Saturday, February 5, 2011

Unlocking the Mystery

Bajrang-Bali “O very powerful one, I depend on your might. As you are the best of the monkeys, O son of the wind, do you exert yourself in such a way that by using your extraordinary strength and bravery, O Hanuman, the daughter of Janaka may be found.” (Shri Rama speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 44.17)

atibala balam āśritaḥ tava aham

hari vara vikrama vikramaiḥ analpaiḥ |

pavana suta yathā adhigamyate sā

janaka sutā hanumān tathā kuruṣva

Followers of the Vedic tradition worship Shri Rama as the Personality of Godhead, the same person that the rest of the world refers to as God. Yet in this instance, we see Rama declaring His dependence on the might and power of another entity. How can Rama be God if He requires the help of others? The answer to this mysterious question uncovers the most well-guarded secret of life, the reason for our being on earth. Studying the personal nature of the Divine, including His names, forms and pastimes, is certainly beneficial, but to understand the complete picture, the full range of the Lord’s attributes, familiarity with the behavior of the Lord’s closest friends, those whose only business in life is to serve Him, is required. Of all the sincere servants, no one is dearer to Shri Rama than Hanuman. For this reason, Rama will do whatever it takes to praise and glorify His dearmost devotee, the son of the wind-god.

rama_face Those following Vedic traditions, the spiritual discipline emanating from India at the beginning of time, give deference to many heavenly and godlike figures. A typical Hindu household has an area set aside in the home where such worship takes place in a semi-formal manner. The altar is typically adorned with beautiful flowers, pleasant incense, ghee lamps and beautiful pictures of the Lord and His various associates. Some households worship God as Shri Vishnu, while others worship Krishna or Rama. There is no difference between these forms, for they all represent the original Personality of Godhead, the Divine figure who is unmatched in excellence, beauty and power. The different forms account for the different viewpoints and penchants for service found in the unlimited spiritual sparks emanating from the transcendental body of the original Lord. Some prefer to worship God in a mood of reverential devotion, while others prefer a more intimate exchange of emotions. Each non-different form of the Lord has attributes and features which appeal to specific tendencies found in the worshipers.

“Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.24)

These personal expansions of Supreme Spirit weren’t just concocted through some mythological tradition, but rather each incarnation and expansion exists eternally and often appears on earth. Many thousands of years ago, the incarnation of Lord Rama descended to the visible plane and enacted wonderful pastimes. Those with a limited understanding of spirituality and the discipline that worships God in a mood of love and affection have a difficult time understanding the activities performed by such incarnations. The lowest of mankind, the miscreants and the atheists, generally fear religion and spirituality, for they know their behavior doesn’t match well with the law codes established by the various spiritual disciplines. If they do contemplate a “God” in any way, they take Him to be an angry figure. After all, if such miscreants were to amass unlimited powers and capabilities, they most certainly would use them to instill fear in others. The desire to lord over nature in this way is the reason for the existence of the material world. Those who want to imitate the Supreme Lord’s capabilities of dominance, creation and destruction are allowed to carry out their desires on a playing field. The field, of course, must go through development, and since no one can actually equal God in any endeavor, there will naturally be collisions. Hence the material world ostensibly becomes a place full of misery, wherein defeat and heartache are found at every corner.

Lord Krishna The purpose of the incarnation is not to instill fear or to get miscreants to change their ways. If someone has a sincere desire to be God even after being informed of the futility of the endeavor, what can be done to change their mind? The Supreme Lord is completely independent, for that is the natural characteristic of spirit. The individual spirit souls, the jivas, are part and parcel of the Supreme; hence they inherit the qualities of independence and free will. Differences are seen, however, in how the powers of freedom are invoked. God is the Supreme Soul, so His quantitative powers are greater than those possessed by the jiva souls. The jivas have a choice as to how they want to exercise their independence. If they choose to associate with the spiritual energy, the superior nature, they will always remain in the Lord’s company. If they choose to associate with the material energy, the inferior nature, the result will be perpetual misery. The material energy is a separated energy emanating from Krishna; therefore the Lord has no direct role to play in it. Just as the brain controls all the actions of the body, the Big Brain that is Krishna controls all of nature’s movements. The material scientists, those who ignore the presence of the soul, in their pursuit of knowledge can only ascend as far up to the point of understanding the outer workings of nature. The evolution theories posited by Darwin and others ultimately ascribe the control of the changes in species to nature. The non-devotees take nature as their God, not understanding that even nature has a brain. There is no such thing as random collisions, for the regularities that are seen in nature, such as the exact timings of the lunar cycles, sunrises and sunsets, the calendar year, and the properties of various elements cannot occur through chance. There is a person managing all of these intelligently designed functions, and the Vedas accurately identify Him: Krishna.

“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.29)

The misuse of freewill lands the jiva soul in the material world. When the jiva wants out, when it wants to return to the spiritual land, the Supreme Lord tosses aside His vow of neutrality and directly takes an interest in a small section of the affairs of the inferior world. Usually the workings of matter and sense gratification are portrayed in a negative light, as they should be. But when the same material elements are used to advance the cause of Krishna consciousness, the purification of thoughts, words and deeds, they take on a divine nature, which is Krishna’s exclusive property. Everything certainly emanates from God, but material nature is put in the charge of various elevated living entities.

Lord Rama Shri Rama came to earth to enact pastimes and attract the minds of the jiva souls wanting the highest type of liberation, eternal association with the personal form of the Lord in the spiritual world. As God, Rama had free will to annihilate the whole world and scare everyone into surrendering. But such an act would violate the rules of the game; it would break the concept of independence of emotion and desire. Rama is only interested in arousing the loving sentiments that naturally exist inside of every living entity. Therefore He takes to pleasurable activities designed to attract those who want to be attached to spirit.

“Being fearless under Your protection, O intelligent one, I wish to see all the rivers, mountains and lakes of the forest.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 27.16)

As part of His pastimes, Rama roamed the forests of India with His beautiful wife Sita Devi and His younger brother Lakshmana. When the Lord enjoys, He doesn’t do so alone. He has eternally liberated associates who join Him in the execution of His pastimes. Sita Devi and Lakshmana are not of this world, for their activities even validate this fact. One cannot hear Sita Devi’s kind words of wisdom and loving sentiments and take her to be an ordinary woman, princess, or daughter. Lakshmana and Rama’s other brothers were similarly spotless in character.

Sita and Rama The Lord’s transcendental entourage is not limited to only His relatives. His dealings with Shri Hanuman and the other Vanaras shows the universal brotherhood shared amongst all forms of life who are dedicated to God. As part of His pastimes, Rama had to take up the rescue of Sita, who was one day kidnapped from the forest by a demon named Ravana. As an actor playing a coveted role, Shri Rama gave the impression of an ordinary human being from time to time. Assuming the spiritual dress of a warrior prince, Rama didn’t display celestial powers or strengths on a regular basis. He fought His enemy with a simple bow and arrow, aided by the chanting of mantras imparted to Him by the venerable Vishvamitra Muni. To help find Sita, Rama enlisted the help of a band of Vanaras, monkey-like humans, living in the forest of Kishkindha. Their lead warrior was a pious individual named Hanuman.

The monkey-king Sugriva vouched for Hanuman’s abilities. Assigning Hanuman with the task of finding Sita, Sugriva offered him the highest praise. Prior to the departure of the monkey host, Shri Rama gave Hanuman His ring. The ring was inscribed with Rama’s name, and it was to serve as a token of identification for Sita. Sita had never met Hanuman up to that point, so the ring would signal to her that Hanuman was a friend of Rama. Hanuman then kindly bowed his head to the Lord and went off on his search along with the other monkeys.

Rama giving ring to Hanuman In the above referenced quote, Lord Rama is praising Hanuman, extolling his virtues and telling him to let all his transcendental qualities loose. Hanuman was extraordinarily strong, pious, brave, resolute and intelligent. Shri Rama here is telling him to tap into all of his abilities and to hold nothing back in the quest to find Sita. Rama boldly declares that He depends fully on Hanuman’s abilities, as he is the best of the monkeys [hari vara].

When a conditioned living entity becomes free from the effects of material nature, their body and mind fuse into an entity that is completely spiritual. The natural knowledge, spiritual strength and bliss that belong to the soul shine through all corners of the body. Shri Hanuman, an eternally liberated soul, has nothing to do with material nature or illusion. Lord Rama, knowing this, asked Hanuman to use all of his spiritual strengths for the highest cause. Rama’s faith and words of wisdom speak to the greatness of Hanuman and the mindset required for achieving liberation. We may not be as strong as Shri Hanuman, but by remembering his example and exerting ourselves fully for the right cause, we can similarly be in the good graces of the Lord.

Hanuman Hanumanji is often depicted with Sita and Rama residing within his heart. In the state where one’s only desire is to be in the Lord’s company at all times, there is never any denial of service or withholding of love and affection. Sita, Rama and Lakshmana are always with Hanuman, irrespective of time, place, circumstance, or any other change in outward condition. Hanuman would go on to find Sita, return information of her whereabouts to Sugriva and Rama, and help the Lord defeat Ravana and rescue the divine princess. To this day, Hanuman is worshiped by millions around the world for his bravery, dedication, unselfishness and pious nature. He possesses every quality required for the execution of devotional service, or bhakti-yoga.

There are certainly many other types of yoga, but they all culminate with bhakti. Loving devotion to the Lord is the highest practice in both the spiritual and material worlds. In fact, any place that bhakti-yoga is performed properly can be considered the spiritual world. By following the example of Hanuman and other great Vaishnavas, we can turn our present miserable condition into a positive one. Goswami Tulsidas immortalized Hanumanji in his famous poem, the Hanuman Chalisa. If we remember all the great servants of the Lord and ask them for their help, success in our yoga practice will be guaranteed. Wherever we are and whatever situation we find ourselves in, we can always remember the Lord, His pastimes, His associates and His names by chanting “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The love the Lord feels for His devotees, especially Hanuman, unlocks the mystery of life, our reason for living. Hanuman lives every day to the fullest by thinking of Sita and Rama, and by always thinking of Hanuman, we can do no wrong.