“That Lord Rama is doing a very difficult thing in maintaining His body and not falling down from grief from being deprived of her company.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.27)
duṣkaram kurute rāmo hīno yad anayā prabhuḥ |
dhārayati ātmano deham na duhkhena avasīdati ||
One of the many names given for the Almighty in the Vedas is Achyuta. Like many other words that describe His attributes, this is a negation of another attribute, namely chyuta, which means “fallen.” The short “a” added in front indicates that God is someone who never falls down. This not only applies to the literal meaning of hitting the ground from a standing position due to a blow inflicted by someone else, but it also refers to the emotional descent from not getting what you want. For a man, nothing is more debilitating to his spirits than separation from a loved one. And yet Rama, who is Achyuta, does not fall down even when separated from His beloved wife Sita.
“You say that a man feels great pain from separation from a loved one, but how can God have a loved one? Is that not a sign of weakness? Shouldn’t the Almighty be above love and affection?”
Though God is described as nirguna in many places in the Vedas, the ancient texts of interest from India, this doesn’t mean that He is without attributes of significance. Guna is a quality, and to say that the Supreme Lord is nirguna is to say that He is without qualities. But guna has different meanings based on context. Guna can also mean a good quality, so here that definition doesn’t apply. Guna also refers to a material quality, which can translate to mean rope, or that which binds. This is the definition specific to the use of nirguna.
We see someone with specific qualities, or gunas, and we know that whatever is there is limiting. For instance, someone who has blue eyes automatically doesn’t have brown eyes. Someone who is tall isn’t short, and vice versa. As God is unlimited, none of His qualities can limit Him. Therefore the nirguna description is appropriate. Saguna is also appropriate for Him, as this means that He has identifiable features, such as with His incarnations. The nirguna Supreme Lord appears on earth in forms that are apparently saguna, such as with Krishna, Rama, Narasimha and other personalities.
But one must remember that both nirguna and saguna apply simultaneously. This means that though we see God in a saguna form, the nirguna description is still appropriate. The only logical conclusion from this is that God’s qualities are transcendental. They are not like ropes, which bind a person in one direction or another. He does love others, but His love is not the source of distress. What we refer to as love is actually kama, which can translate to desire or lust. Kama is like an albatross around the neck of someone who is afflicted by it. It has brought down many a powerful man in history, and it is the subject of so many songs written by popular recording artists.
In His saguna form of Shri Rama, which was visible to the eyes of the fortunate, Rama apparently was stricken by kama over the association and subsequent loss of His beloved wife. But here Shri Hanuman rightfully asserts that Rama has done an amazing thing by not falling down due to that separation. At the present moment Rama is without the company of Sita. And Sita is no ordinary woman, either. It is one thing to be separated from someone you love, but how would you feel if that person was someone who loved you so much as well? How would you feel if she was forcefully taken away from you in secret and left to worry whether or not she would ever see you again?
This was the predicament for Sita, and just by seeing her from afar Hanuman appreciated how Rama had been able to maintain Himself in her absence. As Achyuta, separation from Sita did not cause Rama to fall down from His voluntarily accepted position in society, that of a warrior. He used whatever resources were available to look for Sita. Hanuman, as a dear servant from the Kishkindha forest, was one of those resources, and the best one at that. An entire army under the command of Sugriva was sent to look for Sita, but the singular force of Shri Hanuman was the only one able to penetrate the city of Lanka, the land ruled over by the fiend named Ravana. He was the one who had taken Sita, and his island home was far away from any mainland.
So many lessons can be taken away from this verse, with the most obvious one being that God never falls down due to another’s influence. He can do the remarkable by staying true to His position even when bereft of the company of the most beautiful and chaste wife. The same resolve exists in his servants as well, as Hanuman easily could have fallen down from his determined stance in the mission to find Sita. He saw her from afar, and what he saw was not totally pleasing to the eye. Yet he continued on, inheriting the resolve of his master.
We too are related to the same Achyuta, though we have forgotten this fact through our many lifetimes spent in the material world. In one second, however, that remembrance can come back to us, and when it does our resolve to reunite with God in the spiritual kingdom never has to break. And to keep our strength we regularly remember the heroism of Shri Hanuman and his wisdom displayed when he first saw the beloved wife of Rama.
To address Him Achyuta name we can call,
Means that from grace never to fall.
In battle always to stand tall,
And any incident to memory can recall.
When of loved one’s company bereft,
In sadness ordinary man is left.
With Rama not the case,
Though His wife the most chaste.
Steadiness in Him unsurpassed,
To servant Hanuman it was passed.