Monday, June 9, 2014

Sounds Like A Gamble

[Shri Hanuman]“Also, conflicts are uncertain, and uncertainty is not pleasing to me. And which intelligent person would without hesitation engage in an act which has uncertainty?” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.35)

asatyāni ca yuddhāni saṃśayo me na rocate ||
kaḥ ca nihsaṃśayam kāryam kuryāt prājñaḥ sasaṃśayam |

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“What, are you crazy? You don’t quit your job when you don’t have another one lined up. Then you’re left with nothing. You should look for something else while you are working. This way there won’t be a disruption to your cash flow. Also, employers are more apt to hire someone who already has a job. If you’re on the sidelines for too long, they’ll think that there’s a reason no one wants to hire you. You’re not guaranteed to get another job, either. It’s a tough market out there, with uncertainty everywhere. You shouldn’t take such a risk.”

Perhaps we’ve heard advice like this from someone. Or maybe we offered it to one of our friends or family members. The idea is that following an action that has an uncertain outcome is not the wisest choice. This is true especially if you have something to lose. Though the option you’re contemplating may not look like a roll of the dice or a wager on a sporting match, it is essentially a gamble, which the wise avoid.

[roll of the dice]“No gambling” is one of the four regulative principles adhered to by the aspiring yogi in devotion. Though pure devotion is not dependent upon any one characteristic, practice, or bodily feature, certain principles do help the person mired in ignorance reach the stage where they only want to serve the Supreme Spirit. The restriction on gambling particularly translates to the virtue of honesty. If you’re not honest, how are you going to know something that is described as an absolute truth? This truth is beyond gain and loss, happiness and sadness, birth and death, heat and cold, and the like. It is what defines an existence. It is the existence of all existences.

[Bhagavad-gita, 7.9]“I am the original fragrance of the earth, and I am the heat in fire. I am the life of all that lives, and I am the penances of all ascetics.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.9)

[Krishna's lotus feet]There has to be some dishonesty to have success at gambling. At the blackjack table, you don’t tell others what your cards are. The same goes for poker. If you’re wagering on a big football game, you likely don’t tell too many other people. If you did and they followed suit, the line on the game would change. The potential payout would decrease as well. In sports, the players try to guess what their opponents are going to do. They don’t make their strategy known to everyone.

And then there is the other negative aspect to gambling: uncertainty. You can’t be sure what the outcome will be. If success were guaranteed, the act wouldn’t be considered a gamble. And yet sometimes there is no choice. Here Shri Hanuman deliberates on the proper course of action going forward in a very dangerous mission. He doesn’t have anyone to consult. It’s him or nothing. Success is vital as well, as so many people are counting on him to find a forlorn princess, give information to her and then return to home base.

Hanuman has succeeded in the first part, that of finding Sita. Now he needs to find a way to give her the message that her husband Rama is committed to rescuing her. The problem is that Sita has no idea who he is. If she becomes startled after seeing Hanuman, that could alert the guards of Lanka of Hanuman’s presence. They wouldn’t take too well to that, for he infiltrated their city unnoticed. Then the outcome wouldn’t be known. Hanuman knows that this is not the behavior of the wise. The intelligent do not jump into something, without hesitation, when the outcome is not certain.

This verse reveals that Shri Hanuman is diligent and extremely intelligent, which is a natural byproduct of devotional service. Intelligence and renunciation, jnana and vairagya, follow devotion like the shadow trailing after a bright lamp. Hanuman had to take some sort of gamble. He had to either speak to Sita or not. Either course had uncertainty. Thanks to his pure devotion, even something uncertain and risky had a bright outcome. This is the result of serving Shri Rama, Sita’s husband. He is the Supreme Lord in a spiritual manifestation specific to the time period when Lanka’s king Ravana roamed the earth.

[Shri Hanuman]This situation further underscores the difficulty of Hanuman’s mission. Just one hasty mistake could ruin everything. It could erase all he had done thus far, which was quite a lot. But we see that there was no dishonesty in Hanuman. The eternal truth is that the individual is spirit and that spirit is meant to always serve God. This truth cannot be reversed, though in the atheistic mentality one tries their best to do so. Like trying to fit a piece of a puzzle in the wrong place, no amount of scientific research, sense gratification, experiment and observation, reading, or renunciation can bring one to the level of happiness that comes with devotion. That devotion protected Hanuman, who protects all those who choose the same path of devotion to Sita and Rama.

In Closing:

With outcome not exact,

Gamble not best way to act.


If to roll the dice you choose,

Some honesty also to lose.


For Hanuman gamble one way or the other,

One to see Sita, revealed to ogres another.


Success since love for Rama in the heart,

Proper outcome assured right from the start.