“To Sita, who was speaking thus, who was emaciated by grief on account of Rama, and whose eyes were filled with tears, the monkey Hanuman spoke the following words.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 37.17)
iti samjalpamānām tām rāma arthe śoka karśitām |
aśru sampūrṇa vadanām uvāca hanumān kapiḥ ||
From the acharyas in the Vedic tradition of bhakti, we learn that the grief suffered by Sita in the Ashoka grove is not ordinary. The outward symptoms may appear to be so. There was lamentation. There was concern over the uncertain future. As a result, there was no eating. The Ramayana says that her body was emaciated by grief. She would not accept any food offered by the Rakshasas in Lanka.
They were man-eaters, after all. The food they prepared was contaminated with their sinful ways, which started from the top. The leaders in that place were known for attacking innocent people, right at the time of worship of the Divine, killing them and then eating the resulting flesh.
The thought was that any food accepted from them would cause a change in consciousness. Even with so much apparent grief, why take the chance to diverge thoughts away from Shri Rama, who is all-attractive? This was Sita’s husband, for whom she dedicated body, mind and soul. They were meant to be together in dharma, or righteousness. Ravana, the one committed to adharma, had separated them, and so Sita only thought about reuniting.
This kind of lamentation in separation is one of the signs of pure devotion, practiced at the highest level. Not that there was any intentional practice. This wasn’t some kind of spiritual life implemented under the guidance of a teacher. The love was pure and spontaneous. That is to say no one had to tell the daughter of King Janaka to be dedicated to her husband, the prince of Ayodhya.
With such pure devotion, there is naturally less interest in satisfying the senses. Eating and sleeping are limited without extra effort. Indeed, in the Bhagavad-gita there is the teaching that the yogi has control over both.
“There is no possibility of one’s becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.16)
The idea is to eat just enough to maintain the body. No reason to go overboard. Weight gain and the associated health problems are most commonly related to eating too much. Exercise helps to burn the calories but an easier way is to simply limit the intake on a daily basis.
The same applies to sleep. Get as much as necessary. Too much and other issues arise, like depression. A simple test, try spending the entire day in bed, lying down and doing nothing. At the end assess the mood and nature. Compare to a day when there is busy, meaningful engagement throughout. In most cases the active person has a better outlook on life, as compared to the sedentary one. They are less likely to feel depressed.
Eating and sleeping are limited because of a higher taste. That is one of the results of true yoga, connection with the Divine. Even with tears filling Sita’s eyes, speaking to Hanuman was so enjoyable, since he carried news of Rama. In a similar manner, the spiritual master spreading the word of God, sent from the imperishable realm, brings delight in an otherwise bleak existence, riddled with problems due to repeated birth and death. Something as simple as the holy names they reveal help to change the situation quickly: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Less eating and sleeping found,
In person of health and wellness sound.
Requirements in yoga some,
Otherwise distractions to come.
For Sita emaciated by grief,
Yoga always, from Hanuman relief.
Since closer to husband Rama bringing,
Same with guru holy names singing.