“If even the respectable Sita, who is dear to Lakshmana’s elder brother, who was trained well by His superiors, can be struck by distress, then the influence of time is indeed insurmountable.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.3)
mānyā guru vinītasya lakṣmaṇasya guru priyā |
yadi sītā api duhkha ārtā kālo hi duratikramaḥ ||
Hanuman was chosen for the reconnaissance mission because of his special qualifications. He needed to be brave, intelligent, dexterous, strong, and also perseverant. This last trait would be tested on many an occasion, even during the last phases, where it looked like he was about to succeed. The external conditions of this world can have a debilitating influence on consciousness, and only one who is firmly committed to the mission of bhakti-yoga can withstand such an influence. Hanuman is the most committed, so not even the sad vision of Rama’s wife in distress could stop him from continuing forward.
Think of the ambulance workers and the tasks they must complete on a daily basis. If we have an emergency in the home, we call the first responders, and they rush to the scene. From our perspective, we hope that they arrive on time and take the necessary steps to fix whatever the specific emergency situation is. But from their perspective, they must be ready to tackle any issue. A simple slip and fall in the home might not be a big deal. Sure, the injured person can’t stand up on their own and they may need to go to the hospital for treatment, but to the first responders there is nothing gruesome about the accident scene.
Then, of course, there are the really bad accidents. The first responders must be ready to look at the most gruesome scene, with blood everywhere and someone on the verge of dying. Sometimes they even see those who have been fatally wounded. Yet these extreme external visions cannot hamper their abilities. If the responders are susceptible to despondency over the scene of an accident, who will people turn to for help? The doctors must act in a similar manner, as they have to be ready to see the worst injury and then treat it. They must also be ready to deal with the fact that some of their patients may die despite treatment.
These helpers carry out their duties because they are qualified. If you’re grossed out by blood, you won’t make it through medical school. If you don’t have the qualifications, you will not be the right fit for the job. For a reconnaissance mission a long time ago, the people in charge chose a warrior who had very good judgment. He had actually brokered the deal that brought the two leading parties together, and in the past he had proven his worth to the leader of the Vanara community in Kishkindha.
“His [Hanuman’s] capabilities being well known from his past deeds and his having been specifically chosen by his master, the mission will certainly be completed successfully.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 44.10)
This mission was difficult. A princess had to be found. She could have been anywhere in the world. There also was a chance she wasn’t alive. Previously living peacefully by the side of her husband Rama in the forest, a fiend took her away in secret, leaving no trail of her whereabouts. Some of the Vanaras had seen her in the sky being taken away in an aerial car, and they found some of her ornaments as they fell to the ground, but other than that they had no clue about her situation.
Hanuman was the chosen messenger, and Rama informed him of Sita’s qualities. A whole band of Vanaras went to search for Sita, but it was understood that Hanuman would be the only one capable of persevering long enough to find her. That premonition proved correct, as Hanuman overcame obstacles relating to geography and enemy fighters. He even tackled the mental demon of self-doubt. Not finding Sita after so long, Hanuman grew despondent and started to doubt whether or not the mission would succeed. He contemplated quitting but decided to carry on because that was the only way there would be any chance for success.
Such a sincere worker sent by God Himself, Shri Rama, should have had everything handed to him, no? Why would Rama make Hanuman suffer in such a way? Of course there are many reasons for the outcomes we see in life. In Hanuman’s case the adversity served to shine the spotlight of glory on him for the eyes of the world to see. Future generations would also bask in his triumphs by reading the sacred Ramayana, an ancient poem that describes these events and more. Finally seeing Sita from afar, Hanuman’s troubles did not end. He had to overcome another obstacle, that of sadness over her condition.
He saw Sita, so he should have been happy, but there was definitely something wrong with all he saw. She was not in a pleasant condition. Her body was worn thin from fasting, she was seated on the ground, and there were female ogres surrounding her. They were ordered to harass Sita day and night by the King of Lanka, Ravana. He wanted Sita as a wife, but she refused him, as she was devoted to Rama. Hanuman’s eyes overflowed with tears, as he couldn’t believe that Sita had to face such hardships.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see Hanuman describing some of the reasons why Sita didn’t deserve this. She was dear to Rama, who was Lakshmana’s guru. Lakshmana is one of Rama’s younger brothers, and he is solely dedicated to Rama’s interests. Rama, for His part, is very respectful of His gurus, or authority figures. Therefore a chain of respectable personalities was tied to Sita, so there was nothing she did to deserve such punishment. And seeing all this, Hanuman concluded that the influence of destiny was insurmountable, that whatever time is slated to bring will arrive.
So did this mean that Hanuman would give up? Feeling so bad for Sita, did he just end his life or retreat to a cave to curse God day and night for His work? Hanuman was chosen for the mission partly because of his perseverance, and that would be tested again when he first saw Sita. He had to overcome this mental hurdle, for if he was swayed by the circumstances, he wouldn’t succeed in telling her that Rama was ready to come and rescue her.
In devotional service, even such temporary mental setbacks are considered beneficial. Here Hanuman used his despondency to glorify Sita, Rama and Lakshmana, which is the aim of life. We are all meant to love, and in the ideal state love is directed at God. The Vedas give us many names for God and also many different incarnations to learn about. Though there are many forms, there is still only one God, and through devotion to Him, we can persevere through the difficult circumstances and events we see around us. Hanuman is our hero in this regard, and his glories continue to be chanted to this day.
First responders rush to the scene,
Wounds to heal and blood to clean.
To be affected by visions not allowed,
For to help the distressed they are avowed.
Tears come when at Sita’s condition staring,
Even to Hanuman, of heart full of caring.
Rama’s servant to be hero of the day,
To overcome his fear and his dismay.