“Hiding himself in the Shimshupa tree, that monkey Hanuman listened to the Rakshasis frightening Sita.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 24.14)
avalīnaḥ sa nirvākyo hanumān śiṃśupādrume ||
sītāṃ saṃtarjayantīstā rāksasīraśṛṇot kapiḥ |
There are certain truths that we know inherently. Others don’t have to convince us of them. We don’t even question them. For instance, stealing is bad. You shouldn’t take what doesn’t belong to you. This only makes sense. Would we like it if someone else took what we have? If someone came into our home and stole our computer and television, would we like it? Therefore why would we want to do that to someone else? There are many other basic truths established in the same way.
As there is some independence in the material world, any person can act in any way they choose. Not that they will always get the desired result, but they can still opt for any behavior they wish. This means some will have no problem with stealing. They will make up every excuse in the book as justification. Meanwhile, it is simply their lust or their cheating propensity which drives them to their behavior which goes against basic truths. Nevertheless, in their minds they think they are behaving righteously.
It’s difficult enough to argue with someone who is completely wrong on a basic value issue. It’s even more difficult when there is the gang mentality matched up against righteousness. If you know that stealing is wrong, but you’re in a room full of people who think the opposite, the situation is very frustrating. You can be completely sinless, full of virtues such as honesty, kindness and compassion, and the other side will still bully you until you give in to their position. This was the case a long time ago in the Ashoka grove in Lanka.
A well-wishing party had to watch as this all went down. He knew that stealing was bad. He knew that adultery was not called for. He knew that the lady situated in righteousness was correct in her stance. And yet he had to watch as grim-visaged female ogres harassed her. The pious lady was named Sita and she was already married. Her marriage was the issue at hand. The king of Lanka wanted her for himself. He knew that Sita was married to Rama, but that didn’t stop him from taking her away from Rama’s side in secret.
Sita did not budge from her position. She insulted Ravana by accurately pointing out his shortcomings. She spoke to him on the issue of basic decency, where one doesn’t force themselves upon another. She also reiterated the fact that she was a human being and thus not fit to be the wife of an ogre. Ravana was a Rakshasa, which is a species prone to man-eating. A person who eats cats and dogs is considered uncivilized in the community of meat-eaters, so we can just imagine how lacking in values a man-eater is.
Sita was right and Ravana was wrong. Ravana had to get his way, however. So he ordered his female attendants to scare Sita into submission. They surrounded her and peppered her with hypothetical scenarios and bleak futures.
“You should enjoy with Ravana while you still have your youth. Once your youth is gone, you will no longer be attractive. Rama is just a pauper. He lives in the wilderness, bereft of His kingdom. Why would you choose to be with someone so weak? Why not enjoy with Ravana, who lives in palatial mansions and has so much strength? You’re insane for not accepting his offer to become his chief queen. You will be so powerful if you accept his offer.”
Hanuman was sent by Rama to find Sita. He was watching all of this while hiding in a tree right above. Imagine seeing someone you care about being bullied in such a manner. It will trouble you greatly, will it not? The question then is why Rama would subject Hanuman to this torture. We know from the Vedas that Rama is the Supreme Lord, the Personality of Godhead appearing on earth in an apparently human form. Sita is His eternal consort in the spiritual sky, and Hanuman is forever devoted to them both.
God works in mysterious ways indeed. For the devoted souls, every reaction to their actions is monitored by the Supreme Lord. This is a special mercy not available to the non-devoted souls. If one person wants to eat ice cream and another wants to eat pizza, why should a higher authority bother settling the dispute? In either case someone will eat. The enjoyment from such eating is temporary. Any variety of material enjoyment is temporary. The form and circumstance of the living entity facilitate the various reactions. Since the enjoyments are all temporary, they don’t catch the interest of the Supreme Lord.
The devoted souls only want one thing: continued devotion. This solves the mystery as to the situation at hand. Sita’s love for Rama increases through separation. Hanuman’s attachment for Sita increases through watching her endure a difficult situation, where her devotion is tested. Hanuman to this day constantly sings the glories of Sita and Rama. He remained hidden in that tree, just waiting to pounce on the opportunity to give life-giving news to Sita about Rama’s plan to rescue her. Later on, after Ravana was defeated and Sita freed, Hanuman wanted to exact punishment on those Rakshasis who had harassed Sita. He remembered everything he saw while perched on that tree.
Though Sita prevented Hanuman from attacking the female ogres, kindly forgiving them and once again showing her compassionate nature, Hanuman’s concern for her welfare never diminished. And she in turn remained ever affectionate towards Ramadutta, the fearless, courageous, capable, and dedicated messenger of the Supreme Lord. The gang in Lanka thought they were getting to Sita, but all they were doing was further motivating a fierce fighter like Hanuman, who on being on the side of righteousness would eventually prevail.
Even when you know you are right,
Difficult when gang of foes to fight.
Not easy on your stance to stay,
Herd pressuring you to give way.
Hanuman saw all of this from tree,
Harassment of Sita, who of sin was free.
Attachment increased in that beloved servant,
To this day supporter of them most fervent.