“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।
Friend1: If you happen to work in the IT field, there is a particular city in the United States known for its conferences.
Friend2: You mean like a meeting of professionals? Where they present new ideas and an outline for the future?
Friend1: Yes, and it also serves as a place for vendors and potential customers to gather. The conferences take place all over the world, but this city seems to be the most popular destination. I guess it is because they can more easily attract attendees.
Friend2: I see. What is the reason?
Friend1: If we are talking in terms of dharma, the answer is simple and straightforward. Sinful life. Papa. If you wanted to quote a famous song the commands would be, “Spin that wheel. Cut that pack. Roll those loaded dice.”
Friend2: Gambling and drinking?
Friend1: You got it. Plenty of it. Casinos on every corner. Open whenever you want to enter. They offer free drinks and buffet food to accommodate your visit, hoping that you will stay and continue to wager away your hard-earned money.
Friend2: Cities like that are amazing because they never have to worry about an off-season. People are always there; barring government intervention. Recording artists take up “residency” there. They do a series of concerts over a specific period of time. They don’t have to worry about filling up the seats.
Friend1: Because people come and go. It’s a good business, for sure. It is just amazing to me that people are proud of the lifestyle. There are so many jokes made around it. “What happens in that city stays in that city.”
Friend2: Oh yeah, you don’t want indiscretions to leak. It is called “Sin City” for a reason.
Friend1: And everyone is proud to sin. They feel no shame. They are not embarrassed in the least.
Friend2: Why would they be? It is considered cool to go to a place like that for a vacation. It is not like they live there permanently.
Friend1: I guess. But wouldn’t the saintly person be embarrassed?
Friend2: Why are you bringing them into the discussion? Who is actually interested in being saintly? Is there even a class of human beings that you can turn to for help in these areas? I’ve seen where the houses of worship host viewing parties for sporting events that make their money on wagers.
Friend1: That’s true. Okay, maybe the better question is, “Wouldn’t a genuinely pious person be embarrassed to be in such a situation?”
Friend2: A person on the path of transcendence is always assessing their progress. In the Ramayana, we see the encounter between Shri Rama and Shabari, the female ascetic. She is hospitable in the forest, welcoming Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana.
Friend1: Doesn’t she offer them berries to eat?
Friend2: Which Rama happily accepts. He is polite in return. He asks her a series of questions relating to her asceticism. Is the faith in her guru growing? Is she less interested in eating? Basically, is she making progress?
Friend1: That is interesting.
Friend2: It is a way to tell if you are on the right track. Then you have someone like Shri Hanuman, who is extraordinary. He had to travel into the real Sin City, Lanka. This would put any modern equivalent to shame.
Friend1: Why is that?
Friend2: The level of sinful activity. More wine than anyone could consume. Enough meat to fulfill the appetites of the largest ogres you have ever seen. One king with innumerable beautiful queens, who are ready and willing to serve him. An abundance of gold. It is everywhere; even in the construction of the buildings.
Friend2: Hanuman was searching for Rama’s missing wife, Sita Devi. Inevitably, he had to enter quarters where women were enjoying intimately. This is the worst thing for a saintly person to see, but Hanuman realized that his mind was unaffected.
Friend1: Because his devotion to Rama is so pure.
Friend2: It is something we can admire, but not imitate. Just shows you the strength of Hanuman’s will. He can withstand attacks against his assigned service. He can help us in our struggle. Through his association, he can make our time spent in an otherwise sinful city pious and full of spiritual bliss. After all, he is always chanting Rama’s holy name, so we can do the same.
Even when in sin city to find,
Hanuman not changed of mind.
Immediately to himself detected,
That from images not affected.
Since focused on the one,
How Rama’s work to be done.
A symbol for faith and determination,
To us all an inspiration.