“I am a Vanara named Hanuman, the minister of Sugriva. I entered into the city of Lanka after having crossed over the great ocean.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 34.39)
aham sugrīva sacivo hanūmān nāma vānaraḥ |
praviṣṭo nagarīm lankām langhayitvā mahāudadhim ||
The human being’s inherent fallibility makes life difficult. Things would be easy if we could get whatever we wanted. If we feel like our waist size has expanded too much in recent weeks, just lose weight. Snap your fingers and see how your pants suddenly fit again. Of course the reality is a different story. There is so much food to eat, making it harder to control intake. People are constantly offering us food, and they take it as an insult if you do not eat a sufficient amount.
Eating is not the only desirable aspect of material life. There is sleeping, mating and defending as well. If obstructions are present in any of these areas, there is frustration. “You can’t always get what you want,” is the sound instruction offered by the parents. Then there is the issue of wrong desires. What if what I want will do me harm in the end? This is the case with substance abusers. In their case, frustration ends up being beneficial.
As difficult as material life is, spiritual life presents even more challenges. The reason is that its very foundation is detachment from a world in which there are innumerable objects with which to form attachments. Think of it like trying to lose weight while sitting at a buffet restaurant. Not just at the restaurant, consider having food on your table, just waiting to be eaten. It will be extremely difficult to go the entire day without overindulging.
Spiritual life does not mean the end of work. You have to work, but stay detached. A person should not give up all duties, even if they have achieved enlightenment. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna gives the example of King Janaka of Videha. He was a renowned yogi, praised for his dispassion. At the same time, he was a king, a ruler who could get whatever he wanted at the snap of a finger. The king still protected the people. He still arranged for his daughter’s marriage when the time was right.
That daughter is the recipient of the words quoted above. She is in the city of Lanka against her will, held captive by a wicked-minded king named Ravana. Ravana did not live with detachment. Though he engaged in rituals of the religious nature, his motives were impure. He had no desire to enter genuine spiritual life. He was so addicted to sense gratification that having multiple beautiful wives was not enough. He had to have the wife of another man, even if that man was superior to him in combat.
The wife he took was named Sita, and she was married to Shri Rama. Rama is the same Krishna who speaks the Bhagavad-gita. He is the objective in spiritual life, the final destination, if you will. Spiritual life means attachment to the origin of spirit instead of to the separated energy known as the material nature.
Spiritual life is difficult for as long as one remains unaware of who is helping them. In this verse from the Ramayana, Rama’s messenger Hanuman gives a short description of himself. He is the minister to Sugriva, who is the king of the Vanaras in the area known as Kishkindha. The Vanaras are monkey-like creatures, a species with which we have no familiarity. The literal definition of Vanara is “forest-dweller.” These creatures were monkey-like, but they could speak and reason to some extent.
Hanuman had just praised Sugriva as having immeasurable strength. Hanuman described Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana accurately as well. In describing himself, Hanuman said that he infiltrated the city of Lanka after having crossed over a great ocean. These words were intended to win Sita’s trust, since she had not met him before.
The idea is that Sita should not worry. Her husband and her brother-in-law are tremendous fighters. They are working with Sugriva, who has thousands of Vanaras working for him. Even Sugriva’s minister is highly capable, as he has done something seemingly impossible. He crossed over the massive ocean and entered a well-guarded city undetected. He did all of this for Rama’s pleasure.
In spiritual life help comes from the same personalities. The Supreme Lord and His brother Lakshmana help the individual cross over the vast ocean of material suffering. If Rama doesn’t do the work Himself, He sends one of His representatives, who is empowered in the same way as Hanuman. Moreover, that representative has the same level of sacrifice and commitment, for their actions are rooted in love for the Supreme. Rama’s wife helps as well, as she ensures the devotees always have what they need to continue in their devotion. Therefore despite living in a world full of illusory objects, a person can still find rescue. The people helping are of impeccable quality and character.
When Rama to come, now in a hurry?
From who is helping Sita should not worry.
Rama and Lakshmana of power great,
Sugriva there ruling the Vanara state.
Hanuman too massive ocean crossed,
Obstacles in path away he tossed.
Devotees today helped by the same,
Protected when chanting the holy name.