Friday, May 25, 2012

Spring Personified

Shri Hanuman“Seeing that monkey going in all directions through the collection of trees, all the creatures there took him to be Spring personified.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 14.12)

diśaḥ sarva abhidāvantam vṛkṣa ṣaṇḍa gatam kapim |
dṣṭvā sarvāṇi bhūtāni vasanta iti menire ||

The beauty of the modern day city is artificial, as it is built through human effort. The network of large buildings that illuminate the night with their many shining lights gives a wonderful image to the observer from a distance. The ability of man is showcased in the scene of the skyline of the metropolitan area, but there are aspects of nature that are even more beautiful. These places don’t require human intervention or the work of smaller creatures from the animal community. Just from the arrangement of the Supreme Soul, the lord of all creatures, the beauty arrives on its own, instigated by the onset of spring.

There are patterns to the appearance and disappearance of the beauty created by nature. Just as the moving living beings go through the cycle of birth and death, the nonmoving creatures that appear on earth must also eventually discard their bodies. The soul is what stays the same throughout, so the growth and decay periods are due to the influence of time on the bodies. To better understand how the time factor works, there are seasons, divisions that are known through the effect they have on other living entities.

SpringIn the summer season, there is intense heat, and autumn marks the retreat of summer. When winter comes, the nonmoving creatures wilt away. They no longer produce fruits and whatever flowers they had have fallen off and died. Thus spring naturally represents the rejuvenation of life; the return of fruits. The harsh cold of the winter is over, and the environment is suitable for flowers to thrive once again. There is a return to life both externally and internally. On the outside the trees start to blossom, and on the inside the moving creatures are ready to be active, to enjoy the life form God gave them.

In Lanka many thousands of years ago there was this dichotomy between artificial and natural beauty. We are given the details about the contrasting images in the Sundara-kanda of the Ramayana. The descriptions are presented through the travels of a warrior sent on a reconnaissance mission. He was to find the missing princess of Videha, the daughter of King Janaka. The land he entered was ruled by ogres, vile creatures who lived in the mode of ignorance. Tamo-guna, the lowest of the three modes of nature defined by the Vedas, is marked by an absence of both passion and knowledge. The behavior in tamo-guna is not wise at all, yet the participants are too spellbound by their low-grade activities to know that they are destroying their lives.

The area hosting the majority of the population, the city, had tremendous manmade beauty. There were golden archways, exquisite buildings bedecked with jewels, and decorations that were unbelievable. It seemed as if the city were situated in a heavenly realm, with all the jewels of the world taken and collected in this one place. There were many beautiful palaces, and this warrior had to search through them to find the missing princes. Thus through his travels we learn all about the opulence inside of Lanka, which was ruled by the King Ravana.

But within all of this bountiful material opulence the chaste wife of Lord Rama could not be found. The seeker, Hanuman, then noticed a grove of Ashoka trees. This was situated next to the head palace, and Hanuman hadn’t searched through it yet. When he finally entered the grove, he noticed so much natural beauty. There were wonderful creepers and mango trees. Birds were sleeping peacefully, and nothing about the area was negative. It had natural beauty, nothing to be tampered with. It was peaceful and quiet, and gave hints of the mode of goodness. This stood in stark contrast to the long nights of partying, drinking, and eating animal flesh that Hanuman had just seen in the city. That kind of life wouldn’t go well with this beautiful park.

HanumanSince he was in the form of a forest-dweller known as a Vanara, Hanuman was sort of monkey-like. Therefore he could jump from tree to tree without a problem. However, due to his strength and force, he caused birds to wake up when he jumped. They then flew away, clipping the branches of the trees with their wings. This caused so many flowers to fall from these branches onto Hanuman. He looked like a mountain covered with flowers. Just from this we know how conducive to life the Ashoka grove was. Wherever there are nice flowers there has to be a good climate, conditions where fruits can grow and trees can thrive.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see that all the creatures in that park looked at Hanuman and thought that he was Spring personified. He was covered in flowers after all, so perhaps he was there to bring life to the area. The conditions of spring are pretty much universally appreciated, with the notable exception being the allergic reactions they bring to many. Nevertheless, from a visual perspective, there is no beating the vision of the blossoming trees and the rejuvenated plant life of spring. Thus in the Vedas especially spring is often described in wonderful ways.

Previously in the Ramayana, Lord Rama described the features of spring and how it reminded Him of His wife Sita. The husband and wife pair used to enjoy the spring very much, for that was when they had the most fun together. This is quite natural, as with beautiful scenery the activities undertaken are enjoyed that much more. And now here was Hanuman in the Ashoka grove appearing like he was spring itself coming to add beauty to the area, to bring auspicious conditions where all the creatures could be happy.

Indeed, Hanuman was there to bring life, but to one person in particular. Sita only held on to her life in the hopes of again one day seeing Rama. She always chanted His name and remembered His divine attributes, of which there are too many to count. She was kept in this area because Ravana did not want anyone to find her. She wouldn’t fit in with the city life, for she was spotless in character. The grove of Ashoka trees was the only place Sita could stay in Lanka while waiting for Rama. Her hopes starting to wilt, the Spring that was Hanuman would come to give her life, to inform her that Rama was indeed intent upon finding and rescuing her.

Hanuman meeting SitaEverything would eventually end well, as Shri Rama is the Supreme Lord and Hanuman His dearest servant. The origin of spirit and matter can will anything to happen, but then doing so would take away the opportunity for service from eager and enthusiastic spirits like Hanuman. For the devotee, it is always like spring in the heart, for there is a constant hankering to serve the Supreme Lord without motivation and without interruption. Such a burning desire equates to the highest bliss, as the living beings have an existence for a reason. The vital force within the body has tremendous potential for action, and through the hand of the divine coordinator, an infinite amount of work is there to be done, allowing for that vibrant spirit to remain in the mood of spring perpetually.

Just as Hanuman was spring for the creatures in Ashoka, he is the life-giver to the soul wandering aimlessly through the cycle of birth and death. Know that there is certainly a purpose to life. There is a reason for living, though with mental speculation alone we will never stumble upon the correct reason. The gatekeepers to the spiritual kingdom keep this valuable information with them, and if they see sincerity in an inquisitive soul, they will pass on that treasure. Sita automatically earned the favor of Hanuman based on her love for Rama. She was the Lord’s wife, but more importantly she was His number one supporter. That instantly made her important to Hanuman.

In a similar manner, those who regularly chant the holy names that incorporate both Sita and her husband, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, are sure to get the attention of the swiftly travelling spring season known as Hanuman. He is quite benevolent in his distribution of the sweet nectar of bhakti, or devotion, which is a gift worth savoring. Just as the newly blossomed flowers of the spring season are a pleasant sight for the eyes, the sincerity and determination of Rama’s dearest servant are a wonderful and enchanting spectacle for the mind’s eye, a vision to forever cherish.

In Closing:

Pain from cold warmer temperatures to soothe,

Signals that winter season away has moved.

 

Spring the blossoming of flowers to bring,

A pleasant atmosphere too where birds can sing.

 

Sita, for her fate and husband’s fortunes feared,

But to get new life when Hanuman appeared.

 

In Ashoka grove for a moment on branch stopped,

Departing birds hit trees, flowers on him dropped.

 

To the creatures Hanuman looked like spring, and they were right.

Sweet vision of Rama’s servant always a pleasing sight.