“Though all of these unsuspecting wives of Ravana were seen by me, my mind has not been disturbed even a little.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 11.40)Download this episode (right click and save)
Take care of the environment. Don’t lie. Follow shastra, as it is wisdom passed down from the ages. Don’t go with the sense urges. Better to stay on the pious path; this way you’ll be happier and in the afterlife there will be even more enjoyment. Don’t cause harm to others. Be a good friend. Protect your children. Support your spouse.
In this way there are so many rules to follow for a person who is interested in being good. Of course to define “good” is difficult. The Vedas reveal the eternal nature of the individual, who is a spirit soul at the core. In the human species there is the choice between good and evil. The Sanskrit words are punya and papa, piety and sin. With punya you accumulate credits that translate to time in the heavenly region. Papa is the opposite; suffering in hell.
Yet another, more important truth is revealed. Punya and papa are relative. They are not present in the highest existence. The eternal nature of the soul is to be a servant of God. When there is deviation from that nature, there are conditions in duality. At one moment we are pious, at another we are not. One day we find ourselves in heavenly conditions, and the next we are suffering.
Service to God is above duality. An example helps to illustrate the point. The Ramayana provides many examples. There is the brave journey of Shri Hanuman, who is tasked with finding Sita Devi. She is the goddess of fortune, the eternal consort of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If judging based only on piety and sin, it appears that Hanuman several times either violated the rules of etiquette or at least proposed to.
1. Crushing grass and trees when preparing to leap
The search for Sita was lengthy, and there were many people involved. They were in monkey-like bodies, coming from the forest of Kishkindha. After it was learned that Sita had been taken to a far away island known as Lanka, Hanuman stepped up to the challenge of reaching the area. He enlarged his stature using the mahima-siddhi of yoga. As he prepared to leap off a mountain top, he crushed the grass he was standing on. He also uprooted some trees.
Normally, this is sinful. The trees and grass are living entities, after all. They are not bothering anyone. Even though Hanuman had no intention of causing destruction, it happened anyway. Since this was service to Rama, Sita’s husband, the act is glorified. There was no sin involved, as bhakti-yoga is above karma, which is work that has future consequences tied to a material body.
2. Hitting a woman upon entering Lanka
The journey across the ocean wasn’t easy, but then Hanuman is not your average person. After making it across, it wasn’t like he was welcomed into Lanka. The guardian of the city was in a female body, and she put up resistance. If paying respect to mundane morality, Hanuman would have turned back for home. Instead, he was determined to please Rama by finding Sita. He therefore removed the obstacle. He punched the woman and proceeded into the city.
The king of Lanka, Ravana, had committed the horrible crime of taking another man’s wife, the blameless Sita no less. Thus if there were any bad things to happen to Lanka or its people, the cause was Ravana, not Hanuman or Rama.
3. Seeing inside of Ravana’s palace
One of the amazing things about Hanuman’s search was that he had never met Sita before. He knew what she looked like based on descriptions. He also accurately deduced that she would be in an unhappy state. From meeting Rama, Hanuman realized that any close person separated from Him would be terribly distraught.
Since Hanuman was searching for a woman, he obviously had to set his gaze upon different types of people. Only by looking at someone can you make a proper identification. He couldn’t close his eyes and call out her name; otherwise his unwelcome presence in the city would be revealed.
Ravana was the king, and he had many beautiful wives already. Hanuman saw them after he entered Ravana’s palace. He saw them enjoying in a variety of ways. They were intoxicated from consuming wine. To look at other women like this is incredibly sinful. Not only is there the negative reaction in the afterlife, but it also pollutes the consciousness. Consciousness is the determining factor for the next type of body.
Though Hanuman committed the sin of viewing women in this intimate setting, there was no negative reaction. This was because his consciousness remained pure. He was searching for Sita, after all. What else could he do? Hanuman was prepared to suffer forever if it meant Rama’s cause would be helped.
4. Proposing to take Sita back with him
Hanuman eventually did find Sita. She was in a grove of Ashoka trees, her body made thin from grief. After talking with her for a while, he proposed bringing her back to Rama. This was not part of the assignment, but Hanuman’s emotion was so strong that he didn’t want Sita to suffer a minute longer.
This proposal carried sin, since he would be touching another man’s wife. Sita kindly declined, alluding to the very fact that she didn’t want to touch any man besides her husband. Ravana had already made contact with her, but that was not her fault. Again, Hanuman’s kindness was on full display. He is not interested in his personal comforts either for the moment or the future. He is always in union with the interests of the Divine.
5. Proposing to kill the women who harassed Sita
One of the things that added to Sita’s grief was a group of horrible looking women surrounding her in the grove. They were ordered by Ravana to harass her day and night, to scare her into submission. Though Ravana had brought Sita to Lanka, there was no progress in the relationship; she refused his advances. Ravana could not buy her off with promises of riches and wealth. This was Janaka’s daughter, after all, who had voluntarily renounced the regal life to follow her husband into the austere setting of the forest for fourteen years.
The women were Rakshasis, which are like female ogres. Imagine being surrounded by man-eating witches twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They are hissing at you and telling you scary stories about what the future holds. This is something like what Sita experienced.
Through Hanuman’s help, Sita’s husband eventually marched to Lanka and defeated Ravana. After the victory, Hanuman went to get Sita to bring her to Rama. Again, the task was simple, but remembering what he saw previously, Hanuman proposed something additional. He asked Sita if it would be okay if he killed the Rakshasis who had been harassing her.
The war was over. Rama had won. Sita would be reunited with her husband. These female ogres were no longer aggressors. Still, Hanuman was so upset at what they had done to Sita that he wanted revenge. He proposed harming himself with a sinful act in order to punish others who had behaved terribly. Being extremely forgiving, Sita declined the offer, stating that the women were simply following orders. She no longer had any enmity with them. From that incident we see the amazing kindness and compassion of those who are close to the Supreme Lord in thought, word and deed.
Hellish region result from sin,
Heavenly planets from piety to win.
But so many rules descending down,
How to follow, remain on solid ground?
From Hanuman’s bhakti many things learned,
Like how steady when vision of Ravana’s wives earned.
Punched Lanka lady blocking the way,
Proposed even vile Rakshasis to slay.