Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hide and Seek

Shri Hanuman“Also, Viradha, a Rakshasa of dreadful prowess, was killed in battle in the forest by Rama’s exhibition of valor, like Shambara was by Mahendra.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.8)

virādhaḥ ca hataḥ samkhye rākṣaso bhīma vikramaḥ |
vane rāmeṇa vikramya mahā indreṇa iva śambaraḥ ||

You see a massive housing structure and wonder how it could have been built. “This must have taken forever. I can’t even begin to imagine what this entails. Where to even start? Just thinking about it gives me a headache. The complexity makes me want to turn in the other direction and think about something else.” But when you’re in an emergency situation, where you don’t have time to think about the pressure of the moment, you have to act right away. And you can’t give up. The stakes are too high to fail, so you have to keep going no matter what happens. This is the resolve the Supreme Lord brings to His protection of souls surrendered to Him, and the resolve extends to His servants as well. Shri Hanuman is a wonderful example of this.

Hanuman had to look for Sita Devi, the missing wife of Lord Rama, the eldest son of King Dasharatha. As a child, you may have played the game “hide and seek”. One person hides and someone else has to find them. Perhaps there are multiple people involved in the search, but as the game is played among children, the range of available hiding places is not very big. It’s not like the child can run very fast. They’re not trained in long distance running. They also aren’t old enough to drive automobiles. Therefore the seeking children know that the person hiding is within an area whose size is acceptable for searching.

Hanuman and his friends were not so fortunate. Sita could have been anywhere in the world. They were told to scour the earth to look for her. The task seems ridiculous, right? Perhaps today you could increase your chances in reconnaissance by reaching the masses, having them help you in the search. Broadcast the picture of the missing person on television. Millions of people will see it and then contact you if they have any leads.

These Vanaras, forest dwellers that were like monkeys but also like humans, couldn’t phone anyone for help. They couldn’t contact other search parties, either. This was like a scavenger hunt that spanned the globe. Of course you would be a little overwhelmed taking on this task, but this doesn’t mean that you should reject it. Hanuman and his friends were ordered by the leader Sugriva to find Sita. They had no choice in the matter.

They conducted their search methodically. If you have a larger, more complex problem, you break it down into components that can be solved individually. If you have to search a large area, you first search smaller areas and then gradually rule them out. This is what the Vanaras did, and Hanuman’s search party eventually received the good fortune of learning where Sita was. They weren’t told exactly where, but it was said that she was on an island called Lanka. The problem was that the island was surrounded by a vast ocean.

Hanuman solved the problem by leaping from a mountaintop and crossing over the ocean. Eventually he reached Sita in a garden inside of Lanka. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana he is appreciating her extraordinary beauty by remembering some of the things Rama had done for her. It is said that Rama slayed Viradha, a Rakshasa of wicked prowess. This was done to save Sita.

That incident occurred previously, when Sita and Rama were together. They were in the Dandaka forest with Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana. Viradha was a terrifying figure that took Sita and declared that she was his. He told the brothers to scram. Rama had already been banished from His kingdom and ordered to not return for fourteen years. Sita insisted on coming along; Rama wanted her to stay home and be safe. Now it was all crashing down with this wicked creature causing trouble.

But Rama had Lakshmana with Him, and Lakshmana never gives up in defending his brother. This was an emergency situation, so despite the daunting task ahead of them, the brothers could not quit. They methodically attacked Viradha, and even when it seemed like the demon couldn’t be killed, they found a way to curb his influence. When they were about to throw him into a ditch, Viradha revealed that he was previously a celestial. He was cursed one time to become a demon, and that curse would be lifted when Rama would slay him. Thus Viradha was finally killed by Rama. He then regained his previous form and returned to heaven.

Rama and Lakshmana slaying ViradhaSita is of the highest character, and because of her devotion to Him, Rama works tirelessly to protect her. The Vedas inform us that Rama is an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, so He can accomplish any task at any time. The Ramayana is a real-life play which teaches us about God’s qualities through specific events. Rama’s slaying of Viradha shows His great fighting prowess, how Lakshmana is always devoted to Him, and how He will do anything for His eternal consort Sita. Hanuman, as a servant to Rama, also shows the same resolve. Though Sita is not his wife, since she is dear to Rama, Hanuman too works relentlessly to protect her.

If you have Lakshmana, Rama and Hanuman protecting you, you’re never really in danger. And similarly, if you have Sita’s benedictions, you will never find misfortune. Real poverty relates to the inability of the spirit soul to practice its constitutional engagement, devotional service. If one is committed to chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, Sita ensures that they have whatever they need to carry out their devotion. And protection from enemy attack is accounted for by Rama, His representative Lakshmana, and His courageous servant Hanuman.

In Closing:

Though Hanuman of great might,

To find princess was a fight.

 

He and monkeys the earth scoured across,

Eventually the massive ocean to cross.

 

Like largest hide and seek game,

To find Sita, of King Janaka’s fame.

 

Rama and Lakshmana with Viradha fought,

Through resolve release from curse to him brought.

 

Know that same resolve in Hanuman exists,

In working for Sita and Rama he staunchly persists.

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