“I do not see there any of the ornaments that previously fell, but there is no doubt that these are the ornaments that did not fall.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 15.44)
tatra yāni avahīnāni tāni aham na upalakṣaye |
yāni asyā na avahīnāni tāni imāni na samśayaḥ ||
tatra yaani avahiinaani taani aham na upalakSaye |
yaani asyaa na avahiinaani taani imaani na samshayaH ||
Simultaneously providing further insight into the keen intellect possessed by Shri Ramachandra’s most dedicated and faithful servant, this verse allows us to see the remaining pieces of the puzzle put together by Shri Hanuman. And there is no doubt that the situation was like a puzzle, with scrambled pieces of information scattered here and there. In front of him was the daughter of King Janaka, the beloved wife of the Supreme Lord in the guise of a human being. But the problem was that she didn’t look overly divine. You worship in the temple in a specific way, particularly for the benefit of the attendees, but the keen observer can notice the divine presence even outside of the temple.
What do we mean by this? Deity worship is a staple in the Vedic tradition, which is no different from any other system of spirituality except for the level of detail provided. “Faith” is the term commonly used to distinguish between believers and nonbelievers, but in reality there is no reason to base the difference on faith alone. Moreover, there is really no difference between the various “faiths”. Spirituality is presented as a science in the Vedic tradition, and surely there is trust involved in initially accepting the highest truths, but then again the same trust is already extended to the research of scientists. They make the equations and run the experiments, and we believe their claims based on the validity of the results.
In the same way, the core basis for spiritual life - the difference between the individual and their body, coupled with the relationship to the higher individual - can be accepted off faith in the beginning. One group labels the higher entity “God”, while another gives Him more descriptive names. The rules and regulations are crafted to match the time and circumstance. This gives the people of the time the best way to progress towards a purified consciousness, wherein they are only thinking of the higher entity and how to please Him. This highest engagement, known as bhakti-yoga, cannot be checked by any material condition. Whether single or married, in love or scorned, or happy or sad, that service can be offered and the results can manifest from within.
Deity worship is one of the central components of the Vedic tradition because it allows for worship to continue in a regulated manner, for the natural tendency is to forget God and worry about problems of temporary significance. The deity is not crafted on a whim; its features are drawn out by the verses of the sacred texts. And these works weren’t made up; they document what exalted personalities saw. They are like diaries in a sense. Hence the art of deity worship is wholly authorized, and its benefits redound to all areas of life.
A difficult hurdle in the spiritual path is the concepts of “I” and “Mine”. Going hand in hand with these flawed mindsets is the notion that the individual alone can shape their destiny. “Let me just do x and y and hopefully that will turn things around. If I only act a certain way then she’ll love me and I can live happily ever after. If I eat a certain kind of food every day then I will avoid disease.” Of course full control is not possible in these areas. No matter how hard we may try, sometimes the results aren’t what we want.
In deity worship, the starting point is surrender, acknowledging that there is a higher entity in charge of distributing the results to action. For this surrender to take place, the worshiped figure should be in a position of prominence; hence the deity is typically placed on a throne inside of the temple and then opulently adorned. God is certainly everywhere, but the temple is like one of His homes that He has kindly agreed to reside in. He stands out in the temple because He is meant to be worshiped by all those who enter. Thus to even the common person, recognizing the divine figure within the temple is not that difficult.
Contrast this with what Hanuman faced in Lanka. He was in this grove of Ashoka trees, sent to look for Shri Rama’s beloved wife. We know today that Sita and Rama are worshiped as God and His energy in so many temples around the world. We also know that Rama was the eldest son of the King of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dasharatha, and Sita the daughter of King Janaka of Mithila. Therefore in temples the divine pair is opulently adorned, smothered in beautiful flowers, and offered so many nice things like lamps, water, food preparations and prayers.
This atmosphere in Lanka was not like a temple, though there was a temple-like area in this grove. Hanuman spotted a woman from afar, and he thought she might be Rama’s wife, but she was in a broken down condition. Sighing uncontrollably due to separation pain and also fear of the uncertain future, she was worn thin. Her dress was also dirty from having touched the earth, and her ornaments looked darker because they had been worn for an extended period of time. Yet Hanuman did not give up hope. He continued to look and see if he could get past the external conditions, which were inauspicious.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see that Hanuman compares what he sees on this woman to what was seen back on Mount Rishyamukha. A beautiful princess had been taken away through the work of a fiendish ogre named Ravana. The demon had an aerial car that he used to travel back to Lanka, and one time this woman was seen bewailing as she was being taken away. She dropped some of her ornaments on the mountain, which was inhabited by monkeys at the time. Hanuman was one of those monkeys, and it was with his group that Shri Rama later formed an alliance.
These ornaments were seen a long time back by Hanuman. And now he had to determine whether or not the ones that fell matched the ones currently worn by the princess. From the above quoted verse we see that Hanuman determined that the match was there. Whatever this woman was wearing right now was whatever would be left over based on what was dropped previously. Hence Hanuman used the match as further evidence to support his assertion that this distressed woman was indeed Rama’s wife.
The incident proves once again why Shri Rama entrusted Hanuman with such a difficult task. More than just physical dexterity was required to succeed in locating the missing princess. The proper application of intellect was also necessary in this endeavor. When it comes to God and incidents about Him, Hanuman is always an eager listener. Therefore he soaked up the necessary information just from hearing. Of course in the modern age man’s brainpower has diminished to the point that we forget what we heard only moments prior. Hence the most effective method of religious practice today is the constant chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. And to gain further confidence in the ability of chanting to deliver the highest benefits, the mind can always remember Hanuman and how he is so dedicated in trying to please Sita and Rama.
Of her ornaments princess in the sky bereft,
Some fell while others on her body left.
Shri Hanuman, of bravery and powerful might,
Of fallen ornaments previously got sight.
In Lanka, princess from afar he saw,
Thought she was Sita, but vision had flaw.
With images from past and present to take,
A pattern match Hanuman would have to make.
Hanuman chosen because of intellect so keen,
In finding Rama’s beloved brightly this was seen.