Saturday, April 30, 2011

I Want It Now

Hanuman “Having made up his mind thus, that heroic monkey, Hanuman, eager to see Vaidehi, wished for the sun to set.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.48)

iti saṃcintya hanumān sūryasyāstamayaṃ kapiḥ |

ācakāṃkśe tato vīro vaidehyā draśanotusakaḥ

One who knows the Truth and His nature will do anything and everything in their power to see to the successful end of a task performed for His benefit. Despite their eagerness to get started on their march towards success, they will still wait for the appropriate time and place. Such patience only further enhances the bliss that is felt upon the meeting of the objective, the accomplishment of the task kindly provided by the master of all masters, the most benevolent, munificent, sweet and pleasurable of all entities. Those who are in ignorance of the Truth, however, will not wait for the opportune moment, giving no concern to the auspiciousness or inauspiciousness of the time. Driven by their insatiable appetite for sense pleasure, those not knowing the ultimate purpose in life will do whatever it takes, at any cost and at any time, to get what they want, though what they desire certainly will not benefit them in the long run. The seeker of sense gratification who casts aside the rules of morality and propriety wants every worldly possession and enjoyment right now, and they don’t care how they get them. Through their impatience and servitude towards objects of illusion, such nefarious characters seal their doom. The knower, on the other hand, earns himself eternal fame, glory, and most important of all, undying association with the Truth. Such was the case with Shri Hanuman.

HanumanThe Truth we speak of is known by different names in different circles. He is described as the Absolute Truth because He is beyond duality. In the world that we live in and know, all truths are relative and subject to the vision of the performer and the scope of the actions being undertaken. For instance, kindness and politeness are considered good behavioral traits, as they are beneficial towards maintaining a peaceful and harmonious coexistence with our fellow man. Yet these two qualities are not absolute in their power; there are times when kindness not only is uncalled for, but it is actually detrimental to achieving the desired condition. Piety and sin are generally assigned from the scriptural traditions of a particular group of individuals, but they really relate to activities that lead to positive and negative future conditions. Moreover, they correspond with the scope of the activities at hand. For instance, if we are to build a house, the proper way to erect the beams and align the framework would be considered pious activity. Any planning and construction work that would go against the established guidelines, i.e. those things that would lead to a faulty and dangerous housing structure, would then be considered sinful activity.

Kindness is typically equated with piety because of its relation to the nature of the Absolute Truth. We are all one in quality, as we are all the same, so there is no reason to be visceral in our dealings with others. If anything, we should have the highest compassion and love for our fellow man, for each of us is struggling with the same issues. Even the wealthiest of moguls, he who has every amenity available at his fingertips, must cope with the demands of the mind at every waking hour. Due to the mind’s influences, which emerge through hankering and lamenting, every individual, irrespective of their social standing and level of material opulence, has to endure trials and tribulations. In this respect, there is no justification for being unkind to others simply out of anger, jealousy or greed.

poison bottleNevertheless, in some instances kindness turns into a sin. The most obvious example relates to parents and their children. Let’s say that we see our young child opening the cabinet underneath the kitchen sink and reaching for a bottle of cleaner or some other container holding hazardous liquids. These cleaning agents are considered pious, i.e. beneficial, when used for their specific purpose. If we put cleaner on Formica or on a hardwood floor, the objective of a clean countertop or floor is eventually met. Yet just because the cleaner is beneficial in one area doesn’t mean that it becomes universally applicable. Indeed, if such toxins are ingested by the human being, the result could be sickness or even death.

If the parent watching the child were to think, “I am dedicated to kindness. I will not yell at the child or tell them that what they are doing is wrong, for this will hurt their feelings”, such a mindset would be foolish. Indeed, in this situation just the opposite of kindness is required. The parent must sternly rebuke the child for even thinking of touching such a dangerous item. The child must know beyond a shadow of a doubt that touching hazardous materials is strictly forbidden. Even some kindness mixed into the teaching won’t help. “O son or daughter, please don’t touch this poisonous material. It would not be good for you if you did.” The more the message is couched in kind words, the less effective it will be. In the business world, project managers and bosses give hard deadlines in order to motivate workers to get the job done on time. If the leaders of projects would say, “Oh, go ahead and finish that whenever you like. It’s no big deal”, no work would ever get accomplished. Kindness is beneficial in most dealings, but in the case of giving instruction and signaling emergency situations, kindness can be thrown right out the window, as it can become the most harmful of traits.

Lord KrishnaThe Absolute Truth is one who is beyond duality. In Him are found all wonderful qualities to the fullest degree, characteristics which are always beneficial. Indeed, such an individual is the object of all dharma, or righteousness. Just as kindness is helpful in certain situations, if we took the sum total of all areas where pious and sinful activities have relevance, we’d see that they all exist to please this original Divine Being. Due to His status as being the object of all dharma, or religiosity, He is known as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In some circles He is described as God, an authority figure of whom the living entities inhabiting the material world have a vague understanding. According to the Vedas, the original law codes and scriptures instituted by the Truth, God has more descriptive names which speak to His innumerable auspicious features. Since His greatest attribute is that of attractiveness, His most accurate and pleasure-giving name is Krishna. Hence Lord Krishna, the original form of the Absolute Truth, who resides in the spiritual world, is taken to be the most deserving entity of worship, the Supreme Personality who is full of form.

When one dedicates their life to simply serving Krishna, or the Truth, knowledge, renunciation and the ability to act properly in all situations are automatically acquired. The discipline that seeks to keep one always connected with Krishna is known as bhagavata-dharma, or the system of religion that has as its object of pleasure Bhagavan, or the Supreme Truth who is the most fortunate due to His immeasurable and simultaneously existing qualities of beauty, wealth, strength, fame, renunciation and wisdom. Any other discipline, theistic or otherwise, that fails to please Bhagavan will be riddled with defects. The intensity of the detriments secured by such systems corresponds directly with the degree of deviation from the proper object of worship. For instance, below Krishna there are highly exalted living entities known as devatas, or demigods. They are worshiped and adored by millions around the world due to their extraordinary powers, their long durations of life, and their kind natures. Yet the demigods are not God, so the discipline that seeks to please them may be categorized as dharma, but not bhagavata-dharma, or devotional service. Since the demigods are closely associated with Krishna, as they are His dear servants responsible for distributing rewards to those deluded by material opulence, the detriments received by their worshipers aren’t as severe as they are for others.

“According to one's existence under the various modes of nature, one evolves a particular kind of faith. The living being is said to be of a particular faith according to the modes he has acquired.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 17.3)

Lord KrishnaLife outside of Krishna’s association is managed by three distinct modes: goodness, passion and ignorance. Those who worship the demigods and wish for ascension to the heavenly realm in the afterlife are in the mode of goodness. Those who are simply after sense gratification secured through regulated fruitive activity are in the mode of passion. Sometimes they worship the demigods as well, or even the Supreme Lord in His formless feature, but this is only to secure objects of use in the phenomenal world. Those in the mode of ignorance are wholly unaware of the temporary nature of life and the blissful makeup of the Supreme Lord and service to Him. They take directly to sense gratification without any concern for social conventions, the rights of others, and the laws of karma. Indeed, sometimes it is seen that the ignorant take to demigod worship as well or even worship of ghosts, yet they use the rewards granted to them for nefarious purposes.

One of the most famous characters in the mode of ignorance was Ravana, the Rakshasa king of Lanka during the Treta Yuga. A Rakshasa is a human-like species that is expert at black magic and prone to meat eating, illicit sex and excessive intoxication. The Rakshasas don’t just eat any ordinary meat either; they enjoy human flesh as their first class cuisine. Ravana, though mostly in the mode of ignorance, also delved into the mode of passion from time to time. He worshiped several exalted devatas who granted him tremendous powers, such as invincibility in battle against human beings and the ability to terrorize others. But since he was a Rakshasa given to sinful behavior, Ravana used these boons to harass the innocent and put the entire world into an unending mood of fear and panic.

A good parent is one who doesn’t spoil their children. Tough love is considered beneficial behavior on the part of the guardian because by constantly allowing their child’s sense demands to be met, there will eventually come for the child an unfavorable future situation that it won’t know how to handle. Tapasya, or austerity, of any kind is required for success in every venture. Even in the world of rock and roll, which is known for its hedonism and wild partying, there is strict adherence to the austerities of sobriety and the regulation of practice and rehearsal when albums are being recorded and when live performances are made. For those living in the material world, tapasya in terms of restriction on uncontrolled sense gratification is a requirement for sobriety and clear thinking. If a parent were to give the child whatever toy they wanted every time they asked for one, the child would become spoiled. When they would get the new toy, they would toss it aside soon after and then start crying again to receive something new. Eventually, the child will have to turn into an adult, and the parents won’t be around to meet all of their sense demands. The hard reality of life is that every sense demand cannot possibly be met. For the spoiled child who turns into an adult, life becomes very painful, as money is not appreciated and frustration in endeavors becomes quite common and unmanageable.

RavanaRavana, being ruled by his passions, suffered from many of the same problems encountered by the spoiled child turned adult. Through his boons, Ravana was able to amass a powerful army that protected an exquisitely opulent kingdom. Having defeated so many powerful kings, Ravana had hundreds of beautiful princesses serving at his will. There was no shortage of wine, women, and flesh in Ravana’s kingdom of Lanka. The atheist, or those who have no conception of an Absolute Truth deserving of worship, would have us believe that such a life is one of luxury. Every sinful activity is available without restriction, so what problems could there be?

But just as the spoiled child loses his sobriety and rational thought due to his incessant desire for objects he can’t get, Ravana made the fatal mistake of chasing after the one woman he couldn’t have. Moreover, this beautiful and chaste lady, the princess of Videha, was not possible for anyone to intimately associate with except for her dear husband, Lord Rama. Krishna is considered the best name for the Supreme Lord, but Rama is a close second, as it speaks to the Absolute Truth’s ability to provide transcendental pleasure to His sincere devotees. Rama describes the Truth’s features, and it is also a name tagged to a non-different form of the Lord who appeared on this earth in the Treta Yuga during Ravana’s time.

Sita and RamaRavana, knowing that Sita was off limits, had his mind set on having her regardless. He would not rest until he had Sita by his side. By the very laws governing the universe, it is impossible for Sita, who is an eternally existing figure, the goddess of fortune residing in the spiritual sky, to be with any other man except Rama, or Narayana of the spiritual world. Therefore, Ravana, though knowing he couldn’t have Sita, nevertheless threw caution to the wind and set about hatching a nefarious plot to take her. He would succeed in bringing her back to his island of Lanka, but his progress would permanently halt there. Simple brute force is not enough to win over the beloved wife of the Supreme Lord, a woman who is kind enough to grant all fortunes to those who desire to use their opulence for the pleasure of the Supreme Loveable Object.

To find Sita, Rama enlisted the help of the Vanaras, or monkeys, residing in the forest of Kishkindha. Rama, being the Supreme Lord Himself, certainly didn’t need anyone’s aid, but these Vanaras, especially Shri Hanuman, were very eager to offer their service. Just as Ravana was anxious to commit the sinful act of taking Sita, the Vanaras and Hanuman were filled with anticipation and excitement over the prospect of serving Rama to His satisfaction. Hanuman, being the most powerful and courageous of the Vanara warriors, managed to make his way to Lanka by leaping across the ocean. All by himself on enemy territory, Hanuman gave the next plan of action some careful thought. After due deliberation, he decided on assuming a diminutive form, one that would not be detected by the Rakshasas of Lanka but would still enable him to observe the insides of the various palaces. This way he could find Sita and relay information to her about Rama and His desire to rescue her.

HanumanIn the above referenced passage from the Ramayana, we see just how eager Hanuman is to meet Sita. Having decided to enter Lanka at night, Hanuman is anxiously awaiting the sunset. If we juxtapose the two powerful individuals, Ravana and Hanuman, and their desires relating to Sita, we see that one entity, the sinful lord of the Rakshasas, was guided strictly off of his own ignorance as it pertains to the laws of society and what acts are considered pious and what aren’t. In this way, driven by his uncontrolled desires for sense gratification, Ravana chose the wrong time, the wrong place, and the wrong person with whom to associate. Since his desired objective was sinful, he had no patience in the matter nor any understanding of what was proper and improper. Therefore, though he was able to take Sita away, his heinous act would ultimately lead to his destruction.

Hanuman, on the other hand, was completely in line with dharma. Serving the lotus feet of Shri Rama is the greatest activity, pious or otherwise, one could ever take up. As wonderful as meeting Rama was, Hanuman was more eager to meet Sita, for she is the beloved wife of the life of Hanuman, Shri Rama. In this way Hanuman would have been justified in losing his patience and taking to some irrational activity while outside of Lanka. After all, who among us wouldn’t be eager to meet the most beautiful woman in the world, a lady who is always in line with dharma and loves the brahmanas, the priestly class of men, with all her heart and soul?

Hanuman meeting SitaBut since Hanuman was on the righteous path, he was able to think clearly and wait for the opportune moment. The eagerness was there, but that didn’t cloud his judgment or cognitive thought. Indeed, Hanuman would successfully infiltrate Lanka, find Sita, temporarily allay her fears, return to Rama in Kishkindha, and then take part in the successful defeat of Ravana and the Rakshasas of Lanka, a battle which was led by Rama, Lakshmana and the monkeys fighting on behalf of Sugriva.

Hanuman is the most glorious of devotees. There is no way to properly measure his eagerness to serve the Lord. His love for Sita, Rama and Lakshmana is so great that he must expand his personal features to accommodate these loving sentiments. Not for one second does Hanuman deviate from the practice of bhagavata-dharma. Indeed, since he is the perfect bhakta, or devotee, it can’t be said that Hanuman ever associates with any other type of activity. He is not after any alleviation from distress, material opulence, knowledge of the Absolute, or adherence to a particular faith. Rather, he is simply a lover of God, through and through. From his kind nature and knowledge of the Truth, he is able to take the appropriate actions at just the right time to see the successful completion of any task assigned him. He is never driven by lust, greed, or the desire for meeting a personal objective. Just as his eagerness to see Sita and bring her good news knows no bounds, so his glory, fame and supreme stature can never be accurately quantified nor do they ever suffer diminution. Hanuman is forever eager to serve the Supreme Lord, and God, in turn, is always eager to see to Hanuman’s welfare.