“O noble lady, being full of grief from not having your vision, He is not obtaining any peace of mind, like an elephant distressed by a lion.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.37)
tava adarśanajena ārye śokena sa pariplutaḥ |
na śarma labhate rāmaḥ simha ardita iva dvipaḥ ||
How do you tell if someone truly loves you? Keeping aside the truth of the matter, as told by the spiritual science of the Vedas, that real love only exists in a relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, when the word is invoked in the general application, what is the proof of its existence?
A test that is both common and easy to facilitate is to see the reaction that separation causes. If two people who are supposedly in love lose connection with one another, what changes are noticed? For the best observation, the separation should be complete. Sometimes physical proximity is lost, but messages are still exchanged. In that case there is still a connection.
If the person who loves you becomes sad upon separation, your association obviously means something to them. They are attached to you. They like to have you around. If you feel similarly upon separation, then the love is on an equal level.
How does this apply to the Supreme Lord? He is a person like you and me, but the best one, Purushottama. He is a living, spiritual being, but of a different and superior nature, Paramatma. Since He never falls down, He is Achyuta. Since He is never defeated, He is Ajita.
Does the above referenced verse from the Ramayana contradict these truths? Here Shri Hanuman is talking about Rama, who is an incarnation of God. Rama is Ramachandra, the moon-like beauty full of transcendental pleasure. He is Raghava, a prince in the Raghu dynasty.
Hanuman is speaking to Sita Devi, who is Rama’s beloved wife. The two are separated at the time. From meeting Hanuman, Sita is getting news of Rama after a long time apart. Hanuman says that Rama is suffering from grief, shoka, because of not having the vision, darshana, of Sita.
The grief is so strong that it is preventing peace of mind, sharma. The comparison is made to an elephant being harassed by a lion. The elephant has no desire to kill anyone for food. The lion is different. The roar of the lion generally drives away the elephant.
How can God be affected like this? Shouldn’t He be above attachment and distress? Shouldn’t He know that in the future everything will be okay? The explanation is that Rama shows sadness upon separation for the benefit of His devotees. Though you don’t want people near and dear to you to suffer, it’s a little comforting to know that there is some negative change upon separation, that you mean something to them.
The lion-elephant comparison can be used for material existence, as well. In the mind are many elephant-like desires. These are large stumbling blocks towards peace of mind. The lion to scare those desires away is the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
“I am faithfully engaged in the service of Rama, who is a lion among men [nrisimham], has a broad chest and powerful arms, who treads the earth like a lion and who is like a lion in prowess.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 47.35)
After all, the same Rama once incarnated in a half-man/half-lion form to do away with a very powerful and evil king. Sita once described Rama to be lion-like, as well. Separation from Sita and Rama can easily be prevented, since the sound of the maha-mantra brings their presence. God and His eternal consort come to the rescue for the souls struggling in the material world, which is compared to a vast ocean that is difficult to cross over. Hanuman literally crossed a large body of water on the strength of devotion, and so the sounds of the holy names can empower a person to do something similar.
Elephant in jungle to stay,
By lion’s roar driven away.
Same with desires to find,
Clouding judgment in mind.
Sacred sound with potency same,
God’s association through name.
Whose presence separation’s pain clearing,
Like when Sita news of Rama hearing.