“Being stricken by grief, that great soul was lying on the ground for a long time. Then with great difficulty using various words I was able to get Him to rise.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.42)
śayitam ca ciram tena duhkha ārtena mahātmanā |
mayā api vividhaiḥ vākyaiḥ kṛcchrāt utthāpitaḥ punaḥ ||
The Sanskrit word dhira means “sober.” Another meaning is intelligence and self-control. There is something known as “getting a rise” out of someone. The easier a person responds to agitation, the less in control they are. After all, what do combative words really mean? They shouldn’t influence behavior one way or the other. Especially for a person in authority, to remain sober is very important.
Keeping emotions out of decisions is easier said than done. In recent times, a professional player of American football was standing before a judge in a courtroom, ready to accept a plea bargain deal that meant he would avoid jail-time. When the judge accepted the offer, she asked the player how he felt about it. In happiness, the player slapped his lawyer on the behind, as a sign of affection. The courtroom then burst into laughter, angering the judge. She then promptly reversed her decision, sending the player to jail.
“’I don't know that you're taking this whole thing seriously. I just saw you slap your attorney on the backside. Is there something funny about this?’ McHugh said, slapping the plea deal document down on her desk. ‘The whole courtroom was laughing. I'm not going to accept these plea negotiations. This isn't a joke.’” (espn.com, Chad Johnson’s plea deal rejected)
The judge had already made a decision, but based on the reaction of the defendant, she reversed course. In other words, due to outside instigation, due to a lack of a sober mind the person given the authority to make judgments succumbed to emotion instead of intellect.
By the very fact that the countless souls living in the material world have forgotten about Him since time immemorial, the Supreme Lord would have to be considered the most sober person. He is the very definition of dhira, as He does not hold the longtime neglect against any person. He continues to stay with them as the Supersoul. In that role, He even gives His blessing for continued forgetfulness.
sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo
mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham
“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)
The Supreme Lord is never obligated to listen to anyone. The people who are most against Him in outward behavior are the asuras. The Sanskrit word that describes them is merely a negation of another word. A sura is a devoted soul. They worship God with thought, word and deed. They don’t command Him to do anything, but through their devotion they win His favor.
The asuras can provoke as much as they want, but God never loses His cool. There is the famous incident of Hiranyakashipu boasting that God didn’t exist. He challenged his son Prahlada to prove that Vishnu, one name for God, is indeed all-pervading. God the person then appeared on the scene from a pillar. But this was not due to Hiranyakashipu. The Supreme arrived to give protection to Prahlada, who as a five year old boy was otherwise helpless.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we get an example of how the suras are able to get the Supreme Lord to rise. Here Shri Hanuman is relating past events to Sita Devi. She is the wife of Rama, who is the son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Sita is also a devoted soul, always looking out for Rama’s interests. Rama is the same Vishnu. He is identical to the Narasimhadeva who appeared for the protection of Prahlada.
Hanuman is in the middle of explaining how he came to meet Rama. Sita and Rama were separated at the time. She did not know where He was. Hanuman had met Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana in the forest of Kishkindha. After a friendship was established, Hanuman brought some of Sita’s ornaments for Rama to see. This immediately caused the Lord to feel tremendous grief. As Hanuman says, Rama remained on the ground for a very long time.
This is not a sign of weakness on Rama’s part. He is not attached to women as a means of sense enjoyment. One of the many names for God is atmarama. This means “self-satisfied.” He is not dependent on any outside factor for His pleasure. Still, He feels grief upon separation from Sita since she is such a wonderful person. When He sees her ornaments, He is immediately reminded of her unflinching devotion.
The asuras don’t understand God, so they have no way to influence His behavior. The suras, on the other hand, can make Him rise if He should happen to be lying on the ground. That is what Hanuman was able to do. With great difficulty, he spoke appropriate words to get Rama to regain His composure. Though Hanuman is famously known for following the mood of devotion known as dasya-rasa, from this incident we see that he is much more than an ordinary servant. He is a wise friend as well. He is dear to Rama, as the Lord listens to what he says. Rama takes stock in the words of the devotees, and for this reason they continue to offer the kindest and wisest words for His pleasure.
Fire of anger inside to stoke,
When adversary trying to provoke.
Only the dhira can steady remain,
In honor or dishonor disposition the same.
The one who Sita’s husband to call,
Son of Dasharatha with most sobriety of all.
Not the asuras, only Hanuman capable of doing,
Raising Rama from ground, with wise words soothing.