Friday, March 16, 2012

Getting Back Up

Hanuman“Having thus reflected for a moment, his senses bound up in anxiety, Hanuman, the mighty-armed son of the wind-god, arose.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.58)

sa muhūrtam iva dhyātvā cintā vigrathita indriyaḥ ||
udatiṣṭhan mahā bāhur hanūmān māruta ātmajaḥ |

Did they really think they were going to win? The forces of maya have drowned many an intelligent man in a sea of sorrow, ruining his chances of ever finding true happiness that is the result of applying real intelligence. The feeble man, thrust into an ocean of misery where the slightest loss causes a breakdown in mental faculties, a respite from the journey onwards towards ultimate success, can be debilitated by the effects of the nature around him. But this couldn’t happen to the most courageous warrior of all-time, a person fighting for the interests of the controller of maya. Though the mental demons seemed to almost bring him down, this brave fighter eventually got up, more enthusiastic than ever about success.

What are these forces of nature of which we speak? Doesn’t everything operate on its own, in an impersonal manner? For instance, if we get hit by a severe weather event, like a hurricane, doesn’t the destructive path of the storm not choose favorites? These questions actually show a level of wisdom only available to the human species. The animals cannot make these inquiries, as they are too bothered by the devices of the senses that look for immediate satisfaction. Try to tell a dog to sit down and wait until the time is right to bark and eat, and you will have a very difficult time. Maybe through sensory training the behavior can be altered, but you can’t go much beyond that. You can’t explain “why” patience is required to a dog.

The human being can gather sense perceptions and keep them recorded in an internal memory bank. More than just a storehouse of information to be queried, patterns of events can be recognized, with their effects noted down. For instance, if day after day I go out into the blazing sun and notice that my body starts to sweat and my skin starts to bake, eventually I can realize that the sun is the cause of those effects. Therefore using the collected experimental data, I can change my behavior so that these unwanted results don’t occur again. Prevention of pain and injury is the primary benefit to acquiring information about the external world.

sunThrough a deeper study, we see that the vital parts of the world don’t seem to have any bias or prejudice. The same blazing sun gives life to the plants, which in turn keep everyone alive. Even the most voracious meat eaters, those who enjoy visiting restaurants where the waiters walk to each table with a giant cooked carcass ready to be chopped up and distributed onto the plates of the patrons, rely on plant life to remain alive. The animals they eat need grass and vegetables. The sun plays an integral role in the maintenance of the animal community as well.

Once we see that nature and its influence have results that fall into duality, we can take that information in one of two ways. One way is to follow the atheistic tendency, wherein we just accept nature as a constant factor and then try to work within its boundaries to find our own successful end. A duality means that the results are neither universally favorable nor unfavorable. The sun example can be used, but so can pretty much anything else. If I am ecstatic about landing a new job, the result seems favorable, for it means that I will have something to do and a steady source of income. At the same time, if the job causes tremendous stress which yields health problems, the sudden fortunate event turns out to be unfavorable in the long run. The event itself had nothing to do with favorable or unfavorable, just the temporary reactions accepted by the affected person fell in both directions.

The mode of thinking where nature is considered impersonal and not having a cause is essentially an atheistic one, where there is no supreme controller identified. In the odd case that the force is recognized, then maybe you just need to accept His presence through a formal acknowledgment and then return to your activities, which basically deny His existence anyway. When nature is accepted to be an impersonal force not having an original cause, every person essentially makes their own rules. What determines this system of right and wrong? Obviously, whatever end is required. For instance, if my goal is to accumulate lots of money and live the lavish lifestyle, whatever steps I can take to reach that end form my occupational duty, or my religion per se.

To the sober person, this attitude is riddled with flaws. For starters, just at the local level the objectives are always changing. One day my outlook on life can be that I need to enjoy as much as possible, while later on my objective may be to donate as much money as possible to other people. With different objectives come different rule-sets, i.e. different religions. Now take this same variety and apply it to every single living entity following the atheistic model and what you get is a giant clash of interests. With competing interests, you get competition. With competition you get temporary victories and losses. With losses you get anger, which results in further strife; hence the constant quarrel and hypocrisy that goes on. How can one person be immoral if they are simply trying to further their personal interest? Why is lying, cheating, or stealing bad if the aim of life is to try to exploit nature’s resources as much as possible?

These competing interests are best illustrated in governments, especially those run on a democratic system. Democracy is preferred to dictatorship because of the insulation it provides from one person running amuck with bad policy. At the same time, the flaw in democracy is that you get relative morality. It may be immoral to go up to your neighbor and take their money out of their wallet and use it for your personal interest, but if you can get a majority vote in Congress to do practically the same thing, the activity becomes legal. If one person is receiving benefits from the government, if they are given preferences in life, then everyone else has a similar right. Therefore the struggle is not over what the duty of the government should be, but rather who should be benefitted and who shouldn’t. We already know that the largest governing body known to the people working under this system, Mother Nature, doesn’t play favorites, so why should the smaller governments?

The wise person, who receives training from someone who has seen the light themselves, understands the real position of material nature, that it is simply one of the expansions of energy coming from the Supreme Lord. Not only is this person understood to be God, but He has personal features and characteristics. These personal qualities are used for His own pleasure, and their identification serves to enhance the existence of the living being struggling between personal objectives. The only reason there can be multiple systems of maintenance, or multiple religions, is because the desired objectives fail to provide the real fruit of existence. If we taste the reason for our being, then we will want to repeat that taste over and over again instead of jumping from one venture to another.

What is that fruit of existence? And how can we taste it? Not surprisingly, the ultimate mission in life is to become God conscious. More importantly, once God is properly identified, the living being can interact with Him through various transcendental mellows, thus basking in His association. The first issue is that material nature exists to inhibit the knowledge gathering capabilities of the conditioned living beings. Just by the fact that a living entity needs to gather knowledge indicates that they are flawed, that they are inferior to God. Moreover, since they have to overcome forces which are instituted to be inhibiting towards realization of God, you see just how difficult the struggle in material life is.

If God is so wonderful, why would He erect these barriers? Why would He create this material nature that is full of duality? The reason known to the Vedic seers, those who follow the ancient system of spirituality which reveals and discusses the real set of religious principles, or dharma, is that the living beings, the separated expansions of God, wanted to be illusioned. Why would anyone ever want to be put into ignorance? One way to explain this is to think of the experience we have when watching movies, television shows and plays. The whole point is to be entertained, and if we were consciously aware of the fact that what we were watching was a performance scripted to perfection, the enjoyment wouldn’t be the same. On the other hand, if we forced ourselves to forget that what we were watching was fake, we could immerse ourselves in the performance and thus enjoy the show.

The material nature is the largest stage, where the allure is the forgetfulness of God and the ability to think oneself to be the supreme enjoyer. Obviously the tastes resulting from these pursuits are limited at best, and they carry many defects. Just the fact that good and bad are both relative shows that the enjoyment under illusion in the material nature is severely limited. This also means that material nature, though operating impersonally, has a negative influence on every single person, even the richest and most successful person. The person who has no God consciousness can never be in an auspicious condition, because they are always in the dark about their real existence. In addition, once the time of death arrives, they return to the ocean of nescience and repeat the cycle of pursuit for enjoyment again.

“Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, are cast by Me into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.19)

Lord KrishnaThe sincere souls fortunate enough to have contact with a spiritual master, or guru, who knows the personal nature of God and the reason for the material existence can receive direct instructions to help transcend the effects of nature and rise to a position of enlightenment. The even more fortunate souls get God’s personal association and the ability to carry out His orders. This was the benediction granted to Hanuman, though at times it seemed like he was handed a burden more than anything.

The Personality of Godhead descended to earth in His spiritual manifestation as a warrior prince named Rama. The task handed to the great servant of God, Shri Hanuman, was to find Rama’s wife, Sita Devi, who had gone missing. The task was actually handed out to many able-bodied warriors, but Hanuman was the one most enthusiastic for it. Also, the place where Sita actually was could only be reached by Hanuman.

There were many obstacles along the way, but Hanuman eventually made it to the island where Sita was being held captive. Thus far no sweat, as Hanuman still had a chance for success. Yet he searched and he searched and he still couldn’t find her. This is where it appeared that the influence of material nature started to have an effect on him. Hanuman was keenly aware of the limits of time and space, and now the seed of doubt crept into his mind. What if Sita wasn’t alive? What would happen if Hanuman returned to Rama’s camp and informed Him that he had failed in the mission? Hanuman hadn’t done anything wrong, but he thought he had. Therefore he was in tremendous mental distress.

The distress was actually not needed, because whatever events occurred were the result of divine intervention anyway, as Rama is not affected by material nature and neither are those intimately tied to Him in consciousness. Nevertheless, Hanuman temporarily suffered, for his love for Rama was so strong. In devotional service, or bhakti-yoga, there is no such thing as defeat, even if there are temporary setbacks. This fact is validated in the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, where we see Hanuman rising up after having been overcome by anxiety. He was so worried about what to do, about how to please Rama, that he couldn’t decide what step to take next.

Hanuman worshiping Sita and RamaThis doubt is material nature’s gift to the soul not in God consciousness. Hanuman always thinks of Rama and His welfare, therefore he could never be defeated by his mental demons. Remembering Rama and His interests, Hanuman arose and decided to fight on. He would rather die trying than give up the fight. He found a nearby Ashoka wood that hadn’t been searched yet. He would look through that area for Sita. If he didn’t find her, he’d defeat all the enemies that lived on this island, including its leader Ravana, who had taken Sita away in the first place. Redemption came for Hanuman in the form of a renewed enthusiasm to please his beloved, the creator of material nature. The victory would taste extremely sweet, as Hanuman would finally find Sita and then return to Rama with information of her whereabouts. All would end well, with material nature being defeated by Rama’s most ardent supporter. That pillar of strength, Shri Hanuman, rescues countless fallen souls through his example and his blessings bestowed upon those who try to love Rama and find the welcoming arms of the spiritual world.

In Closing:

To disturb Hanuman nature did choose,

Did she really think that he would lose?

 

Hanuman victory in the end would see,

In devotional service never a defeat.

 

The ocean of suffering makes the future scary,

Through the ups and downs only temporary.

 

Devotee sees clearly the bigger picture,

Following guru’s instruction success assured.

 

Hanuman, eventually Rama’s wife to see,

Full of valor, honor, courage and devotion is he.