Monday, September 10, 2012

More Than a Photograph

Sita holding Rama's ring“That shining yellow garment, which looked like a band of gold, was seen by the monkeys in a tree when dropped. They also saw principal ornaments on the earth which were certainly dropped by her and which made a tinkling sound.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 15.45-46)

pītam kanaka paṭṭa ābham srastam tad vasanam śubham |
uttarīyam naga āsaktam tadā dṛṣṭam plavam gamaiḥ ||
bhūṣaṇāni ca mukhyāni dṛṣṭāni dharaṇī tale |
anayā eva apaviddhāni svanavanti mahānti ca ||

Sita Devi’s dress was so splendorous that it looked like a shining band of gold. Such a unique vision wouldn’t go unnoticed, not even by monkeys perched on a tree. Strange it is for golden garments to come raining from the sky. Something must have been up. It was up to these monkeys to do a “Columbo” style investigation, wherein a crime was known to have been committed and only certain pieces of evidence were available at the time. Shri Hanuman, the most notable of the Vanaras in this area of the Kishkindha forest, was the private investigator assigned to the case. He held all the evidence in memory and later put the pieces together when necessary.

There was the garment like a shining band of gold and also principal ornaments that made a sound when they hit the ground. Hanuman, as if mentally recreating the initial incident, assembled the pieces of information together when observing a princess from afar. Endowed with a monkey shape from birth, Hanuman was at this time perched on a tree in an Ashoka grove situated next to the head palace of the king of Lanka, Ravana. On a reconnaissance mission, Hanuman had to find the missing princess of Videha without anyone finding him. Success also relied upon a proper identification. He had not met her previously, so he only had clues to go by.

He also didn’t have a photograph to use. That is one way to help the situation, but even the photograph can be deceiving. Taken at a specific angle and while the face is contorted a certain way the photograph can give off an image of someone that isn’t entirely accurate. It is for this reason that multiple photographs are more helpful when trying to locate someone that you haven’t met before. Hanuman had none of this; he only had information he gathered from hearing.

The ornaments and clothing were a key because only some of them had fallen off. The woman was being abducted at the time the monkeys saw her, so the descent of her clothing items was the result of a struggle. If only some of them fell, the rest of them likely remained on her person. Therefore if Hanuman could find someone who had the corresponding items on them, they would likely be Sita, the devoted wife of Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

God is more than an abstract figure that we only call out to in times of trouble. He has names, forms, attributes and pastimes, all of which are kindly described in the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. Rama is God’s personal incarnation as a warrior prince who plays the lead role in the real-life drama known as the Ramayana. Hanuman is also one of the principal characters, and an entire book, the Sundara-kanda, is dedicated to his exploits.

Sita possessed valuable ornaments and dresses because she was both a king’s daughter and a prince’s wife. She took it upon herself to always please her husband, to follow Him like a shadow and never fail to put a smile on His face. Shri Rama had the best wife in the world, one worthy of the Supreme Lord. Just the chance to go searching after such a wonderful person represented a boon, showing that Hanuman was no ordinary person. He could be trusted with this important mission because he had the same love and affection for Rama, though it was exercised in a different mood.

Shri HanumanHanuman is the greatest servant, and so he was sent to find the greatest wife of the greatest man on earth, with his travels to be documented in the greatest work of all time, the Ramayana. He would make the right match in pattern because of his keen intellect and his sharp memory. Sometimes it is said that one person’s memory is better than another’s, but in actuality memory is selectively sharp. Those things remembered initially are what are easier to recall later on. For instance, if what we did yesterday is pondered over many times going forward, it will be easier to remember many years from now. On the other hand, if we never again think about what we did yesterday, we won’t remember it in the distant future.

Hanuman obviously contemplated upon the information given to him, and this wasn’t a chore either. The mind takes the greatest pleasure in thinking about God, and thinking is helped by remembering. Therefore remembering the information about Sita given by the Vanaras and Shri Rama helped Hanuman to think about God, and that constant attention to thought, which is known as bhakti-yoga, enabled him to find success in one of the most difficult reconnaissance missions in history. Hanuman is the sterling example of fearlessness in devotion. He avoids the pitfalls relating to fear and self-doubt, and instead just goes full speed ahead with the orders handed down by Rama. We can follow suit by steadfastly chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, all the way up until the time of death, to achieve life’s mission.

In Closing:

To remember something in the aftermath,

It helps to have a photograph.

 

Especially beneficial to the eyes,

When stranger you must recognize.

 

But Hanuman had only monkeys’ word,

Along with information from Rama he heard.

 

Sita had dress like gold’s band,

Piece of which in Rishyamukha did land.

 

Ornaments that made tinkling sound,

Also on Sita, they fell to the ground.

 

Knew these matched what princess from afar wore,

With devotion Hanuman than a picture had more.

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