so excited; I can’t wait to tell her why I have come here and how her rescue will arrive shortly.” But wait! Upon further examination, after careful consideration, this divine warrior realized that he was mistaken. Pounding his chest and kissing his tail in happiness were a little premature, for what could the princess of Videha, the religiously wedded wife of Lord Rama, be doing in the inner chambers of the palace of the King of Lanka, Ravana, who was now fast asleep, passed out in a drunken stupor? Though Hanuman’s elation was short-lived, the false hope ended up revealing some more of his wonderful qualities, which are impossible to fully enumerate or measure. Let’s just say that of all the good people to have ever graced this earth, no one has been as eager to put a smile on the face of Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as Hanuman.

HanumanThe princess Sita had been taken from the side of her husband while she was living in the forest of Dandaka. Ravana was famous throughout the world at the time for his tremendous fighting prowess, with the opulence of his kingdom giving the appearance of a heaven on earth. He really had no need for another wife, a fact confirmed by Hanuman’s observations in the city of Lanka. Learning that Sita was missing, Shri Rama, as the most merciful of all beings, gave the opportunity for service to the monkeys residing in Kishkindha. Hanuman was their most capable warrior, and through a series of events he would end up in Lanka alone. The mission’s success rested in his hands, and he was up for the challenge. When the pressure really gets applied in a big game or when there is a deadline at work, you want your best people on the job, those who cast aside the pressure of the moment and keep the end-goal in mind. Otherwise the fear of failure would creep in and hinder the exhibition of the qualities in the individual that made them eligible for the task in the first place.

Hanuman didn’t have time to get scared over the danger of the mission, which called for him to find Sita and return the information of her location to Rama. It was Hanuman against an entire city of powerful demons. Moreover, there was no shortage of protection or opulence in Lanka. Even the floors were inlaid with jewels; so in this sense poverty was nonexistent in the city. Hanuman forged ahead anyway, as he was the only Vanara in his party who could cross over the massive ocean that separated Lanka from the mainland. After searching far and wide throughout the city, Hanuman finally made it into Ravana’s palace. This was the most elegant building, and it had the famous Pushpaka car situated outside. The Pushpaka can be likened to an ancient airplane, one created by the demigods and used by Kuvera previously. After Ravana drove Kuvera, his half-brother, out of Lanka, he took ownership of the Pushpaka. He used it to fly around the world and inflict terror wherever he went.

When Hanuman entered Ravana’s palace, it was nighttime, so everyone was asleep. Nevertheless, Hanuman couldn’t believe what he saw. The most beautiful women in the world, people who really didn’t belong on earth, were everywhere, elegantly dressed and drunk from a long night of partying. Some of the women were so intoxicated that they were passed out on each other. Some were sitting on each other’s laps, and some were resting on areas of the body not appropriate for mention. Needless to say, what Hanuman saw was not suitable for children. The ruler of this palace could be considered a swinger of ancient times, a playboy who had no shortage of sinful enjoyment. Wine and women were everywhere, however, so why did this miscreant need to take away a woman who was already married and living with her husband, the sweetheart jewel of the Raghu dynasty, Lord Rama?

Sita DeviThough most of these princesses were won by Ravana after defeating other kings in battle, Hanuman concluded from his observations that none of them were forced to enjoy with the demon. Rather, they were all won over by the king’s qualities and thoroughly enjoying his company. After Hanuman saw beautiful woman after beautiful woman enjoying in different ways, he finally came upon Mandodari, Ravana’s chief queen. She was the most beautiful of the women thus far, so Hanuman thought that she might be Sita. Hanuman had never met Rama’s wife, but he had heard of her divine qualities. He knew that she would stand out in Lanka, that she wouldn’t look like any of the other women.

Thinking that he had found Sita, Hanuman became elated for a brief moment. When he came back down to earth, he thought the matter over for a second. The obvious question in his mind was, “How could Sita be living in Ravana’s palace? She would never look at any man except Rama.” In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see Hanuman reviewing Sita’s qualities as a way to validate his new assertion that indeed this beautiful woman he was looking at couldn’t be Sita. For starters, Mandodari was sleeping, as were the rest of the queens. Hanuman knew that Sita couldn’t be capable of sleep, especially the type caused by drunkenness. Of all the chaste women in the world, none could compare to Janaki, the daughter of King Janaka, whose hand in marriage was won by Rama during the famous bow-lifting contest held in Videha.

“As Rama drew the bow back fully, the force He applied caused the bow to break in half. The sound that resulted was as fierce and frightening as that of a falling thunderbolt.” (Sita speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.49)

Rama lifting the bowSita’s devotion to Rama was certainly in line with dharma, or religiosity, but it was actually caused by her deep love and affection for her husband, who had won her over with His divine qualities. Sita’s behavior reveals the hidden secret that God doesn’t need to be surrendered to out of fear, obligation, or the recommendation of others. Surely preachers can come up to us and advise us to give up sinful behaviors like meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex, and turn our lives over to God, but unless and until we learn about the Supreme Person’s qualities and His worthiness of being worshiped, the devotional efforts we put forth will not bring the height of pleasure.

A half-hearted effort will not bring the same result as one driven by full-fledged enthusiasm. Therefore the central recommendation of the religion of love, bhakti-yoga, is that one regularly chant the holy names, like those found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Through this method, even if there is resistance at the beginning, just hearing the transcendental sound vibrations describing the Supreme Lord will slowly bring about a change in consciousness. Though the activity seems forced, if one can follow this chanting practice for at least six months, a huge difference in consciousness will result. The recommendation is that one chant the maha-mantra at least sixteen rounds daily on a set of japa beads. One round equals one hundred and eight recitations of the mantra, so sixteen rounds will take some time each day to complete, but the investment is well worth it.

Because Sita was won over by the qualities of her husband, she devoted herself to him in thought, word and deed. More than just for her benefit, this exclusive and unmatched affection brought great pleasure to Rama as well. In the spiritual sky, where God and His associates are situated, it is said that the Lord’s eternal consort is capable of bringing Him more pleasure than anyone else. Therefore Sita was just living up to her role, showing everyone just how wonderful it is to be in God’s company.

Understanding how devoted to Rama Sita was, Hanuman knew that she wouldn’t be able to sleep while separated from her husband. She must have been worrying the whole time whether she was ever going to see her beautiful darling again. She was not very much afraid to die, as she had no attachment to her body. If there was any fear in this area, it was over how Rama might react to her departure from the world. What’s amazing about Sita is that rather than bemoan her plight and complain over the fact that no one had come to rescue her, she was more concerned over how bad Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana were feeling over the incident. Rama had gone to chase after an illusory deer, which was really Ravana’s associate Maricha in disguise. Lakshmana was still with Sita, but she drove him away after insulting him. Sita wanted Lakshmana to go see if Rama was alright. Obviously once Lakshmana left, Ravana had no trouble coming in and taking Sita.

Sita and RamaHanuman knew that Sita wouldn’t be able to eat either. Though eating is required for the maintenance of the body, a devoted person like Sita would always first offer anything she ate to Rama and Lakshmana. The remnants of the food then become prasadam, or “the Lord’s mercy.” This ancient tradition of eating is followed even to this day by devotees of Vishnu, who are known as Vaishnavas. The Vedas reveal that the Supreme Lord has many different forms, with the original being Krishna. There are many different gods, but only the Vishnu-expansions are equivalent to the original. Thus any person devoted to Krishna, Rama, Vishnu, or any other Vishnu form is referred to as a Vaishnava. As Sita couldn’t get prasadam in Lanka, she wouldn’t be eating like the rest of the queens seen by Hanuman.

Sita also wouldn’t decorate her body. Though the practice may seem strange when juxtaposed with the fashion conscious modern society, women of the Vedic tradition typically don’t dress themselves up very nicely unless they are in the company of their husband. This guiding principle makes sense if you think about it. The main purpose of looking good is to attract your lover. If the amorous feelings are increased, the relationship will be enjoyed even more. Since Sita was away from Rama, there was no way she would be as elegantly dressed as Mandodari and the other queens were. What need did Sita have to be dressed opulently? Her aim was to repel Ravana as much as possible.

Lastly, Sita certainly wouldn’t be intoxicated. Looking at Rama’s beautiful face and thinking of His wonderful qualities with respect to beauty, wealth, strength, fame, knowledge and renunciation bring natural highs. Intoxication is not necessary in devotional life. Actually, getting drunk, smoking up, or shooting in are practices reserved for those who have yet to understand their inherent link to the Supreme Spirit. Intoxication brings a perverted version of the real high that the soul is meant to experience through God’s association. Therefore the drunkenness of Ravana’s queens revealed that Ravana himself was incapable of fully satisfying them. The women needed intoxication to enjoy each other’s company; thereby indicating the defect in Ravana’s qualities and also the strong presence of the mode of ignorance in Lanka. The material world is governed by three qualities: goodness, passion and ignorance. For the human being to make advancement towards full enlightenment, activities in the mode of goodness should be taken up as much as possible. The mode of passion maintains a neutral state, while ignorance leads to future demotion and a hellish life. Bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is actually even more pure than the mode of goodness, so we can just imagine how beneficial it is for the spirit soul.

Despite temporarily thinking that he had found Sita and then realizing he hadn’t, Hanuman forged ahead. The characteristics enumerated by Hanuman reveal just how wonderful Sita Devi is. Moreover, just contemplating her behavior and her love for Rama is enough to please the heart for a considerable period of time. If you add on top of that Hanuman’s devotion and fortitude in pushing forward with the mission given to him by Rama, you’re left with endless opportunities for associating with people of the divine nature. While intoxication, the mode of ignorance, and fruitive activity bring the false hope of lasting enjoyment, thinking of Hanuman and his undying love for Sita, Rama and Lakshmana brings real hope for the brightest future, that of eternal residence in the spiritual sky.

HanumanIn Closing:

Seeing Mandodari after searching around,

Hanuman, excited, jumped up and down.

Afraid that in his mission to find Sita he would fail,

Now he had success, so happily did he kiss his tail.

But stepping back for a moment he started to think,

“Women in palace are all affected from drink.

If in her heart Rama’s image did she keep,

Then how was she capable of having any sleep?

Sita, always focused on her husband’s feet,

Separated from Him cannot even muster to eat.”

Thus Hanuman did realize his vision’s error,

That woman wasn’t Sita, of amazing grief’s bearer.

Yet one thing from incident we can learn,

Is that to please Rama does monkey’s heart yearn.

Though he sometimes wrongly gets excited,

From his eagerness, hearts of saints still delighted.

To think of Sita did error in vision give the chance,

Hanuman’s glory and fame did it also enhance.

Categories: searching for sita

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