“Understanding Sita’s worry, the son of the wind, Hanuman, brought great joy to her by speaking words favorable to the ear.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.27)
sītāyāḥ cintitam buddhvā hanūmān māruta ātmajaḥ ||
śrotra anukūlaiḥ vacanaiḥ tadā tām sampraharṣayat |
What is the way to happiness? Should we listen to what others tell us or should we follow our whims? Man has four inherent defects, with the tendency to commit mistakes being one of them. Therefore, what we think is good for us isn’t always the case. We tend to forget as well, so if we swore off something a long time ago, we still might try it again, hoping for a different outcome.
“A mundaner 1) is sure to commit mistakes, 2) is invariably illusioned, 3) has the tendency to cheat others and 4) is limited by imperfect senses. With these four imperfections, one cannot deliver perfect information of all-pervading knowledge.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, Introduction)
If we listen to others, we run the same risk. After all, they have the same defects. They are not perfect. The elders have more experience than us. In Sanskrit they are known as guru. They are to be respected, but even they mess up sometimes. They don’t know exactly what we go through in life, so how can they steer us in the proper direction?
According to bhakti philosophy, the way to happiness is to serve the Supreme Lord Krishna. This service is the soul’s dharma, or essential characteristic. Not just for the people from India or those who know of God the person since birth, every single living entity, across all national borders and languages, should serve the Lord with thought, word and deed.
That service should be anukula, or favorable. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada describes the choice between anukula and pratikula. Acting on a whim is pratikula, unfavorable. The most unfavorable result is birth in the material world. The reason is that the land is conducive to ignorance. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna describes how both forgetfulness and remembrance come from Him.
sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo
mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham
“I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)
In the material world, Krishna facilitates the choice to be separated from Him by increasing forgetfulness. This is most unfavorable, as with birth there is death and everything in between. There is the swinging pendulum of desire and hate, with each person trying to satisfy their desires, leading to collisions.
The plight of Sita Devi is one example. She was living peacefully in the forest of Dandaka with her husband, Shri Rama. The couple was accompanied by Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana. The three weren’t bothering anyone. On the other side of the ocean was a lusty king named Ravana. He had so many beautiful wives. The buildings in his kingdom were made of gold. There was ample supply of wine and animal flesh to consume.
Yet he succumbed to his whims, so everything was unfavorable for him. He heard about Sita’s beauty and decided that he had to have her. He couldn’t live peacefully, though according to modern opinion everything necessary for peace was there. Of course the wise know that no amount of material opulence will bring peace. Ravana took Sita away in secret, and that one mistake was the catalyst for his eventual demise.
In this verse from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman is about to speak to Sita. He is in Lanka on the orders of Rama. He will speak words that are favorable, anukula. Those words are about Rama, who is the Absolute Truth. Rama is the same Krishna. He is God the person. Any truthful words spoken about Rama are favorable. Sita was not sure if Hanuman was a genuine messenger. He easily could have been a deceitful, lusty person like Ravana and his men.
It is said that Hanuman understood Sita’s worry. This is the compassionate nature of the devotee of the Lord. They know the real cause of the suffering in people. Sita is Rama’s wife, so her suffering is of a different nature. The episode in Lanka is for instructing others. It is both historical and symbolic, as Hanuman is the ideal representative of God.
To act for Rama’s pleasure is anukula. Any other activity is ultimately unfavorable, as it leads to further forgetfulness of God. Hanuman is always conscious of Rama, so everything he does is anukula. When he speaks of Rama, the words are so powerful that they bring a smile to a person who is in the most distressful situation, worrying over the future and the continued separation from her beloved. The living entities in this world have been separated from the same Rama for too long, and through the favorable words of Hanuman and those like him, great joy can come.
Suffering for far too long,
Deep in material world’s throngs.
But still great joy to come near,
When from Rama’s messenger to hear.
Surrounded by vile creatures fake,
So how Sita proper assessment to make?
By favorable words from Hanuman said,
Who by love for Rama to Lanka was led.
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