As soon as Lord Rama vanquished the demon King Ravana, he sent Hanuman, one of the chief monkeys, to free Sita Devi held prisoner in Ravana’s palace gardens.
Hanuman was furious when he saw a large group of fierce demonesses surrounding Sita Devi and tormenting her with their words. He wanted to kill them immediately but Sita Devi forbade him with these words:
“I have been a guest here. How can I agree to see my hosts slaughtered? I am not like that hunter.”
“What hunter?” asked Hanuman. His interest piqued, he wanted to know the story.
“Once there was a hunter who killed many animals. But one day it all turned on him… It was a dark in the forest as the hunter stole about seeking prey. Suddenly he froze in terror as he spied the colours of a tiger from the corner of his eye. He couldn’t see very well in the dark, but he took no chances. With a jerk, he skimmed up the nearest tree.
Peering down, the hunter congratulated himself for acting so quickly, for a huge majestic tiger was prowling around the tree, clearly hungry. The hunter’s relief was short-lived for a low growl alerted him to look up. Horrified, he saw a grizzly bear several branches above him.
What a dilemma: to fall into the sharp jaws of a tiger or be clawed to death by a gruesome bear.
The tiger saw the hunter’s predicament and called out to the bear, ‘Kick him down, fellow forest animal. Then I will have something to eat and will leave you alone.’
This was obviously a good proposition for the bear but after thinking for a minute, he said, ‘I can’t do it. He is my guest taking shelter in my tree.’
The tiger was surprised but undeterred. He played another strategy, this time addressing the hunter, ‘Hunter, I only need to eat something, human or bear, I don’t care. If you kick the bear down, I won’t harm you.’
Without hesitation, the hunter climbed above the bear and kicked him hard off his branch. Cracking branches as he fell, the bear managed to grab a sturdy bough and clambered to safety.
The clever tiger was quick to react: ‘Brother bear, don’t you see what a rogue this hunter is? You should never shelter a dangerous cobra. Kick him down, I say.’
Undisturbed, the bear said, ‘No, the hunter may have acted wrongly – in fact, the world may act wrongly – but I do not have to give up my path. I never harm a guest no matter what he does.’”
Hanuman nodded with understanding at the conclusion of the story.
“We will spare the demonesses, no matter what troubles they gave me,” Sita Devi said. “We will do the right thing. This will always protect us. Even if others misbehave and do not follow their dharma*, you make sure you do!”
*In this context, to follow one’s dharma means to act according to one’s duty, moral code or obligation or principle.
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