Speaking the Truth Palatably

[Rama's lotus feet]“He speaks the truth, has a sweetness of voice like the Lord of speech, possesses a handsome form, is highly fortunate, is resplendent in everything, and is like Cupid incarnate.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.30)

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satya vādī madhura vāg devo vācaspatiḥ yathā |
rūpavān subhagaḥ śrīmān kandarpa iva mūrtimān ||

There is an old saying that if you are going to speak the truth to someone, you should do so in a sweet way. There is also the famous saying that the truth hurts. If I am mired in alcoholism, I am living in illusion. I don’t want to come to grips with the fact that I have an addiction. I am headed south, and fast. If someone should point out my flaws, I likely won’t take the words too well. They will be speaking the truth, and the reality will hit me in an unkind way.

[Nintendo controller]The truth is necessary, however. Parents must correct the children. If they are spending the day away playing video games instead of studying, someone needs to fix the situation. The children won’t like to hear this from the parents. They will consider it nagging. In spite of the reception, the truth is the truth.

At the same time, the value in the truth is what makes the reception important. If you present the truth in an unpalatable way, it might not be accepted. Therefore the wise speak both sweetly and truthfully. Hanuman applies this description to Shri Rama, the husband of Sita.

As if anticipating the skepticism of the listener, Hanuman compares Rama’s speaking ability to Brihaspati, who is the lord of speech. How you speak plays a vital role in how far you go in the corporate world. Consider the elections held in countries with a democratic-style government. Often times a good debate performance can vault a candidate to the top of the polls. The people may not like the character of the candidate, but if they can speak well, it conveys intelligence.

Rama is the best speaker, and yet He doesn’t simply flatter. He is not trying to sell a ketchup popsicle to a person wearing white gloves. He is not trying to get an Eskimo to buy ice cream. When He speaks, it is for the benefit of the recipient. He tells the truth in such a way that the recipient listens.

This fact is relevant to the situation at hand. Hanuman is speaking to Sita Devi. She is Rama’s wife and she has requested to hear about the glories of her husband. She is very familiar with Rama’s speaking ability, since part of His duties as husband involve giving instruction to Sita from time to time. She listened very well to her husband, and she did not find His truthful words to be offensive. In fact, she listened so well that she would sometimes use Rama’s own arguments against Him.

“’A woman cannot live without her husband.’  O Rama, verily this was taught to me by You before.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 29.7)

The most important truth to know is that God is a person to whom we are intimately tied. That relationship wasn’t formed at some point in the past and it will not sever in the future at any time. Whether we are aware of it or not, the relationship exists. Individual spirit cannot be separated from Supreme Spirit.

Why, then, are we in so much trouble today? If a person is always with God as the Supersoul, how can they do bad things? The separation that can occur is in consciousness. The wise and benevolent souls take it as their duty to educate the people so that this separation can be repaired. Instead of material consciousness, have Krishna consciousness.

Krishna is another name for God, the same Rama of whom Hanuman speaks. Of course this truth will not be palatable to some. Especially to the staunch atheist, the sound of these words will be like fingernails on a chalkboard. Hanuman in Lanka had a difficult task, since Sita was naturally skeptical of those around her. They were enemies to her husband, and they refused to acknowledge His supreme standing. They went beyond rejection, as they kept her away from Him. Their leader intentionally separated a beloved husband and wife, when they had done nothing wrong.

[Sita and Rama]Hanuman adjusted his words to the circumstance. In the same way, even though today people will generally be unreceptive to the message of Godhead, they can still find enlightenment through sound. The same truth comes to them in the palatable form of the singing of the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The sound of Rama is Rama Himself. That sweet speaker of the truth empowers the sound of His name with His presence, bringing the Absolute Truth to even those who don’t want to receive it. Brave souls who follow the lead of Hanuman are the method of delivery.

In Closing:

So that on right path for them to walk,

Superior person the truth to talk.

But wanting in a way to accept,

Since vital matters shouldn’t reject.

Shri Rama speaking true and sweet,

Hanuman recalling when Sita to meet.

Highest truth of to God our connection,

Know it through holy name’s sound direction.



Categories: hanuman the messenger

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