When In Rome

[Shri Hanuman]“For the words to be meaningful, it is necessary that I use the language of the human beings, for there is no other way to console this blameless lady.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.19)

avaśyam eva vaktavyam mānuṣam vākyam arthavat ||
mayā sāntvayitum śakyā na anyathā iyam aninditā |

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There is the famous saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Depending on your mindset, you can take this to be an excuse to do anything. “Well, the Romans ate meat and drank wine all the time, so let me follow them.” “Well, the Romans fought each other just for sport, so let me engage in that as well.” A more salient lesson to derive from the saying would be that one should adjust their behavior to their surroundings if they are to accomplish their objectives. In this regard no better example comes to mind than Shri Hanuman.

[Bhagavad-gita, 5.18]“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)

In Lanka, Hanuman first had to mask his shape. He is in the form of a beautiful monkey. As the Bhagavad-gita says, someone who is humble and wise, through use of their true knowledge they are able to see so many different living entities equally. They consider the dog, the dog-eater, the elephant, the cow, and even the learned man in society to be equal. The equality is in the ultimate source of identity. Each living entity is a spark of spirit at the core. What covers that spark is just that, a covering.

[Shri Hanuman]Hanuman has the odd covering of the body of a monkey. Still, since he is always engaged in devotion to God, even that covering is beautiful. It is one with him in the sense that it serves the greatest interest of the living spark, that of divine love. With that transcendental body, Hanuman leaped over a massive ocean. He overcame the obstacles of demons looking to obstruct his path. In short, he had nothing to be embarrassed over. His form was worth viewing, honoring, remembering, and worshiping by every single person.

Still, to get his objectives accomplished, Hanuman masked his shape. Using the anima siddhi of yoga, he became very small, the size of a cat. This enabled him to search all through Lanka and eventually find Sita, the gold in the treasure map. She was a blameless lady, unfortunately held captive in Lanka against her will. She longed for the association of her dear husband Shri Rama, but she knew nothing of His whereabouts or intentions after having separated from him due to the wicked deeds of the king of Lanka, Ravana.

Hanuman was Rama’s messenger; thus his presence alone could remove some of Sita’s worries. Having found her in the Ashoka grove, he could now console her. In this verse from the Ramayana, he deliberates on how to best go about offering that consolation. First he considers speaking in Sanskrit, for that is the language of man. Then he worries that Sita will take him to be Ravana if he suddenly appears and starts speaking the language of the twice-born, the priests. Ravana also had the ability to change shapes at will, and he previously had pretended to be an ascetic in order to evoke Sita’s sympathies.

Hanuman had every right to simply go up to Sita and tell her what was going on, in any language of his choosing. Still, he decides on the language of the people, Sanskrit, for there is no other way to console Sita. Adjusting to the time and circumstance, not letting pride get in the way, Hanuman chose the right course of action. And he indeed had much to be proud of already.

[Shri Hanuman]If even Hanuman adjusts to the time and circumstance, then so can anyone else. It is said that in the present age of Kali, there is no way to self-realization other than the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” We may prefer knowledge gathering, meditational yoga, or work with the fruits renounced, but nothing is as effective as hearing the holy name. These holy names are also in the language of the people, and just like Hanuman’s words to Sita, they are soothing to the blameless among us.

In Closing:

Even if all intelligence in one to find,

Should give attention to place and time.


When Hanuman in Ashoka grove like,

Of Rama’s wife having direct sight.


She to be skeptical from being abused,

So appropriate words by him to be used.


For Kali’s age maha-mantra say,

For deliverance no other way.


Categories: hanuman meets sita

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