“One cannot speak this way without having been well-trained in the Rig Veda, memorized the Yajur Veda, and thoroughly understood the Sama Veda.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana about Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.28)
The ancient scriptures of India are known as the Vedas, which is a Sanskrit word meaning knowledge. Why would the scriptures be addressed in these terms? Real knowledge can only be in relation to the origin of the universe, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Shri Krishna. Any knowledge derived from the conclusion of God being the Absolute Truth will also be considered perfect. The Vedas represent the most complete system of education because they discuss this ultimate conclusion in great detail through the use of carefully crafted hymns, aphorisms, and mantras. Anyone who studies the Vedas thoroughly under the direction of a bona fide spiritual master will be blessed with the knowledge of illumination, information which will lead them back to the spiritual world.
The Vedas are also known as the shrutis, meaning that which is heard. In the beginning, the Vedas were only one set of instructions. This singular doctrine, known as the Veda, was passed down through aural reception. The brain power of mankind in the early stages of creation was so great that a person could memorize hundreds of thousands of complex Sanskrit verses after hearing them only one time. Sanskrit is considered the oldest language in the world, and it is written in the script called Devanagari, which means the city of the demigods. Since Sanskrit is spoken in the city where the demigods [highly elevated living entities] reside, it is also known as the language of the gods. Sanskrit comes from God Himself, who first imparted Vedic wisdom into the heart of Lord Brahma, the first created living entity born out of the lotus navel of Lord Vishnu, a plenary expansion of God. The original shruti consisted of wonderful Sanskrit poetry, so no one needed to write it down, nor was there a need to explain it. Simply by hearing the Veda, one could meditate on the Supreme Absolute Truth for thousands and thousands of years.
As time went on, mankind’s mental capacity diminished. Not only did it become harder to memorize the Veda, but it became increasingly more difficult to understand it. To bestow His mercy upon the fallen conditioned living entities, the Supreme Lord partially expanded himself into the form of a great spiritual master and writer named Vyasadeva. Vyasadeva took it upon himself to divide the Veda into four branches: Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva. Vyasadeva wasn’t satisfied with this, so he went on to compile many other books known as the Puranas. These works expounded on the same truths of the Vedas, but in story format. The stories actually described real life events of the past, present, and future. Therefore there is actually no difference between the information contained in the Puranas and the Vedas. Distinctions are made only for the purpose of appealing to a broad-base of scholars, religionists, and devotees. If one cannot understand the language and meaning of the four Vedas, they can take to reading other works such as the Ramayana, Puranas, and Mahabharata.
Based on the evolution of the dissemination of Vedic knowledge, we see that the information found in the Vedas actually existed before Vyasadeva’s time. Moreover, many of the incidents described in the Puranas also had taken place before the great sage’s time. Evidence of this is seen with the famous Ramayana, authored by Maharishi Valmiki. Many thousands of years ago, the Supreme Absolute Truth, Lord Krishna, descended to earth in human form as a valiant prince named Rama. While His primary mission was to annihilate the demon Ravana and his kingdom, the Lord also took it upon Himself to travel across the world and associate with His great devotees. One such meeting took place in the forest of Kishkindha, which was inhabited at the time by a race of human-like monkeys known as Vanaras.
The king of this particular clan was a Vanara named Sugriva, who had sought refuge in Kishkindha after being driven out of his kingdom by his brother Vali. Vali was ready to kill Sugriva, but due to a curse, he was not allowed to enter the forest of Kishkindha. Therefore, Sugriva set up shop there, residing on the mountain of Rishyamukha. Sugriva had thousands of monkey warriors with him, but his chief aide was the venerable Hanuman. Today Hanuman is famous throughout the world as a divine figure and pure devotee of God. Most know him for his great feats of strength and his courageous service offered to Rama and His wife, Sita Devi. Yet before Hanuman could offer service to Rama, he had to meet Him. An account of the initial meeting between the two celebrated figures, God and His dear friend, is given in Valmiki’s Ramayana.
While Rama was residing in the forest, Sita was kidnapped by Ravana. While searching for her whereabouts, Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana were advised to make friends with the monkey-king Sugriva. Upon reaching Kishkindha, Sugriva saw the two princes from his perch on the mountaintop. Fearing that they were sent by Vali, Sugriva asked Hanuman to go down and see what they wanted. He instructed Hanuman to hide his monkey figure, so as to keep the princes from attacking him. Hanuman decided to assume the more peaceful guise of a brahmana, or ascetic. A brahmana is essentially a priest, so others are more likely to behave in a non-threatening manner when encountering such a person.
Hanuman did as he was told, but upon seeing Rama, his heart immediately melted. His mission was to find out why Rama and Lakshmana were there, but Hanuman couldn’t help himself. He immediately went into describing the glories of the two brothers. Hanuman’s speech was exquisite and consisted of wonderful Sanskrit poetry, with many references made to revealed knowledge found in the Vedas. Hanuman kept going and going with his speech until he finally noticed that Rama wasn’t saying anything. Hanuman then gave up his false guise and revealed his true form to the two brothers. He then told them the truth of who he was and his relationship to Sugriva.
In the above referenced quote, Lord Rama is reacting to Hanuman’s speech by reviewing the matter with Lakshmana. In this situation, Hanuman was acting as the representative of King Sugriva, so Rama decided to have Lakshmana act as His representative. In reality, Lakshmana is the embodiment of the spiritual master, or guru. The guru’s main business is to act as God’s representative on earth and take the necessary steps to protect His good name, teaching others how to serve Him properly in the process. The spiritual master is also charged with relaying God’s message to others, so as to let them know what the Lord is thinking and what will make Him happy. In this regard, Lakshmana played the role perfectly, as Lord Rama instructed him to speak to Hanuman with pleasing words. Rama was interested in forming an alliance with Sugriva, and due to Hanuman’s good nature, the Lord wanted to welcome him very kindly.
Lord Rama, being God Himself, is very kind to His devotees. He not only gives His representatives the proper marching orders, but He also explains the purpose behind such instructions. In this instance, Rama wanted to explain to Lakshmana why Hanuman was to be treated with kindness and respect. From the above referenced statement, we see that the Lord was quite impressed with Hanuman’s speech. We see that Rama accurately notes that no one could speak in the way that Hanuman did without mastering the three primary Vedas: the Rig, Yajur, and Sama.
“The word trai-vidyah refers to the three Vedas, Sama, Yajur and Rig. A brahmana who has studied these three Vedas is called a tri-vedi. Anyone who is very much attached to knowledge derived from these three Vedas is respected in society.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 9.20 Purport)
Rama’s observation is a noteworthy one. Since the original four Vedas are so complex and difficult to understand, learned brahmanas typically would choose to focus on only one of them. In rare instances, a brahmana would become expert in two branches, and thus be known as dvi-vedi. If someone knew all three primary branches, they would be referred to as tri-vedi. Trivedi is actually a common surname in India today. People with this last name are descendents of brahmanas who were expert in three different branches of the Vedas. Needless to say, only the topmost scholars would be granted this title. Hanuman was so exalted that he earned this distinction from none other than Lord Rama Himself.
Actually the qualities possessed by Hanuman are unmatched. Though he had the body of a monkey, he had the intelligence of the most learned brahmana. This fact alone should dispel the bogus idea of one’s intelligence or social standing being determined by the circumstances of their birth. While the brahmanas are the highest division of the varnashrama-dharma system, one can only be classified in this group if they exhibit the proper qualities and perform the duties prescribed to them. A person’s bodily features, their family lineage, and their country of origin are not of any importance in this regard. Shri Hanuman, though a divine figure, appeared in the body of a monkey. Though he was genetically predisposed to excessive intoxication and sex life, he had no attraction to these things. Based on the activities he performed in service of Rama, he proved himself to be a learned scholar, a gentle soul, a courageous warrior, and a person unmatched in strength.
More than just being a tri-vedi, Hanuman is a Vaishnava, or devotee of Vishnu. This is his most important characteristic. Lord Rama could identify this immediately, and that is why He advised Lakshmana in the way that He did. After this meeting, Hanuman would kindly carry the two brothers on his back and bring them to Sugriva, with whom an alliance would immediately be formed. Soon after, Sita would be found, Ravana would be defeated in battle, and Lord Rama would triumphantly return home with his entourage consisting of Hanuman and many other Vanaras.
What we can take away from this passage is that while Hanuman possesses extraordinary strength and intelligence, he only uses his powers for the Lord’s benefit. Obviously, we don’t possess all of the same qualities as Shri Sankat Mochan, but that shouldn’t stop us from serving the Lord to the best of our ability. We all have some sort of talent, something that we are good at. Some of us are good at personal interactions, dealing with strangers, and meeting new people. Some of us are skilled in writing, singing songs, cooking, gardening, making flower garlands, or doing work on the computer. Whatever our talent is, we should use it unsparingly in service to God. That is the example that Hanuman set for us. He used his expertise of the three Vedas to praise the Lord to the best of his ability. In this way, he proved himself to be a supreme object of worship, someone worthy of our eternal love and respect. Anyone who follows in the transcendental footsteps laid down by Shri Hanuman will undoubtedly very quickly find their way to the Supreme Abode.