“How shall I today see in my path that weak, helpless woman who was overwhelmed by the strength of that vile creature of wicked deeds, whose beautifully adorned exterior masks his harshness? (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.69)
kṣudreṇa pāpena nṛśamsa karmaṇā |
sudāruṇa alānkṛta veṣa dhāriṇā |
bala abhibhūtā abalā tapasvinī |
katham nu me dṛṣṭa pathe adya sā bhavet ||
“You can put on all the jewelry you want, but you’re still not fooling me. A golden helmet, valuable earrings hanging off your many ears, the jewels around your neck and arms, exquisite weaponry and a wonderful chariot may be able to fool you into thinking that you are somebody, but to me you’re just a vile creature with no moral standing whatsoever, a pathetic person who had to mask his true figure in order to steal away another man’s wife, resorting to trickery instead of invoking the fighting prowess you so proudly boast of.” The grim-visaged ruler of Lanka was a nefarious character, not worthy of respect from anyone, including Hanuman. The dependable, noble, perseverant, kind and ever-dedicated messenger from Kishkindha was ready to find Sita Devi, for his hard work was due to pay off eventually. In thinking of the beloved princess’ wonderful qualities, Hanuman couldn’t help but also remember how she ended up in such a terrible condition.
Hanuman was in Lanka to look for Sita Devi, Lord Rama’s wife. One of the more important moments from the Ramayana, which is Rama’s life and pastimes put into poetry form in the Sanskrit language, Hanuman was about to meet success in his mission. Nothing was given to Hanuman in this endeavor; he earned his rightful place in this historic moment. He did gather some intelligence relating to where Sita had been taken, but this was like telling someone that the person you are looking for lives in the United States. A geographical area that large isn’t much of a clue to the seeker, so they must make use of their searching abilities to find success.
To add further difficulty, there was no government department to greet Hanuman kindly. Instead, the residents of Lanka were under the rule of their leader, Ravana, who was endowed with every ignoble quality. He was keeping Sita hidden away in an Ashoka grove so that no one would find her. He was also always fearful of enemies coming to attack him. He was especially afraid of Lord Rama arriving. Only the foolish would view the Supreme Lord and His emissaries as enemies, but this was Ravana’s sad condition. The lord of creatures, the fountainhead of all energies, had descended to earth to grace those with a pure vision with the chance to see and hear about God.
On the flip side, those who are driven by sensual pursuits, so much so that their good judgment remains tucked away behind their sinful desires, not only cannot recognize God, but they actually take religious principles, the guidelines that help mankind to attain the proper end, to be impediments in their path towards happiness. Sita and Rama were peacefully residing in the Dandaka forest, not bothering anyone. They were members of the royal community in Ayodhya, but they had given everything up in favor of honoring a promise made by Rama’s father, King Dasharatha, to his youngest wife Kaikeyi.
Thieves typically have a motive. Theft involves taking something that you want, that which doesn’t belong to you. Rama, His younger brother Lakshmana, and Sita were living in a forest hut that Lakshmana had built. What could any person want from them? Ravana, though possessing immense opulence in his own kingdom, nevertheless found something to try to steal. From the accounts of historic events found in scripture, so many life lessons can be learned. The symbolism isn’t there on purpose, but it just becomes obvious to notice based on the workings of man. The general course of events in the present time carries the same symbolism, but it is more difficult to recognize. With the Supreme Lord and His specific activities, the events are arranged accordingly so that both pleasure and lessons can be derived from the actions of the main characters.
If acquiring material wealth, which includes real opulence like gold and exquisite jewelry, and sensual delights, such as animal flesh, flowing wine and endless sex life, was the real aim of life, Ravana would have had no reason to bother anyone. In today’s world, his Lanka would be the place to visit, a heaven on earth place for those who enjoy the fast paced life of casino cities. There was no shortage of any material amenity in Lanka; Ravana himself was getting drunk on a regular basis. What need, therefore, did the king of Lanka have for flying to the remote forest of Dandaka and bothering people who were living the vanaprastha lifestyle.
In the Vedic tradition, every injunction is meant to further the goal of pure God consciousness. When this mindset is present at the end of life, the living being has essentially reached full maturity. Notice that the maturation does not have anything to do with the body. There is no such thing as having a proper age for making the most out of life, nor is there any requirement relating to bodily possessions, familial relationships, or the performance of specific activities. The doctor is mature when they get a medical license, the lawyer when they graduate and pass the bar examination, the star athlete when they receive entry into their professional league of choice, etc. In this way we see that a state of maturation typically comes about from the achievement of a goal, something that is done through action.
Consciousness, however, is not dependent on anything, including knowledge and renunciation. Though acquiring knowledge about God and renouncing those things which keep the mind from thinking rationally can help in eventually tasting the fruit of existence, the final state of enlightenment is never dependent on any single object or process. If it were, then the activities themselves would take on a superior importance. If activities became strictly important, then certain manifestations of matter would become superior as well.
“Actually, the cultivation of knowledge or renunciation, which are favorable for achieving a footing in Krishna consciousness, may be accepted in the beginning, but ultimately they may also come to be rejected, for devotional service is dependent on nothing other than the sentiment or desire for such service.” (Shrila Prabhupada, The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 14)
Matter is an inferior energy, having no intrinsic relation to the spirit soul. Matter can help the soul, as the conditioned living entity resides in a home that is composed of the material elements, but this doesn’t mean that matter ever becomes a superior force. Since matter is inferior, no manifestation of it can ever become a prerequisite for reaching spiritual maturity.
What does this all mean exactly? In the larger scheme, there is no such thing as good or bad. The effects of time take away accumulated gains and miserable conditions. Progress and detriment, however, can play a vital role. This is where the aim of life comes into focus. The Vedas provide guidelines for human behavior so that progress towards the ultimate goal can steadily continue. The procedures themselves are not superior, as someone can reach the state of pure God consciousness very quickly through fortunate encounters and the grace of the Lord Himself, or it can take them many lifetimes within a human form of body even after following all the guidelines before achieving perfection.
To help in reaching the end of pure God consciousness, the timespan within the human life is divided into four periods. First there is student life, then married life, then the first stage of renunciation, followed by full and complete renunciation from material attachment. The third stage is known as vanaprastha, which means living a life in the forest. In vanaprastha one can take their spouse with them, as being married for so long naturally creates some type of attachment. There is, however, no obligation to work or support a family. Work generally exists for economic reasons, to ensure that the home is properly maintained and that nice food can be eaten and guests can be welcomed hospitably.
In vanaprastha the requirements of home aren’t there, as one can live in a simple hut or underneath a tree and eat the berries that nature gives. You can bathe in nearby rivers, and you can find clothing through simple garb like deerskin. Sita and Rama, though married and still rather young, briefly took to the third varna quite early in life, though they were not specifically after self-realization. The purpose of knowing your constitutional position is applicable only to those who can be illusioned by the external energy of matter. Rama is the internal energy of God, the same Supreme Lord that everyone else worships, ignores or hates. Sita is His immediate energy expansion, the pleasure potency. Therefore they can never come under the sway of the material energy, which operates only on the marginal potency expansions, i.e. we living entities. The marginal position comes from the fact that the living entities can choose to be under the control of either maya or Parabrahman. Maya is illusion, or that which is not Brahman, and Parabrahman is God.
In this particular situation we have two different lifestyles in two completely different places. One side is the fast-paced city life of Lanka, where material amenities abound. The other side is the quiet forest of Dandaka, where the residents don’t have any money, valuables, or sensual delights. The group in the latter situation is living the simple life out of respect for their elders. This is something Ravana couldn’t understand. He thought that Rama was a poor person unable to maintain even His claim to the kingdom of Ayodhya. Therefore, what could Sita want with Him? It is believed that a woman is attracted to beauty, strength, confidence, and fighting prowess after all, so once Sita would see Ravana and his amazing features, she would surely give up Rama’s association.
This again proves the intellectual inferiority of the gross materialists. The swans like Sita and Rama and their devotees actually understand every viewpoint. They are familiar with pious principles and the need for them, and they are also acquainted with the ways of material existence and why someone would surrender to them. On the other hand, the crows like Ravana only pay scant attention to their way of life, and they don’t have a clue as to why anyone would follow piety. Lacking authorized information about the differences between matter and spirit, such fools concoct theories as to why people accept religion. They reach a consensus conclusion that the pious only follow such principles because they are failures in material life. “They don’t have the ability to emerge victorious, so they worship an invisible God to remedy their pitiful situation.”
Ravana, for all his pomp, didn’t approach Sita in his original guise when he hatched up the scheme to take her. If women were so captivated by his opulence, why would he hide his figure? He knew he had no chance of winning Sita over on his own, especially when Rama was still by her side. Therefore he created a ruse which temporarily lured Rama away from the couple’s cottage. He then approached Sita in the guise of a mendicant, showing that he had no scruples whatsoever. After Sita let her guard down, Ravana revealed his true form and then forcibly took her back to Lanka, where he would try to win her over but fail miserably.
Hanuman remembered that beloved daughter of Janaka prior to entering the Ashoka grove, the one place in Lanka he had yet to search. He was anxious to meet Sita, for that is the nature of the saints. The person who was acting in Rama’s interest was desperate to have a meeting with the person who had captivated Rama’s heart, who was so devoted to Him that no one could believe her level of dedication. Sita wasn’t the ruler of a giant kingdom, nor was she openly inviting others to come and take benedictions from her, yet Hanuman wanted to see her all the same. For the saintly class, material opulence and dry renunciation are taken to be on an equal level, for in either case the aim is to remain connected with God, at least in consciousness. Whether Sita and Rama lived in the opulent kingdom of Ayodhya or in the quiet forest of Dandaka, Hanuman eagerly anticipated meeting them.
Hanuman did not like that Sita was alone in Lanka. Such a wonderful person didn’t deserve the treatment she got, so Hanuman was anxious to show her that a friend had come bearing good news, that Rama and the rest of the monkey army back in Kishkindha were ready to arrive and rescue her. Hanuman, though in the form of a monkey, which is known for stealing food and other items without any shame, was endowed with every divine quality. He had no need for self-realization, for he was acting out God consciousness on the biggest stage. His inner emotions are provided to the listener of the Ramayana to give pleasure to those looking to find maturity in life, those who want to reach the state of pure God consciousness so that the association with matter that has gone on since time immemorial can finally end.
Just as Hanuman gave relief to Sita by eventually meeting her, hearing of his exploits gives hope to the sincere souls looking to stay on the divine path. In the present age of Kali, the entire world is like the hedonistic paradise of Lanka, with the swans like Sita difficult to find. Therefore the sound vibrations passed down by the Vedas, including those in the sacred maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, are the most potent weapons of attack against maya. These sounds can penetrate any space, regardless of how unfavorable the circumstances may seem. Hanuman showed his brilliance in Lanka by finding Sita and then setting fire to the city on his way out. He would later return with Rama and the Vanaras to remove Ravana’s influence. Sita would be rescued and all would end well. Hanuman worried over how to find success in his mission, but because he saw everything properly, his meeting with Sita was never in doubt. Those who keep the vision of Rama’s greatest servant always in their mind will similarly be assured of seeing success in their spiritual pursuits.
Of his fighting prowess Ravana very proud,
But his ornaments only to act as a shroud.
Really a vile and despicable creature inside,
In a city full of sin and vice did he reside.
He forcibly took innocent Sita there,
Female ogres ordered to daily give her scare.
Sita, Rama and Lakshmana made wilderness their home,
Not bothering anyone, should have been left alone.
Thus to meet Sita Shri Hanuman very anxious,
Allayed her fears by presenting Rama’s ring precious.