Tuesday, February 28, 2012

No Picnic

Sita and Rama in Hanuman's heart“Therefore I shall certainly reside here, controlling my eating and my senses. Let not all the men and Vanaras be destroyed on account of me.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.54)

iha eva niyata āhāro vatsyāmi niyata indriyaḥ ||
na mat kṛte vinaśyeyuḥ sarve te nara vānarāḥ |

Just because he’s not returning to Kishkindha doesn’t mean that Hanuman is going on vacation. On the contrary, he will focus his efforts on austerity, ensuring that his choice resulting from his bout with a difficult conundrum doesn’t do anything to increase sense pleasures. Hanuman is concerned over the welfare of others, especially those he has vowed to serve. As the most sacred vow is to honor, protect, defend, cherish and worship the Supreme Lord, Hanuman is the embodiment of perfection in a living being. His flawless nature is visible in all of his activities, including his thinking.

How can someone think perfectly? Isn’t there a flaw in this concept? After all, thinking is a means of deliberation, a way to settle upon the proper conclusion, to decipher which course of action can be taken. How can thoughts that are used to come to a final outcome be deemed flawless? Practice is not something that we assign judgments to because the results are what matter. How we practice isn’t assigned top priority in importance; it’s all about how we perform. So how can Hanuman’s thoughts be perfect?

Since his thinking is rooted in pure love for the Supreme Lord, something very easy to hold on to but difficult to initially accept, even his lamentations, brief bouts with sadness, and dejection over the future outcome are not detrimental. In fact, just the opposite results. His fear over failing to keep the smile on the face of his beloved Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, maintains his dedication to the task at hand.

Lord RamaWhy did Hanuman need dedication? What obstacles was he facing? Just imagine being placed in a foreign land where you’re pretty sure that no one there likes you. And more than just dislike, these people will try to kill you if they should discover who you are and why you are in their territory. Add to the mix that no one is there to help you and there is no way of calling home for advice. You have to rely only upon your own skills to get the job done.

And what exactly is the job? A princess has been taken captive. You’ve never met her, but you’ve heard through gathered intelligence that she is being kept on this particular island. Oh, by the way, the inhabitants of this place are such vicious creatures that they eat human flesh on a regular basis. Their king was known for commanding attacks on innocent sages residing in the forest. That’s correct. People who renounced family life and attachment to material sense gratification in favor of religious austerity were harassed, disrupted and ultimately killed by minions of this infamous king.

Not surprisingly, the ruler of this land called Lanka had tried to take away the most beautiful woman in the world. Her inner beauty was more splendid than her outer, though both were outstanding. Her stature was enhanced by her dedication to her husband, who was of the princely order. As vile and sinful as the ruler of Lanka was, this prince was that much pious and dedicated to the established law codes of society. Laws are meant to be unbiased after all, not taking into consideration special circumstances. One who doesn’t show special favor to anyone is automatically equally disposed towards every single person. This feature inherently belongs to God because every single particle of spirit and matter comes from Him. In this regard He cannot play favorites.

rainThough the sun and the rain operate similarly, there are certain ways to make better use of the gifts offered. The sunshine can be used properly to grow crops, heat homes, and provide natural light to carry out daily tasks. The rain can be used to feed crops, cool the surface of the earth, and provide drinking water. Though neither the sun nor the rain purposefully target their benevolence to specific groups, those who can make the best use of the gifts are better off. Because of that utilization, they are in a sense more favored by these elements of nature than are others.

God is benevolent towards everyone, but the pious especially bask in His glories. Therefore the Supreme Lord sort of shows extra favor to them. Outwardly this is the case, but in reality those who are not shown favor simply don’t accept the gifts offered to them by God. Ravana, the king of Lanka, had plenty of food to eat and the most beautiful queens as wives. He was already blessed by mother nature, who works at the behest of the Supreme Lord. Not accepting this favor, he decided to break the standard ethical codes of society by forcefully taking another man’s wife.

During this time, which was the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, it wasn’t uncommon for kings to take away wives of other kings, but it would always occur after a military victory; sort of like a duel, with the victor taking the spoils. Ravana was so low in morality that he didn’t have the courage to challenge this prince to a fair fight. Known by the name of Rama, the jewel of the Raghu dynasty was the greatest bow warrior the world had ever seen. He had singlehandedly defeated 14,000 of Ravana’s henchmen when they attacked the area of the forest known as Dandaka. Rama was accompanied in the forest by His wife Sita and younger brother Lakshmana, but when the time came to defend against Ravana’s Rakshasas, the Lord purposefully chose to teach them a lesson by Himself. In this way Rama is the most glorious, as He shines in full splendor when defending the innocent.

HanumanHanuman’s task was to find Sita. Rama is antaryami, or the all-pervading witness. He easily could have spotted His wife and destroyed all of Lanka with a single arrow shot from His illustrious bow. But if He had found Sita Himself, there would have not been anything remarkable about it. He is God after all, so He can do anything. When a servant follows through successfully on the orders given to him, both the master and the servant are glorified. Through using Hanuman as his messenger, future generations of saints would be delighted in hearing about the wonderful devotion displayed by Rama’s dearest servant.

Hanuman had a little trouble in Lanka. Not that he couldn’t infiltrate the city; he was able to get around just fine. He took on a miniature stature and thus roamed the streets unnoticed. But he couldn’t find Sita. This finally got to him after a while, for he started wondering what might happen if he never found her. He couldn’t bear to go back to Kishkindha and let Rama know about the failure. Hanuman was a forest-dweller, or Vanara, so he lived with other members of the same species. They were technically monkeys with human-like features.

Initially, a massive host of monkeys was sent to look for Sita, but Hanuman ended up separating from everyone once it was learned that Sita was in Lanka. Only Hanuman could reach the distant island. He thought that if he didn’t succeed in the mission, Rama would get irate over the failure and destroy everyone as a result. Not wanting to inflict further harm on his friends, Hanuman decided it would be best to remain in Lanka and continue the search.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Hanuman is further justifying his decision. Just imagine, here he was on one of the most difficult missions ever assigned to a servant, and he was worried about how he would come off in not returning to Kishkindha. He didn’t want himself to think that he had taken the easy route. What exactly would have been the easy option? Just sit back, relax, don’t tell anyone anything, and pretend like nothing happened. Shirk your responsibilities and enjoy life for yourself.

HanumanHanuman decided that he would keep his senses under control and regulate his eating. Not only does this represent an austere lifestyle, it is extremely beneficial when engaging in devotional service. Bhakti-yoga is a discipline involving the linking of the individual soul with the Supreme Lord. There are several different ways to do this, with the most effective method in the current age being the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. In Hanuman’s case, he was engaged in bhakti through directly carrying out the orders of the Supreme Lord. Irrespective of the specific method of bhakti chosen, if food intake can be limited and the senses kept in check, the mind can better concentrate on the task of connecting with God.

Hanuman doesn’t need to follow these methods explicitly, but he did so to remain focused on the task, to keep his spirits up. It is seen that when depression hits, people can go on eating binges, like downing an entire pint of ice cream. Sometimes people even hit up the bottle, drowning their sorrows in intoxication. Hanuman would not let this happen. Rather than allow lamentation to get the better of him, he would fight ahead and find victory or die. He had no interest in failing and he was not about to let his friends down.

Hanuman is the most dedicated. You could pile up every piece of blank paper available in the world and try to fill them with written glories about Hanuman and you still wouldn’t have enough room. He is forever dear to Sita and Rama, who always reside in his heart. He is also loved by the devotees of Rama, who look to him as their savior, guide and protector. Hanuman would indeed succeed because his dedication is unmatched. When there is a will in devotional service, the way is kindly provided by the Supreme Lord. Hanuman has paved the way to the spiritual world, and anyone who is fortunate enough to hear about him and delight in his pastimes will remain firmly fixed on that path back to the supreme destination.

In Closing:

Quitting is something done with ease,

No more pressures, life is a breeze.

 

Hanuman never to take this route,

Pleasure his senses would live without.

 

His eating too he would strictly control,

This way avoid calamities untold.

 

Carrying on was right and Hanuman knew it,

Rama’s pleasure required him not to quit.

 

Vanara to carry on, Supreme Lord to please,

On opportunity to serve Rama he did seize.