“And O best of the monkeys, if you have been sent by Rama, the knower of the self, then certainly I should speak with you.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.10)
arhase ca kapi śreṣṭha mayā samabhibhāṣitum |
yadi asi preṣitaḥ tena rāmeṇa vidita ātmanā ||
You can’t just force your way into the White House. As much as you may desire a meeting with the President of the United States, there are certain protocols. Make an appointment. You likely have to be an important person. Sure, the leader of the free world may not have anything against the little people, but there are just too many of them to meet with individually. For this reason special interests form. A small group represents a much larger one. The same concept is there with the members of the legislative branch.
A long time back a powerful king insisted on meeting a most beautiful princess. She was a queen-in-waiting, actually. She was already married, to the prince of Ayodhya. As even in family life there can be problems involving rivalry, jealousy, and anger over offenses, Sita found herself in the forest. She was following her husband. This was her dharma, which she accepted both with respect to tradition and her own sentiments.
Ravana, the leader of Lanka, made sure to meet Sita only when the husband Rama was not by her side. He masked his shape, as well. It would be like entering the White House dressed as a foreign leader. Except the dress applied by Ravana represented a person of an even higher stature.
Ravana looked like a parivrajaka sannyasi. This is a person of the renounced order who wanders. They go from place to place, not maintaining a permanent residence. The travel facilitates the spreading of transcendental wisdom. The cultured households gladly welcome such wanderers, for they know there is a tremendous benefit to receiving such a guest.
Sita Devi is the most cultured, and so she was kind to Ravana in the false guise. But the fiend eventually showed his true form, that of a hideous Rakshasa. This is something like a man-eating ogre. Ravana was not worthy to converse with Sita, but he forced himself upon her. He took her back to Lanka, against her will.
She continued to refuse his advances, even after receiving threats of physical violence. Ravana offered to make her the chief queen in Lanka, but Sita had no interest in this. Ravana tried his best, but the flaw was there from the outset. He simply wasn’t worthy of speaking to her.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sita gives the parameters for which a person is worthy of conversing with her, on an equal level. Here she is praising Shri Hanuman, who is the best of the monkeys. The Sanskrit word used is kapi, and in that ancient time period the kapis could talk and organize in a semblance of civilized life.
Sita says that Hanuman is sent by Rama, who is described to be the knower of the self. On the other side, Ravana is a knower of his body. There is a major distinction. The body is produced of maya, which is illusion. For this reason Ravana was never happy. He knew his body, but that body’s demands were always changing. He had enough material enjoyment to make any atheist happy. There was sufficient wine, meat, and women available in his kingdom. Since he was the feared ruler, there was no impediment to enjoyment.
Rama, meanwhile, is the knower of the self. Those who know their true identity as spirit soul are the most cultured. Rama, of course, is the knower of all identities. He describes this in the Bhagavad-gita, while in His form of Krishna speaking to the bow-warrior Arjuna.
“O scion of Bharata, you should understand that I am also the knower in all bodies, and to understand this body and its owner is called knowledge. That is My opinion.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.3)
Rama is the knower, kshetrajna, in all bodies. Sita is the wife to the person who is all-knowing. Hanuman is sent by that supreme knower, and so he can speak with Sita on an equal level.
Sita Devi is also Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune. Worship of Lakshmi is prominent in Vedic culture. The proper way to approach her is to be dear to her husband. After all, the gifts she distributes are intended for that purpose. Otherwise, the worshiper runs the risk of going the way of Ravana, who ultimately lost everything.
Hanuman is dear to both Sita and Rama. He can speak with either of them at any time. For this reason Goswami Tulsidas has glorified Hanuman so profusely. It is difficult to understand God and His eternal consort, but through the mercy of the representative the task is made easier. The difference is like having the task of crossing a vast ocean change to that of crossing a small puddle, one left by the hoof-print of a calf.
Dressed as wandering mendicant to see,
But not worthy of audience was he.
By force Sita to Lanka taking,
And trying her chief queen making.
Not to work, since enmity at heart,
But trusting Hanuman from the start.
On an equal level talking and sitting,
Since sent by Rama a friend befitting.