“Having praised Sita, who is praiseworthy, and Rama, who is particularly dear because of His virtues, that foremost among monkeys again began to think.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.1)
praśasya tu praśastavyām sītām tām hari pungavaḥ |
guṇa abhirāmam rāmam ca punaḥ cintā paro abhavat ||
Shri Hanuman is known as the greatest devotee of Lord Rama and His eternal consort, Sita Devi. Hanuman is the emblem of devotion to God, and he is always depicted practicing some method of devotion. In some scenes he is chanting the holy names with hand-symbols. In others he is worshiping the deity of Shri Rama, and in others he is engaged in a heroic act in the service of Rama. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, he is simply thinking, and though there is some worry in this moment of inactivity, there is worship nonetheless, giving us valuable insight into the nature of divine love, the highest practice for man.
To worship is not to only show up to a gathering and go through the motions. The consciousness is what indicates our existence. “I think therefore I am,” is the famous realization, and that thinking is a result of the presence of consciousness. The external acts are but a result of thinking, and they shape the way the mind works. The purpose of the house of worship is to instill a consciousness that is focused on transcendence, or that which rises above the dualities of like and dislike, happiness and sadness, and victory and defeat.
The mind can’t be tricked into focusing on transcendence for an extended period of time. It must be convinced that the contemplation is worthwhile, that there is a lasting benefit. Think of jumping up and down in your room all day. You will get some exercise, but what are you really doing with your time? Eventually, you will want to do something else, even though during the period of exercise the mind is somewhat focused.
Hanuman focuses on the attributes of the people he worships, and that focus continues because it is pleasurable. In this particular scene, Hanuman has just finished observing a princess from afar. Based on her attributes, Hanuman has deduced that she is the wife of Lord Rama. Known by the name of Sita because of the circumstances of her birth, she is the woman Hanuman was searching for. He was in this foreign land of Lanka to find Rama’s abducted wife, and this princess from afar had features which matched those that belonged to Sita.
After concluding that the princess was Sita, Hanuman offered her praise within his mind. It is said in the above referenced verse that Sita is praiseworthy; hence it would make sense that Hanuman would offer her praise. She is kind, sweet, virtuous, and dedicated to her husband. She greets everyone with a smile and never knew any enemies in life. Such a person is indeed rare to find, and since she was Rama’s wife, Hanuman was all the more attached to her. Praising her brought him tremendous pleasure, as this is the tendency of the human spirit.
If you watch the Olympics and see an athlete triumph in a particular event, though they are proud of their accomplishment, they will almost always look to praise others, giving thanks to their coaches and family members for all the help they provided. The other athletes also look to praise the champions, to speak of their good qualities. This tendency within man is borne of his constitutional position, that of servant of God. Hanuman follows that service through acting as a messenger, and Sita too follows that service in the role of a devoted wife.
Hanuman also praised Rama, this virtuous woman’s husband. It is said that Rama’s virtues make Him very dear. This is absolutely the case, as Hanuman up until this point had not known Rama for very long. He knew of the Lord’s attributes, however, and those qualities were enough to make Hanuman dedicated to the mission. Rama is also kind, chivalrous, and dedicated to protecting the innocent. He does not speak falsehoods, and He is willing to give anything in charity to the brahmanas, the priestly class. The priests in ancient times did not work for a living, so they relied on charity to survive. The saintly kings like Maharaja Dasharatha, Rama’s father, gave special attention to the brahmanas, ensuring that they were always pleased and able to carry out their religious duties.
Hanuman in this instance is continuing in worship of Sita and Rama just by thinking of them. That is the whole purpose to spiritual life after all, and Sita and Rama are famous worshipable figures of the Vedic tradition. There is only one God, but depending on time and circumstance He appears on the scene in different manifestations, though the original version is always a personality, full of divine attributes. Hanuman shows that thinking of God is a means of worship and also a way to derive happiness.
Sita was in front of Hanuman from a distance and Rama was there through His name. The divine couple stayed within Hanuman’s mind because he wanted them there. In a similar manner, by regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, the same divine couple stays with the chanter, allowing for consciousness to be shaped for the better. This chanting includes hearing, which then increases the chances for remembering, which is the mechanism of the mind to worship during times of rest. Hanuman here was on a brief stop before his difficult approach towards the princess who had never met him. But since he had Sita and Rama on the mind, his service would not fail.
Sita Devi is worthy of praise,
In Hanuman’s mind she always stays.
With Shri Rama the same goes,
Of His qualities Hanuman knows.
Because of His virtues Rama is dear,
For the saints He removes their fears.
Praiseworthy wife had husband the best,
Their devotee Hanuman to pass every test.