Monday, February 21, 2011

Then It All Crashes Down

Hanuman “O chastiser of the enemy, as soon as you settle upon this, all the monkeys will decide to abandon you with fixed determination.” (Hanuman speaking to Angada, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 54.16)

avasthāne yadā eva tvam āsiṣyasi parantapa |

tadā eva harayaḥ sarve tyakṣyanti kṛta niścayāḥ

The workings of life are certainly a great mystery. Just when you think everything is finally settled and all obstacles in the way of the stated objective have been removed, everything just gets swept right from underneath you. As soon as power is consolidated through great effort, it all crashes down in an instant. What causes the constant toggling of gain and loss? Why can’t life be peaceful, especially for those who are providing protection for others? These constant changes in fortune are rooted in desire and fickleness of mind. One notable warrior and historical personality was fully cognizant of these features of the uncontrolled mind, and he used this knowledge to his advantage. Understanding full well the dangers of complacency formed in response to being given important tasks, this dedicated warrior and servant of the jewel of the Raghu dynasty voiced words of reason to those who were doubtful of the proposed plan of action. The statements emanating from the lotus mouth of Sugriva’s famed emissary were presented with a purpose, that of achieving success in one of the most difficult and important missions ever presented to a faithful servant.

HanumanThough not directly perceptible to the naked eye, life around us is changing at every second. The earth is constantly moving, so the exact positioning of the sun in relation to the earth is never steady. The growth of the outer body of the numerous life forms inhabiting the world also occurs subtly, so it is not easy to tell when someone has gained weight, lost hair, or grown in height. Usually when seeing someone after a long time, these changes are distinct in their appearance, but for those who are around the same person every day, the gradual changes go unnoticed. Of all the shifts that constantly take place, the most rapid and unpredictable are those pertaining to the mind. It is the nature of the individual spiritual spark to crave activity. Even sleep, which is seemingly the antithesis of fruitive work, involves activity. In fact, a sudden spike in brain activity is precisely what precedes the sleeping state. It is not until the mind starts racing from one thought to another that the fatigued individual lying in bed finally falls asleep.

“One who is not in transcendental consciousness can have neither a controlled mind nor steady intelligence, without which there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be any happiness without peace?” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.66)

The desires of the mind prove to be peace’s greatest enemy. Who in this world isn’t looking for peace? Fruitive workers spend long hours at the office for the purpose of coming home to a happy condition, one where no deadlines have to be met and no pressures are present. The stressed out worker desperately seeks this condition because as soon as the next day starts, the pressures of occupation come to bear once again. It is not uncommon for the worker disturbed by an overburden of responsibility and the fear of failure to dream of retirement, a time when they can live in peace without anyone around to bother them. This very temptation once tugged at the mind of a noble and powerful warrior named Angada. Though he was initially unable to resist the allurement of sudden renouncement, the urge to abandon his prescribed duties, through the help of one of his associates, he was eventually able to realign himself with the proper course of action.

Sita and RamaMany thousands of years ago, the prince of Ayodhya, Lord Rama, graced this earth with the impression of His soft lotus feet and the vision of His divine form. As He was so ordered by His father, Maharaja Dasharatha, Rama roamed the forests of India for fourteen years. Since His beautiful wife, Sita Devi, was with Him, there was special attention given for her protection. Unfortunately, Rama was unable to keep her from being taken away by a Rakshasa demon named Ravana. When Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana subsequently went looking for her, they made their way to a forest named Kishkindha. At the time Kishkindha was inhabited by forest-dwellers known as Vanaras. These inhabitants were monkeys in appearance, but they were also very human-like. Their leader was Sugriva, and he immediately forged an alliance with Rama, crafting a sort of “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” compact.

Rama met His end of the deal by getting Sugriva his kingdom back. Sugriva returned the favor by dispatching his massive monkey army around the world to look for Sita. The strongest party included Angada, Sugriva’s nephew, and Hanuman, Sugriva’s chief minister and most trusted aide. Indeed, it was Hanuman who had brokered the deal between Sugriva and Rama. Shri Hanuman is the most capable fighter, scholar, teacher, servant and adherent to the dictates of the Supreme Lord. Upon their initial meeting, he correctly identified Rama for who He was, an incarnation of the original Personality of Godhead residing in the spiritual sky. Therefore Hanuman took Sugriva’s mission as his life and soul, for he knew the task presented was really for Rama’s benefit.

Unfortunately, the monkeys found the mission to be very difficult. Angada at one point decided to give up and either take refuge in a beautiful cave by the seashore or simply sit and starve to death. Hanuman did not like the change in plans. If the monkeys were going to abandon the mission, they should at least return to Kishkindha and let Sugriva and Rama know what happened. Angada, as the de facto leader of the group, had tremendous pull with the other monkeys. Therefore his decision to quit would influence the other monkeys into renouncing the mission as well. Angada figured the monkeys would be safer staying away from Sugriva and living out their remaining days on earth without conflict.

HanumanIn the above referenced statement, Hanuman is accurately pointing out the dangers of such a tactic. In actuality, Hanuman was playing a psychological game, trying to create dissension amongst the ranks. If he could raise doubts in the minds of the monkeys and in Angada, the chances of abandoning the decided faulty course of action would increase. Angada was thinking his life would be peaceful and secure by remaining in the cave along with his monkeys or by simply sitting quietly and waiting for death to come. With the cave option, Angada would essentially become the king of a new land. Yet Hanuman points out that the monkeys would surely abandon Angada very quickly, for their wives and relatives were all back home.

A king can rule for only as long as his subjects are happy. Moreover, as soon as the subjects flee, the king loses his authority and his position. In order to be considered a ruler, there must be subjects to control. Hanuman warns that as soon as Angada’s powerful position would be established through abandoning Sugriva’s mission, the new kingdom would immediately come crashing down due to the fickle-mindedness of the monkeys. Not only would the monkeys abandon Angada, but they would be fixed in their determination to leave him. They may have been on the fence about quitting and siding with Angada, but as soon as the path of renouncement would prove to be futile, their dedication to the new path of leaving Angada behind would be even stronger.

HanumanThis pattern of behavior predicted by Hanuman shows that in order for one to be happy, their desires must be satisfied. In order for desires to be fulfilled, the activities adopted must provide happiness and satisfaction to the soul. Giving up surely wasn’t going to secure any real happiness. In this instance, quitting was simply a way to avoid a negative condition, punishment from Sugriva. The monkey-king gave them one month to find Sita, and since that time period had elapsed, they would surely face his wrath upon returning without any information of the princess’ whereabouts. Yet even with the supposed absence of distress that comes with quitting, the mind will still wander towards those engagements that aim to fulfill new desires, hopes of maybe finding a greater happiness elsewhere.

The monkeys had two other choices that didn’t seem so palatable. They could continue with their mission and try to find Sita, or they could return to Sugriva and tell him what had happened. Of these two options, the former was actually better because it involved devotional service to the Lord. As mentioned before, the mind always desires something, a penchant derived from the natural loving propensity of the soul. Individual spirit, being part and parcel of God, is always blissful, knowledgeable and full of love. In the uncontaminated state, love is directed at the soul’s life partner, the Supreme Soul. In the conditioned state, love turns towards friends, family, community, nation and even enemies. Hate is simply the complete reversal of the loving propensity.

Hanuman with Lakshmana and RamaWhen love is directed at God, the activities that result are of the topmost variety. Yet dedication to these activities is difficult to maintain. The world we live in is full of material allurements, objects which are competing for the love we want to give. In Angada’s case, his inclination towards service was misdirected towards sensual enjoyments that would come from taking refuge in a cave that was crafted by the demon Maya or by simply sitting quietly and abandoning assertive action related to the mission. The word “maya” means that which is not, or something illusory. Hanuman is exposing this illusion by letting Angada know that the monkeys wouldn’t remain his subjects forever. The monkeys, though kindly engaged in the mission given to them by Sugriva, had a natural bond of affection for their family members back home. Since in this instance, the king, Angada, was serving his senses, service to the king would only be facilitating illusion. When the soul’s love is offered to something transient, the resulting happiness is short-lived and destined to fizzle out.

Hanuman’s words were guided by his pure desire to only offer his service to Rama, the Supreme Lord. The wonderful opportunity to personally serve Bhagavan was available to the other monkeys as well, but through hesitancy, fear and the perceived safety of complacency they weren’t taking advantage of their tremendous fortune. Through the help of Hanuman and the subsequent meeting with the bird Sampati, the monkeys would end up successfully finding Sita and returning to Sugriva and Rama with the good news. For those of us who find ourselves in a predicament similar to Angada’s, we can heed Hanuman’s advice and be saved from potential disaster in the future. In the manifested world, around every corner there are the allures of maya, those things which are not personally Bhagavan, quietly whispering in our ear to abandon righteousness, piety and the proper course of action in favor of a condition deemed more peaceful. But maya’s advances can never eliminate the natural inclinations of the mind towards loving service, as was correctly pointed out by Hanuman when he told Angada that the monkeys wouldn’t remain satisfied for long by deviating from the divine engagement handed to them.

“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.66)

Nimai Nitai chanting Hare KrishnaJust as the monkeys eventually took to devotional service, we too can carry out the Lord’s orders by regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Since this sacred formula carries the holy names of the Lord, it acts as a torchlight resting on the tongue, illuminating both the inside and outside of the body. As the doorway to the heart, which carefully protects the individual soul, the tongue that regularly recites the non-different names of the Absolute Truth directly responds to Krishna’s call in the Bhagavad-gita that one should surrender unto Him and be delivered from all sinful reaction. The desire to separate from God represents the original sin and most grievous transgression, a poisonous gift that keeps on giving by leading to the worst of negative conditions, continued separation from the Lord. Giving up the will to fight is what constitutes real surrender. When attached to spiritual life, surrender equates to abandoning the hope of being a greater enjoyer than God.

Taking to devotional service by adhering to regular practices like chanting and worshiping is the easiest way to surrender because the sincere step towards the unrelenting spiritual light represents a true waving of the white flag. More than just professing an allegiance, those faithfully engaged in Krishna’s service back up their claims of religiousness and piety. Whether one starts out religious or not, the chanting process will be successful in quelling harmful desires. There is no difference between the Lord and His name, so even if one is inclined towards sensual enjoyment and the illusory happiness it brings, constant recitation of the holy name will be effective nonetheless.

Hanuman The greatest servant is one who serves the master without motivation and without interruption. When actions are continually performed under this mindset, without any concern for success or failure, the servant actually surpasses the master in stature, as was the case with Shri Hanuman, who became so endeared to Rama, Lakshmana and Sita that he is worshiped today by millions. Wherever there is Hanuman, there is love, dedication and perseverance leading to the param gatim, or highest destination. Since Hanuman was with them, Angada and the other monkeys were never in any danger of failing.