“It is certainly the mind that is instrumental in causing the senses to act in ways that lead to either auspicious or inauspicious conditions. And my mind right now is positively situated.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 11.41)
mano hi hetuḥ sarveṣām indriyāṇām pravartate ||
śubha aśubhāsv avasthāsu tac ca me suvyavasthitam |
Shri Hanuman, the heroic Vanara warrior, a person whose vision is always a sight for sore eyes, the ones grown weary through repetition of happiness and sadness, loss and gain, and joy and dejection felt in the many days spent on earth, is incapable of sin. Not even a hint of impropriety can be found in him. Lest we think this is just hyperbole or flattering words offered by his admirers, Hanuman’s very activities substantiate his superior stature. His mind concentrates on only one thing: how to please his beloved Shri Rama. Though Lord Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the avatara of a warrior prince, Hanuman looks well past this high status. Rather, he loves Rama purely, without motive. This love extends to anyone else who loves Rama, including the Lord’s beloved wife Sita Devi. Through his travels and activities undertaken out of duty, Hanuman never forgets the one person who gives him more pleasure than anyone else. Though he is sometimes unwittingly forced to follow behavior that hints at impropriety, since his consciousness is always fixed in righteousness, on the supreme objective, Hanuman is never tainted with sin.
While in the enemy grounds of Lanka, Hanuman had no reason to obey any standard law codes. The king of the city, Ravana, had unjustly taken the beloved wife of another man while she was residing in the forest. Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka, had such a high character that her marriage was arranged through a svayamvara, or self-choice ceremony. The festivities involved a bow-lifting contest, with the winner gaining Sita’s hand in marriage. In this way Shri Rama, the leader of the Raghu dynasty, the eldest son of Maharaja Dasharatha of Ayodhya, proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that only He was worthy of having Sita as a life companion. Though these events took place in the earthly realm, the divine couple remains forever in each other’s company in the spiritual world. As Goswami Tulsidas so nicely puts it, even Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Parvati marvel at Sita’s character, chastity and devotion to Rama.
Ravana, though, was not so concerned with rules of righteousness. At the time of birth, the otherwise pure soul is enveloped by a gross covering that constantly demands attention through sense pleasures. Therefore from the very beginning of life one who can harness the immense potency for action concomitant with an existence and control the sense urges will find success and happiness. Though the sense urges for eating sumptuous foods, seeing beautiful women, touching nice fabrics, smelling pleasing fragrances, and hearing melodious songs constantly flow in like the waves of an ocean, it is the mind that can control all of them. Therefore, depending on how the mind is situated, one’s desires and activities will follow either piety or sin, leading to auspiciousness or inauspiciousness.
With Ravana, the sense urges were never controlled, as his mind was only interested in eating, sleeping, mating and defending. Though he had so many beautiful princesses as wives and an opulent kingdom, still his mind was intent on sin. He could not control his sexual urges. When he heard of the most beautiful woman residing in the forest of Dandaka, he had to have her. Never mind that she was married to the one man capable of lifting the illustrious bow of Lord Shiva during the contest in Janaka’s kingdom. Never mind that Rama could soundly defeat any person in battle. Indeed, He had defeated and killed 14,000 of Ravana’s own men, his best fighters. Intent on having Sita, Ravana created a ruse that temporarily lured Rama away from her side, paving the way for the demon to come in and take the princess back to Lanka.
Rama was intent on getting Sita back, but first he had to learn where she was. For this task, the faithful Hanuman was sent to scour the earth. Millions of other monkeys acting under the direction of the monkey-king Sugriva accompanied him. Hanuman eventually made his way into Lanka alone, for none of the other monkeys could cross over the massive ocean that separated Lanka from land. While in the city, Hanuman searched the different palaces for the most beautiful princess in the world. Though he had never seen Sita up to this point, he knew some of her distinguishing features. Aside from being supremely beautiful, she would surely be in a distressed condition, as there was no chance of her being happy without Rama by her side.
Hanuman’s mission was to find Sita. His task was not to abide by regulative principles, attend a church a certain number of times per day, avoid telling lies, or recite a prayer a specific number of times. All hope for Sita’s rescue initially rested with him, for he was the most capable of the Vanara warriors. Aside from his physical dexterity and mental acuity, Hanuman was also the most devoted to Rama. This, more than anything else, made him supremely qualified to search for Sita amidst one of the most sinful lands in the world at the time.
Hanuman had to do whatever he could to find Sita. Unfortunately, this meant searching through Ravana’s exquisite palace, which was full of the most beautiful women in the world enjoying in different ways. Some of them were sleeping and others were enjoying wine, while others weren’t fully dressed. Hanuman could have closed his eyes and not looked, but then how would he have found Sita? Under normal circumstances, it is sinful to carefully gaze upon another man’s wife, especially when she is in a vulnerable position. But what could Hanuman do? Could he just say, “Okay, this is sinful; I’m going to turn back. Or, let me just call Sita’s name and see if she hears me.”? Obviously he couldn’t do the latter because that would give away his presence to the enemy Ravana. Hanuman had to find Sita without being noticed by anyone else.
In the discharge of duties it is understandable to get frustrated from time to time. If we have a major project due at work, sometimes it seems like everyone is just getting in our way and that nothing is going right. In the struggle for existence, adversity is the name of the game, especially for one who has an important task to complete. In Hanuman’s case, we see that almost everything was against him. He had to find a princess he had never seen before, avoid frightening her with his presence, and also make sure that no one there saw him. If any of these conditions weren’t met, the entire mission could fail. As if he needed further complexity, Hanuman now had to look at scantily clad women against his will. Hanuman is forever virtuous, so he doesn’t even like to think about doing anything sinful. Though we may not perpetrate a horrible deed, just contemplating it is harmful enough for our psyche.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we gain insight into Hanuman’s thought processes as he mulled the matter of looking at Ravana’s wives over in his mind. Hanuman knew that the act itself was sinful, but he was surprised that his mind hadn’t been altered in any way. Viewing pornography or harboring lusty feelings for wives of other men is sinful because of the effect it has on consciousness. The underlying aim is to satisfy lusty desires, which feed the hankering for illicit sex life. The Vedas consider any type of sex life outside the bounds of marriage and for purposes other than procreation to be sinful. This stipulation is there because of the negative effects had on consciousness. Of all the sense urges, the desires for sex are the most difficult to control; thus they act as the strongest inhibiting force towards true enlightenment.
Hanuman, despite seeing what he saw, did not have his consciousness altered. If anything, he became even more determined to find Sita. This gives us yet another reminder of how his greatness knows no limits. He saw beautiful, attractive women, and yet he had no desire to talk to them, find out their names, play jokes on them, get them to smile at him, or have any other type of personal interaction. If anything, Hanuman thought, “These women are beautiful, but they are nothing like Sita. She would never be in such a place, for she can never deviate from worshiping Rama for even a moment. For this she is ever worshipable. I pray for the day when I can have the darshana of her lotus feet.”
Hanuman would not have to wait much longer, as this brief reflection further strengthened his resolve. As he so nicely reveals from his thoughts, there are a variety of acts that lead to auspicious and inauspicious conditions, but it is the disposition of the mind which truly determines the effect of an activity. Sin is just any behavior that has a negative reaction, something unwanted. Piety is the opposite; those actions that have positive consequences. Sometimes piety and sin both exist within one activity. For instance, if we take out a loan to attend college, the pious act of attending school will ideally lead to a positive consequence of a degree and the landing of a good job. The sin in taking the loan leads to the burden of debt that will pile up after graduation. When student loans are forgiven, essentially the negative reactions to the original activity are removed.
In the larger scheme of things, when we take sin and piety on a more abstract level, if something has a negative consequence on our consciousness, it can be considered sinful. Conversely, those behaviors which have a positive influence on our mindset will be considered pious. In this age there is no more pious a behavior than the regular chanting of the holy names of the Lord, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This is the cornerstone practice of the ancient art of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Along with a steady routine in chanting, if the four most dangerous sinful activities of illicit sex, gambling, intoxication and meat eating are avoided, there is every chance of a successful outcome to life. The purely God conscious soul reaps the highest reward from their temporary stay in a material body by ascending to the spiritual sky after death.
Since Hanuman’s mind is always fixed in worship of Sita and Rama, it is impossible for his consciousness to be negatively affected through any activity. Rather, he is so amazing that even apparently sinful behavior increases his resolve in devotional service. Therefore, along with chanting and following regulative principles, anyone who is fortunate enough to even say Hanuman’s name just once gains immeasurable spiritual merits. What then to speak of those who regularly remember Hanuman, his unflinching devotion to Rama, his determination to find Sita, his swatting aside of the temporary doubts and fears that arose in his mind about success, and his dedication to piety even when it wasn’t required? Based on what Ravana had done, Hanuman had every right to destroy the city of Lanka, but he wouldn’t take that step unless it was necessary. He was only interested in finding Sita, and he tried his best to stay on the righteous path during this search. Since his mind was steady in yoga, always connected in consciousness to the Supreme Lord, his success would eventually come. And all the while his worthiness of worship and the magnitude of his divine attributes would only increase.
Good and bad states through actions find,
But these driven by senses instigated by mind.
Thus real importance is mind’s situation,
Tells if one is in good or bad condition.
Hanuman saw women but on mind no effect,
On the worthiness of action did he reflect.
Thus sin on Hanuman can never touch,
Because he loves Shri Rama so much.
Through his actions real virtue he teaches,
The heart of devotee his influence reaches.
Categories: searching for sita