“Thus after carefully considering in many ways the situation with the wife of the Lord of the earth, while situated in the branches of the tree that great soul decided to speak words that were sweet and true.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.44)
iti sa bahu vidham mahāanubhāvo |
jagati pateḥ pramadām avekṣamāṇaḥ |
madhuram avitatham jagāda vākyam |
druma viṭapa antaram āsthito ||
It is so easy to forget that we are not solely responsible for our good fortune. If I find a place in life where I am satisfied with my work, where my family life is going smoothly and there aren’t many issues, it’s easy to think that I am due all the credit. “Look at what I did. I followed the right way, and so that’s why I’m happy now. Others too could have done what I did, but they didn’t.” But in fact so many other factors have to cooperate in order for the good fortune to manifest. The proper way to pay honor to that cooperation is shown here by Shri Hanuman.
Consider this situation. My mother and father give me a happy home to live in as a child. They keep proper attention on me to make sure I study and don’t accidentally take the wrong road in life. As a result, in adulthood I feel I owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude. I try to repay this debt by buying them things. I give my father a brand new car, a top of the line vehicle that will make him the envy of his friends. I send my mother on a vacation to a destination that she’s always wanted to visit.
I can continue down this route many times over, but generally the gifts alone will not make the parents any happier. They wish only that I am happy, for my happiness gives them pleasure. I could try another option: praise. I could daily sing the glories of their deeds, even writing books about how wonderful they are. Again, this likely wouldn’t make them so happy. It wouldn’t win over their hearts. They don’t feel they are fit to be praised in excess, and so they deflect the attention. With too much praise, they actually become upset.
In this scene from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman wants to let a stranger know that he comes in peace. He knows quite a bit about her. Her good qualities are without limit. Her character and her dedication to her husband are things of legend. The problem is that she doesn’t know him yet. She is in a difficult situation, surrounded by enemies who are not who they appear to be. They can change their shapes at will. They have no problem sinking to the lowest level to get what they want. So if she sees Hanuman, who is in the body of a monkey, it makes sense if she would consider him to be one of these ogres who were holding her against her will, keeping her separated from her dear husband.
Hanuman carefully considered the situation. He viewed things from all angles. He finally decided on speaking words that are sweet and true. These words will please Sita, and in fact anyone who is of the godly nature. The saints are the true benefactors in this world. It is their presence that makes life worth living. If everyone we encountered were a liar, a cheater, or a thief, we would give up hope completely. But it is the few saintly characters who let us know that there is some chance for goodness in this world. The qualities of the saintly people is what allows life to continue. The compassion the mother shows to the child in the womb allows it to emerge into this world alive. The kindness of strangers to feed the downtrodden allows them to continue living. The loving guidance of the parent allows the child to grow up to be a self-sustaining adult.
The godly qualities in full allow the individual to reach the full potential in this human birth, a birth that was achieved with great struggle. So many other species there are, but only the human has the chance to understand God. And God is everything, the sum total, the storehouse of all virtue. Knowing Him means knowing everything you need to know. Once you know Him, you won’t have any doubts as to your purpose in life. Knowing Him, you won’t have to take birth again, either.
“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.9)
So how to repay the immense debt owed to the saintly people? Hanuman here shows the way. Speak words that are true and sweet. To guarantee against any defect, against any flaw due to partiality, simply speak about Rama, who is the Lord of the earth and the husband of Sita. Speaking about Rama’s glories makes your words true. They become sweet as well, for Rama’s deeds are all wonderful. In His original form of Krishna He happily plays in the transcendental forest of Vrindavana. In His expansion of Vishnu, He effortlessly creates innumerable universes through exhaling. Rama Himself shows so much love to men and women of all different backgrounds. He makes friends with the oddest of people, and he has dedicated servants like Hanuman extending His glories through their heroic efforts.
There is a debt owed to Sita, for she supported Rama up until this point. And Rama was already so dear to Hanuman, so the dilemma was in how to repay Sita for her kindness. Hanuman here chooses wisely, giving the secret to others as well. To make your words effective, to rid them of defects, make them about God. If you have somewhat of an understanding of Him, these words will be sweet as well. And those who are not so skilled in composing words of praise, there is always the maha-mantra, reciting which has the same effect: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
To be believed there is a way,
Truthful words of God just say.
Of Rama they always to be sweet,
To please whichever ears they meet.
If I don’t know suppose,
Or no ability to compose?
Maha-mantra for all is there,
Recite and of Rama become aware.