Monday, April 18, 2011

Tied Interests

Hanuman “If I am seen by the Rakshasas, then this work performed on behalf of Rama, who is self-realized and desires the destruction of Ravana, would go for naught.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.42)

mayi dṛṣṭe tu rakśobhī rāmasya viditātmanaḥ |

bhavedvyarthamidaṃ kāryaṃ rāvaṇānarthamicchataḥ

What should happen if we fail our bosses? When given a very important task, one which could determine the future fortunes or misfortunes of the company, failing is not an option. If a worker should “drop the ball”, so to speak, the results can be disastrous. At the initial indication of failure caused by carelessness and recklessness, the boss will most likely get angry and chastise the worker. From this behavior, we see that the initial trepidation on the part of the worker has at its source the fear of some future personal discomfort. “If I fail the boss, he will yell at me, and I might get fired. Obviously I wouldn’t like any of these things to happen.” Similarly, in other areas of life where dependencies are created, the fear of failing is rooted in the personal interests of the performer. By forgetting an anniversary or birthday, we get the cold shoulder from the wife for a few weeks. Children will remember for the rest of their lives if we forget to attend an important play, recital, or baseball game. But there is one person who is beyond all tendencies towards disappointment and anger. Despite this wonderful feature, those who serve Him lovingly actually take His interests more seriously than they do anyone else’s. Since these sincere servants are attached to this most sublime person in every thought, word and deed, the interests mold into one, with the servant taking the master’s happiness as their own. Such was the case with the venerable Shri Hanuman, the faithful servant of Lord Rama.

Lord VishnuHow can anyone be beyond attachment? Who among us wouldn’t be disappointed if we asked somebody to do something and they failed to do it? Tasks are only handed out if there is a tangible interest to be served. For example, if we ask someone to fill up our car with gasoline and they come back later and tell us they couldn’t do it, we’re left without enough gas to drive the car where we wanted to go. This is just a small example, but the commonality shared in assigned tasks is that there is always a specific interest to be met. When that objective is not realized, surely there will be disappointment. There is one person, however, who is completely self-satisfied, or atmarama. He has no interests that need to be fulfilled because He has everything, including every possible item of wealth and beauty. He is never alone either, as His servants remain with Him for all-time. These wonderful associates are also lacking nothing in beauty, honor, kindness, dedication and purity.

To describe this person as God is to shortchange His attributes and rob the poet of the blissful feelings that come with describing the Supreme Person’s glories. Indeed, this person is better described as Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Bhagavan possesses every fortune imaginable to the fullest degree and at the same time. He has the most wealth, the greatest beauty, the highest form of knowledge, the strongest dedication to renunciation, the most fame a person could ask for, and a level of strength that surpasses that of every living entity combined. Bhagavan is a person with a form, someone who gives pleasure to others through transcendental interactions. Not surprisingly, due to His all-attractive nature, He is also known by the name of Krishna.

Lord KrishnaSince Krishna doesn’t need anything, He is described as being satisfied with Himself and also as the knower of the Self. The individual, at the time of birth, identifies solely with its outer covering, a temporary shell if you will. In the Vedic literature, the set of scriptures passed down since the beginning of time starting in the land that is known today as India, it is said that the body of the living entity is akin to a bubble that forms on the water. A living entity is any form of life, i.e. anything with a soul, or atma, inside of it. The body is the outer covering, the bubble that takes shape, travels for some time, and then gets easily destroyed. Though we may consider ourselves to be invincible, our intelligence level to be very high, and our body structure to be very sturdy, when compared with the giant land masses that exist in this and innumerable other universes, our body is simply like a bubble. Within an instant it can be dissolved.

“The Blessed Lord then said: This body, O son of Kunti, is called the field, and one who knows this body is called the knower of the field.” (Bhagavad-gita, 13.2)

But the resident of the body, the knower of the field of activities, never dies. He never even takes birth; therefore he is considered eternal, unchanging and primeval. Understanding these facts is quite difficult for one living in the bubble, for forgetfulness is the allure of the nature surrounding the entity that takes birth inside such a body. One who knows their true identity, the self, understands that the spirit soul never goes through any change; therefore there is no reason for hankering or lamenting. Indeed, only he who is enveloped in ignorance views the temporary gains and setbacks as debilitating. One who is on the highest level of understanding never takes his eye off the ball because of disappointment or great fortune.

Lord KrishnaShri Krishna would obviously be the knower of the self since He is the creator of all humanity. He is actually the supreme knower, as He is conscious of every activity that goes on within every single bubble existing past, present and future. The individuals trapped inside of a bubble-like body can also become familiar with their own self through proper training. But their position is slightly different. Krishna is the Superself, or Supersoul, while the individual is the ordinary self. The qualities of both entities are the same, but the quantitative powers are vastly different. Moreover, due to their fixed dispositions, there is an ideal, eternal relationship that exists between the two. This relationship never breaks, but it can be forgotten from time to time. The Supersoul is so kind that it accompanies the individual self in its descent from the spiritual sky to the temporary world full of bubble-like dwellings. When constitutional activities are adopted, steady contact with the Supersoul is gained.

Just as Bhagavan is full of every fortune and beyond illusion and doubt, so the Supersoul, being a non-different expansion of the same Bhagavan, represents the Absolute Truth. Since the Supersoul is difficult to perceive, the original form of Godhead, Bhagavan, descends to earth from time to time in visible forms to allow those sincere souls who want to rekindle their relationship with Him a chance to do so. This form, since it eternally resides in the spiritual world, is known as an avatara, or one who descends. Lord Rama, as an avatara of Krishna, roamed this earth many thousands of years ago in the guise of a warrior prince. The same Supersoul residing within each of our hearts, Shri Rama, gave transcendental pleasure to all He met. Out of His closest associates, we’d be hard pressed to find one who had a stronger connection to Rama than Hanuman.

Sita and RamaThough the connection with Bhagavan always remains, even when consciousness of the divine is in the dormant state, the nature of the interaction can vary. In the contaminated state, the spirit soul, the self, misdirects its natural loving propensities towards external objects, people and things that it has grown attached to during its short time on earth. Since these relationships are temporary, they are not the best use of the loving spirit. After purification through acts of devotion, which can include the acquisition of knowledge and dedication to austerity, remembrance of the relationship with the Supersoul is ignited. In the pure state, the relationship with Bhagavan takes on different moods, which are known as rasas, or transcendental mellows. Shri Hanuman, who is actually an eternal knower of the self, follows the mood of servitude. Whatever Rama wants, Hanuman will do. In fact, Rama’s interests are all that Hanuman ever thinks about. Though he possesses extraordinary strength and mastery over every mystic perfection, or siddhi, imaginable, Hanuman only uses his powers for furthering Rama’s interests.

Though Krishna is considered the most attractive and original form of the Lord, Hanuman has no interest in serving any other form of Godhead except Rama. According to the Vaishnava authorities, those spiritual masters who teach dedication to Lord Vishnu, who is another non-different form of Krishna, the same benefit received from reciting the name of Rama three times can be had by saying the name of Krishna just once. Therefore the most potent spiritual practice is the constant recitation of the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Rama can represent Lord Rama, Lord Balarama [Krishna’s older brother], or the Absolute Truth’s ability to give transcendental pleasure to others. Hanuman, even knowing this information, would still never give up service to Rama. Hearing that Krishna’s name is more powerful, a devotee of Rama would say, “Oh, so I have to chant Rama’s name three times to get the same benefit of saying Krishna’s name once? Great! This means that I have ever the more reason to say my beloved Rama’s name as often as possible.”

93_bigAs the all-pervading witness, the Supreme Lord knows the natural desires kept securely within the depths of the heart of each individual. Knowing Hanuman’s fervent desire to offer service to Him, Rama created situations where tasks could be carried out. One such situation involved the locating of Rama’s kidnapped wife, Sita Devi. The Rakshasa demon Ravana had taken her through a backhanded plot at a time when Rama was not by her side. Seeking shelter in his island kingdom of Lanka, Ravana thought he was shielded from enemy attack by the strategic location of his home. Little did he know that Hanuman, Rama’s faithful servant, and the messenger of the interests of the sweet Lord, or Ramadutta, would come knocking on his door, signaling his imminent death.

When Ravana first brought Sita to Lanka, he tried his best to win her over. Of course this is not possible, because just as Hanuman is an eternally liberated soul dedicated to Rama, so is Sita Devi. Sita made a nice retort to Ravana’s advances, informing him that death was surely upon him. We normally think that an individual takes dangerous actions that then lead to their death, but Sita told Ravana that the situation works in the reverse order. Imminent death approaches first, and due to its influence the living entity takes to destructive behavior which then brings about the end of life. Sita told Ravana that his taking her away from the side of her husband was a surefire sign that death was creeping up on him.

“When the time for the destruction of living entities arrives, people are seen to perform activities that endanger themselves due to the influence of that all-devouring time.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 56.16)

Sita DeviHanuman’s arrival in Lanka was the first sign of Sita’s prediction coming true. Reaching the shores of the enemy city, Hanuman needed to figure out a way to infiltrate the Rakshasa kingdom without being noticed. In the above referenced statement from the Ramayana, we see Hanuman is asking questions to himself before making a final decision. His mindset is entirely fixed on Rama’s interests; he doesn’t want to do anything that will foil the mission. In an ordinary endeavor, the fear of anger and retaliation from the entity of interest serves as the impetus for action. It may appear that Hanuman was feeling the same type of fear, but really there was no need for this. Since Rama is self-satisfied and the knower of the self, He knows that the Supersoul, the localized aspect of Bhagavan, is responsible for remembrance and the results of action. The self, or atma, carries the burden for choosing the nature of its interactions with the external world, but no results can be had without the sanction of the higher authorities.

The old-style communists would play the game where they would ask their subjects to pray to God for a certain plant to grow. Without giving it any water or sunlight, the plant would obviously die, so the communists would then ask the same individuals to pray to the government to grow the plant. Taking water and sunlight, the government leaders would be able to successfully grow the plant. Somehow they thought this proved that God doesn’t exist, but in reality, even the communists couldn’t grow the plant without the aid of nature’s elements, namely the sunlight and water. Indeed, it is seen that many human beings, though capable of getting ample sunlight and water, are still unable to raise every plant successfully. In addition, millions of animals and other plants don’t have any interaction with humans whatsoever and yet they still have no problem finding food. They don’t pray to the government or to God, but all their needs are supplied anyway.

HanumanThe Supreme Lord creates this entire universe and then destroys it again when the time is right. Therefore no result can take place without Bhagavan’s sanction. Hanuman certainly knew all this, so he wasn’t afraid of Rama’s reaction should the mission fail. Rather, Hanuman was worried about not properly serving his most dear and loveable object. As a pure bhakta, or devotee, Hanuman was tied to Rama in thought, word and deed, so Rama’s interests were his own. In this respect, Hanuman was afraid of disappointing himself, for he wanted Sita rescued and Ravana destroyed. If Rama is pleased, Hanuman is pleased. Their relationship is beautiful in that regard, giving us tremendous pleasure just thinking about it.

Hanuman, with his unmatched capabilities, both physical and mental, can never fail in a labor of transcendental love. After deliberating thus, he would go on to infiltrate Lanka, find Sita, set fire to the city after being attacked, and then return to Rama. Subsequently, Rama, His younger brother Lakshmana, Hanuman and a massive army of Vanaras, or monkeys, would march to Lanka, defeat Ravana and his clan, and rescue Sita. Since the devotee ties his interests to the Supreme Lord’s satisfaction, there is never failure or loss of any kind in transcendental endeavors. This is the Lord’s promise to us. Those who make devotional service, or bhakti-yoga, their life and soul will always remain in constant connection with the Supreme Lord residing within the heart. From this service comes all necessary knowledge and renunciation. Every noteworthy attribute belonging to Bhagavan and to the celestials managing the affairs of the material world easily arrives at the doorstep of the bhakta who is feverishly engaged in spreading the glories of Shri Rama, chanting His names, following His orders, and teaching others about the true mission in life, that of becoming God conscious. Tying our interests to Bhagavan’s, we will always tackle each task with the proper consciousness.