Ms. Sonia Sethi

My obesciences to the Master, to the guru, and to all of you,  fortunate, blessed devotees assembled here this evening.  From time  immemorial, the Lord has descended in various forms, to uphold dharma,  and set things right. From amongst these innumerable avatars, one of the  most well known, and best loved, is the Ramayanam. Last Thursday and  Saturday, we have listened to a lot about the Ramayana, today, we will  listen to the Sundarakandam, which is the crust of the Ramayana, it is  the ornament of the entire epic, it is a mine of spiritual inspiration.  We have already been introduced to the monkey bhakta, Hanumanji, today  we will listen to how he croses the ocean, and reached Lanka.

So the task of reaching Lanka and finding out if Sita was captured  there, was finally given to our Hanumanji.  He was on a mountain top, he  had to leap from there, across the ocean, and reached  Lanka. He looked  like a wild bull, he was enormous, and all the creatures on the mountain  were absolutely petrified, they shuddered under him. Hanumanji, on the  mountain top, saluted to all the Gods, he turned to the east and saluted to his father Vayu, and paid obeisciences to his master, Rama, and  Lakshmana, and then to the seas and rivers.

He then further enlarged in size, to the maximum, and he had made up  his mind, he will get Sita by hook or crook, some how or the other, if  he couldn’t find her, he would get the entire city of Lanka with him. He  was so determined, because it was his master’s command that he go in the  quest of Sitaji and succeed.

Praphupad, the founder acharya of ISKCON  was told by his guru, only once, ‘Abhay, if you ever get money, publish  books’.   In his late 60s, with Rs.40 in his pocket, he decided to leave  to the US and fulfill this command of the Guru. This is how it should be, the Guru’s wish should be our command.

So our hanumanji, then confidently leapt, he looked like the moon in a clouded sky, and he was flying the king of the ocean told the mountain Mainaka to grow larger, so that hanumanji could rest on him. And the mountain grew. Hanumanji first thought the mountain to be an obstacle, but then when he found out why it had risen, he said, kindly,  ‘No. Thanks a lot for your affection for Ramji, but I can not rest till I  have accomplished what I have undertaken.’ So he went on , and all the devas in the sky wanted to see how strong he was in his will, so they told the mother of serpents to assume the shape of a big rakshasi, and  she did. She wouldn’t let Hanumanji go, and said,  ‘If you want to go, you have to enter my month and be my khaanna.’  And Hanumanji said I am going on a very important mission, please could I be your food on the way back, and she refused. So our Hanumanji  said alright, open your mouth wide enough to accommodate me, and he grew and grew and grew in size, and her mouth  widened and widened and widened in size. Then he shrunk to the size of a  thumb, entered and came out in a moment. And the mother was happy, she said,  " may you succeed my child ."  He faced more obstacles, but there was the grace of the guru, there was the love for the Lord, there was the determination, there was the shraddha, and who can stop such a person?  So he went on covered the 100 yojanas, and reached the other shore.   Hanuman had achieved that which had seemed impossible. He could see Lanka now.  It was a beautiful city, lovely mansions, beautiful gardens every where, everything decorated with the most precious of jewels, but unfortunately, the city was guarded by Ravana’s demons, and now Hanumanji  had to think of a plan. How could he cross them? If he tried to get into a fight, and if he lost, then his whole travel would be futile, and Ramji would have to return to Ayodhya without Sita.  So he waited till it was dark.

The entire city was protected by a very high wall.  He was trying to enter the city when the guardian of the city, a goddess, came to him.  She asked him,  ‘What do you want, haan?  You seem to be a monkey! Tell me  the truth, or I’m going to kill you.’  Hanumanji tried to talk humbly, ‘I’ve  come to admire this lovely city’, but this Lankini, as was her name,  would now come down to earth, ‘You stupid monkey’, she said. Now our Hanumanji  also got angry, so he punched her hard, and she fell, but not that hard,  because she was a woman.

5000 yrs back they had regard for woman, but  anyone, you can’t expect traditions and values to last that long, because we are now entering the 21st century.

Now Lankini was  humiliated, and she said, ‘Brahmaji had given me a boon. He said when a  monkey conquers you, you must realize that the end of the Rakshasas has  come. I always, wanted to meet the Lord, but I was unfotunate enough to  have taken birth in the Rakshasa clan, but today, I have seen the Lord’s  direct devotee, I am so immensely blessed, I need nothing more, I can  now happily breathe my end.’, so she lets him enter, knowing that he had  come to rescue Sita.

Gotten rid of the angel guardian of Lanka, Hanumanji jumped the high wall,  and entered the city.  It was beautiful, decorated with pearls and  flowers, soft music playing in the background, beautiful to view, but it was amusing to watch the guards, most of them totally intoxicated,  drugged asleep, with gorgeous women giving them company. Not very  different from what we see nowadays. He looked at all their faces, and  he said, ‘Oh God! These definitely can’t be Sitaji. She is the most  beautiful of women, she must be somewhere else.’ He then enters Ravana’s  palace, it seemed to be the ornament of the entire city, shining  brilliance, from the precious stones and 24 carat gold that it was made  out of. He was amazed at the prosperity that he saw there, there were  thousands of beautiful women sleeping there, but he scanned their faces  and he was sure none of them was Sita.

There is a separate tejas, a glow  on a person who thinks of the Lord constantly. The person need not be  beautiful, but you can say from the very glimpse of the person’s face –  this person is a bhakta.

These were women all brought, or let say, won  by Ravana, in many of his fights, and all of them were really light  headed, so more than him, they were in love with all that he offered  them, so many women, yet Ravana had to bring his end closer by capturing  Sita.

Look at the height of foolishness, the more we have the more we  want, but this fool had gone upto the extent of actually separating the  Lord from his consort. You think of troubling a Bhakta and the Lord gets  furious, here this devil had captured a Bhakta, was torturing a bhakta,  so he definitely could not have a very comfortable end.

Hanumanji goes wandering around, and he finally sees an amazing cot, made of  crystal, ivory, sandal and gold, unbelievably beautiful, and in it slept  Ravana, looking mighty, very handsome, very healthy, arrogance and pride  written and glued onto his face, clad in the best of clothing, adorned  in the best of jewelry. And as he goes on, he sees another beautiful  cot, separate from Ravana’s and the other womens’ and in it slept an  amazing woman, so beautiful, that there was no need of jewels to enhance  her beauty. Hanumanji thought he had found Sita, and he starting clapping and  jumping in joy, when it struck him, that how can this be sita? That  noble lady will not sleep, parted from her Lord, she will not eat, and  yes, that woman was not Sita.  It was Mandodari, the wife of Ravana.   Now Hanumanji wonders, where can she be? I HAVE to find her! Then he saw an  ashokavana nearby, and he thought he must go there and search. It was a  lovely garden, favourite of the king, because it was maintained with   great care. Trees, flowers, fruits, birds and delicate animals of every  kind, every breed, sheltered there. Rama had once told Hanumanji that Sita was  very fond of trees, so he was positive to find her there. As he went on,  he suddenly saw a woman was like the thin crescent at the beginning of  the brighter fortnight. She was very thin, and it was  conspicuous that  she had been fasting endlessly. She was amazingly gorgeous, draped in a  crumpled piece of silk, yellow in color, covered by dust, no jewellery,  and she looked very sad, and scarred.  There were many Rakshasis around her, and she was helpless and lonely, her hair twisted into a single  strand, very long like a black snake. It was Her, it was Sita.

There was suddenly a lot of commotion, there was the sound of powerful strides, and the magnificent Ravana made his way to the spot where Sita was seated. Seeing him, the delicate lady started shrinking into herself, unable to bear the piercing looks of the king, who was drenched in greed, lust and every demonic quality one could think of. And he started speaking to her, ‘see, you are so beautiful, and I love you so  whole-heartedly, why don’t you marry me?  Why not become mine? I love you so intensely, that I am not even forcing you to do anything, I am giving you your own time. You can rule as my queen, you don’t look good like this, absolutely mariyal, I’ll dress you in the best of clothing you have ever seen! So what are you waiting for?’ Sita is distressed, shocked to see such a person! And she tells him, ‘See, go away! Don’t  think of anything so sinful. You are only giving death a VIP inviting. You are supposed to be a king, so protect the dharma handed down by your  elders, I am a married woman, I can not marry you. My Lord is ever  merciful, even now it is not too late, take me back to him, and he will  forgive you,’

Ravana’s wild, he had to be pacified, and he charged out of there. The Rakshasis then start harassing her, and she is crying and crying and crying, not knowing what to do, and Hanumanji is seeing all this.  And he is wondering, now how do I go down and talk to her, she’ll  probably start screaming at my very site. Hanumanji was best known for his  speech, so he decided to start reciting something love, and he began, ‘There was a great king known as Dhasharatha, who had 4 equally great sons, the eldest of whom was called Rama. Very dear to the king, the protector of dharma, on being told by his old father, Rama agreed to go to the forest, for 14 yrs. He was accompanied by his wife and brother.  Then Sita, his pious wife, got kidnapped by ravana, and Ram made friends with a monkey king, who agreed to help find Sita. He sent his monkeys all over, I am one of them. An eagle guided me to this place, and I crossed the ocean, and came to Lanka. Sita who has been described to me by Rama has been seen by me.’ And she felt scarred, who is this? She looks up, and she sees the little Hamnumanji on the tree.  She agrees, ‘yes, yes, you definitely must be my Lord’s messenger’, and  asks him to tell her about Rama. Picture it, pls, the Lord’s consort, and the Bhakta are talking about the Lord.

What a site! Hanumanji tells her  about how they came, how they saw her jewels, and about his leaping  across the sea, and he stood, palms folded, and told her that Rama and  Lakshmana are well, and gave her Rama’s ring. And then the mother looks  at the ring, and tears drip from her eyes at the thought of her beloved, and she tells Hanumanji,  ‘You are so great, to have the grace of my Lord, and  cross the ocean. My Lord and Lakshmana are well, I am happy, but have I not suffered enough? Why has he yet not come?’ and Hanumanji says,  ‘If Rama knew where you were, he would have come immediately, but he didn’t!  So he sent me to find out, but now he’ll come.’  Look at the tolerance of  this bhakta. Sita is thrilled, but Hanumanji can’t bear the thought of leaving her in the Ashokavana all alone, so he says, ‘I can change my size to anything suitable.  Would you like me to carry you out of here, to Rama?’ And Sitaji says, ‘No, that will not be a credit to Rama.  I will remain till he himself comes and rescues me.’ Hanumanji is thrilled to see the courage of the woman enduring such insufferable torture, and since he has to leave, he wants to know if she has any message for Rama.’

And the mother spoke with tears in her eyes, full of tears, she tells Hanuman to repeat just what she says to Rama. And she says, ‘Once, on the hill Chitrakuta, on the banks of the river Mandakini, a crow came in our presence, you were lying down on my lap, and the crow was bent on eating flesh and he kept piercing me with his sharp beak. I got annoyed, and you looked at my face and laughed at me. You slept on. Later, the crow came back from nowhere, and this time he started piercing me more fiercely, and there were drops of blood falling from my flesh. You got so annoyed, that you were about to kill the crow, and you were about to invoke the Brahmastra.  Lord, when you could not bear a crow piercing me, how is it that you are bearing me being  captured and tortured by a demon? Am I such a sinner to stay away from you for so long? Why don’t you free me from here, Lord?’ And she tells Hanumanji,  ‘Convey my prostrations to Rama, my blessings to Lakshmana.’ Wiping her eyes, she then gives Hanumanji the chudamani jewel worn in her hair, which she was given during her wedding, and tells him to give it to Rama. She then tells Hanumanji to go safely, because her safety depends on him, and she is still unwilling to let him go, because his coming was source of comfort to her. She says, ‘My Lord would be so heart broken to stay away from me, how is he carrying on? Give him my jewel, it will make him feel better, remind him of the playful moments we had together. Once when my tilak was not perfectly in shape, he took the dust from the ground, and he put it on my cheek.  Remind him of that, he’ll feel better.’

And then Hanumanji takes her blessings, and he is ready to leave, when he thinks, that it really is not right to leave, without even meeting Ravana, talking to him, and getting him acquainted to the power of Rama  and his devotees. So he decides, ‘How can I fight with the Rakshasas?’  Then he decides to destroy the Ashokavana, slowly, slowly, since that  was Ravana’s favorite garden. So he starts uprooting trees, and slowly  everything is gone, and there is chaos, and Ravana is informed. He sends  his entire army, they are defeated, he sends his minister’s son, he is killed, he then sends his own son, even he is killed, then he decides to  send Indrajit, his favourite, and most valiant son. Indrajit is there, and the fight is really worth watching, better than any WWF match you  would have ever watched, both so mighty, so powerful, none of Indrajit’s  most powerful arrows also hurt the monkey, they all prove futile.  Finally, he invoke the Brahmasthra, which ties up Hanumanji, and Hanumanji can do  anything, but he doesn’t want to get out of it, because he wants to meet  Ravana, so he is tied up tight, bound well, and taken to Ravana’s court.

Hanumanji is absolutely spell bound.  He sees the Rakshasa king very a  beautifully made golden crown set with gems and pearl. He was wearing  ornaments made of gold, and was wearing the softest of white silks. There was sandal wood smell in the durbar, it was amazing, and Hanumanji was  standing with his mouth open at this great king. He looked so good, yet,  it was a pity that he had committed a sin of capturing the eternal consort of the Lord, because the Lord is  definitely not going to spare  him for that. Finally Ravana asks his manthri to ask Hanuman  why he has come.  Why has he ruined the garden? What is his purpose? And Hanumanji talks directly to the king, he says, I am Rama’s messenger, and I’ve come to  talk to you, to tell you to change your ways, do not even think of  making Sitaji yours, she’s like a small flame, that can rise any time and destroy your entire city.  Ravana is furious, he says, ‘Kill this  monkey!’ And his brother, Vibhishana, who happens to be a good and  righteous, unusual Rakshasa, he tells him, ‘bhaiya, it is not right to kill a messenger. If you want, kill the princes, Rama and Lakshmana, but  killing a messenger will be considered an act of cowards.’  Finally,  Ravana agrees, but he says, ‘Now, I am not going to let this monkey  escape so easily. He has to suffer. The dearest possession of a monkey  is his tail, and I’ll set fire to his tail, and teach a lesson to all  the other monkeys also.’

So, there, the rakshasas has tied a cloth around Hanumanjis tail, and they  set fire to it. They then drag him all around Lanka, and Hanumanjis very  glad, because even he wants to see this Lanka. And Sitaji hears of Hanumanjis fate, and she’s in tears. She invokes Agni bhagawan in her mind and  tells him, ‘If I am a pure woman who has served my Lord faithfully, pls  don’t let Hanumanji feel the heat’, and not doubt, though his tail was  burning, Hanumanji felt a coolness, like sandal paste had been applied on it.’  Look at the power of true prayer.

Finally Hanumanji decided that he had seen enough of lanka, and he then  started enlarging in size, he drove away all the Rakshasas with his enormous tail, and he went about setting fire to the whole city, and the Rakshasas are absolutely zapped. Hanumanji then reached the sea shore, and he  dipped his burning tail into the water and extinguished the fire. He was  positive that Sitaji was safe, unhurt, and with confidence, he went to  the top of the hill Srishta, and leapt high. Again, he flew the  distance, crossed the ocean, and gave a very triumphant roar as he was  landing, so all the other vanaras also knew that their hero was back.

All the vanaras are jumping, they are absolutely delighted, giving Hanumanji  an absolutely VVVVIP treatment. And he tells them of his entire trip,  all that has happened, all that he saw, and the monkeys decide that they  must definitely now go and get Sita, but they decide that they must  first go to Kishkinda, and tell Rama about Hanumanjis trip, and that Sitaji  has been found.

Each of them went, triumphant, to Sugriva’s court, absolutely  delighted. And Rama and Lakshmana are mad with joy, on hearing that  Sitaji has been found. And Hanumanji conveys Sitaji’s message, ‘Lord, only 1  month more for me to survive, pls come here and save me before that  month expires!’  He sees the chudamani jewel, and he is in tears, not  able to believe that he has stayed from so long without Sita. The vanaras then decide that we just have to go to Lanka, and a bridge has  to be built, across the ocean, so that our entire army may reach Lanka.

Although the Sundarakandam might sound like a mere narrative, it is  not! There is a lot of hidden meaning in the entire story.
It is a  reflection of the awakened spiritual seeker, in search of the divinity within him.
Hanumanji here portrays the awakened spiritual seeker;
The  crossing of the ocean is the crossing of the ocean of samsara, that is,the cycle of birth and death;
The obstacles that Hanumanji faced on the way, are the obstacles, that any endeavouring spiritual seaker is destined to  face;
The various mansions and sense attractions seen by Hanumanji in Lanka,and his crossing them with immense sense control, are the various koshas, or the various layers of human personality, through which we  have to penetrate;
Hanumanji's finding the mother,Sitaji, is the seeker’s  success, in finding the perpetual, eternal spark of divinity within him, which will take him to a world of total joy and bliss.
The Sundarakandam is considered to be the power house of the Ramayana.  Who ever reads of listens to it with total shraddha and bhakti, will  soon be devoid of all physical ailments, worries, poverty, etc. It rejuvenates a person, and more than anything, take the person closer to  the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Thus ends the Sundarakandam, the beautiful description of the obedience  of a Bhakta,  of his Master’s wish, his crossing the ocean of a 100  yojanas, his emotional, beautiful speech with the mother of the  universe, his returning with victory, and finally, his reuniting of two  eternal lovers.