Not Judging A Book By Its Cover

[Shri Hanuman]“O monkey, the eldest daughter of Vibhishana, named Anala, told me this herself, having been sent by her mother.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 37.11)

jyeṣṭhā kanyā analā nama vibhīṣaṇa sutā kape |
tayā mama etat ākhyātam mātrā prahitayā svayam ||

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They say to not judge a book by its cover. The illustrator may be particularly skilled. They have artistic talent; enough to catch the attention of prospective buyers. The cover looks intriguing, but nothing about the visual speaks to what is on the inside. The content can be completely different. The skill of the writer may not be up to the standard of the cover.

The reverse can hold true. The cover might be plain and unappealing. Nothing to catch the eye. Just another book among millions that have been published in the history of the world. Yet the inside can be compelling, enough to keep the reader interested for hours and hours.

[clipart]It is no secret that the eyes are relied upon to make so many identifications throughout the day. Driving would not be possible without proper vision. How to tell the weather on a particular day without looking at the sky and knowing what a cloud is and what sunshine looks like?

The same eyes gaze upon different living entities and make assumptions as to behavior. If I see a tiger I know to steer clear. A snake might bite me. The elephant is very heavy and can crush me. Usually the cats and dogs are harmless. The sight of a big, barking dog might be cause for concern.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sita Devi refers to two classes of beings that are often judged by the externals. She addresses Shri Hanuman as kape, which means “monkey” in Sanskrit. People within the Vedic tradition sometimes object to this translation, as they view it as a great insult to the dedicated servant of Shri Rama, who is the husband of Sita.

[Shri Hanuman]But in fact the form of address is accurate, complimentary and instructional. Shri Hanuman has the outward appearance of a monkey, but he has abilities that exceed what are found even in human beings. The inside is what really counts, as the material elements are nothing but inhibiting factors on the spirit soul, who is beyond life and death.

Sita also mentions Vibhishana, who is a Rakshasa. This is a kind of man-eating ogre. The people in Lanka were all Rakshasas, and so there was nary a pious soul to be found. Sita was not in a comfortable situation, held there against her will and harassed day and night.

Just like with Hanuman, judging by the cover with Vibhishana would be a mistake. He was actually a devotee at heart, despite living in inauspicious circumstances, in a body known for killing human beings and then eating the resulting flesh. Vibhishana tried his best to dissuade Ravana from the sinful path. Ravana was the king of Lanka who had taken Sita away from Rama by force, using trickery. Vibhishana was the dedicated younger brother, so loving that he was not afraid to tell Ravana words displeasing to the king’s ears.

Sita was not in the royal court to hear what went on. She learned later through Vibhishana’s daughter, who was sent by the mother. This means that Vibhishana’s household was pious, as well. They were on Sita’s side, choosing good over evil.

In the present day, when so many are born into inauspicious circumstances, the chance for purity remains. The external is not what matters; the inside can be devoted to God in a pure way, provided there is some help from the outside. Just as Vibhishana and Hanuman were great representatives of the Supreme Lord Rama, so the disciplic succession continues to this day through the spiritual master, who embodies the same devotional spirit, looking to rescue souls large and small, young and old, male and female, human and animal.

In Closing:

Cover grabbing the attention,

But not on content reflection.

When into words to proceed,

Something different indeed.

With judging body type the same,

Like pious as monkey and ogre came.

Hanuman and Vibhishana on side right,

Spiritual master taking on same fight.

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