Friday, April 25, 2014

Using Common Sense

[Shri Hanuman]“Indeed, if I shall go without consoling this lady, whose mind is overpowered by grief, then my setting out becomes offensive.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.8)

yadi hi aham imām devīm śoka upahata cetanām |
anāśvāsya gamiṣyāmi doṣavat gamanam bhavet ||

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In handing out a task, usually not every detail is covered. Who in the world can predict every combination of events? Who can actually foresee every pitfall, every moment requiring deliberation, every conundrum? Therefore only the general guidelines are typically given, and then the rest is left up to the capable worker, who is expected to use their intelligence to guide them along the way. Here we get an example of where a courageous messenger noted a possible offense that previously wasn’t stipulated.

Let’s say you’re learning how to drive. To start, you read over the driving manual distributed by the motor vehicle governing authority of your particular area. You study up and then take what is known as the “written test.” This exam consists of many multiple choice questions. They cover the basics, like what to do at a stop sign, what the different traffic signs mean, and where and when you can turn based on the type of line dividing traffic. In Sanskrit this knowledge is known as jnana, or theoretical. It is the important foundation for how to then act.

[Traffic signs]When actually driving, the realized knowledge takes over. This is where the jnana is utilized for guiding behavior. The realized knowledge is known as vijnana in Sanskrit. So based on what you have read, you know to stop at a red light. You know that if you want to make a turn, you should turn on your car’s blinker several moments prior. If you want to make a left turn at a traffic light, you should be in the left hand lane, the turning lane. It wouldn’t make sense to be in the right lane to make a left turn, for then you would have to cross over the many cars that are travelling straight through the intersection.

One of the rules you learned while studying was that a double yellow line dividing traffic means that it cannot be crossed. If there is a slow car in front of you, then tough. The double yellow line is there for your safety; it lets you know that it is not safe to cross over to the other side. Now let’s say that you’re travelling down a local road. You’re practicing your driving. Suddenly up ahead you see a mail delivery truck parked on the side of the road. They are delivering mail. In doing their job, their truck juts out slightly into the traffic lane. This means that they are slightly in your pathway; you must move to the side in order to avoid them. However, this would mean crossing over the double yellow line in the center. What should you do?

[Double-yellow lines]This situation calls for common sense. If it is safe to cross over the double yellow line, then do it. To hit the mail truck would be an offense. You would be faulted with negligent driving. The rules did not cover this situation. They did not cover the fact that sometimes you have to go against the letter of the regulations in order to remain safe. Indeed, you are expected to use common sense and good judgment at all times, no matter what the actual rules stipulate.

In the same vein, Shri Hanuman here rightly concludes that he cannot just leave Lanka after having found the missing princess of Videha. He and a host of other eager Vanaras from Kishkindha received the task to find Sita, who was the wife of Lord Rama, the eldest son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Rama needed to learn Sita’s location so that He could then go and rescue her. The evil king of Lanka, Ravana, had taken her away in secret.

[Shri Hanuman]Hanuman found Sita in the Ashoka grove in Lanka. No one knew that Hanuman was there. He was so thrilled to have finally found Sita, but now he has to decide what to do next. Should he return back to Rama and the Vanara-king Sugriva with the good news? He sees that Sita is in great distress; her mind is overcome with that distress in fact. Sometimes we see other creatures in great pain and know that we can’t do anything to save them. Such are the ways of nature that there is only so much we can do for our fellow creatures.

In Sita’s case, there was something Hanuman could do. He could give her news about Rama, from whom she hadn’t heard in a long time. He could let her know that a host of Vanaras had gone searching for her and that Rama missed her very much. He could let her know that Ravana and his band of ogres would soon meet their deserved peril, total destruction of their empire.

This was an option for Hanuman, and from his deliberations he reached the conclusion that to skip this step would make his return to Kishkindha offensive. Indeed, by the letter of the rules of the assignment he would have been successful in the mission, but he would know that he had committed an error. Therefore here he decides that he must console Sita, for she is worthy of such kind words.

In the same way, if we are fortunate enough to know that Sita is the goddess of fortune and Rama the Supreme Personality of Godhead, it would be offensive to not at least talk about them with those who are distressed. Every person is looking for transcendence. They want everlasting happiness, and they look for it in the bottle of whiskey, the videogame, the local gambling parlor, the significant other, the beloved children, and even the office where they earn money. None of those things reach transcendence, and so the search continues, lifetime after lifetime.

[Sita and Rama]Hanuman knows that transcendence is with Sita and Rama, and being their most ardent supporter he provides the best example for meeting life’s mission: pure devotion. In this age the same Sita and Rama are found through the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” which the saints following in the line of Hanuman liberally distribute to one and all, providing consolation from the grief of a material existence that tends to overcome even the most intelligent mind.

In Closing:

With rules in mind having retention,

To this and that must pay attention.


But even with everything kept in mind,

A tricky situation easily could find.


Common sense in these tasks to use,

Like with Hanuman, to console to choose.


An offense against Sita to do so not,

Even returning with information he got.


Pleased will be Sita and Rama how,

Way to decipher best course for now.