“You are indeed the Ravana I saw in Janasthana, who gave up his real form and took the form of a wandering religious mendicant.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.15)
svam parityajya rūpam yaḥ parivrājaka rūpadhṛt ||
jana sthāne mayā dṛṣṭaḥ tvam sa eva asi rāvaṇaḥ |
The actual definition of the term “Hinduism” is varnashrama-dharma. Dharma is religiosity, righteousness, or just plain religion. The root meaning is “essential characteristic,” and when you have rules and regulations that help to maintain the essential characteristic, the word dharma turns into righteousness. Varna is the division by occupation and ashrama the division by spiritual institution. The Supreme Lord created the system, with the divisions determined by guna and karma, or quality and work respectively.
cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ
tasya kartāram api māṁ
viddhy akartāram avyayam
“According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.13)
The fourth ashrama is known as sannyasa. This is complete renunciation. Just as we expect the elderly to have more wisdom due to age and experience, sannyasa is typically taken in the latter stages of life. After all, how can you expect a child to renounce the world if they have yet to experience it? In adulthood it’s easy to become attached to family and sense gratification facilitated by fruitive work. Sannyasa is very difficult, and so one requires extensive knowledge in order to gain the confidence necessary to accept this most valuable institution.
The aim of every ashrama and varna is to make progression towards the ultimate goal of pure God consciousness. This is the reason for our existence. We are not meant to eat pizza every night and drink soda. We are not meant to be constantly intoxicated. If material enjoyment were the aim of life, everyone would be happy in that enjoyment. They would not get disease from overindulgence. There would be no such thing as addiction.
The human being is uniquely qualified to practice austerity. This austerity, voluntarily accepted, is done for increasing pleasure. It is not a form of torture, though the less intelligent may think that way. Within the sannyasa institution there are stages as well. First there is leaving home and relying on the family for food and basic necessities. In the second stage the sannyasi starts wandering, begging for the same necessities from strangers.
The third stage is known as parivrajaka. The sannyasi continues to wander, but they give instruction as well. The sannyasi who wanders and leads by example at the same time is known as a parivrajakacharya. Such a person is most beneficial to society, as their travel allows the glories of the Supreme Lord to spread from village to village. Just as one sun gives heat and light to the whole world, one fearless parivrajakacharya can empower so many innocent souls with the potency of love for God.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sita Devi uses the term “parivrajaka.” Unfortunately, it is in a negative light, referring to the time a fiendish king pretended to be a sannyasi in the third stage. That king was named Ravana, and he had the ability to change his form, rupa. More than just putting on makeup on Halloween or getting a haircut, kama-rupa is the ability to take on any shape desired.
Ravana’s true self was that of a Rakshasa. This is an ogre-like creature known for eating human flesh. Ravana abandoned his true form when approaching Sita in the forest of Janasthana. His true form would have given away his ill motives. He instead took the form of a wandering religious man, whose association is typically very valuable.
In this instance Shri Hanuman has approached Sita. He is acting as the messenger of Rama, who is Sita’s husband. Despite revealing his true nature and his intentions, Sita remains a little suspicious. The situation is symbolic of the modern day predicament. So many cheaters have donned religious attire that the innocent public has totally turned against religion. Even if an honest person approaches them, their initial response is skepticism.
Hanuman also has the kama-rupa ability, but in this instance he chose to keep his original form. From his example, we see that the exact spiritual institution, the occupation in society, and the formality in attire do not ultimately determine a person’s character. They help in identifying others, but then there are always the cheaters who look to exploit the standard practices.
Hanuman would win Sita’s confidence through continued words of praise of her husband. This is the proper way to identify the genuine representative of God. The parivrajakacharya speaks only of God the person. They recommend one thing in life: devotional service. Also known as bhakti-yoga, this is the soul’s dharma, or essential characteristic. Ravana was serving only his senses. He thought he outsmarted Rama’s wife, but the messenger in the form of a monkey would give him the first indication of his impending demise.
Parivrajakacharya to all places to roam,
Bringing Divine wisdom to each and every home.
Religious man not known just from dress,
Like cheater Ravana, to Sita bringing distress.
Hanuman in form of a monkey going,
But true glories of Shri Rama knowing.
Of Ravana’s demise giving first sign,
Forces of good with God to align.
Categories: hanuman the messenger