Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Shower of Flowers

Hanuman thinking of Rama“Being hit by the wings of the flocks of birds flying upwards, the trees released a shower of flowers of many colors and varieties.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 14.10)

utpatadbhir dvija gaṇaiḥ pakṣaiḥ sālāḥ samāhatāḥ |
aneka varṇā vividhā mumucuḥ puṣpa vṛṣṭayaḥ ||

Shri Rama’s dearest servant was assigned a herculean task, one too difficult for anyone else to attempt. As the experts will warn, “Don’t try this at home”, the infiltration into Lanka successfully carried out by Hanuman could not be done by just anyone. You needed tremendous ability, both physical and mental, and also the humble deference to time and circumstance in order to remain unseen while conducting this search. Because of his courageousness, his daring attitude in trying to please the eldest son of King Dasharatha, Hanuman deserved to be praised by the saintly class. Because of the situation at hand, an outside acknowledgement of his bravery would have jeopardized the mission, but the highest authority arranged for Hanuman to be praised nonetheless.

If you’re given the task of searching for someone, perhaps there isn’t much difficulty involved. If your mom tells you, “Hey, can you find your brother for me? I keep calling downstairs but no one is answering. Call him up to eat dinner.” In this instance you just go downstairs and probably notice that the television set is on at a high volume or your brother is listening to music with headphones on. Thus the search isn’t that difficult.

When it comes to a missing person of the community, the circumstances are more grave. The stakes are higher, and time is of the essence. Still, you can rely on trusted methodologies of reconnaissance, such as contacting friends and family and putting out alerts to locations where people might see the missing person. You can get a lot done when other people help you in your search.

Now just imagine if your search involved an area from which you were prohibited. You are not allowed to enter this place, though you are supposed to conduct a search. For a search, you need to observe, and to observe you need to fix your eyes on so many different things. Thus there has to be movement, which immediately places at risk the first condition, that of not being spotted. If you’re not allowed somewhere and you have to go there to conduct your search, obviously you will have to infiltrate the area without being noticed. You will have to conduct your search without anyone seeing you.

Hanuman holding Rama and LakshmanaHanuman had this kind of daunting task assigned to him, with the added bonus of a vast ocean surrounding the area in question. Sita Devi, Shri Rama’s wife, was taken against her will to the island of Lanka, where the ogres of cruel deeds lived, headed by their leader Ravana. Hanuman was in the reconnaissance group that had the most capable warriors. He was sent out by the Vanara king Sugriva, who lived in Kishkindha. Lord Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana joined forces with Sugriva through an initial meeting with Hanuman, so throughout these events Hanuman was a key player. It wasn’t enough that he forged the alliance; now he had to handle the most difficult part of the assignment all by himself. No one else in his group could reach Lanka due to the distance of separation. Thus Hanuman had to overcome geographical hurdles just to reach the place he had to search.

Once he entered the heavily protected city, Hanuman had to conduct his search unnoticed. For this, he relied on his ability to mask his true monkey nature. He assumed the size of a cat and moved around Lanka looking for Sita. No one noticed him, even when he entered the inner apartments of the Rakshasa king. The celestials from above watched with rapt attention, but they could not do anything to disclose Hanuman’s presence to any of the residents of Lanka.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see that everything was coordinated in such a way that the honor was paid to Hanuman regardless. After searching all throughout the city, Hanuman thought he had hit a wall. What if Sita were no longer living? What if she wasn’t in Lanka anymore? These thoughts crept into the devoted warrior’s mind, but he cast them aside when he remembered that he had to continue searching. Without giving his full effort, he would not be satisfied with himself.

By good fortune there was a grove of Ashoka trees situated next to Ravana’s palace. Thus Hanuman decided to enter this pristine area to see if perhaps Sita was there. He first entered the grove by leaping off of the outside walls of Ravana’s palace onto a group of trees. For monkeys to jump onto trees like this isn’t too difficult, but due to his size Hanuman caused the birds sleeping on the branches to awake. Not a big deal, since they were alerted to the presence of the beautiful Shri Hanuman, whose vision is always worth seeing.

As the now awake birds flew away, they clipped the branches of the trees with their wings. This caused a shower of flowers to descend upon Hanuman. The flowers were of many colors and varieties. The flower is a living entity that blossoms at the appropriate time. It is naturally beautiful, and it is symbolic of the divine master’s creative abilities. No human being could imagine something as beautiful as the flower, but since the Supreme Lord is the original creator, we don’t have to worry about this issue. The flower is already there to be enjoyed by the eyes and nose. In all cultures, flowers are used as decorations, and they are given to people as gifts.

“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.26)

Flowers offered at Krishna's lotus feetThe Vedic tradition is no different in this regard, as one of the common methods of worship is offering a flower to a divine figure. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, states that if one offers Him a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water with devotion, He accepts the offering. Thus one of the simplest ways to worship God is to take a nice flower and offer it to the Lord. If you feel that He is not personally in front of you, make the offering to His deity manifestation. If an authorized statue representation is not in your vicinity, take a physical picture of Krishna and offer the same flower. In ancient times the ascetics would make worshipable figures out of coconuts and golden pots, showing that it is the emotional mood and purity of the worshiper which count and not necessarily the artistic value of the physical object used as the deity.

During the divine descents, the saints and heavenly figures from above sometimes drop showers of flowers to the ground in celebration of a wonderful act performed by the Supreme Lord. During Shri Rama’s time such occurrences were commonplace, and the same worship often extends to His devotees. Hanuman is considered Rama’s dearmost servant, so he was also deserving of the offering of flowers. The celestials couldn’t make that offering in Lanka due to the nature of the mission, but the birds with their wings took care of that. They were part of a chain reaction that dropped so many wonderful flowers on Hanuman.

Shri HanumanRama’s servant is already beautiful, but when he acts to please the Supreme Lord through a difficult task, his beauty increases all the more. Add to that the devotion of the trees and the birds, and you get a wonderful sight of Hanuman on his perch in a tree in the Ashoka grove inside of Lanka. That worshipable figure would increase his fame and glory by finding Sita, allaying her fears, and then returning to Kishkindha with the critical information of her location.

The power of worship is so strong that if you just mentally offer flowers to Hanuman, the effect is the same. He is pleased with a little devotion, and in return he shows the way to Shri Rama’s spiritual abode. Through devotion only is God caught, and the best way to practice devotion is to regularly chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The flowers dropped on Hanuman remind us why this particular section of the Ramayana is so aptly named the Sundara-kanda, the book of beauty.

In Closing:

Celestials from above flowers could not drop,

For that would cause Hanuman’s mission to stop.

 

A known person’s location not hard to figure out,

Just think of places they may go on a daily route.

 

Search more difficult in area where presence prohibited,

Thus Hanuman extreme bravery in Lanka exhibited.

 

Assignment of finding Sita Devi Rama’s servant got,

Thus no one in Lanka his presence could spot.

 

But divine master recognized Hanuman’s courage tall,

Organized birds to clip trees so that on him flowers would fall.