Saturday, January 22, 2011

We’re Not Alone

Hanuman “His [Hanuman’s] capabilities being well known from his past deeds and his having been specifically chosen by his master, the mission will certainly be completed successfully.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 44.10)

tat evam prasthitasya asya parijñātasya karmabhi/ bhartrā parigṛhītasya dhruvaḥ kārya phalodaya

Due to the never-ending difficulties in life, success is never guaranteed in any venture. Though we may forget it every so often, we are not alone in this world. We may choose to take up the most difficult tasks by ourselves, but this needn’t be the case. To successfully reach the finish line, the ultimate objective of life, we can rely simply on the greatest warrior, the most ardent supporter of all that is good in this world: Shri Hanuman, the beautiful divine figure of the Vedic tradition, the emblem of love, loyalty and devotion to the Lord. His merits have been battled tested on many an occasion and he has always passed with flying colors. More than just a loyal warrior, Hanuman is the bridge between the world of darkness and the realm of pure light. Those seeking the way towards ultimate freedom can steer their ship in the right direction through Hanuman’s kind mercy.

Hanuman The most difficult task facing the conditioned entity mired in an endless cycle of reincarnation is the altering of consciousness to the point where a permanent pleasurable mindset can be adopted. Surely the subject matter pondered over by the brain can vary, but if we were to classify the objects of our thoughts and efforts, we’d see that there really isn’t much variation. For example, say that one day we spend all our time thinking about eating pizza. While we are at work or sitting at home watching television, we just can’t wait until lunch or dinnertime when we’ll be able to get a piping hot pizza pie or slice in front of us. Moving forward to the next day, since we satisfied our desire for pizza the previous day, our thoughts can move towards another food item. This time we can think about eating some nice Indian food, perhaps dosa or idli. Again, thoughts of enjoying sumptuous food consume our consciousness throughout the day.

On the surface it appears that there are differences in the natures of both thought processes, but in reality, there isn’t. On both days, the primary thoughts of the mind are focused on food, the eating of which results in the satisfaction of the taste buds and the stomach. In a similar manner, almost all the objects of our daily thoughts can be categorized into four basic activities: eating, sleeping, mating and defending. The Vedas, the ancient system of knowledge originating in India, declare that these are the four primal activities of the animal species. As human beings, we are supposed to have an advanced level of intelligence, a knowledge base which sees past the basic activities performed by animals. Humans are animal-like, but the heightened potential for intelligence exists for a reason. If our consciousness remains stuck on animal activities, we aren’t making the best use of our brain power.

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)

Lord Krishna An advanced consciousness is one that works towards eliminating the need for eating, sleeping, mating and defending. The wise and challenging student in the classroom would at this point mention that there is one easy way to get rid of all activity: death. But nature doesn’t allow for such an easy escape. The spirit soul residing within the body is ever-existing, so it does not die when the body decays. We can think of each day as a measurement of time, a line of demarcation. Every day that we wake up is essentially a new birth, for our body, mind and consciousness have all changed from the previous day. Death represents a similar change, except that the entire outer covering of the soul gets replaced. The exact nature of the new outer covering is determined by one’s consciousness at the time of death, which is determined by the activities they performed during their lifetime. Unlike the laws of the state which are sometimes not enforced, the laws of nature are precise and completely fair. Every action has a commensurate reaction which must bear fruit at some point in the future. The more severe the original action undertaken, the greater the intensity of the reaction will be, and vice versa.

To truly transcend the base animal instincts, consciousness must be shifted towards service. Ironically enough, even the animals are engaged in a kind of service. Since the human beings are similar to animals at the beginning of life, they too have a natural inclination to serve, as divine love is characteristic of the spirit soul, which is the impetus for activity in all forms of life. In addition to being undying and unchanging, the soul has an essential property, or dharma. To allow the wandering souls to remain true to their essential characteristic, the Supreme Master instituted a set of law codes which governs mankind’s activities. Since these codes are for the soul’s benefit, they are also known as dharma. Thus dharma can mean an essential characteristic or the laws of God.

When consciousness is focused on animalistic activities, the beneficiary of the mood of service is the gross senses. In more simple terms, the individuals in this situation are only interested in serving themselves. A higher, more noble level of service involves helping other living entities, an arena where the donors derive more pleasure than from selfish pursuits. For instance, business tycoons and wealthy proprietors are lacking nothing in the area of sense gratification. They can eat what they want, go where they want and associate with whomever they want, at any time. Since money is of no concern, they have complete freedom in tending to the demands of the senses, which attack incessantly like the waves that pound the seashore. Yet it is often found that such wealthy men end up going in one of two directions. One class gets so fed up with sense gratification that they take to slowly killing themselves through drug and alcohol abuse. The other class takes to serving their fellow man through acts of charity and philanthropy. Benevolence is certainly the more healthy option, and it is more closely tied to the essential characteristic of the soul.

Yet even this type of service falls short of providing the perfect consciousness. The living entity without any knowledge of the Supreme Spirit has no idea how to properly serve their fellow man. Body consciousness gets tiring after a while, for it fails to provide any lasting happiness. Yet even when those who are fed up with serving their own interests take to pleasing others, the type of service they offer only relates to bodily demands. Essentially, such charity and philanthropy, though well intentioned, only seek to satisfy the gross senses of those being served. If such a mode of life proved inferior for the philanthropists, what guarantee is there that the same lifestyle will provide any sort of relief, temporary or otherwise, to those being helped?

“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 7.19)

Lord Krishna If serving the interests of the senses is futile, and so is offering material aid to our fellow man, what are we left to do? A life dedicated to associating with matter falls short of perfection because the service is directed at the outer covering of the soul. The loving propensity is purified when it is directed at spirit, or that entity which remains aloof from the temporary changes of the body. How exactly can one go about pleasing the soul? The wonderful properties that belong to the individual spirit are actually derived from a more potent entity, a person who is known as God to most people. In the Vedic tradition, God is called by thousands of different names, each of which describes a different transcendental feature. The individual soul emanates from the spiritual spark known as the Supreme Lord, so there is a similarity in quality between the two entities. Though the qualities are similar, the exact natures are different. One entity is supreme, while the other is subordinate. When both entities are adherent to their respective positions, a peaceful, pleasurable and ideal situation is reached.

The Supreme Spirit never deviates from His position; it is impossible for Him to do so. God is always God. Therefore the onus for change rests squarely with the individual souls. Through activities of sense gratification driven by animal instincts, consciousness remains focused on the body’s needs and wants. Matter is that which is not God, so acting in its interests goes against the essential characteristic of the soul, or its dharma, because under this mindset, the individual is taken as the supreme entity. As a result, the less intelligent activities of eating, sleeping, mating and defending are given precedence by those with no knowledge of their constitutional position. One in the know, a wise individual who realizes their subordinate position, immediately takes to pleasing the Supreme Lord and relying on His mercy. When one’s thoughts and desires always follow this mode of activity, the consciousness remains purified.

Hanuman thinking of Sita and Rama Achieving the highest level of consciousness is the most difficult task, for very few entities currently residing in the perceptible world have successfully reached it. Luckily for us, many great personalities of the past not only ascended to the topmost platform of consciousness, but they also performed many great activities as a result. One such individual is Shri Hanuman, the great Vanara warrior. During the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, the Supreme Spirit kindly appeared on earth in the guise of a seemingly fallible, yet powerful human being. As mentioned before, God’s position never changes. Even when He appears in the form of a conditioned entity, His supremacy is still intact. Unlike with the animals, humans and all forms of living beings, there is no difference between God’s body and His spirit. He is completely spiritual and full of knowledge.

To offer a service opportunity to the sincere souls looking to please Him, the Supreme Spirit, in His form as a pious prince named Rama, put Himself into various situations where He appeared to require assistance. One such predicament involved the rescue of Rama’s wife, the kind and sweet-hearted Sita Devi. She was kidnapped by a Rakshasa demon named Ravana and taken to an island kingdom of Lanka. Since Rama didn’t know where she was, He enlisted the help of a band of Vanaras, monkey-like humans, living in the forest of Kishkindha. Their leader was Sugriva, whose chief warrior was Hanuman.

Prior to sending out his huge monkey army to search for Sita, Sugriva specifically addressed Hanuman with kind words of confidence. After hearing this praise, Shri Rama thought the matter over. In the above referenced passage, we see that Rama ultimately concluded that success in the mission was guaranteed due to the words of Sugriva and the qualities of Hanuman. Rama makes mention of the fact that the results of Hanuman’s past activities in the service of Sugriva were well known, thus proving that his abilities had been battle-tested. In the task at hand, Hanuman was actually offering service to Rama through the proxy of Sugriva. Rama’s intuitions would turn out to be correct, as Hanuman would successfully find Sita and return information of her whereabouts.

To be successful in changing consciousness for the better, the direct shelter of the Lord, or the protection of one of His proxies, His bona fide representatives, is required. To this day, Hanuman is known as the greatest devotee of Rama, so it’s not surprising to see that he is worshiped by millions around the world. Knowing that we should direct our service towards the Lord and actually doing it are two different things. The challenging spirit remains very strong in the individual who has developed a deep-rooted desire to compete with God in the areas of creation, maintenance, destruction and enjoyment. Even Krishna Himself, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is viewed to be either a mythological figure or one who is worshiped simply to further some other fabricated cause like women’s subjugation or widespread violence. Such thoughts are conjured up by the grossly foolish, those who can’t stand to see others worshiping Krishna in lieu of being perpetually miserable through allegiance to matter, illicit sex life and stiff competition for the enjoyment of material resources.

Hanuman For those sincere souls living in this current age of quarrel and hypocrisy, where there is no shortage of miscreants and enemies of spirituality roaming the land, there is only one method of salvation, a singular religious practice that can be adopted in even the most adverse of conditions. This efficacious transcendental practice is the chanting of the non-different names of the Supreme Being, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. In addition to chanting this mantra regularly, we should also seek the association and well-wishes of the divine servants of the Lord such as Shri Hanuman. Chanting, reading, hearing and other aspects of devotional service represent the beginning steps towards achieving a purified consciousness, but the ultimate objective is to keep our thoughts fixed on the Supreme Truth at the time of death. Though the task may be daunting, if we are armed with the blessings of the powerful, courageous and benevolent Shri Hanuman, success will be guaranteed.