Monday, May 21, 2012

A Mountain of Flowers

Hanuman with flowers“Covered with flowers, Hanuman, the son of the wind, became brilliant in the middle of the Ashoka grove, looking like a mountain of flowers.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 14.11)

puṣpa avakīrṇaḥ śuśubhe hanumān māruta ātmajaḥ |
aśoka vanikā madhye yathā puṣpamayo giriḥ ||

When a boyfriend or husband has really goofed, the failsafe method for getting out of trouble is buying flowers for the significant other. “Suck up your pride and just ask for forgiveness. Forget if you think that you were right and that she was wrong. It doesn’t matter. Get some flowers and be done with the whole episode”. The more flowers you can give, the more sincere the apology looks, or in some cases, the more severe the transgression was. Of course, with buying more flowers there is an added cost, as the flower shops know that these issues aren’t exclusive to only a few couples. Flowers are needed all the time, as they are beautiful objects appearing naturally. Their smell and appearance combine to bring peace to an otherwise troublesome situation.

flowersIf one or two dozen roses can do the trick, bringing pleasantness to an otherwise tense situation, imagine then what an entire mountain full of flowers can do for a situation. Think of how beautiful that image would look and how you wouldn’t want to take your eyes off of it. This is exactly what Shri Hanuman appeared like in the midst of an Ashoka grove a long, long time back. Though at the time he wasn’t the size of a mountain, compared to the rest of the objects in this lovely park he was quite large. He was in the middle of a search for a missing princess, so it wasn’t his intention to look like a mountain of flowers, but based on the course of events that was the result.

Hanuman decided to enter this Ashoka grove because it was the one area in Lanka he had yet to search. Sita Devi was Lord Rama’s wife, and she went missing while the couple was in the forest of Dandaka. Hanuman lived in the nearby forest of Kishkindha, and through the command of Sugriva, the chief of that kingdom, Hanuman and his group went searching the entire earth for the daughter of King Janaka.

When Hanuman first leapt into the Ashoka grove, birds that had been sleeping were awakened. When they flew away, their wings clipped the branches of the trees, causing the blossoming flowers to fall onto Hanuman. This was a nice way for other living entities to pay homage to a courageous servant engaged in a difficult mission. It was previously learned that Sita was taken to Lanka through backhanded means by the city’s king, Ravana. Getting to that place was no easy task for Hanuman, but even in the initial part of his journey he was covered with flowers.

“Covered with various flowers, shoots and buds, that monkey, resembling a cloud, became beautiful to behold, looking like a mountain with fireflies.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 1.51)

Hanuman flying to LankaThe only viable path to Lanka was through the air, as the ocean surrounded the island. To enter the aerial path, Hanuman had to jump off of a mountain. As he was in a huge physical stature at the time, his thighs knocked down various trees. The speed of his thrust caused some of the trees to follow him into the air. The flowers on those trees then fell upon him, and Hanuman at that time looked like a huge land mass filled with flowers.

The flowers were not given to Hanuman by other living entities due to contrition. We may think that we are responsible for the results to action, but we really aren’t. There are rules in place governing behavior, and through violating those rules we can get punished in a certain way, but never do we control the rules. For instance, if we let go of an object from our hand, it will fall to the ground. We can predict the descent of the object based on our knowledge of gravity. But at the same time, we didn’t create gravity. We have no control over it, so it is really at gravity’s discretion whether or not to attract the object to the ground.

In Hanuman’s case, he was battling the elements as well as the paranoid keepers of Lanka. They were not to see him. If they spotted him, they would be alerted to the situation, understanding that someone was there on Rama’s behalf to get Sita back. Thus the residents of the heavenly realm - the saints, angels and other higher authorities who control things like the earth, water, fire and wind - could not openly disclose their approval of Hanuman’s brave efforts. They were surely rooting for him, as the sinful Ravana had made their lives difficult.

A referee is not partial in their oversight of a particular competition, but at the same time they have a natural preference for those who follow the rules. This only makes sense after all. If my job is to uphold the law and I see someone who has the same respect for that law, I will likely favor them, at least on a personal level. The judge in the courtroom would not be too fond of someone who keeps breaking the rules with respect to cross examination of witnesses and the like. Constant law-breaking makes the life of the governing authorities more difficult.

Ravana and his clan were quite sinful. In the Vedic tradition it is said that the higher authorities live off of the sacrifices of the saintly class. In a formal sacrifice, clarified butter is poured as an oblation into a fire. This is accompanied by sacred chants addressing the various demigods that are to enjoy the offerings. The celestials then each take their portion and in return give sufficient rain and provide overall auspicious conditions. Ravana and his group thought that they would cut off the demigods at the knees by attacking the peaceful ascetics who performed these sacrifices and thereby eliminate the oblations of clarified butter.

Only a fool would want to act in such a way, as the governing authorities are there for every person’s benefit. Rain is not partial. We may not like it when it rains on a particular day, but to someone else that natural gift of water is extremely helpful. The same applies for the scorching rays of the sun. There is duality built into every material condition, so to say that one thing is universally harmful or beneficial is not valid. The various elements of nature are neutrally disposed. If you abide by bona fide religious principles, you know how to make proper use of these natural gifts so that you can advance in consciousness, which is the real aim of the intelligent human being.

Lord RamaRavana and his group had killed many sages and then eaten their flesh. They thought they got away with those attacks because nothing had happened to them in the immediate aftermath. But Shri Rama reminded them that just as the trees bloom flowers at the proper season, the person who commits sinful acts reaps the ghastly reward for their actions at the proper time. Shri Rama would deliver that deserved reward first to the 14,000 Rakshasas sent to the Dandaka forest by Ravana. The most powerful fighters were defeated by Rama, who acted alone.

Ravana retaliated by taking Sita through a ruse, but again his punishment was to arrive at the appropriate time. Hanuman was in Lanka to give the first indication of that punishment’s arrival, sort of like how the dark clouds approach to warn of the coming rainstorm. The demigods were thus very pleased with Hanuman, and they were hoping for his success. In the process, Shri Hanuman remained beautiful, both inside and out. Internally he kept his thoughts fixed on the goddess of fortune, Sita Devi, whom he had yet to meet. Despite the fact that he had never seen her, he knew that she existed and that she was very beautiful.

HanumanAlong the same lines, just because we think that we haven’t seen God doesn’t mean that He doesn’t exist. The Ramayana gives us concrete evidence of the Supreme Lord’s existence, with comprehensive details about His closest associates provided as well. We get information of how exalted servants like Hanuman looked while conducting a search in an enemy territory. With the Vedas, there is no shortage of details to contemplate upon. The search for historical evidence in these cases is futile, as the recorded works of the Vedic scholars of the past are all we need to reference.

That beautiful Hanuman stood out in the Ashoka grove, covered with flowers because of his devotional purity. Whether he liked it or not, he was going to be honored. At the appropriate time and place, other living entities, using the elements managed by the higher authorities, would arrange for that honor to be bestowed. Based on what he would do next, Hanuman’s glory would only increase. As a bouquet of beautiful flowers can win over the hardest heart, know that the offerings to Hanuman never go in vain. Rama’s dearest servant would succeed in the end, and to this day he still takes pleasure in hearing about Sita and Rama. Whoever worships him is given the ability to follow the same mood of dedicated thought. The birds and the trees combined to offer flowers to the courageous Ramadutta in the Ashoka grove, and so they received tremendous spiritual merits as a result.

In Closing:

Perched in tree in Ashoka grove he stood out,

Hanuman, honor with flowers not to go without.

 

Vedas give us so many details upon which to contemplate,

Like of Hanuman, from thinking of God never he deviates.

 

Beauty and aroma of flowers make them symbol for peace,

Given to paramours so that from fighting couples can cease.

 

Imagine then what offerings to Hanuman can do,

Gives his blessings so that love God you can too.

 

Looked like mountain of flowers while on that branch,

To honor Ramadutta birds and trees not to miss the chance.