“The situation has come to this and I am at an impasse. What course of action is appropriate and timely for achieving my objective?’ Thus Hanuman thought the matter over and over again in his mind.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.19)
asminn evam gate karye prāpta kālam kṣamam ca kim ||
bhaved iti matim bhūyo hanumān pravicārayan |
Hanuman, the Vanara warrior who is brave, strong, perseverant, intelligent and enthusiastic, keeps his focus of concern on others and their interests. He never works for himself, for what does he ever need? Hanuman asks for but only one thing in life: devotion to Shri Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Has anyone ever been denied this request when it was asked for in earnest? Has anyone ever been turned down for the post of devotee when they had the qualifications for the job? Hanuman certainly was never turned down, but surprisingly assuming this role doesn’t signal the end of distresses, either physical or mental. In many cases, the hesitations increase, with doubt arising over the proper course of action. Just hearing of Hanuman’s doubt and the reason for it are enough to tug at the hardest of hearts. May that Shri Hanuman, the faithful servant of Lord Rama, forever roam in the minds of the devotees given to worshiping God and attaining life’s ultimate mission.
Why was Hanuman in distress? Was this part of his service, the job he so desperately covets? Not only does Hanuman desire to take up the post of a sincere servant of God, but he has no other wish. He doesn’t ask for riches, fame, honor, beautiful women, the company of friends, or even a long life. How can someone eschew these desires which are found in practically every person? If the mind has a steady engagement, something that keeps the thought processes active, alert and ready to fire, there is no need to rely on external objects for sustenance. We can think of it this way: If we are at work and given tasks that are both challenging and time-consuming, what time will be left for lamentation and daydreaming of a brighter future?
The steady occupation also helps increase the quality of the downtime. If we were to sit all day in front of the television watching show after show, the enjoyment would wear thin after a while. On the other hand, if we only get a few brief periods of respite from an otherwise hectic schedule, the downtime is enjoyed and savored a lot more. The principle applies to sleep as well. If we stayed at rest all day, the sleeping hours wouldn’t be eagerly anticipated or appreciated. Just notice the difference between falling asleep on a weeknight versus a weekend. On a weekend night, the desire is to stay up later, as there is no pressing need to wake up early the next morning. On the weekdays, however, time is of the essence, so any precious time spent sleeping is taken full advantage of, for the worker knows that they must arise at a certain hour and take care of their duties the next day.
Work is a necessity, but if the spirit soul finds an engagement that is exhilarating and unending in its execution, the work turns into leisure. The tools used to maintain sanity in other occupations aren’t necessarily required either. It is not that the devotees given to devotional service, or bhakti-yoga, look down at marriage, material opulence, or the association of friends and family. Rather, these aren’t required to remain in divine trance, or samadhi. Samadhi in bhakti doesn’t have to involve the rejection of activity. Shri Hanuman is a perfect example of this. In his service to Lord Rama, he is always active, keeping the mind engaged through wonderful acts of love, which melt Shri Rama’s heart. Just as Hanuman loves Rama, the Lord fully extends His endless loving sentiments to Hanuman.
This mutual adoration made Hanuman’s most daunting task all the more difficult. Rama is God, and as He is the original creator, He is open to entering any of His innumerable lands. The true purpose of these appearances can never be revealed beyond the general acceptance that God does whatever He wants for His own pleasure. He is the only person that can say this with full honesty. During the Treta Yuga, Shri Rama, the origin of life and matter, roamed the earth in the guise of a warrior prince. As is common for a warrior, there were struggles and the protection of the innocent with Rama. For the innocent to be protected, there must be evil elements. If everything were peaceful, what need would there be for protectors?
During Rama’s time on earth the most powerful evil element was concentrated in the island of Lanka. The Rakshasas lived there, and they were headed by their ruler Ravana. A Rakshasa is a human-like species particularly prone to black magic, eating animal flesh [including humans], and drinking wine. With dedication to these activities that belong to the mode of ignorance, sobriety of thought flies right out the window. With a loss of internal cleanliness comes the loss of good judgment as well. Without proper discretion, improper behavior has the chance to take over.
Not surprisingly Ravana had no clue that taking another man’s wife, especially a man who was known as the greatest fighter in the world, would bring him tremendous heartache in the end. The bottle of whiskey cries out to be emptied into the mouth of the alcoholic, but what the bottle doesn’t reveal is that the consumption of alcohol will be harmful. If such pronouncements were made and readily acknowledged by the drinker, there would be no chance for alcohol consumption to be as prevalent as it is.
Ravana, though given advice to avoid taking this particular woman, couldn’t think clearly. All he could think about was this beautiful princess residing in the forest of Dandaka. Ravana created a plan to take her away from her husband’s side while He was not around. The plan worked, and taking her back to Lanka, Ravana hoped to win her over by giving her the post of top queen. Ravana made a mistake in forgetting the unmatched brilliance in character of the woman he took away. Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka of Mithila, could never be swayed by the advances of any man. Like Hanuman, Sita required nothing but devotion to Rama. What could any man offer her anyway? She had Rama for a husband, so her prescribed duties called for her to keep her mind fixed on His lotus feet, the same two feet from which the sacred Ganges River emanates. Those same two feet are the cherished destination for the surrendered souls, including the worshipable servants that carry the Lord wherever He goes. The water that washes those feet is the most sacred in the three worlds, and anyone who is fortunate enough to even touch it becomes purified immediately.
Sita had not only caressed her beloved husband’s feet, but she had made dedication to them her life’s mission. This unshakable level of devotion was unknown to Ravana, who was only interested in short-term gains, or preyas, directed at pleasing the body. Devotion to the senses brings all the qualities that are not beneficial to a person. Devotion to the senses led to Ravana’s demise, as it caused him to try to take Sita away from Rama. He would pay dearly in the end, as not only would Sita never become his wife, he would lose his kingdom, his palaces, the association of his beautiful queens, and eventually his life.
Rama is God, so He easily could have found Sita by Himself, but the devotees crave divine action. The spiritual master, the guru in the line of Vaishnavas, or devotees of Vishnu [Rama], are so wonderful because they not only constantly sing the glories of Shri Rama, but they also give their disciples and admirers a full-time occupation, a way to keep the mind immersed in God consciousness. Even for the fallen souls of the Kali Yuga, who are trapped in an age where quarrel and hypocrisy are rampant, there is a method that can keep the flame of devotional service lit. That method is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.
Just think of how bad the conditions of the Kali Yuga are. Make a mistake on the road and another driver will be so enraged that they’ll curse at you. Look at someone the wrong way and they’ll take it as an invitation to fight. Yet despite these horrible conditions, the guru still finds a way to keep his sincere students engaged in their occupational duty, their original disposition. Every person is naturally inclined to love God, but unless and until they are reacquainted with that occupation, they will continue to shoot in the dark, looking for answers to life’s mysteries.
Shri Rama is the original guru, so He gave the most exalted servants living in the Kishkindha forest at the time the chance to serve Him. Hanuman was the most eager of the monkeys in Sugriva’s party, so he was handed the most difficult task of finding Sita. Though all the monkeys were dispatched to search the globe for Sita, it was understood that only Hanuman had the feature-set necessary to infiltrate Lanka and find Sita without being harmed.
Seems like a fun mission, no? God entrusts you with something that will make you famous for all of time should you end up successful. Plus, you get to meet the most beautiful woman in the world and get her blessings in your devotion to Rama. Sita is the goddess of fortune, so she never leaves the devotees poor. Even if they are materially destitute, Sita ensures that they get whatever they need to keep their devotion alive. Hanuman was thus anxious to find Sita, for he knew it would bring happiness to both her and Rama.
Though he was all by himself in the latter stages, Hanuman still managed to infiltrate Lanka and scour the city. Lanka was situated across a massive ocean, so only Hanuman had the ability to leap far enough into the air to make it across. Despite making it to Lanka, he couldn’t find Sita. He saw pretty much everything else, even things he wish he hadn’t seen. Imagine flipping through the television channels and accidentally stumbling upon a pornographic or extremely violent program. The intention is not to watch something like this, especially if the mind is assigned the task of serving God.
Hanuman was forced to see similarly undesirable things in Lanka, yet his consciousness remain fixed on the task at hand. Only the purest souls are capable of remaining aloof in this way. It is for this reason that the Vaishnava gurus recommend that we abstain from meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. Simple renunciation by itself will not bring full God consciousness, but the aforementioned sinful activities work best at inhibiting the development of the consciousness in the proper direction.
Seeing unwanted things wasn’t Hanuman’s worst problem. He finally had to settle on the fact that maybe Sita wasn’t alive. Maybe Ravana had killed her or maybe she couldn’t stand the separation from her dearly beloved husband. What was Hanuman going to do now? If he returned to Rama and told Him what happened, the Lord would be devastated, for He is attached at the heart to Sita. If Hanuman went back and didn’t say anything, that would be equally as bad. Hanuman was punished if he did and punished if he didn’t.
It is one thing to go over these options as a theoretical exercise, but Hanuman was running out of time. He had to make a decision right away as to what should be done. He was in a hostile territory, all by himself, with no texting devices, computers or telephones available for retrieving help. The outcome rested with him and his ability to make the proper decision. What did Hanuman do? What other choice did he have? Of course he kept fighting ahead. Whatever option would best bring about the welfare of Shri Rama is the one Hanuman would take. As returning to Kishkindha wouldn’t help Rama, Hanuman decided to forge ahead, to continue the search for Sita.
Based on his decision we see that no one is more glorious than Hanuman. All he has in life is his devotion to Rama, and in this sense he is the wealthiest person in the world. It is said that Rama is Bhagavan because He has so many wonderful fortunes to His credit, and they are all present to the fullest extent. But in one sense Hanuman is wealthier than Shri Rama because he has the Lord and His wife residing within his heart. Then just imagine how wealthy the person who keeps Hanuman within their thoughts and prayers is. Who could ever end up a loser in life if they daily remember Hanuman and his relentless pursuit of success in the mission assigned to him? Hanuman would go on to find Sita and bring about Rama’s delight, and if we are similarly unrelenting in remembering Shri Hanuman and following devotional service, there is no doubt that we will bring a smile to the face of the sweet Vanara warrior, who is forever undeterred in his devotion.
“The time for action has come,
But doubt over what should be done.
Should I go home or just stay here,
Both are bad, so path remains unclear.”
Such pressure has been seen before never,
To beat the ticking clock otherwise lose chance forever.
This dire situation Hanuman did face,
Handled it with poise, resolve and grace.
Sita, Rama’s wife he would eventually find,
For devotion to God always consumes his mind.