“Seeing that devi, situated like a divine lady in the Nandana Gardens, the Vanara then reflected over many thoughts.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.2)
avekṣamāṇaḥ tām devīm devatām iva nandane |
tato bahu vidhām cintām cintayāmāsa vānaraḥ ||
Ravana thought he had heaven on earth. He was a king, which meant he held the highest post in the material world. A king gets whatever they want; that is generally the case anyway. No one could unseat this king either; he was the most feared throughout the world. The king had plenty of enjoyments available, but one definitely eluded him. He finally procured it, bringing its physical form to his kingdom and placing it in a beautiful garden. Thinking he had found the “eden” of earth, he was ready to enjoy. Ah, but this was no ordinary divine lady. Spiritual in every way, her beauty is meant to be enjoyed by only one person. This is her constitutional position that can never be broken.
Sex life is the greatest pleasure in a material existence. By “material” we refer to the covering of the individual. Whether that individual is in the species of an ant, a cat, a dog, a cow, or a human being, there is a material covering that allows others to make a physical identification. But at the same time the covering doesn’t accurately identify the individual. We know this for a fact based simply on the haircut. If I go and get a haircut today, I don’t suddenly transform into a different person. Simply the appearance of the hair on my head changes.
And yet if a woman gets a makeover, she may become much more appealing to the opposite sex. Therefore this attraction is part of material life. It is based on a covering only. The same adult who once had a full and thick head of hair loses all or most of it in old age. The same female who once had slender hips and firm and raised upper portions turns overweight with a sagging upper portion during old age.
As the physical beauty is guaranteed to diminish, those who don’t know any better try to enjoy as much as possible while there is still attraction. Unaware of the true nature of the individual, they use the same lens when assessing spiritual life. They think that if there is a God and a heavenly life, that the reward for pious behavior will be an enhanced enjoyment in sex life. “Let me do good work now so that I can enjoy eternally in heaven. I know that enjoyment today consists of eating and mating, so perhaps it is the same way in heaven.”
“Even on the earth there are different types of women who are enjoyed by different types of men. But on higher planets there are women many, many millions of times more beautiful than the women on this planet, and there are also many pleasure abodes where they can be enjoyed. The best of all of these is the Nandana Gardens on Svargaloka. In the Nandana Gardens - a "Garden of Eden" - those who are qualified can enjoy varieties of beautiful women called Apsaras.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Mukunda-mala-stotra, 4 Purport)
Indeed, the Vedas describe many different heavenly planets, where the material enjoyment is beyond compare. On the heavenly planet of Svargaloka, there is an area called the Nandana Gardens. In that garden one finds the most beautiful women, who are meant to be enjoyed by the residents. The setting enhances the enjoyment of the participants. No cares in the world; just free fun through bodily association.
And yet even this enjoyment doesn’t last forever, for it is material. The material is dull and lifeless. When placed on top of the spiritual, it is only temporarily manifest. We know this inherently, but we don’t think that there is anything beyond it. Ravana, the king of Lanka a long time ago, also was unaware of the true nature of spiritual life. He had taken part in many religious ceremonies, even following austerities many times. Still, he thought the whole point was to find increased material enjoyment. He thought wrong.
Here Shri Hanuman looks upon Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama. Since she is in a beautiful garden at the time, she is compared to a divine lady situated in the Nandana Gardens of the heavenly planets. This comparison is made only to try to describe her beauty. It is also fitting for how Ravana viewed her. However, she is not material. Her body does indeed identify her. It is no different from her spirit. The two are identical because every aspect of Sita is used for service to the original Divine Being, the Supreme Lord. Since she is always in the devotional consciousness, her body and spirit are one in the highest interest.
Though these events took place on the earthly realm, it was like heaven on earth for Hanuman too. For Ravana, the “heaven” was an illusion, something unreal. He mistook Sita for an ordinary beautiful lady who could be bought off by opulence, strength and hollow words of praise. Hanuman saw Sita in full devotional ecstasy, feeling separation from her beloved husband, Shri Rama. In his spiritual body, Hanuman got to serve by offering thoughts, words and deeds for the benefit of both Sita and Rama.
Here he enters into a series of thoughts as to what to do next. In his heaven on earth, Hanuman did not simply sit back and enjoy. He acted, showing that in the devotional consciousness the guiding mentality is to serve instead of be served. Real heaven is the ability to always serve the Supreme Lord, basking in his transcendental features and courageously accepting the tasks He bestows. Hanuman unhesitatingly accepted a very difficult task for Rama and always looked beautiful as a result. He saw Sita for who she was, and so his service to her benefitted the entire world, not just himself.
With a desire to enjoy women in mind,
The most beautiful in heaven to find.
In Svargaloka a Nandana garden,
Equivalent to a one of Eden.
Sita in Ashoka grove this way looked,
Glance at her Shri Hanuman took.
But different, of body and mind one,
Thoughts only of Rama, deviations none.
Hanuman in a unique way also his glance,
Ecstasy at serving her getting the chance.