“It is certainly the mind that is instrumental in causing the senses to act in ways that lead to either auspicious or inauspicious conditions. And my mind right now is positively situated.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 11.41)
mano hi hetuḥ sarveṣām indriyāṇām pravartate ||
śubha aśubhāsv avasthāsu tac ca me suvyavasthitam |
“So, you’re telling me that a monkey can talk? He and his other monkey friends travelled around the earth looking for a princess who was taken away by a guy with ten heads? Then eventually they talked to a bird who told them where she was? After that the lead monkey expanded his size and jumped from a mountain peak and crossed over the ocean? This same monkey then changed to a small size to search through the streets and inner palaces of the city for the princess? Obviously these are just mythological stories meant to enliven the spirit, to keep those desperate for an escape from the doldrums of everyday life hopeful of a brighter future. We see such amazing things portrayed in film all the time, so the events from the Ramayana sound like they are an ancient time’s version of fables and stories.”
Such a line of thinking seems plausible enough, except for the fact that nowhere do the authors of the famous Vedic texts say that any of the important events they document and discuss are made up or exaggerated. Every verse is presented in carefully composed Sanskrit, a language reserved for the highest class of men. While the feats of strength bordering on the amazing seem easy to dismiss as mythology, the high philosophical points presented by the relevant characters are not. Rather, their words of wisdom are unparalleled in their brilliance, as they cannot be found in any other scriptural tradition. The thoughts of Hanuman referenced above serve as a reminder of this fact.
The same monkey who expanded his size and leaped across the ocean is herein providing the real meaning to piety and sin, auspiciousness and inauspiciousness. The basic sins are easy to identify. Don’t covet your neighbor’s wife, don’t kill innocent people, and don’t steal. Piety is the opposite of sin – respect other people, tell the truth, and believe in God. But what is the purpose to piety and sin? Moreover, isn’t it sometimes a good thing to tell a lie? If someone attacks us or our family, should we not use violence to protect ourselves and our loved ones? If we don’t, aren’t we committing sin by shirking our duties?
Piety and sin are certainly more complex than their surfaces reveal. The living entity is himself complex, for he lives in a form that is like a bubble. This comparison to the bubble is also provided by that same amazing monkey, who is famed throughout the world as Hanuman, the eternal servant of Lord Rama. The monkey-god, as he’s known to those unfamiliar with his true superior standing, not only performs amazing feats in his quest to please his beloved Rama, but he also provides pearls of wisdom that can be appreciated by the highest class of scholars. A mythological character could never be so wise, nor could he have such a profound influence on people’s lives many millions of years into the future.
The knowledge of the spirit soul, its constitutional position, its travels through various body types, and what it needs to find the most auspicious condition is found only in the Vedic tradition, of which the Ramayana is part. Sublime wisdom is available to you should you decide it is worth your time to try to learn. You can even take your pick when deciding how you want to absorb the information. You can go for the Vedanta-sutras and Upanishads to learn about the high concepts of spirituality through short and concise verses which can be contemplated upon for years on end. Or, you can follow the pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead described in texts like the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas to learn the same information through stories describing historical incidents.
If God decides to act, His actions won’t be ordinary. The behavior of His dearest associates will not resemble anything normal either. Add to the mix that the events of the Ramayana took place so long ago, when man and every other species were more pure in their existence, and you have descriptions that are difficult to accept as fact. Nevertheless, just from hearing them with an open mind, not only can you associate with exciting adventure stories, but you can also get sublime wisdom that uncovers the meaning of life and how to fulfill it.
"Whom are you lamenting for when you yourself are pitiable? Why do you pity the poor when you yourself have now been made poor? While in this body that is like a bubble, how can anyone look at anyone else as being worthy of lamentation?" (Hanuman speaking to Tara, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 21.3)
The spirit soul is the essence of identity, and the body types it occupies can be likened to bubbles that don’t remain in existence for very long. When we see bubbles in the air, we know that they can dissipate pretty quickly. The term “quickly” references a relative measurement of time. For instance, to a human being that can live upwards of one hundred years, one second is very quick, as it is insignificant compared to the large timeline representing their lifetime. On the other hand, for a living being that doesn’t live very long, say for maybe a day, one second is very significant. It is not quick at all, but rather represents a significant portion of their duration of existence.
The bodies of living beings are likened to bubbles because, in the grand scheme of things, even someone who lives for one hundred years only occupies but a blip on the complete timeline of the creation. And living for one hundred years is a rare occurrence today, as the body can perish at any moment, even if we make the best attempt to protect it. The spirit soul is thus given more importance in the Vedic tradition, as it exists beyond the temporary manifestations. If we don’t want to believe in reincarnation, which is just a fact of spiritual science, we can understand the same effects by studying the changes of our own body. Do we mourn over the fact that our childhood body is now dead? Take a look at old pictures of yourself if you have them. Perhaps as a child your parents took you to a photo session in a store, where you were dressed up nicely and placed in front of fake scenery to have pictures taken. Perhaps you were even seated next to your brother and sister, thus giving your parents a nice memory of your childhood forms.
When you get older, you realize that you’ll never get that moment back. You will never be in a child’s body again, no matter how hard you try and how strongly you want it. Is it wise to lament this loss? Since you still have your identity, as you are able to consciously contemplate the fact that your body has changed, there is little reason to lament. You still exist, even though you’re now occupying a completely different form. Therefore that childhood form was like a bubble, as it was gradually destroyed over the course of time.
From the sober man’s realization of the changing body comes a pursuit for a higher end. Instead of worrying about a form that constantly changes, why not take the time to understand the essence of identity and what can be done to find a permanent auspicious condition? This is where piety and sin come into play. Pious acts are those which gradually bring one closer to their constitutional position, whereas sin brings temporary negative conditions that keep one further immersed in the consciousness tied to the body.
We can understand these facts from explicit Vedic instruction presented by a spiritual master and also from the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, which invites us into Hanuman’s thought processes during a difficult moment in his journey in Lanka. Lord Rama, the Supreme Soul, the one person whose body and soul are always identical, descended to earth to enact sweet pastimes and give the sincere souls a chance to glance at Him, to see what their constitutional position could bring them. Hanuman played an integral role in helping Rama, for the Lord enjoys associating with those eager to offer service. If you’re the Supreme Lord, what can anyone offer you anyway? If you have everything, what can people do beyond offering respect from afar? As there is not much pleasure derived from this type of association, Shri Rama creates circumstances that allow for the devotional spirit to bloom in full, keeping the spirit soul occupied in its constitutional engagement.
Hanuman was in Lanka to find Sita Devi, Rama’s wife who was taken away from His side through backhanded means by the King of Lanka, Ravana. Since Hanuman was looking for a woman, he obviously had to place his glance upon as many women as he could, for how else would he properly identify Rama’s wife? The downside to this was that Hanuman risked looking at women that were married to someone else. Indeed, he would have to gaze upon them while they were enjoying in various ways inside of their bedrooms. Hence the chance of sin increased, something with which Hanuman was not comfortable.
In the above referenced verse, Hanuman is mulling the serious matter over. He has just looked at many of Ravana’s queens while they were in their apartment, but he notices that his mind has not been altered. From this moment of contemplation the famous monkey-god reveals the true meaning behind piety and sin, which lead to auspicious and inauspicious conditions. It is the mind which influences the senses to act in ways that lead to the various conditions. For instance, the person sentenced to prison for many years for having killed an innocent person was instigated to act based on the desires of the mind. If the mind had been properly situated, he would not have found the inauspicious future condition of prison life.
Since Hanuman’s mind was properly situated even after having seen Ravana’s wives, it meant that he had not committed sin. Does this mean that as long as we don’t feel bad afterwards, we can do horrible things like kill people and steal? The conditioning of the consciousness is what matters most, not necessarily if we feel remorse or not. By remarking that his mind was still in an auspicious condition, Hanuman was saying that he was still committed to the righteous path of trying to find Sita. Work done for God is known as bhakti, or divine love. Bhakti is above the temporary conditions brought about by mundane piety and sin, for loving devotion to the Lord is the soul’s constitutional business. Bhakti-yoga can continue uninterrupted and unmotivated for life after life; thereby making it the most unique occupation.
A person who commits sins like killing and stealing without discrimination shows that their mind is tied to the body, which is temporary. A properly situated mind understands the temporary nature of material affairs and thus does not unnecessarily impede the evolutionary progression of other living entities. And neither do they take property that belongs to others, for only a miser operates under the mentality of enjoying as much as they can within their short lifetime. Someone who knows that everything belongs to God is happy with their allotment in life, taking others’ property to be off limits, for they are rewards given by God for others to enjoy.
Though outwardly what Hanuman did was considered a sin, since he was not tied to bodily consciousness at all, since he was properly situated in mind, he was not tainted. The so-called sin had no effect on him. The reaction from his act was like a bite coming from a snake with no fangs. It was like a pin prick that the body couldn’t feel. Indeed, just the fact that Hanuman knew about the source of piety and sin and how the mind is the real determining factor shows that he could not possibly be tainted by his actions. One who knows the position of the spirit soul and how it is transcendental to matter can never kill anyone or cause harm, for they act under the direction of the highest authority figure.
Hanuman would also later on engage in violence in Lanka, killing many of Ravana’s soldiers. He was not interested in violence, but since he was in an enemy territory belonging to a ruler who had perpetrated the worst crime, Hanuman was not attached to a bogus system of blanket nonviolence either. When searching out the most auspicious condition of pleasing the Supreme Lord, trying to remain connected with Him in consciousness, sometimes outwardly sinful acts even turn out to be pious. While Hanuman’s looking at other women shouldn’t be imitated, his dedication in his search for Sita shows that everything he did in Lanka was pious.
While he resembles a mythological character to those who don’t know any better, to the sincere soul looking to rekindle their constitutional engagement, Hanuman and his actions are a delight, creating an ocean of nectar that can be enjoyed repeatedly. Though he knows that he is above sin and piety, Hanuman is still conscious of the righteous path, keeping it always in mind. For his dedication, Sita and Rama would be extremely pleased, and they would reward him with their presence in his heart for all of time. Hanuman is so glorious that an entire section of the Ramayana, the Sundara-kanda, is dedicated to his exploits. Since he works for Rama and always thinks of Him, there is no difference between the effectiveness of hearing the Sundara-kanda and hearing any of the other sections. That hero among monkeys continues to save countless souls by the example he set many thousands of years ago, when he displayed both physical and mental excellence. While for the less informed his feats of strength may be too amazing to accept as real, what’s even more unreal is his undying devotion to Sita and Rama. Through his example, Hanuman proves that both God and the reward that comes to those who love the Lord through bhakti-yoga are real.
Thinking Hanuman is a myth is a mistake,
None of his thoughts, words, or deeds are fake.
That his forms and feats are amazing we don't deny,
Bounds of logic and experience they defy.
Even though in the form of a monkey,
Travelled to Lanka to look for Sita did he.
Can try to dismiss his form but words you cannot,
Unmatched wisdom of the Vedas he has got.
Do you think fake monkey could know about piety and sin,
And how to practice devotion, love of God to win?
From Hanuman take proof of God’s existence,
Trust in his example, give up your resistance.