“One looks for a being amongst those of its own kind. One does not look for a lost woman amongst female deer.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 11.43)Download this episode (right click and save)
The essence of life, the dharma of the soul, is service. Taking away that property, the living being would cease to exist. We know from the Bhagavad-gita that such a thing is not possible. I exist because I exist. I will always be able to say, “I am,” since nothing can extinguish the vibrancy of life. All that can happen is the soul exits one temporary dwelling for another.
“This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.24)
Bhakti-yoga is more definition to the term “sanatana-dharma.” It is eternal service, with no beginning and no end. This service can only take place when the object, the beneficiary, is the Supreme Lord. Only God can be served lifetime after lifetime, in whatever body the living being calls home.
Service to God is not limited to visiting a house of worship, saying prayers, and being an all-around good person. Bhakti can involve anything, since the determining factor is consciousness. For Shri Hanuman devotional service once involved a difficult and dangerous mission. In order to highlight just how difficult it was, we can review certain things that Hanuman was not able to do. His service was finding the missing wife of the Supreme Lord Rama, who is God descended to earth in an incarnation form.
1. Use a GPS device
A friend invites you to their house for the weekend. You have not been there before, but it’s no issue. You simply ask for the address and then punch it into your GPS device. Through rapidly advancing technology, a separate device is no longer required. Just put in the details into one of many navigation apps available for your smartphone.
Hanuman did not have this luxury. Rama’s wife Sita was somewhere, but these events are from an ancient time period. There were no electronic devices. Hanuman had no idea where she was. Fortunately, he was not the only one searching. Rama had made friends with forest-dwellers, known as Vanaras in Sanskrit. Their leader was Sugriva, who ordered all the soldiers under his command to search the earth to look for Sita.
2. Send a text message
Sita was not carrying a smartphone on her. She had volunteered to live an austere life in the forest, following her husband Rama. Rama’s fourteen year exile from the kingdom of Ayodhya highlighted the opulence of vairagya, or renunciation. These and other opulences exist in the Supreme Lord in full and simultaneously. That is why one name for Him is Bhagavan. This term is much more descriptive than the generic “God.”
If someone goes missing, you can send them a text message to facilitate communication. If they respond in a timely manner, you can learn their whereabouts. You can know that they are safe. Hanuman did not have this luxury. He had to physically locate the beautiful and chaste queen from the kingdom of Videha.
3. Communicate with home base for help
Say you are a driver at a company that delivers goods. If you get lost en route, you can call back to the office to get help. You may have received the wrong address. Perhaps no one is home at the place of delivery.
Hanuman’s mission was important, so being able to communicate with Rama and Sugriva back in Kishkindha would have been extremely helpful. The Vanaras did run into a lot of trouble. Sugriva had set a time limit, and that time went by without success. The Vanaras in Hanuman’s search party were not sure how to proceed. They had to rely on Providence for help. Hanuman’s devotion is what guides him.
4. Ask the authorities for help
This situation has been depicted many times in film. You have some crime going on. Bad guys are getting away with theft and murder. You go to the police for help. After a while, it is learned that the police are in on it. They are corrupt. They are conspiring with the bad guys.
Hanuman faced a similar situation. Sita had been taken to Lanka, which was ruled by Ravana. The king had committed the iniquitous deed himself, too afraid to fight Rama in a battle one on one. When he finally reached Lanka, Hanuman could not ask the authorities for help. The government was complicit. The leader of the land was the criminal. Hanuman thus had to search clandestinely, ensuring that no one saw him except Sita, should he locate her.
5. Call out Sita’s name
Consider this. Hanuman did not know exactly what Sita looked like. He did not have a picture to consult. He heard of her features from Rama. There was one important thing he knew: she would be in great distress. Hanuman deciphered this on his own, since he realized that any person separated from Rama would feel that way. The Supreme Lord’s qualities are such that any pious person will be naturally attracted to them.
Inside of Lanka, if Hanuman could call out Sita’s name, then it would be a big help. But he was not able to do that. Instead, he had to rely entirely on sight. Inevitably, he had to place his glance on other women. He did so when he was inside the palace of Ravana. The king of Lanka had many beautiful wives, and inside the comforts of their home they were enjoying in various ways. Hanuman had no desire to set his eyes on such a scene, but what choice did he have?
He resolved the issue by reminding himself that when a person looks for a lost woman, they don’t go searching amongst female deer. They have to look amongst women. Moreover, his mind was still properly situated. That is the way to assess piety and sin. What is the effect on consciousness? Hanuman cannot sin since his consciousness is always fixed on pleasing Rama, the Supreme Lord. And succeed in that mission he does, in spite of whatever handicaps are placed on him. He perseveres through difficulties, and from his sentiment alone success is guaranteed.
Famous devotee known to me and you,
But many things Hanuman couldn’t to.
Like with GPS into location to steer,
Or through SMS from Sita to hear.
To home base not making a call,
Or from picture her face to recall.
Pure devotion, by love for Rama guided,
Everything for success by God provided.