“Though all of these unsuspecting wives of Ravana were seen by me, my mind has not been disturbed even a little.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 11.40)
कामं दृष्टा मया सर्वा विश्वस्ता रावणस्त्रियः।।
न हि मे मनसः किञ्चिद्वैकृत्यमुपजायते।
kāmaṃ dṛṣṭā mayā sarvā viśvastā rāvaṇastriyaḥ।।
na hi me manasaḥ kiñcidvaikṛtyamupajāyate।
Hinduism isn’t really a religion. It is a term derived from outsiders to describe the variety in spiritual practices they see as belonging to one collective culture. Indeed, in the sacred texts of reference, there is no hint of such a word, and neither would anyone be classified as belonging to a particular sect.
The closest equivalent to the concept of religion in that tradition would be sanatana-dharma. This is the Sanskrit for describing the eternal way of living. Without a beginning and without an end. The constitutional position of the living entity and the way towards maintaining it, free of conflicts, inversions, perversions, blemishes, and such.
While in the cultural collective known as Hinduism there is wide variety in terms of objects of worship and daily practices, an area of unification is Shri Hanuman. He is held in high esteem practically everywhere. He is one of the heroes of the Ramayana, though the work is named after Shri Rama, an incarnation of God from many thousands of years ago.
Hanuman is celebrated for his devotion. His motivations are pure. He is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the Supreme Lord. This sort of devotion is supported. It is known as bhakti, and it is a more detailed way to describe the same sanatana-dharma.
One of the justifications for choosing bhakti is that what would otherwise be ignored automatically gets accounted for. I am not missing out on responsibilities through supporting God the person. It is something like watering the roots of the tree.
At the same time, through studying Hanuman’s exploits, we see that there are potential areas of contention. Did he violate dharma? If so, why is he immune from criticism? If bhakti is supposed to bring good behavior in every aspect of life, why are there several glaring exceptions in this exceptional case?
1. Took a false form in meeting Rama and Lakshmana
A devotee is generally honest in their dealings. They are connected to the Absolute Truth, so there is no need for deception. Yet in the first meeting with Rama and Lakshmana, Hanuman assumed a false garb. His natural form is that of a Vanara. This is something like a monkey who dwells in the forest, but has human characteristics at the same time.
Hanuman was on assignment. He used this trickery to further the purpose of the boss, Sugriva of Kishkindha. In fact, in the presence of the Supreme Lord and His younger brother, Hanuman could not maintain the false vision of a mendicant for long. He eventually spilled the beans, so to speak. Rama and Lakshmana were so impressed by Hanuman that they immediately trusted him, stepping onto his shoulders to be taken up to the top of Mount Rishyamukha to meet Sugriva.
2. Struck a woman
That first meeting was the catalyst to a series of events. Rama formed an alliance with Sugriva. The end result was a massive reconnaissance mission to search for the whereabouts of Sita. She is the wife of Rama who had gone missing.
Hanuman stepped up to the plate and towards the end he was the lone member of the search party capable of reaching where Sita was. Knowing the location was vital, but that didn’t assure success. Hanuman had to find a way to enter the island city of Lanka without causing alarm that would endanger Sita.
The first obstacle when hitting the shores of Lanka was entry itself. The place was guarded by a gatekeeper. A female, no less, she would not allow Hanuman to enter. What should he have done? If a person strictly follows the codes of dharma, they will never strike a woman. It is against good judgment.
Hanuman saw no other option, so he struck the gatekeeper and proceeded to enter. He was not ready to return back to the base as a failure, refusing to move forward on a technicality. If sin was in the cards, Hanuman was ready to accept the consequences.
3. Illegally entered palaces and spied
This so crossed the line of decency that Hanuman himself felt bad about what was going on. He had to search for a woman, after all. The women were likely inside of the many palaces, as the wealthy ruler of Lanka had many beautiful wives as companions. That was the point to forcibly taking Sita there; to make her the chief queen. Ravana did not understand that the beloved of Vishnu can never be made to turn in another direction, no matter how much force is applied.
In this case Hanuman noted that his mind was not altered. He was not negatively affected by viewing women in an intimate setting. Again, he could have stopped his mission and returned a failure. That was not an option, so he was not going to let the risk of personal consequences affect the chance to please Shri Rama.
In the objective assessment, there is not even a hint of blemish for Shri Hanuman. He is the most dedicated servant whose glories increase when learning of the difficulties encountered in staying within the bounds of virtue.
Staying within virtue’s bounds,
When difficulty in Lanka found.
First on entering how,
Female stopping him now.
Then at other women viewing,
Features to Sita Devi reviewing.
For Hanuman with blemish not a hint,
Auspicious that Lanka stint.
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