“But if I use the language of Sanskrit like the twice-born, Sita will think me to be Ravana and thus become fearful.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.18)
yadi vācam pradāsyāmi dvijātiḥ iva sanskṛtām |
rāvaṇam manyamānā mām sītā bhītā bhaviṣyati ||
“Can you please make up your mind already? We reach the same point every time during these deliberations. I throw out a place and you shoot it down. When you throw out a place, I accept it, and then you renege. It’s like you don’t want to go anywhere. You’re always doing this. If you deliberate too long, you won’t make any decision. One second you say one thing, giving the arguments in favor. Then the next you contradict yourself. Can you imagine if all the great leaders of the past had acted the way you do? Where would this country be if George Washington remained paralyzed in fear of making the wrong move? What if the delegates to the Constitutional Convention simply gave up because of all of their disagreements? Moreover, what if that famous hero from the Ramayana, Hanuman, didn’t press forward because of the worry over making the wrong decision? Where would we be today?”
The irony in this sentiment is that great leaders of the past have indeed deliberated quite at length on many an occasion, including with the most important decisions. Deliberation in these instances is merely a byproduct of great intelligence. Shri Hanuman had the most intelligence, and so he considered all aspects when carefully entering the enemy territory of Lanka and approaching the missing princess of Videha.
In this verse from the Ramayana, the deliberation is about if, when, and how to approach. The “if” part was settled first. Though Hanuman was only sent to look for Sita and report back on her location, he used good judgment in choosing to approach her. She was in great distress, missing her dear husband Rama terribly. It’s one thing if you know your kids are somewhere, playing with their friends or going to school. You still might worry, for that is the nature of a good parent. Nevertheless, you understand where those dependents are, what they are likely doing, and when they will be returning home.
Now take your love as a parent and multiply it by the largest factor conceivable, strip away any personal motivations for reciprocation, and you get some idea of the love Sita felt for Rama. She worried, and she had no idea where He was. She was unaware if He was looking for her or not, for she suddenly went missing from His side due to the ill-conceived master plan of Ravana, the king of Lanka. The first part of the plan worked, namely that of bringing Sita back to his home. But getting her to change her heart, to become the chief queen of Lanka, failed miserably.
Hanuman next resolved the “when” issue. He would approach Sita when there was a lapse in attention of the female-ogres. They were ordered to harass Sita, to scare her into submission. They couldn’t use physical force, but their mental torments were much worse. These Rakshasis were both literally and figuratively in darkness, so eventually they would fall asleep. Sita had conquered sleep through her constant loving thoughts directed to her husband, who is the life of all that lives and the singular supreme consciousness that pervades all of space.
Here the issue for Hanuman is “how.” He first thinks it wise to speak in Sanskrit. He is in a monkey form. That alone may tempt one to discount the accounts of the Ramayana as mere fiction, an adventure story conjured up by a creative author from ancient times. But here we see that a talking monkey is not necessarily considered fake; it is more likely equated with a fiend, a master of illusion. The enemies of God always strive for skill in illusion, for otherwise they would have to admit their fallibility like everyone else. What is more magical, a talking monkey or a giant astral body that floats in the sky for all of eternity and dissipates unimaginable heat and light? What is more magical, a creature that can change shapes at will or a giant collection of matter that contains seeds within it which ensure that life continues without break?
Ravana and his type were skilled in illusion. They could quickly mask their shapes at will. Indeed, Ravana assumed the guise of a twice-born person, a brahmana, when he first approached Sita in the Dandaka forest. If Hanuman too would start speaking the language of the highly learned priests, she might consider him to be Ravana. It’s noteworthy here that Hanuman doesn’t cover hallucination. He doesn’t say, “Sita may think it all to be a dream, for how can a monkey talk?” He knows that she will likely think that he is Ravana, an enemy of God, who believes that skill in illusion, in faking being the Supreme Controller, somehow makes him superior. It’s like the actor who plays the President of the United States and then thinks himself to be important in real life, of an equal stature, due simply to that role.
Sanskrit, the language of the twice-born, is for glorifying God. It is fit for the really intelligent, who use their strength in intellect to find more and more ways to glorify the master of reality, the person who is the source behind the factual strength, opulence and beauty we see around us. Hanuman deliberated for sure, but eventually he settled on a path, and since his heart was in the right place, since he knew both Sita and Rama very well, his service to them did not fail.
Seeing monkey with words to say,
May think part of Ravana’s play.
In illusion the Rakshasas skilled,
With deceitful ogres Lanka filled.
Sanskrit with glorification combined,
Then a friend in Hanuman Sita to find.
Language for Shri Rama befitting,
In praise of Him twice-born never quitting.