Monday, August 13, 2012

The Telltale Signs

Sita Devi“After seeing that wide-eyed, irreproachable daughter of the king, he understood her to be Sita based on the various indications.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 15.40)

tām samīkṣya viśāla akṣīm rāja putrīm aninditām |
tarkayām āsa sītā iti kāraṇaiḥ upapādayan ||

In the distance Hanuman saw a beautiful woman of wonderful qualities that appeared to be masked by outside factors. Many comparisons were thus made to try to describe what Hanuman saw. The vision was like a single flame of a fire covered by smoke. She looked like the full moon covered by black clouds. It was like a peerless reputation ruined by a false scandal. He could make her out with difficulty like a scriptural verse that had undergone a change of meaning due to a lack of culture. In these ways Hanuman extracted the nectar from the situation, finding the good and discarding the bad.

In the absence of purification the tendency is to do just the opposite; take the bad and ignore the good. How else would intoxication be rampant in a society where so many wonderful beverages are already available? The mangoes provided by nature make a wonderful pulp that can turn into drinks like mango juice and lassi. The same goes for other fruits as well. The resulting beverages are intoxicating in their own right, except they don’t cause a blurring of the consciousness, wherein you see things to be what they are not. They don’t cause you to drive erratically or urinate without control. They don’t make you do things that you regret, nor do they damage your liver. Taken in moderation and in the proper mindset these beverages, which are relatively inexpensive, are far more delightful than intoxicants.

Yet the more common drinks are beer and other kinds of liquor. Wine is popular too. The true nectar is ignored in place of subpar beverages. Of course the deluded mind thinks otherwise. The thought is that somehow the intoxication from alcohol consumption will lead to a better condition, though last weekend’s binge proved otherwise. Every time there are negative effects and the same behavior repeated, the expectation is for a different outcome. This is like placing your hand in a fire, getting burned, swearing to never do it again, and then doing it again.

The beautiful parks and scenery provided by nature uplift the human spirit, but in ignorance the tendency is to sit inside in front of the television watching scripted performances or playing video games. The basic walk through the park is not difficult; it doesn’t require much effort, but there is the saying, “a body at rest stays at rest.” Therefore it is difficult to break out of a pattern of lethargy when the path of least resistance is the easier choice.

More importantly, instead of stories about betrayal, deceit, victory, triumph and romance pertaining to ordinary living entities, there is a wealth of knowledge available in the Vedic literatures. These texts are full of philosophy, history, poetry, and descriptions of the Supreme Absolute Truth. He is the true nectar in this world and His presence exists within every single creature. The fact that we can contemplate on a Truth at all is evidence enough of His existence. He is the existence of existences, the taste of water, the sound in ether, the ability in man, and the original life of everything.

“O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.8)

Understanding Him requires culture, which is created through education. With that education gradually the tendency shifts from accepting the garbage and ignoring the nectar to the reverse. Evidence of the cultured mindset was seen with Shri Hanuman in Lanka, though he never required an explicit shift. He had a natural affection for the Supreme Lord, whom he met personally in the forest of Kishkindha. Hanuman didn’t need to study the Vedas, read the Upanishads, or ponder sankhya philosophy. He was already a learned scholar and an adept mystic, but these traits were just supplements to his devotion to God. He relied most on this devotion, and it proved to benefit him immensely.

Shri HanumanSent to look for Rama’s wife Sita, Hanuman entered Lanka, the enemy territory ruled over by the evil king Ravana. Rama was an incarnation of God. Hanuman met Him and His brother Lakshmana near Mount Rishyamukha and then brokered an alliance between the brothers and the Vanara-king Sugriva. Hanuman was Sugriva’s chief minister, so it was natural for him to become Rama’s servant as well. Just as when two businesses merge the employees all work for the new conglomerate, though Hanuman was technically Sugriva’s minister, he also worked for Rama now. This was just fine by him. In fact, this role pleased him more than any previous one.

Just because it pleased him didn’t mean that the work was easy. On the contrary, it was tremendously taxing. He had to use every resource available to him just to make it to Lanka. Then there was the mental hurdle of dealing with the shrinking window of time allotted for success. In professional sports, it is seen that the athletes have around the same level of ability. For instance, if you watch professional tennis players practice, you likely couldn’t tell the difference between the player ranked one thousand and the player ranked number one.

Yet their rankings are so far apart for a reason. When it comes time to perform, the physical ability takes a backseat to the mental fortitude. It is the mind which tells the body when and how to invoke those abilities. The higher ranked player knows how to tap into his abilities without fear, while the lower ranked player gets bogged down by the pressure, crippled with the fear of failure, or in some cases the fear of winning. The same holds true in other sports, as in American football many quarterbacks have terrific arm-strength and accuracy in practice but during the games they have trouble completing a single pass.

Hanuman’s mental toughness equaled his physical ability, and so he was able to continue on with his mission. He finally made it into a grove of Ashoka trees situated next to the head palace in Lanka. Ravana took Sita back to his kingdom through a ruse and tried to win her over as his wife. She wasn’t having any of it, so she was now in this garden left to wait for an uncertain future. Hanuman had heard of her sparkling attributes, but upon seeing this woman from a distance, it was difficult to believe that she could be Sita. It looked like there was gold there, but it was covered up by so many other things. Nevertheless, if we are to hit a goldmine, the surrounding dirt has no bearing on the gold itself. In the same way, the female Rakshasas harassing Sita, the dirt upon her once beautiful dress, the lack of ornaments on her body, and her state of emaciation could not strip away her divine nature.

“Thereupon taking the ring and placing it on his head, with folded hands, that foremost and best of monkeys, praised Rama's lotus feet and then departed.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 44.15)

It would have been very easy for Hanuman to look past Sita and continue his search elsewhere. But he is not known to take the easy route. As a pure-hearted devotee, he notices the divine influence wherever he goes. He pays homage to the celestials in charge of the various departments of the material creation. Prior to leaving for his search, Hanuman accepted Rama’s sacred ring and then bowed his head before the Lord. Even before entering the Ashoka grove, he prayed to Sita, Rama and Lakshmana to grant him success. Though he was in the process of acquiring a stature greater than God’s, Hanuman never thought himself to be better than anyone else. He was just doing his job, and it was for the purpose of pleasing others, not himself.

He acquired that higher status due to Rama’s grace. As God, Rama could have found Sita Himself, but then that would have robbed the world of the sterling example of Shri Hanuman, who can never be remembered enough. The many verses in the Sundara-kand of Valmiki’s Ramayana provide so many excuses to think about Hanuman. Every day there is a new opportunity to remember him and rely on his example to find the highest bliss in life. The true nectar in this world is the presence of the Supreme Lord and it can be tasted very easily by chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

In Closing:

That woman who previously was by husband’s side,

Now spotted  in the Ashoka grove with her wide eyes.

 

Sterling in character, Sita was beyond reproach,

Towards her now Rama’s servant ready to approach.

 

As such sincere devotion to God he gives,

In highest culture Shri Hanuman lives.

 

Due to that mindset,

Vision of Sita to get.

 

The divine features her presence did indicate,

Remember Hanuman always and ignorance eradicate.

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