“He had the best of qualities among saintly kings. In austerities he was equal to the great sages. Born in a family of great rulers, he was equal in strength to Indra.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 31.3)
rājarṣīṇāṃ guṇaśreṣṭhastapasā carṣibhiḥ samaḥ |
cakra varti kule jātaḥ puram dara samo bale ||
It’s a rite of passage. Children get in trouble in school. They test the boundaries of authority. They have limited experience in the world, so they’re not exactly sure what happens if they break the rules. Will they really get into trouble? Will the people in charge really get angry? Therefore it is natural for children to get in trouble while growing up. Perhaps they skip a class during the school day. Perhaps they miss the entire day of school altogether; opting instead for fun.
The parent has a difficult task when dealing with the situation. The obvious choice is to punish. This is the wise choice.
“Dear son or daughter, what you did was wrong. You should know better. I can’t believe you would do something so foolish. Go to your room while we figure out the appropriate punishment for you.”
A mental conflict arises due to the fact that the parent likely did the same thing or worse when they were younger.
“You know, I skipped school more times than they did. Compared to me, they are a better student. They hardly get into trouble. Maybe I should go easy on them. They’re only growing up, after all. They’re going to make a lot of mistakes. How can I punish them when I know that they don’t know any better?”
This is actually not the wise choice, for even with the compassion of understanding the person in authority has a purpose to fulfill. The parent who carries out their duties faithfully, even while knowing the mindset of the children, is superior. They are wise in both directions, in knowing how the dependents behave and in how the person in the position of authority should behave.
Rajarshi is a similar type of person. This is a Sanskrit word that brings together two terms: raja and rishi. The raja is the king and the rishi is the saint. There is a gulf of difference between the two. The saint is typically nonviolent. They don’t make distinctions between friends and enemies. They have no allegiance to any nation. They keep affection for more than just their family members. Seeing the spiritual equality in all beings, the Brahman vision, they understand the inherent link they have to all creatures. They love the nature around them as well, knowing that God created everything.
The king is more limited in vision. This helps to carry out their duties. They have to consider some people to be enemies, for otherwise where would the impetus to defend come from? The enemy wants to take the property of the king. The king has to defend that property, and so the aggressor naturally becomes the enemy. The king must also distinguish between criminals and law-abiding citizens. He allows the citizens to live peacefully, while the criminals get punishment.
The rajarshi is a special individual because they have the vision of the saint while still carrying out the duties as king. They are a saintly king in that they don’t punish as a means of self-satisfaction. They don’t defeat enemies to pound their chest and to boast of their prowess. They understand the role they have in society, and they carry out their duties even while knowing the spiritual equality in all beings. They know why the thief does what they do. They know what anger and greed lead to. While having compassion for the fault-filled struggling human being, the saintly king does not let their compassion get in the way of doing what’s right.
Here Shri Hanuman says that King Dasharatha had the best qualities among the saintly kings. This is extremely high praise. Dasharatha had no hatred. He was free of duality. He did not consider one person to be his enemy and another to be his friend. He did not protect those loyal to his administration and punish those who didn’t like him. He followed righteousness in all cases, taking counsel from the saints who advised him.
“This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.2)
In ancient times, it was the saintly kings who accepted transcendental wisdom, maintaining responsibility for passing it on to future generations. The wisdom was not created. It was spoken by the Supreme Lord at the beginning of creation and then subsequently passed on. Since He is aja, or unborn, the knowledge describing Him inherits the same property. Knowledge of Him is most sublime, without flaw, and applicable to all situations, time periods, and conditions. Whether living under the rule of a saintly king or a modern tyrant, whether the laws are determined by democratic elections or imposed by a military, knowledge of God has the ultimate value. It is no wonder, then, that the saintly kings bore the responsibility of safeguarding that knowledge.
As Dasharatha had the best qualities among saintly kings, it is not surprising that Shri Rama appeared in His family. Rama is Krishna, who originally spoke the king of education, the Bhagavad-gita, at the beginning of the creation. Dasharatha was in the line of kings coming from the sun-god who inherited that knowledge. From Dasharatha the next in line was Rama, who is an incarnation of God Himself. Hanuman is here speaking of Dasharatha in this way to set the table for describing Rama. The audience for these words is Sita Devi, Rama’s beloved wife. Just as Dasharatha fulfilled his role though lacking the vision of duality, the same applies to Shri Hanuman and his words. Though intended to be heard by Sita Devi, such beautiful descriptions give pleasure to any who are receptive to the message of transcendental light. Whether living many thousands of years ago or today, the glories of that saintly king still resonate with those who appreciate the godly qualities.
To defend the innocent without fear,
Saintly kings highest wisdom to hear.
For future generations then to keep,
So that fruit of existence they’ll reap.
Dasharatha, passing ten directions’ test,
Described as of saintly kings the best.
Truthful, from Hanuman coming praise,
In that king’s courtyard Supreme Lord plays.