Saturday, December 10, 2011

Combing The Earth

Hanuman“I have searched all this earth: pools, ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, marshes, woods and difficult to access mountains - but still I do not see Sita. Sampati, the king of vultures, said that Sita was here in Ravana's abode, but still I am unable to see her.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.4-5)

palvalāni taṭākāni sarāmsi saritaḥ tathā |
nadyo anūpavana antāḥ ca durgāḥ ca dharaṇī dharāḥ ||
loḍitā vasudhā sarvā na ca paśyāmi jānakīm |
iha sampātinā sītā rāvaṇasya niveśane ||
ākhyātā gṛdhra rājena na ca paśyāmi tām aham |

Shri Hanuman, fighting his way into the enemy territory of Lanka - which was guarded by the most wicked Rakshasas of terrible might, having fear for their prowess and the flesh of dead living entities for their fuel - could not find the person he was looking for. Hanuman had crossed Lanka’s well-guarded city walls, the impenetrable fortress protecting the land full of ignorance headed by its leader, Ravana. Despite the wickedness of the inhabitants, there was one particular gem that lay hidden in a place difficult to find. It was Hanuman’s mission to discover that beauty, and seeing that his chances for success were dwindling, he took some time to reassess the situation, review what he had already done.

HanumanIn the above referenced verse from the Ramayana Hanuman lists the different areas of water in Lanka that have been searched already. The person he was looking for, Sita Devi, the princess of Videha, is known in the spiritual world as Lakshmi Devi, the wife of Lord Narayana. From one entity come many; from God emanate the various energies, of which we living entities are part. The living beings, the individual spiritual life forces responsible for the autonomous activities of creatures, are the same in constitutional makeup as the Supreme Person. The spiritual energy diffused off of the original being consists of smaller particles that have qualities similar to the origin, but in limited quantities.

In Sanskrit the human beings are known as “naras”, which can also mean “men”. Since God is the source of all men, He is known as Narayana, who is also a spiritual personality residing in the eternal realm of Vaikuntha. Narayana is the four-armed form of the Supreme Absolute Truth, opulently adorned and typically worshiped in a mood of reverence. Worship of Narayana is different from other types of worship because there is no intent to receive the opulence belonging to the worshipable figure. For instance, demigods and powerful saints are honored because of their ability to grant rewards to those who honor them. If you want material opulence, you worship a particular personality; if you want to do well in school, you honor someone else, and if you want to enjoy your time on earth without difficulty, you approach another specific personality.

Worship of Narayana takes place in pure goodness, however, which means that even if the worshiper has an ulterior motive, the defect is overlooked by Narayana. In all cases, the Lord ensures that the sincere worshipers get what is good for them, rather than necessarily what they desire. This may seem impolite, but we actually follow similar behavior with our own dependents. If our child should ask for an expensive toy or a trip to some place that is unsafe, we will deny their request not out of hatred or stinginess, but out of love. Before acquiescing a good parent takes into consideration whether the desired benediction is beneficial for the child.

Lord VishnuNarayana follows a similar mindset. At this point, the question may be raised as to how anyone could ever be in a distressful situation if Narayana is the original father of creation. Why are their natural disasters, horrific tragedies, and seemingly unfair bouts of bad luck? The rule is that Narayana personally takes care of those who approach Him in earnest. In the Vedic tradition the living entities in the material world are often compared to inmates in a prison. In a free society, everyone has a choice of whether or not to abide by the law. Those who follow the law live in continued freedom, not having too many interactions with the law enforcers. Those who choose the rebel route have to be punished every now and then. The prison is not to be blamed for the punishment, and neither is the government. The choice was there from the very beginning, and because of the way freedom was exercised the negative consequences resulted.

In a similar manner, those who turn their backs on Narayana take shelter of the material energy. This turns out to be a very poor decision, as the threefold miseries of life are not very kind. Without the shelter of Narayana, the influence of other living entities, the body and mind, and nature inhibit enjoyment at every second. When the initial reaction is to go to a saintly figure or divine personality for redress, the protection of Narayana still remains far away. Without surrender to the Personality of Godhead, there cannot be any permanent alleviation from distress.

One of God’s primary features is that He is the supreme enjoyer. This means that the people He associates with are of the highest caliber. Narayana’s eternal consort is Lakshmi Devi, who is also known by names like Padmini and Kamala. Narayana is the supreme swan, or the essence of purity. His spiritual home features a wonderfully pure ocean, which has many lotus flowers floating in it. Lakshmi Devi only stays with purity, so she is always associated with the lotus flower. During the Treta Yuga she descended to earth as Sita Devi, the daughter of the famous King Janaka. Narayana similarly appeared as the warrior prince named Rama.

Goddess LakshmiSince the divine figures are incapable of fully masking their inherent features, Sita Devi remained tied to pure goodness, always choosing purity of association. Lord Rama maintained His vow to give the devotees what they deserve and not necessarily what they ask for. Shri Hanuman, when searching for Sita after she had been taken away to the island of Lanka, looked through various bodies of water. Sita is originally Kamala after all, so perhaps she was near pools, tanks, or rivers. All of these bodies of water were searched thoroughly by Hanuman while in Lanka, but he could not find her.

Why was Rama not looking for Sita? If He is God, how could He allow her to be taken away from His side? The real question should be: “If Sita hadn’t been taken away, how would we have gotten to know Shri Hanuman, whose very name carries transcendental enchantment?” Indeed, no matter how much pride we may accumulate through our worldly successes, just hearing of Hanuman’s thoughts and level of devotion is enough to humble us in an instant. His concern over failing to find Sita after performing an exhaustive search can only bring tears to the eyes, as he is such a dedicated servant that he puts everyone else to shame.

Lord Narayana is the supreme master, so he arranges everything into the proper place at just the right time. With Sita in Lanka, Hanuman, who was very eager to offer service to his beloved Rama, was allowed to shine. And what better way to increase Hanuman’s stature than to put impediments in his path? First, Hanuman had to battle ridiculously powerful forces blocking his way to Lanka. Then while in Lanka he had to risk committing sin by looking at Ravana’s many wives while they were in their bedrooms. Nothing was easy for Hanuman; he was never handed victory, though he completely deserved it.

HanumanHanuman searched the mountains, marshes, woods, and pretty much entire land of Lanka and still couldn’t find Sita. After a while some doubt crept into his mind. Perhaps Sampati was mistaken in his assertion that Sita was in Lanka. Hanuman didn’t start off the search for Sita alone. Shri Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana first had made an alliance with the king of Vanaras in Kishkindha, Sugriva, who then dispatched his enormous monkey army around the world to look for Sita. The monkeys were divided up into different search parties, with Hanuman’s group believed to have the best chance for success.

Though their group had the most capable warriors, they too faced tremendous difficulties. At one point, it looked like they were going to fail, for the time period allotted for the search had elapsed and they hadn’t gotten anywhere. They didn’t even know where Sita was. Resolved to starve to death, the monkeys came upon good fortune by meeting the vulture Sampati. He was the brother of Jatayu, who had tried to stop Ravana’s initial kidnap attempt. Jatayu was slain in the conflict, so Sampati was happy for the chance to avenge his brother’s death. He told the monkeys that Sita was in Lanka. Hanuman then made the leap across the massive ocean separating Lanka from the mainland.

Was Sampati incorrect? How could he be? He had the impeccable vision of an eagle. Hanuman hadn’t been lazy, nor had he been careless. He searched everywhere, did everything asked of him. Why could he still not find Sita? Ah, but the ways of the Supreme Lord are a mystery. While this period of frustration seemed like it was unnecessary torture on Hanuman, it would only serve to further glorify him. Anytime we can be privy to the thoughts of the devoted souls, the notable personalities like Hanuman, it is a great blessing.

Material endeavors operate under competition. The mentality of ignorance assumed at the time of birth leads us to think that there are finite resources in the world and that if we accumulate enough before others do, we’ll be alright. This thought is actually behind many of the popular fringe movements, such as eugenics and population control. It even plays a role in environmentalism.  The global warming movement lures in many souls who are sincere about maintaining the ecology of the planet, but in actuality the leaders are only interested in hoarding resources they believe to be dwindling. Evidence of this fact is seen in their behavior, for the leaders do not even follow the prescriptions they lay down for everyone else. The underlying mentality is: “Look at these commoners burning so many fossil fuels and destroying the environment. We need to stop their behavior right now before everything runs out.” Meanwhile, the elite personalities echoing these sentiments are found to be using more fossil fuels than the average person. Even ordinary fruitive activity is driven by competition, the idea of besting another person in the race to accumulate money.

In spiritual life, however, there is no such thing as envy, at least as we know it. Even if envy is present, it only serves to further the cause of devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. The pinnacle of religious practice is to regularly recite the Lord’s names in a mood of love, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. When we see someone else who has already perfected the practice, the devoted onlooker thinks: “Wow, this person is such a better devotee than I am. They must make Krishna so happy. I think I am so great, but when I see this person I know that I am nothing.”

HanumanJust imagine then how one feels when they hear about Hanuman and his level of dedication. He is the role model for every single person, for he isn’t even aware of how amazing he is. The quickest way to make progress in spiritual life is to see others succeeding at it. And what helps even more is to see people succeeding who are deemed to have very little chance at success. For instance, with Hanuman he had to face the strongest opposing elements in the Rakshasas of Lanka. Then he had to deal with the time factor, not knowing what Sita looked like, and most importantly, not knowing where she even was. Then he had to contend with mental demons, worries and concerns over failing. Who can imagine the pressure Hanuman was feeling, for he loved Rama so much and had yet to find His wife?

But anyone who is under Narayana’s protection can never fail in their sincere efforts of trying to please the Lord. Narayana doesn’t always give us what we want; but He always grants what is good for us. Hanuman’s troubles in Lanka would benefit him in the end, as the joy he would feel from finding Sita would be terrific. And for future generations, the joy they would feel from hearing about his perseverance would provide unending inspiration to make this human life successful by keeping the thoughts fixed on the Supreme Lord all the way up until the time of death. In this way Hanuman’s troubles can benefit everyone.

In Closing:

Through rivers, ponds, forests, mountains and lakes,

Exhaustive search of Lanka he makes.

Yet the daughter of Janaka he finds not,

Perhaps wrong info from vulture he got.

From his encounter with frustration,

On reader leaves negative impression.

But Narayana has got a larger plan,

Supplies what is good for devoted man.

Hanuman’s troubles his stature would augment,

Hearing of his thoughts and deeds time well spent.