Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Together Always

Shri Rama darbar“I offer my obeisances to Shri Rama, along with Lakshmana and the divine lady, the daughter of King Janaka. I offer my obeisances to Rudra, Indra, Yama, and Anila, the deity of the wind. I offer my obeisances to the moon, the sun, and the wind-gods.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.59)

namo astu rāmāya salakṣmaṇāya |
devyai ca tasyai janaka ātmajāyai |
namo astu rudra indra yama anilebhyo |
namo astu candra arka marud gaṇebhyaḥ ||

This verse provides a glimpse into the famous Rama Darbar, a collection of four primary worshipable figures of the Vedic tradition. God is a singular entity, so worship of Him is typically done in a one-to-one connection, or at least this is man’s tendency. But those who are familiar with the Lord and His multifarious energies keep His entourage with Him in their minds, maintaining the family-like atmosphere that exists in the spiritual kingdom. That direct energy accompanies the original divine being during His performances in the material land, where He acts in plays that follow scripts written to perfection. The energy of God is like the trailing light of the sun, which follows it in its path through the sky. The energy is actually not different from the energetic; therefore the wise invoke God and His expansions in the same breath, keeping them together within their vision.

Shri Rama DarbarWhat is so special about the Rama Darbar? Why is Lord Rama alongside others? Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His spiritual manifestation as a warrior prince. A spiritual manifestation is different from a material one because the collection of elements is not inhibiting nor is it separate from the person directing things. The wheels on the bus go round and round, but they can also be replaced. The removed wheel doesn’t have any bearing on the other collection of elements that makes up the bus; hence it has a separate existence. With the Supreme Lord, however, His bodily features are tied to Him intrinsically. The material elements are inhibiting only for those who are not as potent as God, for beings who are subject to the forces of the land devoid of God’s personal influence.

The Rama Darbar features the prince of the Raghu dynasty, Lord Rama, accompanied by His closest associates. He is the first person invoked by Shri Hanuman in the above quoted verse. The faithful warrior was on a reconnaissance mission, and though he contemplated quitting after having not been successful despite so much effort, he nevertheless decided to forge ahead. There was one area in the enemy land that he had infiltrated that he had yet to search. Just prior to this, Hanuman told himself that he would worship several exalted divine figures who manage the material creation, such as the deities of the wind and the physicians of the heavenly planets. That these personalities should exist isn’t that surprising, as the gross collection of material elements needs a guiding force, intelligent life forces to ensure that the distribution of rewards and punishments is both timely and fair.

In this particular case, Hanuman is following through with his invocation. He was tasked with finding a missing princess, so rather than assume he could do everything on his own, the humble warrior invoked the names of his beloved worshipable figures, those he was dedicating his work to. Every activity has a beneficiary, even if it is not readily identified within the consciousness. The majority of the time that beneficiary is the individual, but in Hanuman’s case it was Rama, or God. Hanuman didn’t need to invoke the Lord’s name, as he was already acting under His direction. But Hanuman always likes to remember Shri Rama no matter what he is doing. If he should fail in his task to find the missing princess, Hanuman would at least get the benefit of invoking Rama’s name.

Why is it beneficial to remember the name? The holy name carries with it the potency of the Supreme Spirit. Just as the living entity cannot be divorced of its identity with Brahman, or pure spirit, the Supreme Lord is not different from His name. The fact that we see a difference indicates that we are subordinate to God. The name is the lifeline for the surrendered souls, a way to remain connected to their beloved, even if He is seemingly not with them in person.

Lord RamaRecitation of the holy name also keeps God and His divine qualities within memory. In times of trouble, the mind will take shelter of pleasant things, those experiences and people which are known to provide comfort. As no one is more powerful and capable of rescuing fallen souls than God, remembering Him is the most worthwhile activity. Through thick and thin, happiness and sadness, buying and selling, rising and falling, remembering God is never a wasted effort. Hanuman knew this very well, so he first invoked Rama’s name.

Of course, Hanuman remembered Lakshmana as well. Two-for-one, you get one you automatically get the other. Lakshmana is Rama’s younger brother and he never leaves the Lord’s side. Not a nagging sibling by any stretch, Lakshmana takes it upon himself to be his brother’s protector. Rama is older, thus it is His dharma, or occupational duty, to provide protection to His younger siblings. This fact makes Lakshmana’s attitude all the more endearing. He is not required to offer any service to Rama in the mood that he does, but he doesn’t care about the mundane rules of society. Lakshmana’s only dharma in life is service to Rama, and whatever he needs to do to keep that service going he will follow. Rama, for His part, loves Lakshmana just as much; therefore the two are inseparable.

Hanuman had the good fortune of meeting both of them, and even carrying them on his shoulders. This all occurred in a very short meeting when Rama was looking for Sita Devi, His wife who had gone missing while the couple was residing in the forest of Dandaka. Hanuman lived with Sugriva and his kingdom of monkeys in Kishkindha. An odd alliance was thus formed, with Sugriva agreeing to help Rama find Sita. Not surprisingly, the same messenger who brokered that deal would be handed the burden of success in the mission. Hanuman found his way into Lanka, where it was learned Sita had been taken. Yet when he really needed help in the mission, he remembered Rama and invoked His name.

Hanuman carrying Rama and LakshmanaBy first remembering Rama and Lakshmana, we get the first two pieces of the Rama Darbar. Next, Hanuman remembered Sita Devi, the person he was looking for. It is a little ironic that he would invoke her name, for she was thought to be in a distressful situation. Typically, you invoke the name of someone who is powerful and capable of granting boons in order to find success. If you need help, why would you think of someone who is in trouble? This shows that Hanuman knew Sita’s divine nature and her unmatched brilliance in qualitative makeup. She is described here as the daughter of King Janaka, who was one of the most respected kings in the world at that time. This meant that Sita was the king of queens, the best of all ladies. She could grant any boon to anyone, and she would especially favor those who were serving her husband.

Hanuman was strictly engaged in bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Yoga doesn’t necessarily have to involve meditation or the practice of gymnastics exercises. Yoga is the linking of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul, or God’s expansion residing within the heart. Therefore whatever steps can be taken to form and maintain that link fall under the umbrella of bhakti-yoga. Though Hanuman was searching for Sita in a foreign land, he was immersed in bhakti because he remembered Rama and His associates all the time. Just this verse from the Ramayana alone shows how captivated by divine love Hanuman was.

Hanuman also gives reverence to Lord Shiva, Lord Indra, Lord Yama, the wind-god, the sun, the moon, and the many other deities in charge of the wind. Lord Shiva is Rama’s faithful devotee who is also charged with destroying the creation. Lord Indra is the king of the heavenly realm and he controls the rain. Lord Yama is the god of justice, who hands out punishment to those deserving of it. The wind-god is actually Hanuman’s father, and he plays an important role in ensuring that the life airs are intact. The other deities of the wind are similarly important, thus Hanuman called upon them.

Rama Darbar with worshiping godsEach of these deities had specific relevance to the present situation. Lord Shiva was the worshipable figure for Ravana, the king of Lanka who had taken Sita away while Rama was temporarily not by her side. Though Lord Shiva grants material benedictions to anyone who pleases him properly, he is completely devoted to Rama. Hence there was no question as to whose side Lord Shiva was on. He was more than willing to help Hanuman in his mission. Lord Indra similarly was not rooting for Ravana, a demon who had terrorized both Indra and the other demigods. Lord Yama was invoked to ensure that Ravana would get the punishment that was due him for having taken the religiously wedded wife of another man. The sun and the moon are powerful entities who serve the Supreme Lord, so their influence could also be helpful. The wind-gods would help Hanuman succeed in his mission by allowing him to course through the town unnoticed, granting him the ability to dodge the attacks of the Rakshasas inhabiting the land.

The fourth piece of the Rama Darbar is Hanuman himself, who is always seen kneeling before Sita, Rama and Lakshmana and offering his obeisances. In one sense the scene from the above referenced quote can be considered the very first instance of the Rama Darbar. Mentally, Hanuman had the other three people standing before him, and he was offering his respects to them prior to undertaking his mission. Not surprisingly, this would be the last step Hanuman would need to find Sita. Finally entering the Ashoka wood, Hanuman would find the missing princess and set the wheels in motion for her rescue.

Hanuman is the dearest associate of Shri Rama and His family. Worshiping Hanuman is never futile because he brings Sita, Rama and Lakshmana with him. They are always within his consciousness, so anyone who is familiar with Hanuman and his qualities can’t help but find the association of Rama and His beloved younger brother and His famed wife, the beautiful daughter of King Janaka. The four of them always remain together, at least in spirit, so anyone who remembers them will similarly meet success in their devotional efforts.

In Closing:

If you are in moment of divine reflection,

Offer mind to the most sacred collection.

 

Four people who are beautiful in their character,

Auspiciousness to their devotees they offer.

 

Lord Rama, devoted son of wind god first remembering,

The prince of Raghu clan, son of Dasharatha the king.

 

Hanuman then remembered Lakshmana the brother,

And wife Sita Devi, King Janaka’s splendid daughter.

 

Shiva, Indra, Yama, and deities of wind offered respect,

With such support, success for Hanuman we should always expect.