Assessing Sin

Hanuman“Though all of these unsuspecting wives of Ravana were seen by me, my mind has not been disturbed even a little.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 11.40)

kāmam dṛṣṭvā mayā sarvā viśvastā rāvaṇa striyaḥ ||

na tu me manasaḥ kimcid vaikṛtyam upapadyate |

Despite the best efforts taken to safeguard against grievously transgressing the established codes of conduct, there are times when there is just no way out of committing sinful acts. Though the pious never seek such opportunities, when they find themselves in the wrong situations, they keep their minds steady, thus showing that what would be considered sin under normal circumstances actually maintains the path of virtue for them. Shri Hanuman found himself in this type of situation while roaming through the royal palaces in Lanka. He was searching for a missing princess, and since he didn’t know what she looked like, he had to place his gaze upon many beautiful women, who did not suspect that other men would be looking at them.

HanumanThe unscrupulous “Peeping Tom” is considered a pervert, a person bereft of morals who takes delight in looking at other women while they are changing clothes or wearing next to nothing. Such an act is a violation of privacy and also sinful by any standard estimation. After all, the women don’t know that others are looking at them, and if they did, they wouldn’t show off what the peeper was looking for. Shri Hanuman, for his part, had no desire to look at any of these women. His eyes were fixed on a search mission, to find a beautiful princess who had been taken away from the side of her husband. If he had to risk committing even the most sinful act to find this beloved woman, the mother of the universe, the wife of Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hanuman would not hesitate in moving forward.

Despite his staunch faith in the mission presented to him, which was to find Sita’s whereabouts and return that information to Rama and the monkeys living in the Kishkindha forest, Hanuman still shows from the above referenced verse from the Ramayana that he is very conscious of piety and sin. The righteous always try to stay on the path of dharma, which as a word can mean religiosity or the general law codes of spirituality aimed at maintaining the essential characteristic of the soul. The soul has intrinsic properties which are not reflected in the features of the outer coverings assumed. An animal may take to activities that human beings would never consider adopting, and a human being may take up sinful activities, but the soul itself is always pure. The soul is knowledgeable, eternal, blissful and most importantly, a servant of God.

Following dharma brings the soul’s properties to the forefront, which at the same time curbs the influence of the external senses that inhibit the free flow of transcendental love. Therefore, when determining whether an activity falls under sin or piety, the resultant effect of the act should be juxtaposed with the ultimate mission in life, that of becoming purely God conscious by the time of death. One who knows the properties of the soul, how it never takes birth and never dies, how it remains in existence throughout the various changes of the body, including the complete change at the time of death, can never commit sin. Even if they were to kill someone else, since they know dharma and abide by it, since they know that the soul never dies, they don’t actually kill.

“O Partha, how can a person who knows that the soul is indestructible, unborn, eternal and immutable, kill anyone or cause anyone to kill?” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.21)

Krishna and ArjunaThis point was stressed by Lord Krishna, the Supreme Godhead and non-different form of Lord Rama, around five thousand years ago on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra. On the eve of a great war, the leading fighter for the Pandavas, the side Krishna favored, became hesitant to fight. It was expected that Arjuna, known for his excellent fighting prowess, would dominate the other side in battle. The Kurus, the opposing army, previously unjustly usurped a kingdom that belonged to the Pandavas. Therefore Arjuna had every right to fight fiercely for securing a victorious outcome.

Yet he was a little hesitant. He understood that the primary fruit of victory would be a kingdom, something he didn’t want very badly. Moreover, he didn’t want to have to kill his cousins, teacher, and elder family members fighting for the opposing army to gain that kingdom. He rather would have seen them remain alive, while he lived a life of destitution, begging for food. Such sentiments revealed Arjuna’s kind character, but Krishna did not consider this display of affection to be very wise.

Who was correct, Krishna or Arjuna? While the sentiments were indeed noble, Arjuna’s behavior was actually against piety. How can killing others be considered pious? Lord Krishna settled these doubts in Arjuna’s mind by reminding him of the eternal existence of the soul and how no one actually ever dies. If no one dies, then why the need to kill or fight in a war? While the soul never dies, it can get placed into up to 8,400,000 different body types that roam the phenomenal world. For the human species, there are occupational duties tied to the qualities of the body type assumed at the time of birth. Arjuna was part of the warrior class, so his duty was to uphold righteousness in the face of even the strongest opposition. The Kurus had violated piety by wrongly taking a kingdom; therefore it was Arjuna’s duty to punish them, to remedy the situation.

Krishna and ArjunaArjuna’s hesitancy to fight rooted in concern for the bodily welfare of the opposing members indicated a temporary lack of God consciousness. While he was worried for their wellbeing, he had no reason to be. Whether he fought or not, the souls of the fighting members would always remain in existence. But if Arjuna didn’t fight, he would not only be shirking his obligations to society, but he would also be giving in to ignorance and illusion borne of contact with material nature. As Krishna’s friend, Arjuna was above all this. Krishna persuaded him into fighting on religious grounds, on performing his duties with detachment, not being concerned with the result. Since he fought valiantly and under the proper mindset, even his killing was in line with piety.

Hanuman was in a similar circumstance. Just as Arjuna was ordered to fight by Krishna, Hanuman was given the task of finding Sita by Rama Himself. Many years prior to Krishna and Arjuna’s talk on that famous day on the battlefield, the same Supreme Lord came to earth in the guise of a warrior prince. His wife, not surprisingly, was the most beautiful woman in the world, the embodiment of chastity and virtue, Sita Devi. The most foolish miscreant, a person operating completely under the bodily consciousness, desired to have Sita so much that he stole her away from Rama through a ruse while the couple was living in the forest of Dandaka. Rather than find Sita herself, Rama allowed others to take up the search, giving them a chance to directly offer service to the Supreme Lord, whom everyone is searching after. The ignorant man looks for God through his sensual enjoyments, the king through his power and kingdom, the yogi through his meditation, the mental speculator through his study of Vedanta, and the fruitive worker through his hard labor. But only the bhaktas know where God is, and once they find Him they never give up His service.

The first part of Hanuman’s journey involved many hurdles and obstacles, but very few questions relating to piety and sin. He had to strike a female Rakshasa once, which he felt bad over, but she was blocking his way into Lanka, the enemy territory where Ravana had taken Sita. Hanuman’s search for Sita in Lanka was when things got tricky. When Hanuman roamed through Ravana’s majestic palace, he saw things no one in this world has ever seen. There were so many beautiful women, all elegantly dressed and enjoying various amorous pastimes. Since he entered the palace at night, Hanuman saw that the women were in garbs conducive to enjoying conjugal affairs. Some of them were so drunk that they had passed out in different places, with some using musical instruments for their pillows.

HanumanHanuman even saw Ravana in the palace, passed out from a night of hard drinking. Being privy to such impure sights, Hanuman considered his avowed deference to dharma. Just as Arjuna was beyond sin because Krishna was always with him, Hanuman never had a chance of getting off the path of virtue, for he kept Rama and His mission always within his heart. Nevertheless, Hanuman felt bad for having seen women that weren’t his wife dressed in such a way.

Though initially feeling remorse, Hanuman stopped for a moment and thought the matter over. From the above referenced verse we see that he realized that even though he saw such beautiful women, his mind had not been altered. Rather, he was even more focused on finding Sita. This one incident reveals so much about the nature of piety and sin. Sinful activities are labeled as such because of the effect they have on the consciousness, which is the determining factor of the future fortunes of the soul. The consciousness of the living entity at the time of death is measured by higher authorities, who then determine what type of body is given in the next life. If the mind is always thinking about women, wine, eating meat, or gambling, the next birth will involve a life where such delights are readily available.

These enjoyments are not in line with the soul’s properties, for that is why they are referred to as maya, or that which is not personally God. The soul is eternally a servant of God, so whatever steps can be taken to reawaken that dormant consciousness and keep it in an active state represent piety, and anything which keeps the cloud of nescience firmly hovering around the otherwise pure consciousness gets tagged as sin.

Does this mean that we can risk seeing naked women and drinking wine as long as our mind doesn’t get affected? Can we just kill anyone we want to if we are happy about it later on? The rules and regulations are put into place for a reason. Sinful acts are enumerated so that we know which activities will be most detrimental on our progressive march towards a purified consciousness. Therefore the four regulative principles of avoiding meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex should be followed, for addiction to any of these behaviors equates to a declared allegiance to maya. Surrender to maya brings negative consequences too many to count.

HanumanAs far as piety goes, no practice is more recommended than the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. More effective than working, studying high philosophy, and even sitting in yoga postures for hours on end, the chanting of the holy names directly tackles the conditioned consciousness and gradually brings it to the spiritual realm. The secret in chanting is that hearing takes place as well. We may study the differences between matter and spirit and what really goes into sin and piety, but it is much easier to absorb these concepts when we hear the holy name or about devotee’s experiences and thoughts. Hearing about Hanuman’s consciousness in Lanka and how it wasn’t affected after unwittingly gazing upon a scene out of a brothel is very heartwarming and can only help in the purification of consciousness.

Piety brings one closer to God, and there can be nothing more pious than thinking about Hanuman and hearing about his wonderful activities. Irrespective of the engagement, sin can never touch Hanuman. Nevertheless, he is always concerned about pleasing Rama and remaining in the proper mindset. For this concern his glories and worthiness of worship never diminish. His dedication to Rama and pleasing Him would eventually lead him to Sita, a woman whose vision purifies the heart, for she is directly associated with Rama. Devotees like Hanuman always prefer to envision Sita and Rama together, and because of the risks he took and the bravery he showed, Hanuman played a pivotal role in reuniting them. Ever since that time they have taken up residence in his heart and in the hearts of countless other devotees. Sin can never touch he who realizes the presence of the divine couple and hears and chants their names at all hours of the day.

In Closing:

Sleeping wives of Ravana Hanuman gazed upon,

Knew that normally such an act is wrong.

Yet what could he do, Sita Devi had to see,

Which meant eyes must move, even on those asleep.

Yet from path of righteousness he never swerves,

Even seeing other women not his mind disturbs.

What looked like sin really was not,

Path of righteousness he always trots.

Gambling, meat eating, illicit sex are sin’s primary host

But effect on the mind is what really matters most.

From changing of mind every behavior do you assess,

If making you forget God, that shortcoming do you address.

Just chant the holy name to avoid taking chances,

Sweet felicity for him who upon God’s face glances.



Categories: searching for sita

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