“O monkey, please discuss the glories of my dear Rama. O gentle one, like a current against a riverbank you are winning over my heart.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.19)
guṇān rāmasya kathaya priyasya mama vānara ||
cittam harasi me saumya nadī kūlam yathā rayaḥ |
You’ve never had this problem before. Why now? Why in this spot? Anywhere else would have been fine. You’re attending a wedding in a week, and photographers will definitely be there. Your problem will be etched in history. Everyone will be asking you about it. “What happened to your face,” they’ll say.
In all honesty, you have no idea. It’s obviously a rash of some sort. You just don’t know what caused it. It hurts. There are many bumps, which are visible, plump and bright. You retrace your steps over and over to see what you could have done to prevent it, but the fact of the matter is that you have the problem. You have to deal with it. The doctor has prescribed antibiotics, anti-inflammatory pills, and a topical cream.
You’ve been using everything for a few days, but the problem persists. It’s getting better, but not fast enough. Why can’t it work instantly? Why should you have to wait so long? The setting for the above referenced verse from the Ramayana is analogous in a way, but with a problem on a much larger scale.
The living entity is born into delusion, overcome by the dualities of desire and hate. We know this to be true based on the authority of the Bhagavad-gita, the song of God. It is sung by Shri Krishna to the warrior Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. The two men discussed matters far beyond the impending war. They went into the very essence of life and how it should be lived. Shri Krishna was the teacher and Arjuna the sincere and interested disciple.
sarge yānti parantapa
“O scion of Bharata [Arjuna], O conqueror of the foe, all living entities are born into delusion, overcome by the dualities of desire and hate.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.27)
Like and dislike are dualities that I shouldn’t be overcome by. A simple example to help us understand is water. During the summer months bands go out on tour and play concerts outdoors. The fans who stand near the front the entire day get hot and thirsty after a while. When cold water is showered on them, they become happy. The water is soothing; it brings temporary relief from the heat.
Yet the exact same water showered in the exact same way in another situation brings a different reaction. Picture walking outside on a cold winter day, where the temperature hovers around freezing. If someone were to shower cold water on you, you might become seriously ill.
Thus there is duality with the cold water. One time we like it, the other time we don’t. But it is the same regardless. There shouldn’t be a difference of opinion towards the water. It is neutral, after all. The entire journey through life features such dualities. To be overcome by like and dislike is to fall into delusion.
To get out of the delusion is difficult. If I can’t see that one man’s food is another man’s poison, how am I going to understand the higher purpose in life? If someone tells me that I am spirit soul and not my body, why should I believe them? I’ve identified with my body since before I can remember. I don’t know any other way of living.
Even the most skeptical heart can be won over. The right medicine needs to be administered and there should be patience in seeing its effectiveness. In this situation from the Ramayana, Sita is skeptical of Hanuman, who is a messenger in a monkey’s body arriving in Lanka. Sita is otherwise surrounded by frauds, people who can change their shapes at will. They are not nice. They appear to be friendly to each other, but it is due only to mutual interest. I like my friend for as long as they continue to serve my needs. The one time they fail me, I’ll forget about all the good from the past. I’ll stop being friends with them out of anger.
The people in Lanka were like this. Sita was innocent, and yet they treated her like the worst criminal. She was harassed day and night by threats. She had not a single friend in the entire city. Now here comes this monkey speaking of her husband. She is glad to hear about Rama, whom she loves very much. Yet she is not sure that Hanuman is genuine, that he is indeed sent by Rama.
She asks Hanuman to continue to narrate the glories of Rama, who is dear to her. She compares Rama-katha to a current hitting up against a riverbank. The erosion is slow, but steady. The current continues to hit, eventually doing the job. In the same way, by talking enough about Rama, Sita will be comforted. Her heart will be won over, as the truth about Rama coming from Hanuman will allow her to know that Hanuman’s own words about his purpose in Lanka are true as well.
Sita is never overcome by delusion, but here she teaches a valuable lesson. The living entities have their delusion eroded completely with enough katha about the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There is Rama-katha, which deals with the incarnation of God appearing on earth as a warrior prince. There is also Krishna-katha, which deals with the jewel of Vrindavana, the beautiful child of Nanda and Yashoda. God is limitless and comes to earth in many different forms. The term Hari-katha is all-encompassing; it is synonymous with both Rama-katha and Krishna-katha.
All types of Hari-katha have one thing in common: they deal with the gunas of God. These are the glories of the Supreme Lord, and they are pleasing to the ear. They are also endless, which means that there is always more to hear. This hearing is itself a shelter, a way to be safe from the dangerous material world, even while living in it. The hearing alone, practiced slowly, steadily and regularly, can bring full enlightenment, winning over even the hardest heart, turning it towards the imperishable path of devotional service.
Shelter made just from a sound,
From Rama-katha mind on solid ground.
No more by like and dislike deluded,
Happiness coming that for so long eluded.
Sita Devi in Lanka showing the way,
Asking Hanuman for more to say.
About the glories of Shri Rama to tell,
Then knowing that wishing for her well.
Categories: hanuman the messenger