The great dual combat that happened between the two Vanara (वानर) brothers Sugreeva and Vali has great spiritual significance, especially because the Supreme Lord Sri Rama was involved in the combat. The mystery of the Lord’s involvement with the slaying of the Vanara king Vali, has deeper spiritual connotations which becomes an impactful and interesting read.
The story goes like this. Sugreeva (सुग्रीव) teams up with the Lord in such a way that Sugreeva shall first invite his powerful brother Vali (वाली) for a one-on-one combat. The Lord shall hide behind the trees and at an opportune moment release an arrow that shall end Vali’s life. This was the clandestine agreement between Sugreeva and the Lord. We shall simultaneously look at the spiritual aspect of the event, as we explore this anecdote. The trees that are spoken off, during the course of the event are our very Karmas which occur many in number and are widespread on the land of the jungle. The vast land is our own life. The fact of our life is that the Supreme Lord is hiding behind the tall and broad trees of our Karmas. It is natural that we are not able to see the beautiful Lord who is hiding behind the trees or alternately changing positions behind these trees. We see the trees (karmas) but we cannot see the Lord. This means that Karmas appear and affect us physically, mentally and hence manifest. The Lord is the one who seems to be non-existent as we explore our Karmas; as we encounter them at various stages of our life just as the trees are spread along the vast land of the forest.
What is evident from the above explanation is that unless the Lord is hiding behind our Karmas, our toiling and wrestling with our Karmas are never going to end. The Lord is watching the jeev, from behind the tree like Karmas. In the case of the dual combat between Vali and Sugreeva, it is clear that Vali is more capable and Sugreeva is weak. It is clear as to who will win, if the weak combats the powerful. It is common sense. In the initial combat, the Lord watches Sugreeva combat Vali. Sugreeva is beaten and punctured by Vali as the former runs for his life. Sugreeva runs to the Lord in a very sorry condition. This is a point of contemplation. Why did the Lord watch mutely as Sugreeva was being beaten? This can be seen from the perspective of Jnana. Jnana says that Truth is knowledge, Truth is to see everything as equal without any distinction. While Vali fought Sugreeva, both the brothers looked identical. There was no iota of difference between them. The Lord could only view them as “equals”. The Lord could not differentiate between them. This statement is an oxymoron of types. But what could differentiate Sugreeva from Vali. The Lord is Jnana personified. Jnana sees no difference among individuals. When the Lord takes the position of Jnani, obviously the weak shall be destroyed and the powerful will be the victor. This is how Jnana works.
The defeated Sugreeva cries to the Lord “You promised to protect me, but here I am totally devastated. How can I trust You?” In an earlier instance, Sugreeva, after having met the Lord had said “After meeting you, I have developed equal vision. I am unable to see any differences between people. All because of your Grace.” The Lord made a pass at Sugreeva, on the occasion of his defeat at the hands of Vali and said that “I could not see any difference between you and Vali. I was afraid that the arrow would hit you by mistake.” Sugreeva immediately realized the fallacy of his earlier statement to the Lord and understood that he had turned into a “fake” Jnani. He said “Oh Lord, I now realize what you are hinting at and I admit my mistake, that I am incapable of being a Jnani. I have realized that I had become a hypocrite by denying the Truth and falsely aping a Jnani.”
The Lord accepted Sugreeva and blessed him. Sugreeva once again challenged Vali and in the combat that followed, the Lord recognized the differences between the features of Vali and Sugreeva and slayed Vali.
Bhakti belongs to a different dimension. Here it is to become so committed to the Lord that, with your love the Lord is forced to be partial towards you. Your love for the Lord is so deep and unchallenged that when you are attacked or challenged by the forces of Maya, you maintain your balance, but the Lord cannot tolerate it and immediately makes himself available to root out your entire opposition. This is the Bhakti partisan. It was only after the Jnana conversation that Sugreeva totally surrendered to the Lord and got His Grace. Once the devotee surrenders to the Lord, the Lord can identify the devotee in the mood of Bhakti. In the normal circumstances the Lord is never partisan. He is equanimous. He has an equal eye and treats everyone with the same mood. He is Sama-darshi (समदर्शी equal-eyed). However the moment one surrenders completely, one become very special to the Lord. One cannot forget Him and so can’t He. One shall remain His favorite. With the eyes of Bhakti, the Lord becomes overwhelmingly partial and shall protect and safeguard one even in the most dreadful of circumstances. This is when the Lord comes out of his hiding from behind the trees. After you witness the Lord, you can never witness the trees of Karma again!