“Offering obeisances to the Vasus and the Rudras, as well as to the Adityas, Ashvins and Maruts, I shall proceed, increasing the sorrow of the Rakshasas in the process.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.56)
vasūn rudrāmḥ tathā ādityān aśvinau maruto api ca ||
namaḥ kṛtvā gamiṣyāmi rakṣasām śoka vardhanaḥ |
Shri Hanuman is so resplendent that he doesn’t need to call attention to himself. Should his particular surroundings be dark, he can still be seen by those who are deserving of tasting the sweet visual nectar that is the transcendental activities of Shri Rama’s most trusted and beloved messenger. Hanuman is known as Ramadutta, because he carries the message of the Supreme Lord. While an ordinary messenger, be he on a bike, truck, or train, is not given much importance, to be enlisted in any direct service to God puts one in such an exalted position that others who are pure at heart delight in every activity taken up by that messenger. With devotional service, the position of servant can put one in such high standing that even the Supreme Lord will direct others to worship such a person.
Why such importance given to a position that usually goes to those who aren’t as capable? Typically, the messenger isn’t a prestigious post because the occupant doesn’t have to do much. The brains of the operation, the boss, brings forth the ideas. Since they don’t want to get bogged down with the process of distributing those ideas to others, they hire workers to help them out. The proprietor doesn’t need to adopt a superior attitude; simply by their stature they become unworthy of menial tasks. What will others think of the head of the company should they show up one day to clean the floor or work the reception desk? They will think that the boss has either lost a bet or is spying on his workers. The heads of state, even in a small community like an office, need to be respected if their orders are to be followed.
The messenger carries whatever information has been given to him to the notable parties. Yet since the dynamic of the relationship between individual living entity and supreme living entity is one where both parties are not on an equal footing, if the subordinates play their roles perfectly, they sometimes achieve a status greater than the superior. How does this work exactly? One wonderful example is Shrimati Radharani, the eternal consort of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If there is a God, He must have a form; otherwise He would be inferior to the living entities. We are all formless in the sense that our bodies are constantly changing. Within a specific body our attributes are also limited. A human being cannot survive in water and a fish can’t live on land. They both have forms, but their abilities are tied to the type of dwelling they occupy.
Every living being is formless because their identity comes from the soul resting within the heart. At the same time, the fact that a form is accepted indicates the presence of a person, a distinct personality who can be identified by the features shown in a particular lifetime. With the Supreme Lord, there are features as well; otherwise He would be inferior to those species that do have features, albeit temporary ones. The difference between God and the living entities is that He never assumes any particular form. The material energy works at His direction, so if He wishes He can appear in the manifestation of a fish and still talk. If He roams the earth as a bow warrior, He can shoot just one arrow and destroy the entire creation. In the body of a small child, He can lift a gigantic hill and hold it over His head without a problem. In the form of a boar, He can uproot the earth and save it from a disastrous flood. He can even mix the species up and look like a combination of a man and a lion.
There are no limits to what His attributes can do; thus His formlessness means something completely different than what we would tie to the absence of a form. In His original spiritual body He is described as Krishna because He is all-attractive. Attraction guides the living entity into so many activities like the bright light in the darkness catches the eyes of the insects and flies. Just like the flies, we sometimes follow lights that bring us closer towards peril, things that bring so much punishment that we later wonder why the earth even exists. Yet this tendency to follow attractive things is there for a reason. The original person is the most attractive, and thus we have an inherent link to Him, a desire to bask in His transcendental sweetness.
Since this tendency is already there, whoever recognizes it and acts on it without inhibition would have to be considered the role model for everyone, a person to worship, honor and remember on a daily basis. Shrimati Radharani best embodies this loving, devotional spirit. She loves Krishna so much that He is completely sold to her. In this sense she is considered greater than God. The Lord loves everyone and seeks their intimate association, but Radharani loves Him so much that even Krishna, with His limitless attributes, can’t repay that love. It is seen in India that Radharani’s birthday is celebrated with more pomp by the devotees than is Krishna’s birthday.
Shri Hanuman operates with a similar mentality, except his mood of devotion involves service, or dasya-rasa. We tie this specific transcendental mellow to him only in an attempt to understand the mood driving his activities. In his love for Rama, Hanuman is not limited by any technical terms. Whatever he does, he thinks of Rama, and so Rama always thinks of him as well. As service for a messenger must involve a task, Rama kindly provides one. Rama is the very same Krishna, though in a different spiritual manifestation. The different energies of nature, the position of the Supreme Lord, the reality of reincarnation and its effects on the living entities, and so many other topics of spirituality form the basis of the vast Vedic literature, which extends to the boundaries of time and space. One needn’t think the Vedas are sectarian or sentimentalist; they describe devotion to God as being the highest scientific discipline, a system of education aimed at providing the highest benefits.
Hanuman’s task was to find Sita, Rama’s wife. She was being kept on an island called Lanka. Since the beginning of time, the forces of good and evil have clashed. The good earn their title from their devotion to God; their acknowledgment of His existence. From this mindset, other good qualities arise within them. The bad are just the opposite. They don’t believe in God. As a result, their primary aim in life is to enjoy the senses as much as possible, to facilitate happiness through their temporary body. Because of this, their dharmas, or occupational duties, are always changing. Moreover, one person’s system of regulation doesn’t necessarily have to be the same as another’s. Even a thief follows a dharma, albeit one that is not authorized. The thief’s religion is to take other people’s property and enjoy it for himself. As someone else’s dharma is to work hard to secure their own possessions, there are clashes between systems.
The sense enjoyers clash with one another and also with the good. Those who act directly on behalf of God have respect for the good guys and always seek to please them, even though this explicit distribution of honor is not necessary. Those choosing to reside in the material world governed by karma can get benedictions from many exalted “good” guys. These personalities are known as demigods, or devas, and they manage different departments of the creation. The asuras always fight with the devas, as the demons wish to stamp out any influence of goodness.
During Rama’s time, the Rakshasa influence was very strong. These were a species lower than asuras. The asuras just deny the existence of God and look to satisfy their own senses and thus compete with others for resources. The Rakshasas live in ignorance and try to kill even the saintly people who don’t bother anyone. The asuras may clash with the devas, but the Rakshasas also go after the bhaktas, those who don’t want to have anything to do with the material creation and its dualities of good and bad. A good result is not absolutely good. As a farmer it may be beneficial for me if it rains, but that same rain can cause flooding and disrupt other people’s lives. In the material world there is duality, with no situation being universally good or bad.
Duality is present in everything except bhakti, or devotion. God is the fountainhead of all energies, so His association and those activities which help bring it about and maintain it are considered pure, or punya. Those following bhakti don’t favor either the good or the bad explicitly, but to the Rakshasas this doesn’t matter. Sita Devi, Rama’s wife, is the very same Radharani but in the form of a beautiful princess. Ravana thought he could have her by stealing her away from Rama when the Lord was temporarily away from her side. What he didn’t count on was Rama sending Hanuman to his kingdom of Lanka.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Hanuman is about to enter the Ashoka wood, a park of trees that the Vanara had yet to search. He was a little despondent over not having found Sita, as that was the mission assigned to him. He was seriously contemplating quitting, running through what would happen should he return home and tell everyone that he had failed. As Hanuman never stops loving Rama, he couldn’t abandon the mission without at least exhausting all options. Seeing the Ashoka wood, Hanuman decided he would continue on with his search and see where it would lead him.
We see that Hanuman here mentions the Vasus, Adityas and Rudras. These are three principle types of demigods. They are in charge of so many aspects of the creation, and they are devoted to God, though not in the purest sense. Any person who is associated with material nature has some contamination, as they must have some deviation in God consciousness to be out of the company of the Supreme Lord, who is situated in the transcendental realm. In this respect the demigods take on a thankless task, as they act on the direct orders of God but are not allowed to always think of Him in a mood of pure devotion. They must distribute rewards to anyone who pleases them properly. Typically, anyone who approaches the demigods shows at least a modicum of piety, as the grossly foolish carry on in life thinking that the wonderful benedictions offered by nature just come about on their own, without an intelligent, guiding force.
“Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.23)
In the higher stages of devotional practice, approaching the demigods is not necessary. This truth is validated by Krishna Himself in the Bhagavad-gita, the Song of God describing the ins and outs of spirituality in a concise manner. Hanuman also saluted the Ashvins and the Maruts. The Ashvins are the twin-physicians of the demigods and the Maruts are the deities of the wind. The invocation of the Maruts was significant because Hanuman’s father was the principle deity of the wind, Vayu. Hanuman had used his inherited abilities to fly over the massive ocean separating Lanka from land. Hanuman always remembered his heritage, and he never disrespected it. Vayu was related to all the demigods, so Hanuman made sure to think of his father and honor his associates.
Hanuman was honoring the important demigods prior to the important task of going into the Ashoka wood, but what he was really doing, though he may not have been consciously aware of it, was sending a signal to the inhabitants of the heavenly realm to pay attention. The devotees delight in thinking about God and hearing about His pastimes. This loving attitude extends to God’s devotees. And no one can be more delightful than Hanuman. What he would do in the Ashoka wood would be magical, as he would finally find Sita and temporarily allay her fears. On his way out of Lanka, he would lay waste to a beautiful grove as a way to show Ravana and his men that destruction would soon be coming their way.
Hanuman even hints at this in the above referenced verse. He salutes the demigods before his journey into the woods, which will cause grief to the Rakshasas. Their taking of Sita and hiding her had caused Hanuman grief. Sita wasn’t his wife, but she was Rama’s beloved. Since Hanuman loved Rama so much, he automatically loved all of the Lord’s family members. Since the Rakshasas kept Hanuman from fulfilling Rama’s mission, they had caused him pain. Rather than sulk and sit on the sidelines, Hanuman was determined to find Sita and then return some of that grief back to the Rakshasas. As the demigods are always fighting with the demons, Hanuman asked them to be favorable to him during his own fight with the demoniac race.
Hanuman sent a signal to the heavenly realm to pay special attention to what he was going to do next. For this the demigods were actually benefitted, and not the other way around. What temporary reward could Shri Hanuman need from anyone? He is promised success in his missions because he works directly for Shri Rama, with his only motivation being the pleasure of his master. Our gifts are due to Shri Rama’s mercy in the first place, so anyone who knows how to properly use those gifts and direct them in the right direction will be guaranteed of success by God Himself. The demigods were able to watch Hanuman when he called out to them, thus proving that Hanuman’s glory is meant for the pious class. He is the sweetheart of sweethearts, and he looks best when he is fighting for Rama in the most difficult situations.
That success upon him they will confer,
The principle demigods Hanuman remembers.
With desire to succeed for Rama he burns,
To unsearched Ashoka wood he will now turn.
Devotee of Rama, Shri Hanuman stands tall,
His prayer the attention of celestials it called.
Powerful demigods Rama’s servant to see,
Who shines bright from desire to please.
Position of messenger typically the lowest,
But Ramadutta in esteem held the highest.