“Having reflected for a moment, the powerful Hanuman, with eyes overflowing with tears, lamented over Sita.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.2)
sa muhūrtam iva dhyātvā bāṣpa paryākulekṣaṇaḥ |
sītām āśritya tejasvī hanumān vilalāpa ha ||
Is it okay for a grown man to cry? What about someone who is in a position of authority, who is a teacher to present and future generations because of the work they do that is in the brightest spotlight? What if they are still worshiped to this day and they were known to cry in previous times of difficulty? Crying is typically a sign of weakness, an indication that the external conditions have won out over good sense and logic. But crying also indicates a strong emotional bond, and when the corresponding party is the Supreme Lord or someone very close to Him, the bond is always beneficial.
First, let’s start with why it’s bad to cry. We know that babies cry. They don’t know how to communicate, so if they are unhappy with something, they will simply cry. Craving instant happiness is the constant condition of the child, who doesn’t know about discipline, time, and the reason for waiting for something to mature. “I want it all, I want it now, and I don’t care how.” The saying, “Good things come to those who wait,” doesn’t resonate with a child who hasn’t been in this world long enough to know what time means. A year to a child is a big deal, but to an adult-aged fruitive worker who has everything pretty much set in life, a year can pass like a day.
You’re not supposed to cry when you lose because you will lose so many more times in life. You’re not supposed to cry when someone says something mean to you because you will hear so many mean things throughout life. Using further intelligence, you should know that your external appearance and abilities have nothing to do with who you are. “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” is the saying. This means that someone who says mean things to us without knowing us doesn’t really criticize who we are. If they are saying something about that which doesn’t relate to us, why should we cry?
Then there is the crying over another person’s plight. This is something we just can’t help. We may have felt the same pain previously and gotten over it in time, but when we see someone else in the same distress, we can’t imagine what they are going through. “How are they dealing with this? Why should they have to suffer? They haven’t done anything wrong.” The nature of the world is such that there are constant ups and downs, and even when there is a severe downward turn, the sun will always shine again, even if for that person it means they will have to wait until the next life for redemption.
All this being said, someone who is supremely learned, who knows how to use both physical and mental abilities at the right time and circumstance, had his eyes overflowing with tears when he saw a once beautiful princess from afar. She still had the core properties of beauty, sort of like a streak of the bright moon made out between dark clouds or like a line of a fire seen amidst thick smoke. This princess had done nothing wrong. She did not deserve to be in a distressed condition, but here she was, a prisoner in a foreign territory. In prison you get your own cell to think about what you’ve done, but here Sita was being harassed day and night by female ogres. They were not friendly, and they were ordered to scare her into submission.
The loving guardian thinks, “Let that pain fall upon me. I can handle it. I don’t want my children to suffer. I will take on the pain, so that they can live peacefully.” In this situation, Shri Hanuman thought along similar lines. He had already endured great mental distress over not having found the person he was sent to find. He also overcame obstacles in the form of people obstructing his path to Lanka. Sita was taken to this territory against her will by the Rakshasa king Ravana. He obviously did not want her to be found, as she was married to the prince of the Raghu dynasty, Lord Rama. The vast ocean offered protection to Ravana. There was also the Rakshasa force within Lanka that was ready to snuff out any intruders.
Hanuman was extremely courageous in leaping to Lanka all by himself. He did this out of love for Rama, whom he had only known for a short while. He didn’t know Sita at all, yet upon seeing her in distress, his eyes flooded with tears. A grown man like Hanuman, of tremendous power, can cry due to a strong emotional attachment. He did not set a bad example in this regard. On the contrary, his sign of emotion showed how committed he was to the mission and how strong his attachment to Rama and anyone dear to Him is.
This means that anyone who regularly chants the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, is dear to Hanuman. The chanting of the holy names indicates a love for the Supreme Lord, a desire to be with Him. On the lower levels of worship, one asks for temporary rewards, and as they steadily climb, they may start to ask for things which relate less and less to their personal welfare. At the height of worship is the request to continue to associate with and serve the Supreme Lord. This kind of worship is known as bhakti-yoga, and Hanuman is the king of practicing it. He takes Rama’s servants to be dear to him, and more than just crying over their distresses, Hanuman does whatever he can to alleviate their condition, as he did with Sita. For this reason, one of his names is Sankat Mochan.
For a man that is grown,
Okay if tears are shown?
Better shouldn’t he know?
That pains like seasons come and go?
In affection one can shed a tear,
Their attachment then made clear.
Tears in the eyes when Sita he saw,
For Shri Hanuman anything but a flaw.
Affection for God and His servants he feels,
More than tears, their condition he heals.