Lord Rama is anxious to admit Vibhishana into His camp. He begins to give reasons for so doing and addresses Sugriva as ‘monkey.’ While explaining Rama’s reason for addressing Sugriva as ‘monkey,’ Vedanta Desika narrates an interesting story, said Navalpakkam Vasudevachariar, in a discourse.
One day, a tiger chased a man, who ran for his life and climbed up a tree. On the tree he found a huge monkey. But the monkey told him that it would not harm him. The tiger did not go away, but waited at the foot of the tree, hoping that the man would either fall out, or climb down. In course of time, the man felt sleepy. So he asked the monkey to keep awake and make sure he did not fall off while he slept, for if he did, he would instantly become the tiger’s food for the night.
The monkey gave its word that it would keep watch. When the man went to sleep, the tiger addressed the monkey. “Man is my natural enemy, and he is your enemy too. Push him down.” But the monkey said that the man had sought its protection and that it would not betray his trust.
When the man woke up, he told the monkey that it could sleep, and that he would keep watch. So the monkey went to sleep. The tiger then addressed the man and said, “Why don’t you push the monkey down? I will eat it instead of you. Then you can escape.” The man was ready to betray the monkey to save his own life. So he tried to push the monkey off the tree, but the monkey awoke and managed to stay on the tree.
The tiger now asked the monkey why it had protected such a wicked man, and that it could still push him out, so that the tiger could eat him. But the monkey refused and said that even though the man had tried to harm it, it would not harm the man, for he had sought its protection. So Vedanta Desika’s interpretation of Rama’s use of the word ‘monkey’ to address Sugriva, is that this word must have been used deliberately by Rama. The purpose must have been to remind Sugriva that one of his own clan had once been so protective of a man who had surrendered, and so Sugriva should not reject Vibhishana.