“May Varuna, who holds the noose in his hands, and Soma, Aditi, the great-souls the Ashvins, all the Maruts, all creatures, the Lord of all creatures [Vishnu], and other unseen beings along the path, grant me success.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.66-67)
varuṇaḥ pāśa hastaḥ ca soma ādityai tathaiva ca |
aśvinau ca mahātmānau marutaḥ sarva eva ca ||
siddhim sarvāṇi bhūtāni bhūtānām caiva yaḥ prabhuḥ |
dāsyanti mama ye ca anye adṛṣṭāḥ pathi gocarāḥ ||
Shri Hanuman asks that whatever elements he encounters in his next, most important, part of his search for the princess of Videha, they all be favorable upon him. Inherently understanding that even the sun and the wind have controllers, Hanuman asks that these higher powers grant him favor, that they allow him to be successful in his mission. In general, these elements are neutral, spreading their mercy to everyone. If one person should ask for a benediction, their gift might interfere with someone else’s desires. As material desires cannot be qualitatively compared, it is difficult to receive real favor from any of the material elements. Moreover, what we may think is favorable today ends up being to our detriment later on. Yet Hanuman’s propitiation wasn’t like this. It was free of defects.
If we incorporate the many truths of the material and spiritual natures provided to us by the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, we can better understand Hanuman’s request. An expanded version of the same prayer would be something like, “Will all the material elements and their controllers be favorable upon me? You work at the direction of the Supreme Lord Vishnu, who has kindly descended to earth in the human form of Lord Rama. For God there is no such thing as a material form, for His energies work at His direction. Since I am acting to please that very Rama by looking for His beloved wife, who was taken away from His side through no fault of her own, I am essentially using Rama’s material elements for His benefit. Therefore there is nothing to be gained by me personally. I simply ask the controlling deities, who are deserving of every honor and respect, to help me in my mission to please Rama, who is everyone’s father, the lord of all creatures.”
Hanuman’s mention of the personalities in his prayer shows that he was keenly aware of the many different elements of material nature and what he would encounter in the next part of his search. He was in the enemy territory of Lanka looking for Sita, Rama’s beloved wife. Lanka’s king, Ravana, had taken her away in secret, without Rama around to protect her. Therefore this king was worthy of punishment by death, something Hanuman was more than capable of delivering. Yet his mission only called for finding Sita and returning the information of her whereabouts to Rama, who was waiting back at the headquarters in Kishkindha. Hanuman was part of a clan of monkeys known as Vanaras who were headed by Sugriva. It was Sugriva who had ordered his soldiers to scour the earth to look for Sita, but only Hanuman was capable of making it to Lanka where it was later learned Sita was.
Thus far, Hanuman had made use of practically every mental and physical ability imaginable. He was by himself in a majestic city in a monkey form. Obviously he would stand out to the residents, especially since they were alert to foreign intruders who might be looking for Sita. Hanuman used his strengths in mysticism to diminish his size to the point that no one would notice him. This was a physical ability, but he would need his mental wherewithal to withstand the many scenes of hedonism and extreme material enjoyment he would see later on.
Staying focused on the task, Hanuman then had to deal with his mental demons, which were persuading him to give up. He hadn’t seen Sita yet, even after all his effort had been expended, so maybe she was no longer alive. Maybe Ravana killed her. How could he then return to Rama with such depressing information? Perhaps it would be better to just give up and not fight on. Ultimately, he decided that while his vital breath was still with him, he at least had the opportunity to please Rama. If Sita wasn’t alive, he would bring Ravana back to Kishkindha for Rama to take care of. In this way there was always an option for pleasing the Supreme Lord.
Noticing an Ashoka grove that he had yet to search, Hanuman mentally entered it, deciphering what the proper plan of action would be. Keeping his contracted size, Hanuman then offered prayers to Sita, Rama and Lakshmana, followed by prayers to the demigods, or devas. It seems a little like mythology that a monkey would sit there and pray to gods of fire and wind, but it is not out of the realm of possibility that there would be deities controlling the more potent forces of nature. If there is a God, why can’t there be deputies operating under His direction? So many people subscribe to the notion of angels, ghosts, aliens, etc., so why can’t there be controlling authorities in charge of the elements?
Rather than mentally speculate on the issue, we can take it on the authority of Hanuman that these personalities exist. In addition, in the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna, the same Shri Rama but in a different outward manifestation, explains the position of the devas and what their duties are. Therefore the wise never think that everything is under their control. We may be independent in our choice of action, but the results can be affected by outside forces. We may wish to play a game outside on a particular day, but if there is a rainstorm or a hurricane, what can be done? Hanuman was entering a grove guarded by vile creatures, who were essentially accomplices in Ravana’s horrible act of taking away another’s wife and keeping her away from her husband. Knowing what he was up against, Hanuman, keeping his humble attitude, asked for the favor of the higher authorities.
And what could they do but agree to help? Hanuman is worshipable even to them, for he is engaged so purely in Rama’s service that his example is honored, remembered, praised and cherished to this very day. He is the emblem of devotion in the proper mood, so any chance the devas could get to help him would only be to their benefit. Hanuman would find Sita and then play a vital role in her eventual rescue. Sita, Rama and Lakshmana favor him all the time, for he only asks to be able to sing their glories on a daily basis. As this requires some material elements, those in charge of the required forces ensure that everything is favorable for Hanuman and his devotion. The same occupational duty of devotion is there for all of us, except it may take many lifetimes in a human form of body to realize it, let alone attain success in it. By remembering Hanuman, not only is the path to success easier to find, but there is so much happiness and joy in the heart accumulated along the way.
Question: Why didn’t Hanuman pray to just Rama and Sita?
Hanuman did initially pray to Rama, Lakshmana and Sita, so he didn’t need anyone else’s help. It is said in the Bhagavad-gita that only those who are less intelligent take full shelter of the demigods and worship them for personal rewards. This point is easy to misunderstand, so Hanuman’s example shows the proper way for this worship to take place. If the shelter of the sun-god or the moon-god is my ultimate source of happiness, my rewards will be limited. For instance, wishing for obstacles in my path to be removed is nice, for Lord Ganesha will certainly grant this reward, but what if my path involves something nefarious, something not good for me? What if my objective is to take away another person’s wife, like Ravana did? What if my desire is to enjoy intoxication without end? What if my path is to kill innocent animals and eat their flesh?
Hanuman’s objective was to find Sita, which had nothing to do with his personal enjoyment. He was acting in devotion, so he didn’t need anyone else’s benedictions. He asked for them nonetheless to show proper respect to the devas, who are exalted living entities. Their aid would actually purify them. If I have the ability to spend thousands of dollars on something, depending on how I spend that money, I will generate a certain reaction. The three kinds of charity are explained in the Bhagavad-gita, showing that not all gifts are the same. For instance, giving money to the person who will use it to get drunk or buy drugs is obviously a kind of charity that is detrimental.
“And charity performed at an improper place and time and given to unworthy persons without respect and with contempt is charity in the mode of ignorance.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 17.22)
In general, the demigods are charitable in a way that can be beneficial to everyone. The devas are not affected by the reactions because their duty is to provide rewards in this manner. Why God would sanction this is pretty easy to understand. If someone wants to remain separated from devotional service, any reward or punishment they receive in the material world is essentially on the same level. By worshiping the demigods, a person at least advances to the state of consciousness where they have some religious awareness, albeit an immature one.
But when the demigods give benedictions used for bhakti-yoga, their fame increases. Lord Brahma’s weapon would be used by Lord Rama in His battle to kill Ravana. So many arrows were fired by Rama, but it wasn’t until Brahma’s weapon was used that Ravana ultimately died. Brahma’s weapons have been used by demons as well, but when they are used by the Supreme Lord, Brahma’s fame increases exponentially. The utilization of his gifts in this way makes Brahma happy as well, for the demigods are always on the side of Vishnu, or God.
Hanuman always behaves properly, regardless of the situation. He doesn’t need to ask anyone for help, but he does so out of respect, to set a good example. He is the strongest person but he never thinks he is better than anyone else. At the same time, his extreme humility does not hinder his exercise of devotion. If need be, Hanuman will go into an enemy territory and defeat whoever comes in his way, despite his overall nature of kindness and compassion. If one invokes the name of Hanuman, the savior who continues to rescue the fallen souls day after day, Rama’s dearmost servant will help them defeat their mental demons obstructing their devotional efforts.
Deities over elements have control,
Power to influence outcomes they hold.
Hanuman, to them with full humility prayed,
To help him find where Rama’s wife Sita stayed.
Varuna, the moon, the sun, and all creatures too,
Lord Vishnu, all unseen deities and the Ashvins two.
Sparkling is Hanuman’s physical ability,
But in attitude he retains full humility.
Sita and Rama and deities always to help him,
Success in devotion when Hanuman’s favor you win.