“Indeed, gaining her back, joy will return to Rama, like a king who regains the land of his kingdom after having lost it.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.23)
asyā nūnam punar lābhād rāghavaḥ prītim eṣyati |
rājā rājya paribhraṣṭaḥ punaḥ prāpya iva medinīm ||
The irony of this comparison made by Shri Hanuman is that the person in question had actually lost His kingdom already. He could ostensibly gain that kingdom back, but that wouldn’t make Him so happy at the time in question. In fact, if He gained back the company of His beautiful wife, then the joy would be similar to that experienced by any other king who had lost his kingdom and then regained it. This implies that the land of governance is not very important to Shri Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. More important to Him is the association of those who love Him. This should make sense, as what use is having dull matter if you are unable to live how you really want?
Hanuman is a historical character whose heroic exploits are documented in many sacred texts of India, including the Ramayana itself. There have been many heroes throughout history, but Hanuman is extraordinary. He is still talked about and worshiped by millions to this day precisely because of the beneficiary of his work. To act in the interests of God is true unselfishness, as the only reward sought out is His pleasure; there is no desire for personal gain. Hanuman earned fame from serving Rama, but he never coveted it. From serving Rama he acquired legions of followers faithful in worshiping him, but to Hanuman the only benefit from this is the ability to further spread devotion to Rama to his followers.
We can view Hanuman’s statement in another light as well. In this particular scene, Hanuman is looking at Sita Devi, the beloved wife of Lord Rama, the prince of the Raghu dynasty. Sita and Hanuman are both in a kingdom. They are on the island of Lanka, which was ruled over at the time by the Rakshasa named Ravana. Ravana forced Sita to come to Lanka against her will. In this way he had her association and a kingdom to rule over, but there was no happiness. It’s akin to finding a treasure chest but not knowing how to open it. Whether the treasure chest is a hundred miles away in a vault or sitting in my room upstairs, it is still of no value to me if I can’t open it.
In the same way, whether Sita was far away or inside of the Ashoka grove in his kingdom, there was no way for Ravana to enjoy her company. She was devoted in thought, word and deed to her husband. She would not give even an inch to Ravana emotionally. She was utterly repulsed by him, and so he resorted to threats. Hanuman was Rama’s messenger. He was sent to find her, and after an exhaustive search, he now has finally located her. Here he reviews some of her qualities, which automatically brings his thoughts over to Rama and how happy He will be regaining her company. Only now is this a possibility since Hanuman has found her.
Though Ravana had Sita and a kingdom, there was no happiness. But for Rama regaining Sita alone would be enough to feel the pleasure of regaining an entire kingdom after it had been lost. To rule over a kingdom means to have complete jurisdiction over land and the behavior of the subjects living on it. A king pretty much gets whatever they want. It’s like having the ability to go on a shopping spree for a little kid who only wants the best toys.
From Hanuman’s statement, we see that Rama’s pleasure comes from Sita’s association. Being with her is like having a kingdom, because He gets to be with someone who loves Him. If someone loves us for real, there is nothing we can do to turn them away from us. This means that we are free to act however we wish; we don’t have to worry about impressing them. Also, since they love us unconditionally, we will naturally want to please them as well. This is especially true if we are pure of heart, and since Rama is God, no one is purer than He. When two such lovers are paired, competition ensues, and there are no losers since the goal is to please the loving party.
“There is a proverb in Sanskrit which says, ‘Disappointment gives rise to the greatest satisfaction.’ In other words, when one's sentiment or ambition becomes too great and is not fulfilled until after seemingly hopeless tribulation, that is taken as the greatest satisfaction.” (Shrila Prabhupada, The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 31)
The joy from reunion is greater when there has been a time of separation. Indeed, Shri Hanuman here is elated from having found Sita after having failed for so long. If the journey hadn’t been so difficult, the joy at the end may not have been so pronounced. If there is separation, and especially if there is the fear that the reunion will never occur, the coveted meeting tastes that much sweeter when it arrives.
How does this verse apply to us?
Sita is Rama’s beloved. She is the eternal consort of the Supreme Lord. God is one, though He is described in different ways depending on a person’s level of realization and the spiritual tradition they follow. Even in the Vedic tradition the same Rama is known by many names through His other non-different personalities such as Vishnu and Krishna. Nevertheless, it is always the case that God takes the most pleasure from the association of His eternal consort, who is, not surprisingly, described as His pleasure potency.
God feels the same joy from associating with all of His children, provided they are willing to love Him. It was already known to Rama that Sita loved Him, and from her reaction to separation the rest of the world found out as well. From Hanuman’s work, the world was also informed of his devotion to both Sita and Rama. Not that it has to be openly declared for everyone to see, but the events documented in works like the Ramayana give us examples of devotional service, which is the soul’s constitutional occupation. These works also give us paths to follow, exalted personalities from whom we can learn valuable lessons.
As Rama feels tremendous happiness from reuniting with Sita, know for certain that the spirit soul who has been separated from God in consciousness for so long will feel a surge of happiness like no other from returning to loving service in devotion. It is the mission of mahajanas like Shri Hanuman to reawaken that devotion in others, and their main method of inspiring is the chanting of the holy names. The best mantra to chant in the modern age is “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
A king who land has lost,
Tries to recover it at any cost.
Must be able to use the land,
Otherwise useless when in your hand.
Coveted Sita’s company was feeling the same,
For Rama, who renounced kingdom of Ayodhya name.
God is one, and His devotees He likes,
Worries over them, keeps them in His sights.
Hanuman that reunion hopes to make real,
Follow him and joy from God’s love feel.