“Oh, when shall I see that noble lady’s flawless face, with its raised nose, white teeth, pristine smile, eyes like lotus petals, and which resembles the lord of stars, the bright moon?” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.68)
tad unnasam pāṇḍura dantam avraṇam |
śuci smitam padma palāśa locanam |
drakṣye tad āryā vadanam kadā nv aham |
prasanna tārā adhipa tulya darśanam ||
A killer smile, a sleek figure, an enchanting countenance - these things can be quite harmful to one who is trying to control their senses. One who is sober, or dhira, cannot be distracted from his assigned duties in life despite any impediment. Yet the man vying for supremacy in spiritual efforts, for overcoming the influence of the senses that have led him astray for far too long, can best be attacked by the sight of a beautiful woman, who can lure him into the depths of danger. In this respect, the eyes of the more renounced spiritualists steer clear of women, even if the women potentially being viewed pose no threat. In the spiritual world, however, such rules don’t apply. With the most beautiful woman, her vision is always appreciated, beneficial, and never harmful to one’s spiritual aspirations. The wise eagerly anticipate that meeting with her and take any and all risk to ensure that the successful outcome arrives before their very eyes, that they drink the sweet nectar that is the beautiful spiritual form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead’s eternal consort, Sita Devi.
One person saw her, however, and didn’t seem to gain any benefit. The king of Lanka during a particular period of time in the Treta Yuga took Sita way from the side of her husband through a nefarious plot. Sita is the energy of God, the purified form of it. She doesn’t know any other business except loving her husband. As a divine personality, she can grant benedictions to others, such as by expanding herself in the form of opulence and wealth, but these valuables have an ideal use. Just as a currency may be traded for goods and services in a specific country, the notes printed up by the goddess of fortune and distributed to those she favors are meant to be cashed in for service to her husband, the Supreme Lord Himself, who roamed the earth during Ravana’s time in the guise of a warrior prince named Rama. Not any ordinary prince mind you; this was the most beautiful and the handsomest man in the world, who also happened to be the most capable bow warrior.
When the wonderful benedictions given by Sita Devi are used for other purposes, those that lack a relation to Rama’s pleasure, they can cause great harm to the person having temporary possession of them. Imagine having a car battery and installing it incorrectly in the car. There can be both sparks and an explosion when the battery is put in the wrong way. Imagine having scissors, a key, or some other metallic object and deciding to stick it into an electrical socket. These actions seem silly, but then so is taking the opulence provided by the goddess of fortune and using it for any purpose besides devotional service, the real occupational duty of the soul.
Ravana tried to use Sita Devi for his own pleasure. He didn’t have the courage to fight Rama one on one to win her hand. He knew from the words of Akampana, one of his fiendish contemporaries, that Rama would smoke him in battle in an instant. Therefore he approached Sita in a false guise and then forcefully took her back to his island kingdom of Lanka. He got to see her in person, marvel at her beauty, and personally give himself over to her. Yet she rejected him outright, as she has no desire to be with any man except Rama. Ravana was anxious to see Sita and he got his desire fulfilled. Yet his vision was clouded, and this flaw would cause him to act in the wrong way. When something is done improperly, there are negative consequences; otherwise where does the incorrectness come into play?
In Ravana’s case, the punishment would come in two stages. First there was the visit by Hanuman, Rama’s messenger. Lord Rama, the prince of Ayodhya and all-knowing Supreme Lord, could have found Sita Himself, but then what work would have been left for others? If one person in the company took on all the tasks, what would the other employees do? In the business environment, it’s difficult for one man to do everything, but we know by the wonders of this creation that the Supreme Lord can do whatever He wants. Through His energies the large land masses known as planets float in the air without any machine to prop them up. The material elements operate seemingly like clockwork, which is again instituted by the Supreme Lord and His energies. Therefore finding Sita would have been no problem for Rama.
Hanuman and the Vanaras residing in Kishkindha were very eager to please the Supreme Lord; so they were given opportunities for service. Hanuman was the most eager, so he was provided the most difficult task. One who can complete the toughest mission under very difficult conditions earns even more fame with their success. The obstacles faced by Hanuman were unimaginable, so much so that they tax the brain of the person who hears about them. He had to deal with people obstructing his path, the fact that the enemy territory was infested with ogres given to sinful behavior, and his own mental demons. Doubt can get the better of even the most confident person, especially when the time factor is considered. A person can be dexterous and resourceful, but if they start running out of time to finish their task, their abilities get neutralized. You can have the best quarterback in the world with the ball in his hands, but if there is little time left on the clock, there is not much he can do to help his team win.
Hanuman had to deal with the time factor in relation to Sita’s well-being. If she was in Lanka as had been previously learned, then surely Ravana was waiting to kill her. If Hanuman failed to find Sita, what would he tell his friends back home? How could he look Rama in the face? Hanuman had no reason to lament or be disappointed, for just getting to Lanka and searching the area unnoticed were amazing feats in their own right. But he is never focused on temporary accomplishments or patting himself on the back. The mission that would please Rama was not successfully complete yet, so that’s all he was worried about.
Finally, Hanuman decided to search the one place he hadn’t entered yet: a nearby Ashoka grove. Just prior to entering it, he offered prayers to Sita, Rama and Lakshmana, the Lord’s younger brother. He also asked the many divine figures in the heavenly realm to be favorable upon him. In the above referenced verse we see him asking the question to himself of when he will finally see Sita. He lists her specific qualities as a reminder of why she is so brilliant. He also reveals his eagerness to have the divine vision of such a wonderful person, who had no flaws whatsoever.
Today, we know from Hanuman’s stature that his eagerness to see Sita, a beautiful woman even by the material estimation, was not harmful, but for Ravana it was. Ravana eventually lost everything because of his desire to see Sita, while Hanuman gained eternal fame and adoration from pious people looking to remain committed to the path of bhakti-yoga. In the Vedic tradition, it is emphatically stressed that a man should look upon every woman except his wife as his own mother. This way the urges for sex are curbed and the proper respect is given to females. Regardless of how the female behaves, whether she is married or unmarried, young or old, the same respectful treatment should be offered.
This guiding principle reveals the difference in outcomes. Hanuman saw Sita properly, even though he had never met her before. He eagerly anticipated being graced with the presence of Rama’s wife, but Hanuman had no desire to enjoy Sita in the way that Ravana did. Rather, anyone who sees the beautiful princess of Videha, the beloved daughter of Maharaja Janaka, and worships her in the proper mood can be granted only benedictions in life. Hanuman’s eagerness would pay off, as he would later beat down every opposing force that came his way.
In his initial meeting with Sita, whom he would finally find in the Ashoka wood almost emaciated due to the pain of separation from Rama, there would be some difficulties to overcome. Hanuman was so anxious to defeat Ravana and make Rama happy that he suggested to Sita that she come back to Kishkindha with him. Hearing this, Sita practically insulted Hanuman by saying that his monkey nature must have been coming out, for how could he suggest such a ridiculous thing like carrying her on his back? Hanuman felt a little hurt, but he did not get angry nor did his love for Sita diminish. Sita’s reservation related entirely to her love for Rama. She did not want to touch another man again. She was forced to by Ravana, but her vow was to always be devoted to Rama in every act. Moreover, she did not want her husband’s reputation sullied by the fact that someone else had to come and rescue His wife.
The admonition was harmless, and Sita would be so pleased by Hanuman and his bravery that she would shower him with so many gifts, benedictions that continue to arrive to this day. On his way out of Lanka to return to Rama, Hanuman would be bound up and have his tail set on fire by Ravana. While being paraded around the city in this way, Sita saw Hanuman and immediately prayed that the fire would feel as cool as ice for him. Of course who can ever deny the requests of Rama’s wife, who has more accumulated pious deeds than anyone else? Hanuman, not feeling the pain of the fire anymore, freed himself from the shackles and then proceeded to use his fiery tail to burn Lanka. This was how Ravana’s first punishment for having taken Sita arrived.
Ravana’s ultimate reward would be delivered by Rama Himself, who would shoot the arrows that would take his life. Thus Ravana’s lusty desires led to his eventual demise, whereas Hanuman’s pure desires relating to Sita brought him eternal fame. To this day, Sita ensures that Hanuman has whatever he needs to continue his devotional practices. He daily sings the glories of Sita and Rama, and we daily remember and honor Hanuman, who keeps the divine couple safely within his heart. He had the sight of Sita that he wanted so badly, and everything favorable came about in his life because of that eagerness. Anyone who is similarly eager to see Hanuman and remember his bravery, courage, honor, dedication to piety, and perseverance in pleasing Rama will meet with auspiciousness in both this life and the next.
Hanuman was full of eagerness,
To see Sita, she of face flawless.
Her countenance resembled the moon that is bright,
Lotus-petal eyes and white teeth made for brilliant sight.
Taking Sita, Ravana did something very unwise,
Through Hanuman and Rama, to find ultimate demise.
Hanuman had similar desire but it was pure,
So for benedictions he was assured.
Sita’s prayer to fix his burning tail,
Her gifts to devotees never fail.