“I had an inauspicious dream today; seeing a monkey as such is prohibited according to shastra. Let there be all good unto Rama with Lakshmana, and also to the father of mine, King Janaka.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 32.9)
svapno mayā ayam vikṛto adya dṛṣṭaḥ śākhā mṛgaḥ śāstra gaṇaiḥ niṣiddhaḥ |
svasti astu rāmāya salakṣmaṇāya tathā pituḥ me janakasya rājñaḥ ||
In the chapters previous to this, the messenger Hanuman had the task of identifying someone whom he had never met previously. He went off the signs previously given to him. He had the words of Rama, this missing person’s husband. Rama is the original spiritual master, the adi-guru. His teachings are always flawless. The lone qualification for acting flawlessly is to hear from Rama or one of His representatives in the proper mood. The mood of humility coupled with genuine inquisitiveness yields the auspicious result which Hanuman obtained.
Hanuman also had the memory of ornaments which previously fell to the ground. Like trying to identify someone by having half of their scarf or one of their shoes, Hanuman knew that this missing person likely had the complementary ornaments with her. Most importantly, Hanuman knew the mentality of the person he was sent to find. He knew that she would be in distress, for she had been taken away from the side of her husband by force. Hanuman saw how great the qualities of that husband were, so he understood the wife would be feeling the most pain in separation.
In this verse from the Ramayana, the roles are switched. Hanuman has correctly identified the missing person. She is Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka. She is presently in the Ashoka grove in Lanka, a place which was not easy to access. Hanuman has special talents, so he found his way into that secret area without anyone noticing him. He saw many women in Lanka, but it was not until he went to the Ashoka grove that he concluded for certain that he had found Sita.
Upon finding her he decided to introduce himself by first speaking of Rama. This would hopefully soften the initial blow of shock. Here Sita is now trying to identify Hanuman. It should be noted that Hanuman previously made an erroneous judgment when seeing the wife of Ravana, the evil king of Lanka who had taken Sita away from Rama. It was due to Hanuman’s excitement to please Rama that he first thought that Mandodari might be Sita.
In the same vein, due to the circumstances Sita initially couldn’t identify Hanuman properly. Here she remarks how it is considered inauspicious to see a monkey in a dream. The judgment is delivered by shastra, the ultimate guiding authority. Shastra is nothing more than the law codes governing human behavior. It descends from Rama Himself in His original form of Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
śrī-bhagavān uvācaimaṁ vivasvate yogaṁproktavān aham avyayamvivasvān manave prāhamanur ikṣvākave ‘bravīt
“The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.1)
Sita wasn’t dreaming in fact, but she thought she might have been. After all, who is used to seeing monkeys, especially in an area that otherwise doesn’t have them? Thinking that maybe inauspiciousness was coming her way, she asked that there be all good fortune to Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana. She also asked the same for her father, King Janaka. Notably absent is Sita herself; she did not ask for her own good fortune. This is her mood; she is entirely unselfish. Very soon she would kindly pray for the same good fortune to come to the monkey that startled her, and based on the widespread worship of that monkey who is so dear to Rama, we see that her request was granted.
If Sita is good and seeing a monkey in a dream is bad, why did this situation happen? How could Sita make the mistake of thinking that Hanuman was an ordinary monkey? Why couldn’t she identify Him properly in the beginning?
The same questions can be asked about the nefarious behavior of characters like Ravana, Kamsa and so many others who acted as enemy to the Supreme Lord during His various descents to this earth. The explanation is that the strong conflict allows for the glories of the Supreme Lord to shine more brightly. Not that He requires this light to be opened. Not that He needs more fame and honor. The living entities are shrouded in ignorance borne of contact with the material nature. This makes it very difficult to believe in God’s existence, let alone understand Him.
The opposition provided by Ravana allows us to know that God can defeat the most powerful of enemies. The heroism of Hanuman shows that the devotees who are merged in the eternal occupation of devotional service can surmount any obstacle to please their beloved Lord. The difficulties faced by Sita in Lanka increase the glories of Hanuman. The fact that he was a monkey whose association is generally considered inauspicious also proves that devotion is never tied to a specific form or circumstance. No one is ever restricted from devotional service based on country of origin, language of preference, or family heritage. Hanuman is in a monkey form, and his amazing deeds warm the hearts of Sita and Rama.
When a monkey strangely to see,
Sita asked for all good there to be,
To Rama, Lakshmana and father,
Selfless, not her own welfare to bother.
By monkey to Lanka for Rama going,
The extent of God’s glories to everyone showing.
Hanuman so great in monkey form despite,
God for all to know, of circumstances in spite.
Categories: spotting hanuman