“While we were waiting there, having lost all hope and ready to give up our lives per the command of Sugriva, as if to be the cause of our success came a large and valiant bird.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.62)
teṣām naḥ svāmi saṃdeśān nirāśānām mumūrṣatām |
kārya hetoḥ iva āyātaḥ śakuniḥ vīryavān mahān ||
You’re on a trip overseas. It appears like a vacation to others, but you know that you have work to do. There is something to accomplish; otherwise you would have just stayed home. You have made similar trips before, but this one turns out to be quite stressful.
Right off the bat you get a cold. It’s more of a viral infection, as this time there is a terrible fever at the outset. For an entire day you have an elevated heart rate. Veins are starting to bulge out of your head, and you wonder if this fever will ever calm down. Luckily, you packed medicine for this occasion. It’s such a rare circumstance that you forgot that you even had the medicine with you.
It’s like help arrived at the eleventh hour, when you were otherwise resolved to continue to suffer. It looked like there was no other hope, that you would have to let this illness run its course. When that help arrived, it was lifesaving. Within a few hours the fever was gone. After a few days the entire illness vanished. Thanks to some careful preparation, disaster was averted.
In the scene of the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, you have a group of warriors on special assignment. They were tasked with finding Sita Devi, the missing wife of Shri Rama from Ayodhya. The command came from Sugriva, the king of Vanaras in Kishkindha. There was a period of time allotted under which the mission was to be completed. If not successful after that, the search party should not even bother returning.
Sure enough, the time passed and there was no sign of Sita. These were the best Vanaras in Sugriva’s group. Here Hanuman is explaining to Sita just what occurred, after the fact. Since he is talking to Sita, it means that eventually there was success in the mission. This was known beforehand to Shri Rama, as He had full faith in Hanuman’s ability to get the job done.
Nevertheless, there was a time where the future looked bleak. Angada, the son of Vali, was the leader of this particular group. He resolved to simply wait for death to arrive, as it looked like they had no other hope. While bewailing their plight, Angada started reviewing all of the bad things that had happened. At one point he mentioned the vulture Jatayu, who was killed while trying to save Sita. The evil king of Lanka, Ravana, took Sita away by force, and Jatayu acted as a well-wisher to try to stop the iniquitous deed.
When Angada was speaking thus, a bird by the name of Sampati overheard them. He was Jatayu’s brother. Hanuman describes that it was by chance that someone had come to help them succeed. There was no other hope. Sampati came over to the group and eventually disclosed where Sita was. He was more than happy to help the party that was going against his brother’s killer.
The rest was history, but this incident shows that in working for the Supreme Lord things don’t always go as planned. The living entity has been spinning in the samsara-chakra, the wheel of suffering of rebirth, for a very long time. To break free from that cycle is not easy. A person is considered fortunate if they at least are made aware that there is something beyond birth and death. It is an exclusive group which knows that the essence of life is spirit soul, aham brahmasmi.
Knowing is the first component, but then there should be dedicated action to transition from knowledge to a personal realization. Genuine spiritual life is difficult to implement because seemingly everyone and everything is against it. Tell your friends that what you did on your vacation was visit this temple and that and they will think that you wasted your time. Tell others that the purpose of the human life is to voluntarily accept austerity in order to advance in consciousness and they will think that you are crazy.
Despite the formidable road ahead, from Hanuman’s experience the devotee should know that help will eventually arrive. Even if they are not as capable as the brave warriors from Kishkindha, the sincerity of the attempt is what matters most. The Supreme Lord looks to see where the person is going, not from where they have come. He sends the right people at the right time to ensure success, making devotional service to Him the most worthwhile activity.
Sugriva his massive army sending,
Their search entire world extending.
For Rama’s wife Sita Devi to find,
Warned not to return if past allotted time.
Bemoaning plight, Angada saying Jatayu word,
Then from above brother Sampati overheard.
Giving to them then information key,
From sincerity devotees’ success to be.