“Seeing this unusual form and language of mine, Janaki, who was previously frightened by the Rakshasas, will again be fearful.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.20)
sā iyam ālokya me rūpam jānakī bhāṣitam tathā ||
rakṣobhiḥ trāsitā pūrvam bhūyaḥ trāsam gamiṣyati |
The present age is known as Kali. The length of the creation is one yuga, and to better understand the proclivities of the members of society with respect to piety and how the behavior changes over time, that one yuga is then divided into four periods, which are also known as yugas. Kali is the last of the four divisions, and in this age there is darkness. Man is so blinded by ignorance in this age that he can’t distinguish right from wrong. He doesn’t know what is piety and what is sin. Making things even more difficult is the fact that even those who may appear to be pious on the outside are often ill-motivated. They conceal their true identity in the hopes of flipping things, of turning sin into piety. From the thoughts of Shri Hanuman quoted above, we see that though much more rare, the same problem was present in the Treta Yuga, or the second of the four ages.
Let’s pretend that I am not a good person. I cheat all the time. I have no remorse since I consider everyone else to be cheaters as well.
“Hey, if they’re going to cheat, why not me too? I’d be a fool not to follow along. Why should I let others walk all over me? If you think about it, I have as much a right to the property on this earth as anyone else. If the government sends a spaceship to Mars and then plants a flag there, do they suddenly own that planet? Can anyone own the moon? These are silly questions, for sure. So why should anyone be able to own anything on the earth? I should be able to take whatever I want from anyone else.”
Of course my forthrightness will not help me. More benefits will come if I mask who I am. Therefore, I ascend to positions of power, where I say things which appear to be correct, but in a hidden way. To justify my behavior, I try to turn the tide. I tell people that my way is righteousness. It is okay to cheat because this is the only way to get even with the cheaters who are worse than me. Those cheaters are hurting everyone else, so it is not only okay for me to follow this course, but I am compelled to do it. I affix all sorts of negative labels on those who go against me. Through this method, in the eyes of public opinion my enemies eventually turn into the bad guys.
Of course, there are flaws to my logic. As it is based in unrighteousness, it is the wrong course, no matter how I try to spin it. In addition, if others were to follow my example, it does not benefit me. I’m fine with cheating myself, but if others cheat me then I’m not happy. Real righteousness doesn’t have this defect. If am truthful, then others benefit from my truthfulness. If they are truthful towards me, I will appreciate it. The same goes for kindness and compassion.
In Lanka a long time ago, a dutiful messenger contemplated how to approach a princess in distress. She was there against her will, and it all started with a ruse. Her husband and His younger brother left the hermitage in the forest very briefly. During that intermission, the princess received a guest. He was dressed like an ascetic, a priestly man of the time. Thus the princess, Sita, offered him all hospitality. She didn’t have much there, but she promised the man that when her husband returned, He would give everything to Him.
“All blessings upon you, I am the daughter of Janaka, the great soul [mahatma] and King of Mithila. My name is Sita and I am the beloved queen of Lord Rama.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 47.3)
It turned out that the ascetic was really a man-devouring ogre named Ravana. He came there specifically to take Sita away by force. Sita’s husband Rama and His brother Lakshmana were lured away from the hermitage through a ruse created by Ravana. Thus the fiend showed that he not only practiced duplicity, but he relied on it to get his most important work accomplished.
This messenger was in Lanka sent by Rama. He had an odd form as well. He was in the body of a forest-dweller, which resembled the monkey species. He also could speak very eloquently. Would we not flip out if a dog suddenly started speaking to us? In this case it wasn’t the talking that was extraordinary; it was the language itself. Hanuman, the messenger, knew Sanskrit, which was reserved for the most learned in society.
So the potential situation was that Sita, who was in distress, would be approached by a random monkey-like person who spoke Sanskrit. Naturally, she would be skeptical. She would likely think that it was Ravana playing another trick on her. It would be like the modern-day atheists who assume the garb of spiritual men. She would consider the speech to be like the flowery words emanating from such cheaters, who with their façade of sweet words try to present atheism and the false idea that God is not a person. Hanuman knew how Ravana acted and how low the enemies of the Supreme Lord will go to try to accomplish their objectives. Fortunately, he knew the right way to get Rama’s message to Sita without startling her.
Age of Kali known for constant fight,
In blindness wrong taken to be right.
Even in second age by some cheated,
Like Ravana, whom by lust defeated.
As to the lowest depths Rakshasas to sink,
Hanuman’s words an illusion Sita to think.
Messenger knowing way that was right,
To convey Rama’s message of hope and light.