“She is the woman for whose sake Rama is suffering in four ways: compassion, pity, grief and love; compassion due to a woman being lost, pity because she is a dependent, grief because a wife is lost, and love because she is very dear to Him.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 15.49-50)
iyam sā yat kṛte rāmaḥ caturbhiḥ paritapyate |
kāruṇyena ānṛśamsyena śokena madanena ca ||
strī pranaṣṭā iti kāruṇyād āśritā iti ānṛśamsyataḥ |
patnī naṣṭā iti śokena priyeti madanena ca ||
The Supreme Lord’s suffering is different from ours. His is not indicative of a defect nor does it lead to any harm going forward. Anything He does on a personal level is beneficial to those directly affected. With respect to Shri Hanuman’s observation noted above, the suffering is to show the unmatched level of affection Shri Rama holds for His eternal consort, the daughter of King Janaka, Sita Devi. Moreover, the external show of suffering helps to fuel the fire of devotion in exalted servants like Hanuman, who always think of what they can do for God instead of what God can do for them.
The latter mentality is quite understandable. One person is deemed to be superior, so why shouldn’t they be approached for help? Ah, but what is it exactly that we need help with? Do we need money? How about success in romance? Landing that new job sure wouldn’t hurt. The help in these areas isn’t required from the Supreme Lord directly, as His energies take care of the necessary results, apportioning them fairly and in a timely manner.
One person really wants it to rain. Their plants are dying, and so hydration from the heavens is the only thing to save the plants that took so long to grow. The next door neighbor, however, has no explicit desire for it to rain. He is just going about his business, taking whatever comes his way. “Easy come, easy go,” is his motto in life. When the rain does come, the person who asked God for it thinks that they have been helped, while the neighbor likely doesn’t even notice the rain. The rain was scheduled to arrive on time regardless of the explicit request. And irrespective of the neighbor’s apathy towards the rain, the heavens were set to pour down water at a specific time.
When asking for things from God, the personal benefit arrives only when there is a desire in devotion. Devotion is the soul’s constitutional position. It already manifests in so many visible ways in our everyday affairs. Service is always offered; irrespective of class or gender. With devotion to God, the service is offered to the one entity who is truly deserving of it. With the petitions made at His lotus feet, a direct intervention results, as He considers His devotees to be His friends.
samo 'haṁ sarva-bhūteṣu
na me dveṣyo 'sti na priyaḥ
ye bhajanti tu māṁ bhaktyā
mayi te teṣu cāpy aham
“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.29)
Hanuman is one such friend. More than just asking for things from Rama, Hanuman went one step further by risking his life to please the beloved eldest son of King Dasharatha. Hanuman braved his way through many obstacles, both physical and mental, to make it into the Ashoka grove in Lanka. The devoted wife of Rama, Sita, was likely to be there. Hanuman spotted a woman from a distance, and to make sure that she was Sita, he reviewed some of her qualities in his mind.
In this particular instance, we see that Hanuman is confident that the woman is Sita based on the types of distress she could cause for Rama. Her divine features made her a perfect match for Rama, and because of these qualities any person who was married to her would be in the types of distress that Hanuman saw in Rama prior to leaving for Lanka. Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana were back in Kishkindha awaiting news of Sita’s location. The Vanara-king Sugriva had dispatched his massive army to scour the earth to find the missing princess, who was taken away from Rama’s side through a backhanded plot executed by the evil king of Lanka, Ravana.
Hanuman says that Rama was distressed in four ways. First there was compassion. This was due to a woman having gone missing. Playing the role of a kshatriya king, Rama’s voluntarily accepted occupational duty was to protect the innocent. Women and children are the innocent members of society, and when they are left unprotected, there are so many negative consequences. Children are the future, so if they are corrupted the future generation of leaders will be corrupt. If women are left unprotected, the women-hunters can have their way with them and then leave them all alone afterwards. Illegitimate children result from illicit sex, which increases the likelihood that many children won’t be loved and protected while they grow up.
Rama felt pity, or mercy, because Sita was a dependent. In the Vedic tradition, the marriage vows are supposed to mean something. The wife is to serve the husband as her primary deity and in return the husband must protect her for her entire life. Rama was known as the greatest protector in the world, so for Sita to go missing did not reflect well on Him. She insisted on accompanying Him for the fourteen year exile stint in the forest, and so Rama was always attentive to her wellbeing. The fact that she had gone missing increased His feelings of mercy.
Rama felt grief because Sita was His wife. Though they didn’t know each other prior to marriage, they felt the highest levels of affection for each other. To lose one’s wife in such a way surely will lead to grief, and the constant worry is over when the reunion with the missing wife will take place.
Rama suffered from love as well, as Sita was very dear to Him. Rama is an incarnation of God and Sita an incarnation of the goddess of fortune. Though one of the properties of the Supreme Lord is that He is atmarama, or completely self-satisfied, He shows signs of love when separated from His beloved because that is the influence the greatest divine lover has on Him. Sita is such a wonderful devotee that she wins Rama over with her undivided attention offered to Him.
Hanuman knew that Rama was tormented in these ways and he could see for himself that Sita was also afflicted greatly due to the separation. This only made Hanuman more anxious for success. And how can such a dedicated servant ever fail? He knows the position of both Sita and Rama and yet he still acts as if they depend on him. This is a wonderful attitude to have, and it is thus no wonder that Hanuman is worshiped so much to this day.
With vision of Sita, who golden garment wore,
Hanuman understood Rama’s torments four.
A warrior to protect innocent at all cost,
So pity that an innocent woman was lost.
Protection of superiors dependents take,
So pity because Sita’s life was at stake.
Losing a wife the cause of grief,
Especially one of beauty beyond belief.
Love also because Sita to Him very dear,
Source of Rama’s agonies to Hanuman clear.