“Employing the form of a deer, he distracted Rama and then took you away from that empty hermitage. You will see the fruit of that action.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.32)
apakṛśṣya āśrama padān mṛga rūpeṇa rāghavam |
śūnye yena apanītā asi tasya drakṣyasi yat phalam ||
You can’t believe it. Is this really the same person? They used to be so fit. In this old picture they look like they are still in high school. In the new picture they don’t look so good. What happened? You hear that they are divorced and struggling with substance abuse. That likely has contributed to the dramatic change. How could the person in the first picture turn into the person from the second picture?
In the material world things change; the tides can turn quickly. A business starts from the ground floor and takes off to the point of becoming publicly traded. They go from a few people sitting in an office to thousands of employees occupying every floor of a high rise building. The business looks like they will continue to expand when one day something changes. A new law gets passed which prevents the business from operating in its most popular location. Gradually, over time, as quickly as it grew, the business shrinks. Sales dry up, employees are let go, and the prosperity that looked like it would never end is nowhere to be found.
Things do change with time. One of the great concerns in life is that someone who does something bad will not be punished for it. We see this with politicians all the time. We know they are lying to us. Their supporters don’t even hide the fact. Rather, they marvel at how well the person representing them can spin things. Aren’t honesty and integrity important in public figures, you think.
The just consequences do arrive, but they take time. Not everything happens right away. In Sanskrit the word for ordinary action is karma. The results to karma are known as phala; hence the common English translation of karma as “fruitive activity.” Karma is any action that sees a reaction at some point in time. Time operates only on the material nature, so karma is work that sees reactions that apply strictly to the material body.
The phala of karma may not manifest immediately. To the person awaiting justice, this is cruelly unfair. Why not give the punishment right away? Why should the lawbreaker get to enjoy for a while first? In the end, there is not much difference. As long as the punishment arrives, time has done its job; justice has been served.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman tells a distressed princess to wait and see the results to a most heinous act. She was taken away from the side of her husband through a ruse. Ravana, the king of Lanka, employed the false form of a deer to lure the husband Rama away from the ashrama, or hermitage. Taking advantage of the fact that it was unguarded, Ravana forcibly took Sita away, bringing her back to Lanka.
For months it looked like Ravana had gotten away with it. There was no news of Rama or His younger brother Lakshmana. Then came this strange looking messenger. He spoke beautiful Sanskrit, claimed to be sent by Rama, and was eager to allay Sita’s fears. She was still skeptical, though. She asked Hanuman to continue Rama-katha, for it was both pleasing to her ears and a way to prove his authenticity.
This is an instance of the wise speaking to the wise. The less intelligent do not know about karma. They think that there is no higher authority managing the results to action. The sober person realizes that the variety in circumstances found in material life can be attributed to nothing else but a higher force, which works in concert with time. Something bigger than us must be responsible because not every instance of an action yields the same result. Two people can spend months working out in the gym, but they won’t have the exact same physique at the end. Two people can study Sanskrit their whole lives, but they are not destined to have the same level of aptitude.
Ravana himself was an example. He was a son of the venerable Vishrava, as was Kuvera. Yet the two brothers were vastly different. Even Ravana’s immediate younger brother, Vibhishana, had a different disposition. He was favorably disposed towards Rama, while Ravana was not. Hanuman was not your typical creature in a monkey-like body. He leapt over the massive ocean and infiltrated a city undetected; a place where he was certainly not welcome.
Ravana would get his deserved punishment in due time. In the same way, every person sees the results to their karma at the appropriate moment. The entire system is managed by the Supreme Lord, who is the dear husband of Sita. Time works at His direction instead of the other way around. He manipulates time in such a way that the foolish get the false hope that they can do whatever they want, thinking they can act with impunity.
The wise souls like Hanuman know how karma works. They know that the greatest blessing is to have the favor of Rama, who can change the nature of any person’s actions. A leap across the ocean is a fool’s errand normally, but for Rama’s messenger the end result is success. That messenger removes the fears of the beloved Sita, who remains forever favorable to him. Acts in devotion accumulate no karma. The work is known as bhakti, and the results get managed directly by Rama, who makes time and circumstance operate in their favor.
Foolish Ravana with impunity to act,
Not knowing punishment coming exact.
Like flowers that blossom on the tree,
At right time consequences to see.
This fact to distressed Sita reminding,
Hanuman, humbly before her standing.
For devotees no karma accumulating,
Rama for them time and place manipulating.
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