“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 ||
It is said that when someone is going through a difficult time, the stress on the loved ones who have to watch is greater. This seems rather odd, as the person in difficulty is the direct sufferer of the pain, but for the onlooker, there is nothing they can do but see the visible effect. They are unable to change the situation, so they are actually more helpless. All they can do is watch and hope. And yet to see a loved one distressed over our own pitiable plight is a nice thing, as it is indicative of their affection for us. Even more endearing it is when the person lamenting has never met us, but only heard of us.
A common occasion where loved ones anguish over the plight of another’s suffering through a tough time is the athletic competition. In the Olympics especially the pressure is great. For many of the sports, the final match, the big competition, occurs only once every four years. This increases the pressure on the athletes to compete to their best. In sports like gymnastics and figure skating, the maximum score is often predetermined based on the routine that is mapped out. This means that all the athlete can do is mess up. They are expected to complete their moves to perfection, to follow the course they charted out for themselves.
It is due precisely to this pressure that athletes buckle. One missed jump, one slight hesitation, one large mess up on the biggest stage and you lose your chance at the gold medal. But if you are the one competing, your mind is distracted a bit by the actual exercise. You can concentrate on what you have to do, and you can change your destiny. For your loved ones, however, all they can do is watch. Thus if you make an error, if you fail in the most pressure packed moment, they will feel awful for you. This reaction indicates that they love you very much and that they take your sadness to be their own. Consequently, they also take your happiness to be theirs. If you should emerge victorious, they will feel elation. This kind of sadness and elation can also be found in the sacred Vedic text known as the Ramayana.
The princess of Videha had gone missing. To the people who hear the Ramayana, it is known that the evil King Ravana took her away from the side of her husband Rama. To the participants of this real-life drama, however, it was not known where the princess, Sita, had gone. Rama enlisted the help of a band of forest dwellers. These were monkey-like creatures, not really civilized. What they did possess, however, was an eagerness to serve Rama, the handsome prince of the Raghu dynasty. Rama’s brother Lakshmana had the same dedication to Rama, and he himself admitted that this dedication was due to Rama’s virtuous qualities.
“I am His younger brother, Lakshmana by name. Due to His transcendental qualities, I have taken up service to Him, as He is grateful and very knowledgeable.” (Lakshmana speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 4.12)
The most enthusiastic forest dweller was Hanuman, who was also the chief minister of the king of forest dwellers, Sugriva. Hanuman’s mission was to find Sita. He didn’t know much about her except what was described to him by Rama. She was the prince’s wife, and her notable characteristic was her devotion to her husband. Not a mundane devotion either; this was a level of dedication worthy of the noblest character.
When Hanuman finally did spot Sita, however, he couldn’t believe how dreadful her condition was. If anyone in the world were more virtuous than Rama, it was Sita. She had never done anything wrong. She followed the teachings of her pious parents, and she was a faithful wife in the truest sense of the word. Now she was in a foreign territory, facing the harassment of female ogres day and night. Ravana tried to win her over as a wife, but she vehemently refused him. Her only hope now was to wait for Rama to come and rescue her.
The messenger was sent first, and when he saw Sita, he couldn’t help but be overcome by tears. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see that Hanuman is described as powerful, tejasvi. This adjective is purposefully included here because Hanuman is also said to have eyes overflowing with tears. A powerful warrior should be immune to sobbing over another’s plight, but Hanuman has such a strong affection for Sita that he can’t help it. He sees her condition and takes her pain to be his own. And the amazing thing about all this is that he didn’t know her personally.
From this verse we can understand that both Sita and Hanuman possess transcendental qualities. Her virtues endear her to devoted figures like Hanuman. And Hanuman’s behavior shows his care and concern for both Rama and anyone who serves Him. On this occasion there would be tears and lamentation over Sita’s pitiable condition, but know that Hanuman would succeed in the end. In that victory, the devoted souls, who care so much about Rama’s number one servant, can share in the joy.
Hanuman takes Sita to be like a family member because Rama is so dear to Him. And from the ancient Vedic texts we learn that Rama is an incarnation of God. Sita is the Supreme Lord’s eternal consort, and so Hanuman’s spontaneous affection for them reveals his high standing. By harboring the same concern for Hanuman, by viewing him to be a family member, we can rejoice in his triumphs and glories, which are too many to count. The Ramayana offers up some of them, thereby increasing the fame of the work all the more.
Enduring through struggles is rough,
But for loved ones watching more tough.
I myself can work to change the outcome,
But for others nothing can be done.
To Lanka went Hanuman with devotion instilled,
Upon seeing Sita his eyes with tears were filled.
Kindness shown over another’s plight,
To please Rama onward he would fight.