Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Among Their Own

Hanuman“I certainly could not have searched for Vaidehi [Sita] anywhere else. When searching, one always looks for women in those places where other women are.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 11.42)

na anyatra hi mayā śakyā vaidehī parimārgitum ||
striyo hi strīṣu dśyante sadā samparimārgaṇe |

In the drive to uphold righteousness, to ensure that the bad guys are taken care of and to root out the evil elements of society, the authority figures must infiltrate areas they otherwise would not frequent. Nevertheless, this doesn’t make them sinful, for they are just doing their job. Without brave fighters around to carry out the tasks others are not willing to do, how would criminals ever be caught and how would justice ever be served? To carry out the mission of the Supreme Person, Shri Hanuman is always willing to take every risk, even if by his behavior he brings for himself ignominy and invites scorn from the less intelligent. On the surface, gazing at other beautiful women in the inner sanctums of the bedroom with their husbands is considered a grievous transgression of propriety. But Hanuman had a higher purpose to fulfill, so he wasn’t going to let mundane rules and regulations prevent him from finding the most beautiful woman in the world, Sita Devi, the beloved wife of Lord Rama, who had been taken away from the side of her husband.

lane markersThe need to sometimes bend the rules or ignore them outright shouldn’t be that difficult to understand. On the busy highways and streets, there are signs and traffic signals that tell motorists when to stop and where they are allowed to drive their vehicles legally. One of the most obvious signs of regulation is the lane marker, especially that which separates the two directions of traffic. On one side, cars are travelling in one direction, and on the other they are going in the opposing direction. Without a lane marker to divide the two sets of traffic, there would be collisions and a dangerous situation at every moment.

The lane marker indicates that no one should cross the specific line unless it is legal to do so, such as with a turn into a driveway. The reason for the restriction is that violating the lane boundaries would result in a dangerous condition. But what if you’re on a small street and there is a large vehicle parked on the other side of the lane marker, the side adjacent to the curb. This is especially common during the daytime because of the mail delivery and sanitation trucks travelling from house to house. Let’s say that we’re driving in our lane on an American road, obeying the laws, when all of a sudden there is a mail truck to our right side. We now have a choice. Either continue forward in our lane and hit the mail truck with our car, or veer left and violate the lane boundary in the middle to avoid hitting the mail truck.

The right choice is rather obvious. Hitting the mail truck is not an option, for the whole point of having traffic laws is to avoid striking another vehicle. The lane boundary in the middle can be temporarily violated if it is safe to do so. This simple examples shows us that the rules are not absolute; rather, they are to be understood in the proper context. The ultimate objective of safe driving and prevention of collision and injury is what should steer the driver’s decision making. If a driver were to hit the mail truck and then use the excuse, “Well, I didn’t want to cross the center line”, they wouldn’t get much sympathy from anyone else.

In every field of activity there are certain unwanted aspects. For a firefighter, running into a burning building to save occupants isn’t necessarily eagerly anticipated. For the average person, as soon as there is a fire they must evacuate the building immediately. The fireman has the exact opposite responsibility; his job is to go into dangerous situations and save people. In a similar manner, the doctor in the emergency room is expected to treat even the most gruesome injuries. He does not have the leeway to faint at the sight of blood. For non-medical professionals, the gruesome images are too much to take and should thus be avoided.

FletchAlong the same lines, police officers, detectives and investigative reporters find their way into areas frequented by criminals in order to get their investigations completed. Sometimes they have to go undercover and pretend to be one of the criminals, while other times they must immerse themselves in the underground culture to get a feel for what is going on [think of the famous Fletch movies]. A criminal will be amongst other criminals after all, so the investigator has no choice but to associate with the bad elements in order to find the person they are looking for.

A long time ago, Shri Hanuman, in his search for the princess of Videha, had to cast his glance upon the most beautiful women in the world who were not married to him or associated to him in any way. Sita required finding because she was taken away against her will by the Rakshasa king Ravana. She was kidnapped through a ruse, with her husband Lord Rama lured away from her side temporarily. Ravana lived far away on an island so opulent that the floors of the buildings were inlaid with crystal. Though Sita never gave in to Ravana’s advances, the king still had plenty of other women around with which to enjoy. Hanuman got to see Ravana’s playboy lifestyle firsthand in his search for Sita in Lanka.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see Hanuman thinking over the potential transgression of having looked at another person’s wives. In the Vedic tradition, such peeping is considered sinful, for it has a negative influence on the consciousness. The marriage institution was put into place by God to allow for spiritual advancement coupled with simultaneous controlling of the sense urges. The more we force ourselves to do things that are good for us that we may not like, such as austerity, charity, sacrifice and regulation, the more advanced we become in terms of consciousness. If there is no regulation in sex life, which results from the strongest sense urges, the human being is no different from a dog or pig. Who would ever think of imitating a dog? Who would ever want to be like a pig? Rather, the animals, if they had real intelligence, would want to model their behavior after mature human beings.

HanumanThe greatest benefit of the human birth is the ability to think rationally and control urges that dominate the lifestyle of an animal. The penchant for illicit sex is very strong, so the recommendations of spiritual life are there to help curb its influence. The marriage institution allows for sex life in a regulated manner, keeping the sense urges in check. Every other sinful activity is related to illicit sex and its increase in frequency. Hanuman was not married to these women, so he had no reason to look at them. They were inside their husband’s palace enjoying in different ways, so they didn’t even know that somebody was watching them.

But Hanuman is not an ordinary worker. He is not interested in advancing in consciousness or controlling sense urges. Rather, these things take care of themselves through his allegiance to Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead roaming the earth at the time in the guise of a warrior prince. Just as the driver’s objective is to avoid collisions on the road while travelling, the worker steadily engaged in bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is only interested in pleasing their beloved lord of their life breath, or prana-natha. Should there come a circumstance where sinful activity is unavoidable, the devotee will not hesitate to carry out their actions.

This was the situation Hanuman found himself in. As he so accurately points out, to find a woman one must search amongst other women; otherwise how would the search ever be successful? If Hanuman didn’t look inside Ravana’s apartment, his search would be limited. His mission was not to abide by rules of piety and virtue aimed at developing consciousness. His consciousness was already purified, so he had no reason to give deference to rules and regulations. In reality, any activity Hanuman adopts in his service to Rama is the very definition of virtue. If he had avoided searching through Ravana’s palace out of fear of committing sin, he would have actually been worthy of derision.

HanumanDespite his exalted status, Hanuman is so humble and kind that he is always attentive to piety and sin. If he is known to be Rama’s devotee, he would want to show that he has a good character by always upholding righteousness and treading the virtuous path. Others would look to him as an authority figure after all, so if he were to throw the rules by the wayside without cause, others would have an easy excuse to follow suit. His ability to gaze upon other women and not be affected in consciousness is not easily acquired. Therefore his actions should always be appreciated but never imitated, for the common man is not so strong.

Lord Chaitanya, the preacher incarnation of Godhead who travelled extensively throughout India some five hundred years ago, once had an incident where one of His associates fell prey to the advances of a woman. Lord Chaitanya was a sannyasi at the time, so aside from being renounced from worldly life, there was a self-imposed restriction barring association with women. A brahmana sannyasi is the most respected member of society due to his unique status. Therefore if he associates with women, he loses his reputation and is taken less seriously when he preaches about the glories of bhakti-yoga. Even though this associate was in the company of the most exalted sannyasi, Lord Chaitanya, he still became victim to the temptations of illicit sex life. Therefore Lord Chaitanya had to abandon his company.

Hanuman’s search through Ravana’s palace was not sinful because there was no detrimental effect to the mind. The intent going in was not malicious either. We see that the laws of the government take intent into account when judging a person’s actions. For instance, if someone is struck with a vehicle accidentally, there are no criminal charges filed. However, if there was an intent to injure, the same act can lead to jail time. Similarly, if there is no intent to alter the mind, to be lured into sense gratification or commit a sinful act, and there is every attempt made to carry out the Supreme Lord’s business through the righteous path, even something as sinful as gazing upon other beautiful women while in their inner apartments carries no negative consequences.

“Even if one commits the most abominable actions, if he is engaged in devotional service, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated.”  (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.30)

HanumanHanuman’s activities only bring positive consequences to whoever hears of them. His steadiness of mind while in a distressful situation further substantiates his stature as Rama’s greatest devotee, a person truly worthy of worship. A sweetheart like Hanuman is one of a kind; scour the earth for someone like him and you’ll be searching forever. It is not surprising, therefore, to learn that Hanuman would eventually find Sita, after all his troubles and struggles within his mind. While looking at others’ wives may be frowned upon, looking at the beautiful princess of Videha with the proper mood brings the greatest benefit. Hanuman met Sita and temporarily allayed her fears about her immediate future. He gave her Rama’s ring indicating an authenticity of purpose. He would later return with Rama and the army of monkeys residing in Kishkindha to do away with Ravana once and for all.

To please Rama, Hanuman is ready to risk sinful behavior and public scorn. He is only interested in the opinion that Shri Rama and His close associates have of him. And to try to measure their love for Hanuman would be a silly task, as there has yet to be found a quantitative measurement that can accurately weigh the strong affection that Sita, Rama and Lakshmana feel towards Hanuman. The reward for his bravery in the most daunting mission and his dedication to the ultimate righteousness, God consciousness, was the ability to worship and think of Rama every single day for the rest of his life. Just thinking about Hanuman worshiping Rama brings so much auspiciousness. If we can remember Hanuman’s dedication and highest virtue, our time in this troublesome land will be well spent.

In Closing:

While in Lanka carrying out his mission,

Hanuman only thought of task he was given.

To find a woman, among other women he had to see,

Though from this chance of committing sin there would be.

Never mind, for what else could he do?

To objective of finding Sita he remained true.

Rules are always meant for fulfilling higher purpose,

Therefore sometimes specific rules one must transgress.

For Hanuman, all of his acts are auspicious.

Because of loving God he is always conscious.