“Moreover, she, who has eyes like a deer cub and is very experienced with this grove, being emaciated due to thinking of Rama, will surely come here.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 14.46)
athavā mṛga śāva akṣī vanasya asya vicakṣaṇā |
vanam eṣyati sā ca iha rāma cintā anukarśitā ||
On a prior occasion he thought that he had found her. Deep inside the palace of the King of Lanka, Ramadutta thought for sure that a beautiful woman he was looking at was the missing wife of Shri Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the warrior prince of Ayodhya in whose service Hanuman was faithfully engaged. Yet after a momentary period of elation marked by jumping up and down and kissing his monkey tail, Hanuman came back down to earth and thought a little more clearly. The beautiful woman he was looking at couldn’t be Sita, for the symptoms of her personage were not a match for the daughter of King Janaka. Moreover, the darkness in ambiance and behavior of the scene in question did not square with the purity of Rama’s wife. But now, in a different place and time, under conditions auspicious for that fateful meeting, Hanuman knew he was on to something.
What was wrong with the inside of the palace? Why wouldn’t Sita have been there? The scene was similar to something out of a brothel or nightclub. So many beautiful women were there, passed out drunk from a long night of partying and enjoying with each other and their husband, the King of Lanka. Ravana lived to eat and drink, so in his mind he used his time wisely. He acquired tremendous powers and through fighting won beautiful women as wives. With so much physical strength, he was able to secure an opulent city and fill it with sensual delights. Within that palace Hanuman saw the leader of the city passed out as well, amidst rows of cooked animal flesh and empty vessels of wine.
Sita could not have been in such a scene enjoying with Ravana because that goes against her nature. The pure souls stay amidst purity. Even in situations where the external surroundings are not conducive to remembrance of the Supreme Lord, their connection to the divine consciousness never breaks. Sita would never have been intoxicated in Lanka nor would she have appeared to be beautifully dressed and pleased in such a situation. If anything, due to the separation from her husband, she would be terribly aggrieved, and never once would she look towards the way of that sinful leader of cruel deeds.
Ravana took Sita to Lanka by force, and through backhanded means at that. Though boastful of his prowess, he didn’t have the courage to take on Rama in a fair fight, for he was previously warned that he would lose in an instant. Nevertheless, after Ravana took Sita away in secret, he tried to win her over with flattering words. He also spoke of his opulence and his previous ousting of his brother Kuvera from Lanka, as if this were supposed to impress Sita, the chaste wife of Rama. Kuvera is a demigod, living in the mode of goodness, so how could she be impressed with an ogre who unjustifiably attacked his innocent brother? Ravana thought this was not only a source of pride but something to be mentioned to a woman he was trying to woo.
Sita then offered a series of brilliant comparisons to show the difference between Rama and Ravana, or in essence good and evil. Favorable and unfavorable can change depending on the situation, so true good and evil can only refer to God and those who are against Him. The good is that which stays in the Lord’s company, always hoping to please Him and following His orders aimed at bringing about the divine understanding. Evil is that which goes against the purification of consciousness, which seeks to strike out the divine influence from society. This itself is humorous and representative of the height of stupidity, as the very concept of an existence proves the divine’s existence. If you could wipe out everything, including your own ability to think that there is no God, only then would God’s influence be fully removed.
The evil try to thwart the divine influence in terms of the ability of others to worship. Hence Ravana and his ilk are always evil, and Sita and her followers are always on the side of good. She could never be won over by Ravana, and not only because she was lawfully wedded to Rama. She enjoyed her husband’s company more than anyone else’s, so she already experienced the highest taste. Imagine purchasing a top of the line high-definition television system, watching all your programs on it for years, and then suddenly going back to standard definition. Obviously you will not be too happy, and not necessarily because the new television set is deficient. It’s just that you have grown accustomed to a superior viewing experience, which you now come to expect.
“How can that female swan who is accustomed to sporting with the king of swans amidst lotus flowers ever cast her eyes on a water-crow that stays amidst bunches of grass?” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 56.20)
Sita’s superior experience was in regular association. Rama was like a swan, always amidst lotus flowers, and Ravana was like a crow, rummaging through garbage and lowly weeds. Thus Sita, the beloved wife of the swan, could not now start enjoying the garbage life of eating meat, drinking to your heart’s content, and instilling terror in others. Indeed, these are the behaviors of the lowest in society, who have fallen so far down that they are reduced to homelessness. Such persons are pitied by the saints and every effort is made to reform them, not imitate them. Though Ravana lived like such a desperate and lost soul, he thought that Rama was the one who was poverty-stricken, for He was residing in the forest at the time.
To Sita the forest was just fine, more suitable than any opulent palace, for she enjoyed her husband’s company there. The pristine setting of the forest is just the place for Sita, Rama and Lakshmana, the Lord’s younger brother, to reside, for the quiet setting allows their qualities to shine forth. In the austere environment, the watchers harbor a stronger attachment to the divine trio, much more so than when the same group is sitting on a throne dressed in royal garb. We enjoy the company of our friends and family not when they are busy at work or holding an important position in society, but when they are spending time with us away from their other obligations. In the same way, the Supreme Lord’s company is best appreciated and cherished when the reverential attitude is stripped away, when there is pure love directed at Him.
Hanuman, the valiant warrior assigned the task of finding Sita, was now in a grove consisting mainly of Ashoka trees. This was the one area he had yet to search in Lanka. After surveying the wonderful scenery and the beautiful trees, Hanuman perched himself onto a tree and waited for Sita. He was pretty sure that she would come by this way, for he knew her tendencies. Unlike the inside of Ravana’s palace, this place would be more to her liking.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see Hanuman referring to Sita’s beautiful eyes, which are like those of a deer cub. The comparison is intentional, as deer live in the forest areas. Sita’s eyes were stunningly beautiful, showing off her purity and innocence. With those wonderful eyes she would lovingly gaze at her husband Rama and thus give Him so much pleasure. Those eyes had no trouble seeing in the forest, for Sita was known for being expert at traversing the wilderness. Though she was a princess, she was not coddled or spoiled in any way. She gave up royal opulence to serve her husband, instantly giving her worldwide fame. Anasuya, the wife of the sage Atri, appreciated Sita and knew of her history when she hosted Sita, Rama and Lakshmana during a visit. It is quite astonishing that a person growing up in royalty would suddenly give up everything, but Sita had no attachment to material opulence or fame. She enjoyed the nature that her husband created, for He is the very same Narayana, the source of men.
Hanuman also knew that Sita would be distressed from thinking about Rama. In that condition, she would be more likely to roam through the woods, as that was the setting when she last saw her husband. She lived with Him in the wilderness for upwards of thirteen years already, with one year remaining in Rama’s exile term. In the initial period after Sita went missing, Rama noticed the signs of spring in the forest, and these signs reminded Him of Sita and how much she enjoyed the blooming flowers.
If nature’s beauty created a longing in Rama to be with His wife, the same desire would exist in Sita. Roaming the forest would help to remind her of her husband, so Hanuman was banking on this characteristic in her. Though the meeting wouldn’t take place in exactly the way he thought, Hanuman’s overall characterization of Sita was correct. By meeting her, he would fulfill the mission assigned to him. He would deliver to her the life-giving news that Rama was on His way to rescue her and that she needn’t worry. That beautiful lady with the eyes of a deer cub was so pleased by Hanuman’s bravery and kindness that to this day she is still his greatest well-wisher, giving him whatever he needs. Sita is the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi, so there is no end to the wealth that she can distribute. Yet all Hanuman wants is the ability to worship Sita and Rama, and so the beloved daughter of King Janaka provides all the necessary tools for him to perform that worship.
From his perch on situation below Hanuman spies,
Looking for Sita, she of deer-cub like eyes.
The forest to her like a second home,
Looking for Rama around it she’d roam.
With Supreme Swan she developed higher taste,
So with ogre-king of Lanka time she wouldn’t waste.
Thus recounting qualities of Sita so pure,
Of seeing her here Hanuman was now sure.
Meeting in that Ashoka grove, but in different spot,
Gave her news of Rama, despair to temporarily stop.