“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 |
Shri Hanuman in this instance is acting as messenger for Shri Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam, it is said that the Absolute Truth can be realized in three different features. There is Brahman, which can be thought of as the sum total of all individual sparks of spirit. The sparks are individuals, and taken collectively they are Brahman, which is one way to understand the Absolute Truth. Then there is Paramatma, which is the localized aspect described as the Supersoul or Supreme Soul. Rama is Bhagavan, which is the Supreme Lord in His personal feature. From the personal comes the impersonal, just as the sun is the source of the sunshine. Bhagavan is the complete whole, and Paramatma and Brahman are partial realizations. Though working here for Rama, Hanuman had prior experience as a minister, and so the validity to the truths he presents is verified through many past successfully completed tasks.
To better understand what Hanuman is saying, we need look no further than the task given to him that led him towards his first meeting with Rama. There was a genesis to Hanuman’s present assignment, where he is searching for Rama’s missing wife Sita. Sita was taken away from Rama in secret while the couple were residing in the Dandaka forest. These events took place millions of years ago, and so the creatures on the earth were constituted slightly differently. The forest dwellers were monkey-like, but they had hints of civilized life in them, such as the ability to speak and reason. They looked like monkeys, but they were an advanced race.
There was another race of creatures known as Rakshasa. They were also human like, but looked like ogres. Their claim to fame was their total ignorance of basic etiquette. Though they had government, they didn’t behave properly. They had no problem eating any kind of flesh, including human beings. Ravana, the leader of the Rakshasas in Lanka, was so degraded that he stole another man’s wife while He wasn’t in the vicinity to protect her. With Sita missing, Rama began a search for her. He and His younger brother Lakshmana roamed through the forests to find where she went.
“Who wouldn't become fearful seeing these two, who have prolonged arms, possess large eyes, wear arrows, bows, and swords, and who look like sons of demigods?” (Sugriva speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 2.20)
When they entered the Kishkindha forest and approached the Mount Rishyamukha area, the leader of the Vanaras, the forest-dwelling monkeys, noticed them. He asked his minister to go down and see who they were. Hanuman was the minister and Sugriva the leader. So the task was assigned: meet the two princes and see what they wanted. Sugriva was afraid they were enemies who were coming to kill him. Sugriva was living in exile at the time, afraid of the vengeful wrath of his brother Vali.
Hanuman descended from the mountain to the forest area and masked his form. He took on the garb of an ascetic, so as to present a more innocent face. He knew what to do and what not to do. He had made the decision with intelligence. But if one is too puffed up with pride, thinking himself to be learned when they really aren’t, they can spoil a task even if the prior decisions were made with intelligence. One can list all the pros and cons of a specific decision, and thereby show some intelligence, but if they think they are smarter than the person assigning the task, they can ruin everything. Thus Hanuman kept true to Sugriva’s instructions. He very humbly carried out his duties, and in the process Rama and Lakshmana were very kind to him. They were won over by his intelligence, poetic composition, and honesty. Eventually Hanuman revealed who he really was, that he was indeed not an ascetic. This decision was made with intelligence and it did not violate the purpose of the mission. Whatever decisions he made in his encounter with Rama and Lakshmana were not rooted in false pride.
Here in Lanka Hanuman faces a similar situation. He is trying to decide which course to take next. He has already found Sita, who is very distressed from having been separated from Rama for so long. He is ready to approach her, but he doesn’t want to spoil the mission by being discovered by the Rakshasas in Lanka. He knows that if he thinks that he is more intelligent than he really is, things will get foiled. Something apparently destined for success will get ruined. Sort of like taking matters into your own hands when a superior authority has already provided the proper path for you.
As the material world is full of duality, sometimes going against orders does indeed lead to success. In this instance, the task was for Rama, who is the most intelligent. He is the life of all that lives. In His original form of Krishna, He creates everything, both the material and spiritual worlds, without any effort. When He provides a task, an interesting thing happens to the messenger. If they are humble and have full faith in the potency of Rama, they get guidance from within on the proper course. The previously mentioned Supersoul acts like a witness to activities. It knows everything that we’ve ever done. At the same time, it can act like a guide, if the guidance is sought in earnest. In that role the Paramatma is known as the chaitya-guru, the spiritual master from within.
“One should not take any responsibility on his own but should be a soul surrendered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who will then give him dictation as chaitya-guru, or the spiritual master within. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is pleased to guide a devotee from within and without.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 8.79 Purport)
We all have that guru living inside of us, but only the wonderful souls like Hanuman, who is supremely intelligent and yet very humble at the same time, are expert in receiving guidance from it. His deliberation itself is so endearing to both Sita and Rama. He never wants to disappoint them, and since Rama ultimately disposes all that man proposes, He ensures Hanuman’s success in his devotional efforts.
With just one decision bad,
Can foil success you had.
Outcome already in the bag though,
But could be ruined by haughtiness know.
Task for him by Rama assigned,
From chaitya-guru coming guidance kind.
Mission of devotion from Shri Hanuman take,
And this very life fruitful make.