I Learned It By Watching You

[Rama's lotus feet]“O noble lady, Rama is the protector of the entire world and the four divisions of human society. He has made the system of etiquette for the people of the world and shows the way in following it.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.11)

rāmo bhāmini lokasya cāturvarṇyasya rakṣitā |
maryādānām ca lokasya kartā kārayitā ca saḥ ||

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Parenting is difficult enough. You always have something to worry about. Even if everything is okay and settled in your own life, the children are constantly going through change. At the very least there is concern over school and how they are doing. Children are also less intelligent compared to the parents, which means that they’ll constantly make mistakes.

The issue is that the parents likely made the same mistakes when they were younger. Therefore they must act hypocritically to some degree when guiding their children. If a child gets in trouble for cheating on a test in school, they may ask their parent, “Did you ever do that when you were younger?” If the parent tells the truth and answers in the affirmative, the child views that admission as an excuse for escaping punishment. “How can you punish me for something you did too?”

There is the old public service commercial on television that shows a parent catching their child with cigarettes. The parent is upset and presses the child to admit where they picked up such a bad habit. After initially staying quiet the child finally admits that they learned smoking from watching their parent, to which the parent has no reply. The line is, “I learned it by watching you.”

The above referenced verse from the Ramayana speaks of a person who establishes a system of conduct for other people to follow. He doesn’t stop there, however. He then shows the way in how to follow it. This means that He can honestly tell the entire world, “Do as I say and as I do.” Hanuman intentionally points out this feature in Shri Rama, the husband of Sita.

Sita knows this fact about Rama because it is partly due to His dedication to etiquette that she has found herself in the precarious condition. She is in Lanka, held there against her will. Previously, she was with Rama in the forest of Dandaka. What would a bhamini, or noble lady, be doing living in a forest? Why was she there with her husband, who was the son of a king?

Rama’s father had made two promises to Queen Kaikeyi. There was no stipulation; Kaikeyi could ask for whatever she wanted. She took advantage of the king and asked for Rama to be banished from the kingdom for fourteen years. Rama was the son to Queen Kausalya. Kaikeyi wanted her own son, Bharata, to be the king to succeed Dasharatha.

[leaving Dasharatha]Amidst the controversy, Rama decided to maintain the honor of His father. Dasharatha was known for his dedication to the truth, so if he denied Kaikeyi that would be license for the people of the city to act in bad faith. Dasharatha did not want his son Rama to leave, but Rama decided that maintaining etiquette for the rulers was more important than satisfying personal desire.

It should be noted that there are many things about Rama that cannot be imitated. He singlehandedly defeated 14,000 attackers in Dandaka. Only the Supreme Personality of Godhead can do this. In a future descent He lifted the massive Govardhana Hill and held it aloft for seven straight days. As Varaha He held up the entire earth, and as Narasimha he appeared in this world as a half-man/half-lion.

[Varahadeva holding up the earth]Still, Rama creates the system of etiquette for a reason. He follows it for a reason as well. Etiquette, maryada, is an aspect of dharma, or duty. By following dharma one gets all happiness in life. By succumbing to adharma, there may be temporary happiness here and there, but the end result is misery. Rebirth is evidence enough of the fact. Following dharma brings progress towards the achievement of the end of rebirth.

The pinnacle achievement is love and devotion to the Supreme Lord. Hanuman has that in full. Beaming with devotion through and through, he can do amazing things, like leap across a vast ocean and find a princess he had never met before. More amazing than that, he can speak eloquently and flawlessly about the Supreme Lord Rama, who is very dear to Sita. Hanuman is the most qualified person to give Rama-katha, which is the elixir for the distressed. Even the person who has no etiquette whatsoever, who has been controlled by their senses for their entire life, can be saved through just hearing about Rama from a qualified person like Hanuman.

In Closing:

When to child punishment gave,

Own transgression parents to save.

Otherwise like hypocrite appearing,

For the child’s wellbeing fearing.

Rama system of etiquette making,

But lead in following it also taking.

Towards Rama-katha from Hanuman go,

Since ideal ruler, the best person to know,

Categories: hanuman the messenger

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