“Or what will Sugriva or the assembled monkeys or the two sons of Dasharatha say to me when I return to Kishkindha? If going there, I say to Kakutstha [Rama] the supremely detestable news that I have not found Sita, He will surely abandon His life.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.22-23)
kim vā vakṣyati sugrīvo harayo va samāgatāḥ ||
kiṣkindhām samanuprāptau tau vā daśaratha ātmajau |
gatvā tu yadi kākutstham vakṣyāmi param apriyam ||
na dṛṣṭā iti mayā sītā tataḥ tyakṣyanti jīvitam |
Shri Hanuman could not bear to even think about what might happen should he return to Kishkindha without having found the princess of Videha, Sita Devi. He was sent to look for her, to find her location and return the information to the formidable camp of monkeys headed by their leader Sugriva, whose host of warriors was ready to march to wherever the princess had been taken and rescue her. Alongside Sugriva were the two brothers, Rama and Lakshmana, sons of King Dasharatha. Though Hanuman hadn’t known the brothers for long, he had developed a supreme attachment to Rama, the elder of the two. Sita was Rama’s wife, so Hanuman’s work was especially important in that regard.
Facing mental turmoil, Hanuman had two primary options available to him. The first was to go back to Kishkindha, the place he resided, where Sugriva and everyone was waiting. This was only an option because Hanuman had searched exhaustively through the city of Lanka for Sita. Initially, many monkey search parties were dispatched around the world to look for the princess. No one knew where she was, so she could have been anywhere. The strongest and most capable group, which not surprisingly had Hanuman in it, came upon some valuable intelligence. An aged bird named Sampati, who had originally descended from the sky to eat the monkeys, informed them that Sita was on the island of Lanka, taken by the Rakshasa king named Ravana. Hanuman, being the only member in his group capable of leaping over the ocean to reach the island, stepped up to the plate.
Though Hanuman is now famous for his wonderful exploit, his aerial travel was by no means an easy journey. It’s difficult work taking on a task that no one else is qualified for. It’s a lot of pressure being sent on a mission that you know you must succeed in. In addition, you’re entering enemy grounds, for the person who took Sita obviously didn’t want to be found. The culprit didn’t even have the guts to take on Shri Rama in a fair fight. As the son of a kshatriya king, Rama was trained in the military arts from childhood. He was the most capable warrior in the world, and even though Ravana had previously defeated many powerful kings, he knew that he didn’t stand a chance against the delight of King Dasharatha and Mother Kausalya.
Driven by lust, Ravana went ahead with his plan to take Sita, following through on his backhanded plot while Rama and Lakshmana were not by Sita’s side. Hanuman knew he was up against a powerful force, but what choice did he have? If he buckled under the pressure, he would disappoint Rama and the monkeys and also himself. He wouldn’t want to live with that. Therefore he carried on, defeating every opposing element that came his way.
While in Lanka, Hanuman remained undeterred. He managed to search through seemingly every inch of space, including inside Ravana’s many palaces. Still not seeing Sita, Hanuman stopped to reflect for a moment. Now some doubt was creeping in. What if Sita weren’t alive? What if she had died previously, either trying to escape from Ravana or through the efforts of his associates? These were all possibilities, as Hanuman had yet to find her.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Hanuman is considering the option of returning home without succeeding. He’s thinking over what might happen if he would return and tell everyone that he had not found Sita. From his thoughts, we see that he had no desire to inflict that kind of pain on his friends and well-wishers. Option number one did not seem like a good plan, for it would cause Hanuman more pain than he was ready to accept.
What was the second option? Fight ahead, of course. Slay the mental demons of doubt and fear and continue on with the assigned mission without having too much attachment to the result. Shri Rama has the ability to make even the most renounced person attached. Generally, the more detached you are the more successful you will be in a mission. If we’re not afraid of losing, how much more will our chances of victory increase? Without fear there is no nervousness, thus enabling the worker to operate at peak output.
Lord Rama, however, is special, so attachment to Him is never detrimental. As the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He is the only light in this world otherwise full of darkness. God is a singular entity, but He can be worshiped in His many different forms. These incarnations, or avataras, are listed in the shastras, or scriptures. The Ramayana itself is one of the most sacred religious texts accepted as authority by so many famous acharyas of the Vedic tradition. Hanuman’s attachment to Rama is what caused his slight lamentation, his fear of failing in the most important mission.
With ordinary tasks, too much concern for the outcome can hinder performance. With devotional activities, the more concern there is for the happiness of the Supreme Person, the greater the chances of victory there will be. If God can give us everything, why wouldn’t He allow us to succeed in serving Him? Activities in maya, or illusion, don’t have any winners or losers, just temporary shifts in opulence and destitution, similar to the many waves of the ocean. One person may gain a little bit while another loses, but in the end there is no progress made towards full enlightenment, which is the ideal destination for the human being.
Rama, or God, is the end-goal of all activity, the purest of the pure. Therefore, those who are wise enough to take up devotional service, or bhakti-yoga, find the best way to transcend the influence of the miserable and temporary world. Hanuman is so endearing because he doesn’t even know that he is engaged in bhakti. Not interested in self-realization, Hanuman simply wants to put a smile on Rama’s face and on the faces of the Lord’s friends and family.
If Hanuman had left Lanka and returned to Kishkindha, he would really have nothing to hang his head about. He had leaped across a massive ocean, fought off opposing elements, figured out how to infiltrate the city without being noticed, and searched through the different palaces. What had he really failed in? But to Hanuman, all he could think about was the reaction of his friends and well-wishers. What would it matter to them that he had done so many wonderful things? The mission assigned to him wasn’t complete, so how could they be happy knowing that Sita hadn’t been found? If they weren’t happy, how could Hanuman ever feel satisfied?
If we spend eleven years in a school system and get straight A’s, we’ll obviously have learned a lot and become somewhat educated. Yet if we decide to drop out before graduation, what have we really done? Will our parents be happy? Will they think that we have accomplished anything? The same principles can be applied to all human activity, as the aim of life is to become fully aware of the Supreme Lord and our inherent relation to Him. In the absence of this knowledge, every gain that we acquire and every accomplishment attributed to us can be considered incomplete, or even useless. Building the largest skyscraper or inventing the latest electronic gadget is certainly commendable, but unless the objects of achievement are used to further the plight of the soul, they don’t amount to much. Hanuman had no interest in being praised for activities that didn’t eventually lead to success in the mission.
The endearing Vanara warrior would continue his search. Rather than accept defeat, he would fight until the very end, not allowing the doubting mind to dampen his spirits. The temporary dealings with self-doubt only further increased Hanuman’s resolve, and more importantly, his glory and honor. Without Hanuman’s dedication and fortitude so nicely revealed in the Ramayana, we would have less material to work off of in glorifying him. But since he showed us some of his unmatched compassion for Rama, he further increased our attachment to him. In this way if we remember Hanuman and his love for Sita, Rama and Lakshmana all the time, we will never fail in our efforts in bhakti.
From this verse we also see what a wonderful support system Hanuman had. In professional sports especially, the notable players have support teams, which consist of coaches, trainers, friends and family. It’s nice having someone there cheering you on to victory. For Hanuman, he knew his support system was back in Kishkindha just hoping to hear good news from him. The dedicated worker can accept defeat for himself, but he never wants to see disappointment in the faces of those who are kind enough to be there for him.
Lord Rama is the ever well-wisher of every single person, even if they have turned their back on Him for many lifetimes over. In the famous Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna, the same Lord Rama but in a different outward manifestation, cheered the hesitant warrior Arjuna on by supplying him sublime wisdom, the essence of Vedanta philosophy. Krishna is the origin of Vedic wisdom, so who better to learn about the meaning of life from than Shyamasundara, the beautiful Krishna with a dark complexion? Though Krishna gave Arjuna advice and wished him well, He did not do the work for him. That part was left to Arjuna, as one who takes on devotional activities becomes the owner of the sweet reward of full God consciousness that comes at the end.
Similarly, Shri Rama did not automatically give Hanuman victory in his efforts. Rama is antaryami, so He could have deciphered where Sita was and relayed that information to Hanuman. But why spoil the opportunity for service from the most dedicated warrior the world has ever known? Hanuman knew that Rama was wishing him well and that’s all he needed to succeed. Just as Rama wishes for nothing but success for Hanuman, the Vanara warrior wants nothing more than for us to become the greatest devotees, famous throughout the three worlds for our love for God. By remembering Hanuman and his well-wishing attitude, why would we ever settle for anything less than complete success in life?
Having a system there to provide support,
Allows for worker to succeed in effort.
Hanuman had this going for him,
People who rooted for him to win.
Having difficult time, reaching a crossroad,
Didn’t want to deliver bad news, painful blow.
How in this way his dear friends could he disappoint?
Sugriva, for difficult mission him did appoint.
Hanuman to fight ahead though feeling blue,
Would not disappoint sons of Dasharatha two.
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