“Then, that elephant-like monkey, standing on that mountain peak, pondered for a moment how Rama's interests could be met.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.32)
tataḥ sa cintayāmāsa muhūrtaṃ kapikuñjaraḥ |
giriśṛṅge sthitastasmin rāmasyābhyudaye rataḥ
A principle followed in successful enterprises is that managers should do as little as possible. This doesn’t mean that a leader of a project needs to be lazy or that they should simply sit back and allow others to do all the work. Rather, the manager is most effective when he can delegate responsibilities to able-bodied individuals who are capable of taking the ball and rolling with it. No one is more valuable to the owner of a company than the worker who can act as a CEO in a box, taking full control over a project with minimal supervision while simultaneously not deviating from the primary interests of the proprietor. Along these lines, one famous Vanara warrior more than proved his mettle and capabilities in fulfilling the mission assigned to him. Though he is famous today for his fruitful efforts, the actual nuts and bolts of the operation undertaken, the smaller components requiring assembly for eventual completion to become a reality, were anything but easy to put together. But due to his resourceful nature, and most of all his love and adoration for the person he was working for, he was able to decipher the proper techniques to employ.
Vanara is a Sanskrit word that means “one who is of the forest, or vana”. Generally the term is associated with a monkey, a being who is not civilized enough to reside amongst humans. Many thousands of years ago, a group of Vanaras was gifted with divine vision and strength to be used to aid the one person that all of us have a natural desire to serve. The intrinsic property of the soul is that it loves. Just as a general loses his stature and standing when he doesn’t have a mission, a lover without a corresponding object of service becomes devoid of potency. In the conditioned state, the individual soul is forgetful of who it is meant to love, so it spends all its time in perishable lands diverting its affection towards temporary objects and worldly entities. Even romantic love, which is considered the pinnacle of material enjoyment, is a product of this delusion, for it is sought out simply off attraction to an outer covering that is ever changing.
The loving propensity is meant to be directed towards permanence, objects and entities which are ever-existing and capable of reciprocating the pure sentiments of the individual to the highest degree. No one except the Supreme Spirit, a Divine entity who is similar in quality to the individual, is capable of meeting these requirements. Generally the superior entity is known as God, but in more accurate terms, He can be described by names which speak to His blissful nature. Therefore, in the Vedic tradition the Supreme Spirit is known by names such as Krishna and Rama, or one who is all-attractive and capable of delivering transcendental pleasure. Not to be confused with some abstract image concocted by the mind, this real-life spiritual entity kindly makes visible appearances on earth from time to time to lend credence to the scriptural statements describing His glorious nature. Many thousands of years ago the avatara of Lord Rama, the pious prince of Ayodhya and supreme object of pleasure to those with whom He associated, was one such non-different form of the Lord to appear on this earth.
Rama’s exploits are documented in many Vedic texts, including Puranas and notable poetry, but the most complete accounts of His life are found in the lengthy Ramayana poem penned by Maharishi Valmiki. From the words found in this wonderful work, we see that Rama had three notable associates to whom He was most intimately tied. Of these three figures, only one was not a direct family member. Not only was this individual not related to Rama in a formal sense, but he wasn’t even a human being. Rather, this exalted servant, who is loved and adored to this day by millions, roamed the earth in the guise of a Vanara, or monkey. Shri Hanuman, the chief minister of the king of monkeys, Sugriva, endeared himself to Rama by taking up a dangerous mission, one in which success was never taken for granted. But Rama, as the ever-wise controller of the universe, knew that Hanuman was right for the job. Though endowed with every noteworthy attribute, Hanuman made his most lasting contribution to this world through his unwavering desire to please Shri Rama and those associated with Him.
What was Hanuman’s mission? When the loving propensity of the spirit soul is properly exercised, the resulting activity can be classified as religious. In a more strict definition, when religious practices are aimed at maintaining a bond of love and affection with the Supreme Spirit, the engagement is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are those who remain completely ignorant of the properties of the soul and its inseparable inclinations. For such ne’er-do-wells, the outer covering of the soul, which is temporary and ever changing, is taken as the identifiable aspect. The demands imposed by the forces belonging to the outer shell, which is known as the body, are given precedence over anything else. Of all the demands of the senses, none is stronger than the urge for sex life. When this inkling is left uncontrolled, chaos and despair surely result.
A famous and powerful king causing terror around the world during Rama’s time can attest to this fact. The ruler of Lanka, Ravana, had every amenity available to him. Fine wine, beautiful women, palatial buildings and the like were all found in abundance in the elegant city of Lanka. Yet since the desires for transcendental interaction weren’t being met through this association with maya, or illusion, Ravana was lured into making the most grievous transgression of coveting another man’s wife. The man and woman in this context were not ordinary by any means. The woman was Sita Devi, and the man was Shri Rama. Sita, as an incarnation of the goddess of fortune, is the representation of the perfected form of energy. One can only be deemed flawless if their potential for loving God is exhibited to the highest degree. Sita Devi loves Rama in every thought, word and deed. Regardless of the time, circumstance, or physical distance between the two, Sita and Rama are always in each other’s thoughts. Though during their time on earth Rama married Sita in an official ceremony in the kingdom of Mithila, which was ruled by Sita’s father Janaka, the two are always linked in consciousness, irrespective of any bonds of matrimony or religion. There cannot be a Sita without a Rama, nor a Rama without a Sita.
Ravana, being completely ignorant of these facts, decided to set up a diversion which temporarily lured Rama away from Sita’s side one day in the forest. Making the most of the opportunity, Ravana forcibly took Sita back to his kingdom of Lanka and tried his best to win her over. Seeing that his advances were having no effect, Ravana decided to threaten Sita with violence, giving her a deadline by which she had to change her mind or face death. Rama, for His part, set forth a massive search for her whereabouts. This was arranged through Sugriva, whom Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana had formed an alliance with through the help of Hanuman. Sending out his massive monkey army to look for Sita, Sugriva gave special instructions to Hanuman. Actually, both Sugriva and Rama knew that only Hanuman would be capable of succeeding in the mission, for he was endowed with all the divine qualities, with the most important one being eagerness to see Sita and allay her fears.
Finding success in any mission is easier said than done. Hanuman would have to face many obstacles, the first of which was geographical. Lanka was situated far away from any mainland, so in order to reach it, Hanuman had to assume a large size and leap his way across a massive body of water. A monkey growing in size and flying through the air is certainly difficult to fathom, but if we look at the wondrous nature around us we’ll see amazing objects and workings everywhere. Who could ever imagine having a giant mass of chemicals floating in the air and providing heat and light across millions of miles? Who could ever think of a living entity surviving within the body of a tiny ant or in the water through a fish form? But these aspects of nature are realities, as were the wonderful exploits of Shri Hanuman. The Ramayana doesn’t mention anything about mythology, so if we accept the words contained within at face value, we can derive every benefit.
After having successfully crossed the ocean, Hanuman reassumed his original size before approaching the enemy city. When he first saw the opulence of Lanka, Hanuman immediately fell into great doubt. He thought within himself of what might happen in the future and how he was to be successful. He was wondering how anyone, including Shri Rama, would be capable of penetrating the mighty forces guarding the city, the exquisite grandeur that bedecked all the dwellings, and the heavy fortifications protecting virtually every inch of the kingdom. Hanuman resolved within himself that even the four methods employed by kings wanting to achieve their tasks [pacification, giving gifts, fomenting dissent and using punishment] wouldn’t work in this instance.
In the above referenced passage from the Ramayana, we see that Hanuman, despite his doubts, kept his mind on the task at hand. He didn’t have the luxury of telephoning back to Kishkindha and asking Sugriva and Rama what to do. He didn’t have the option of second-guessing or seeking advice from others. Success rested completely in his hands, as the most important mission had been given to him with full faith and trust. From Hanuman’s behavior, we get a glimpse into his exalted nature, and also a lesson in how one can go about achieving success in any mission. The task at hand was that of finding Sita, but more general than that, it was a mission of meeting the Lord’s interests. Even a fully capable, exalted figure like Hanuman has doubts from time to time. But the difference between Hanuman and ordinary actors is that he doesn’t let his concerns get in the way of progress. As a pure lover of God, he gives precedence to his loving propensity towards Supreme Spirit.
Even while in enemy territory and being attacked by self-doubt Hanuman always kept Rama’s interests in mind, and it was for this reason that he eventually came out successful. Lanka was maya personified, a shining city of material illusion, an example of what can result when the natural link to the Supreme Lord is forgotten. This most powerful fortress of illusion couldn’t be penetrated by any ordinary man; only one who was firmly convinced of the superior nature of the Lord and devotion to Him could successfully enter and find the jewel of all humanity, the beacon of light in any area she resides, Shrimati Sita Devi. For the conditioned souls fortunate enough to accept a human form of body, the implied task assigned is the rekindling of the dormant love for God. If we follow the ways of Ravana, we are sure to meet with distress in the end. Hanuman would find Sita, set fire to the city of Lanka, return to Rama, and then subsequently play an integral role in the final battle between the Vanaras and Ravana’s Rakshasas. Ravana would lose everything, as Rama would defeat him in a one-on-one battle that concluded the hostilities.
Though maya’s influence is strong, finding success in the mission of life is not impossible. The strongest weapon we have is our undying attachment and devotion to the Lord. The natural, yet currently dormant, loving sentiment can be awoken at any time and place by chanting “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare“. The Vaishnava acharyas, those exalted teachers who lead by example, have recommended the recitation of this sacred formula as being the foremost religious practice for the people of this age. Our task is surely a daunting one, especially considering that most others will not be open to taking to bhakti-yoga. The spirit soul, in its travels through various bodies in this material world, steadily increases its aversion to the divine love that is devotional service.
“Krishna can give us whatever we want, even mukti, liberation, but bhakti is a special consideration because when He gives someone bhakti He becomes purchased by the bhakta and becomes a tool in the hands of the bhakta, even though He is the supreme powerful.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Teachings of Queen Kunti, Ch 24)
Surely there will be ups and downs in the gradual march towards eternal freedom, and many times it will appear that success is not possible. But as we saw with Hanuman, the secret to achieving victory is to perform our activities for the Lord’s interests. Whether we succeed in gaining release from the cycle of birth and death is ancillary, for the impetus for action should be the Supreme Lord’s pleasure. Not only does bhakti allow us to act out our natural loving sentiments, but it provides tremendous pleasure to that entity who is considered above external stimulation. As atmarama, Bhagavan is satisfied completely in Himself; yet through sincere devotion and love, the Lord can be purchased. Once brought to our side, He never leaves us. Hanuman to this day is always with Sita, Rama and Lakshmana. They never forget him for even a moment, and neither should we.