“Even a decision on what should be done and should not be done made with intelligence does not bring good results. Indeed, messengers who falsely consider themselves to be learned ruin the task at hand.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.38)
artha anartha antare buddhiḥ niścitā api na śobhate ||
ghātayanti hi kāryāṇi dūtāḥ paṇḍita māninaḥ |
Dilip’s two sons, Agraj and Anuj, were enjoying their Saturday, which was usually reserved for play and relaxation. They were in school and old enough to start receiving homework on the weekends, but for this particular three-day holiday weekend they didn’t get any homework.
“Seriously, your teacher gave you nothing?” asked Dilip.
“For real, Dad. We didn’t get any homework,” responded the two sons, who pleaded with their father to believe what they were saying.
“I know every trick in the book. Don’t think your old man is a fool. I invented the ‘we didn’t get any homework’ excuse. You’re not going to get me with that one.”
But seeing that his sons were not budging from their stance, Dilip decided to extend them the benefit of the doubt. He let them play on Saturday as they wished. When Sunday came along, however, the father changed his attitude. After having seen his two sons, who were normally energetic and full of life, spend an entire day on the couch playing videogames and watching movies, Dilip decided it was time for a change.
“Okay, listen up,” he said very loudly as he entered the living room. “The television gets turned off in an hour. Then Agraj, I need you to clean your room and vacuum upstairs. Anuj, I need you to rake the lawn. The leaves are piling up and it doesn’t look nice.”
“But Dad, it’s a three day weekend. We didn’t get any homework, either,” complained the boys.
“Exactly. So now you have free time to do some work. Agraj, I want the entire upstairs spotless. I want you to be diligent. And Anuj, make sure all the leaves are picked up. Once you get the piles together, put the leaves in trash bags and leave them by the curb for the garbage people to pick up tomorrow. Am I clear?”
“Yes, Dad,” said the two boys in unison. After an hour they reluctantly went about starting their chores. Agraj first cleaned his room. He put all his dirty socks, pants and shirts in the hamper. Then he threw out the loose papers and other odd things that he didn’t have a need for. Then he went about vacuuming his room and every other room upstairs.
Anuj’s task also went rather smoothly, at first. On the inside he was happy to have gotten the raking assignment. At least he got to be outside. He didn’t like vacuuming, either. His chore was very straightforward. He was told what to do and how to do it, but towards the end of the task, he had some doubts as to his father’s logic. Anuj thought to himself, “Why should I put all these bags of leaves on the curb? The garbage people might complain. A bird can come by and poke a hole, causing a mess everywhere.”
In looking around, the neighbor’s yard caught his eye, and an idea dawned on him. The neighbors had already raked their lawn. Instead of placing the bags by the curb, they had stored them at the side of the house, where they kept their trash cans. Anuj decided he would place his bags of leaves there as well. “No one will know, and this way there’s no chance of there being a mess on the curb.” He carefully placed each bag in the stash with the neighbors’ and then went inside.
Towards the end of the day, Dilip saw that everything was clean upstairs and that the lawn was free of leaves. “Good job, guys. I’m proud of you,” he told his sons. All seemed well until the doorbell rang in the early evening. Agraj and Anuj were in the living room, and so they could only hear the yelling that was coming from the front door area. They could hear their father saying, “I’m sorry,” over and over again, but they had no idea what was going on.
When Dilip returned to the living room, he looked extremely upset. “Agraj, please go to your room. I need to speak to your brother, alone.” Agraj quickly headed upstairs, all the while wondering what was going on.
“Anuj, this morning when I gave you your assignment, what did I tell you to do with the bags of leaves?”
“To place them by the curb.”
“Yes. So why did the neighbors just come over and yell at me for placing our trash in their pile?”
Anuj then explained to his father how he thought the idea of placing them on the curb wasn’t good. He thought it would be easier to mix the trash bags in with the neighbors’ pile. He thought that no harm would be done by this.
“Anuj, let me tell you a story. You’ve heard of Shri Hanuman, right?”
“Well, during one point in the Ramayana he offers us an intelligent truth about what happens when messengers think that they are smarter than they really are. He says that even if a decision has been made on what to do and what not to do, using intelligence, the whole plan could get spoiled by the messenger who thinks himself to be too intelligent.”
Dilip continued, “Your mistake today reminds me of Hanuman’s words. So in that sense I can’t be too angry at you, for anytime a person can remember Hanuman they gain a tremendous benefit. Still, you should take that lesson from him. I gave you a task to do. I gave you the instructions. You were so close to completing it. It wasn’t that difficult a task. But at the end you thought that you were smarter than you were, and so your ill-advised action ruined the entire plan.”
“But Dad,” interrupted Anuj, “what’s the big deal? It was just a bunch of leaves. There was no real harm done.”
“Well, this brings us to another lesson you can take from Shri Hanuman. As you know, Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord, gave Hanuman the task of finding the Lord’s missing wife, Sita Devi. Hanuman was very careful in his mission. He never thought himself to be too smart, even though he is millions of times smarter than both you and I combined. He thought that even the slightest mistake would upset Rama, for whom he cared deeply. If someone as great as Hanuman is so careful when taking up tasks for others, we should be the same way. It is one of the many reasons that Hanuman is so dear to Rama.”
Though being reprimanded, Anuj was not so worried. He found that hearing about Shri Hanuman eased his worries over his punishment that was soon to come. He begged his father to tell him more about Hanuman and his adventures in pleasing Rama and finding Sita. Dilip gladly obliged, and soon Agraj returned downstairs and joined them in this most important history lesson.
When ill-advised action he takes,
Messenger mess of things makes.
Even if success obvious and foretold,
Spoiled by unwise move, risky and bold.
Intelligence in pleasing Rama use,
Then wisely in circumstances to choose.
Since to beloved Lord so dear,
Path to pleasing Him to become clear.