“’And how will she hear me without being frightened?’ Thinking in this way to himself, the wise Hanuman resolved in his mind as follows:” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.40)
katham nu khalu vākyam me śṛṇuyān na udvijeta ca ||
iti sancintya hanumān cakāra matimān matim |
A saintly person should not let others frighten them and they should also not frighten others. In the situation referenced above, two saintly people are about to meet, so both rules are in play. Hanuman, the messenger sent to Lanka by Shri Rama to look for the missing princess of Videha, is concerned about frightening Sita, who is Rama’s wife. He has very good news to give to her, but he doesn’t want something to get lost during the presentation.
Why the concern? In Sita’s circumstance, so many things weren’t what they seemed. The dreaded trip to Lanka started with a ruse. The king of Lanka, Ravana, approached her in the guise of a mendicant. Ravana was the furthest thing from a saintly person. He saw distinctions between the different classes. He thought only of his own welfare. This was his first priority. Never mind property rights. Never mind respecting others, allowing them to live their lives. Fiery lust trounces logic and sound reasoning.
Ravana’s lust was so strong that he cleverly changed his guise to show a more innocent face. This was a trick, and it played on Sita’s kind nature. She and her husband are both very benevolent to the saintly class. They know that such a class of men is required for a properly functioning society. Not everyone will be wise. Not everyone will be free of discrimination in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, or even species. The same person who has so much affection for their dog that they sleep with it at night has no problem with the innocent mother cow being sent to the slaughterhouse. The same person who endured discrimination at the hands of others while growing up in a specific region has no problem prejudging members of other races when they are an adult.
A real saint does not suffer from these defects. They are benevolent to all. They see the spiritual identity within all creatures. As they know that this vision is difficult to maintain, they adopt a certain lifestyle conducive to the proper consciousness. They avoid situations that create friends and enemies. They steer clear of profit and loss, as there is always some exploitation and dishonesty involved in such ventures. The successful seller does not reveal their profit margin and the shrewd consumer does not reveal how much they are actually willing to pay for something.
Ravana was so far from a saint that he tried to steal another man’s wife. He thought he had succeeded with his ruse when he brought Sita back to Lanka, but there was one problem. She wanted nothing to do with him. Ravana still foolishly held on to a glimmer of hope, and during that time Hanuman made the courageous and difficult journey to Lanka and found Sita.
Sita was dear to Rama, so she was dear to Hanuman. Hanuman is dear to the world because he is a saintly character. Therefore the meeting between Sita and Hanuman should have been smooth. They were of similar mind. Still, here Hanuman deliberates over how best to make the initial approach to Sita, who is in distress due to separation from her husband. Hanuman does not want to disturb her, an attitude in accord with the saintly nature.
The course of action revealed in the next few verses in the Ramayana is quite instructive. Hanuman simply praises Rama, who is God. God is not the sole property of any group of individuals. He does not belong only to one religion. Just as the sun shines down on all, the spiritual energy exists within every sphere. Both in the large and the small, the presence of spirit is undeniable. Rama is the personality behind the spiritual energy. He is God’s manifestation specific to a time and circumstance long ago.
Though Ravana would resort to pretty much any kind of trickery, he would never praise Rama in such a manner. The atheist will lie to get what they want. They will cheat others into thinking that chemicals are the real deity in the world and that the person who can best manipulate these chemicals becomes worthy of honor. They will kill the innocent child in the womb to satisfy their desires for sex. They will kill the innocent animal to satisfy their tongue. They will stoop to any level, but they will never praise the Supreme Lord to get what they want. Inherently they are against Him, and so they cannot bring themselves towards praising someone who is factually superior to them in all respects.
Even if a person should accept this route in a dishonest fashion, they are actually benefited. Such is the power of the name of God, that it can purify the worst sinner. Therefore even if Ravana had praised Rama as a ruse to get something that he wanted, both he and those within audible range of those words would have been benefitted.
Hanuman was genuine, and so his words would have even more meaning. If someone is passionate about what they do, it shows in their work. Spend enough time with a fraud, and you’ll eventually sniff them out. Courtesy of the Ramayana of Valmiki, we get to spend much time with Hanuman, and so his true nature shines through. Sita would see it as well, and the two saintly characters so dear to Rama would give countless generations words and actions of nectar to savor.
One’s heart on particular object set,
Sometimes lie for desire to be met.
This the way of the saints is not,
Vision of spiritual equality they have got.
When Hanuman first Sita Devi to meet,
To introduce with praise of Rama to speak.
Ravana never this option to choose,
Despite previously using ruse.
With him spend enough time,
And Hanuman’s true nature to shine.