“The city of Lanka, filled with Rakshasas, was entered by me. I have seen Ravana and you, who are stricken with grief.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.71)
lankā ca api mayā rātrau praviṣṭā rākṣasa ākulā |
rāvaṇaḥ ca mayā dṛṣṭaḥ tvam ca śoka nipīḍitā ||
When depicted on canvas, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is often shown to have a halo above or around His head. The exact form or personality doesn’t matter. Vishnu, Rama, Narasimha, Krishna - the halo adds the proper respect to the image. It is not merely the sentiment of the artist, either. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that in His land there is no need for electricity.
na tad bhāsayate sūryo
na śaśāṅko na pāvakaḥ
yad gatvā na nivartante
tad dhāma paramaṁ mama
“That abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by electricity. One who reaches it never returns to this material world.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.6)
This is because the Supreme Lord, with His transcendental features, is naturally effulgent. The bright light of Brahman emanates from Him, after all. Strip away maya, or illusion, and you’re left with spirit. That singular spiritual energy appears to be divided, fragmented into different pieces, residing in this form and that. Actually, the energy is one since it has the same source. Taken together that energy is known as Brahman, and it is a light to illuminate an otherwise dark and ignorant form of matter.
Despite being powerful enough to animate a body, the spirit soul sometimes finds itself enveloped in ignorance. There is literal darkness through staying in dimly lit areas. There is the accompanying figurative darkness in the form of intoxication, lying, cheating, stealing and exploiting others for personal gain.
The inhabitants of an island called Lanka a long time ago were known as Rakshasas. These are like man-eating ogres. They are human-like, but the effect of the body type is that the brilliance of the pure spirit soul gets diminished more so than in other forms. We can think of it like applying a darker shade on a lamp.
Shri Hanuman, though in the body of a monkey, was not hindered by his body type. He had the light of the Divine shining through him. Every person has this light, as it appears in them through the expansion known as the Supersoul. The only way to get the full benefit of this light is to tap into the Supreme Consciousness.
Hanuman was figuratively connected through a mood of devotion. He was literally connected through having met Shri Rama, who is one form of the Supreme Lord. Hanuman was beaming with light from within, which helped him to successfully enter Lanka even at night. There was the darkness due to lack of sunlight combined with the darkness in behavior of the residents.
The conditions were not auspicious. The odds were not in Hanuman’s favor to succeed in the mission to find Sita Devi, Rama’s missing wife. Yet even in the darkest of areas, the light of the Divine is enough to overpower. In the Ramacharitamanasa, there is a conversation between the crow Kakabhushundi and the eagle Garuda. Kakabhushundi makes the comparison to setting the entire world on fire and how that still wouldn’t compare to the light given by the sun. The meaning is that no amount of artificial light can compete with what nature provides through sunlight.
In the same way, no amount of austerity, penance, fruitive work, meditation or study can bring full escape from the darkness that is maya. The only way is through the help of the Divine. Shri Hanuman had that help, and he told the story of his success later to Sita. Rama’s help enabled Hanuman to find Sita and also allay her fears, for she was in grief, or shoka, due to separation from her husband. In the present age of Kali, which envelops the entire world in the mode of ignorance, through His capable representatives the same help from Rama removes our grief and brings us back into the bliss of devotional service.
Light every lamp but comparison is none,
To the brightest object, the splendorous sun.
Even when into darkness of Lanka going,
Hanuman divine light from within glowing.
This from Shri Rama Himself came,
From devotion potency arriving the same.
Through representatives shining even to this day,
Guiding souls in ignorance, showing them the way.