“Having offered his obeisances to them, including Sugriva, the son of the wind-god surveyed all the directions and then mentally headed towards the Ashoka grove.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.60)
sa tebhyaḥ tu namaḥ kṛtvā sugrīvāya ca mārutiḥ |
diśaḥ sarvāḥ samālokya aśoka vanikām prati ||
The journey through life consists of a repetition of questions and answers. This holds true in other species as well, for we can hear the birds in the morning chirping to one another. One bird asks the question, and the rest chime in with their answers. The human being follows this pattern throughout life, especially during the needed maturation period from childhood to youth. Indeed, the purpose of reading books is to have questions answered, as the more information is gathered, the more questions arise. Coupled with this is the collection of data and the processing of it using the mental computer. Through memory, one can actually go back to different situations and almost place themselves into areas from which they are physically separated. If this can be done going backwards in time, it can also be done going forwards, as was shown by Shri Hanuman.
How can we mentally move somewhere we have never been? It shouldn’t be that difficult to do. After all, in the past we ended up places that were new to us. For instance, say that one of our good friends moved. He used to live in one apartment, and now he lives somewhere else. We were used to driving to the old place. We knew the directions, where to park, and how to exit without a problem. Now there is some trepidation about the new place. Not only do we have to find it, but we have to figure out where to park, something which can be difficult when the location is in a metropolitan area. So the first time we arrive at this place is a new experience for us, providing new information and mental pictures that can be stored within the mind. Pretty soon, after a few trips, the travel becomes much easier. In fact, it becomes as easy as the travel to the previous home, the old destination that was visited frequently.
This comparison provides valuable insight. The next time we have to travel to some place new, we can revisit the experience of travelling to the new apartment of our friend as a reference tool. This will especially help us if the new place is also in a metropolitan area. There are other advantages to using this technique as well. The past experience in the mind may be blurry and not remembered perfectly. To mentally picture our future endeavor, we can place pretty much anything into the scene. Pretend that you are in a specific place with surroundings that can be anything you choose.
Why would this even be necessary? Why waste time pretending like this? The reason is to practice dealing with the unexpected. Athletes use similar techniques, especially when they are nervous. The human being’s tendency is towards inertia, for that involves the least effort. Quitting, failing, and focusing on the negative are very easy things to do. People don’t get rich writing books about how to fail, how to give up in life. Rather, the self-help books that find new ways to stress positive thinking fly off the shelves. The bold leaders who found success are worth hearing from, not those who wilted under the pressure.
The most positive picture is that of a successful outcome. Since success doesn’t come easy, when simulating future experiences, it is best to have as many pressure points as possible. For the golfer, the mock situation could be one where he has to drain a lengthy putt just to maintain par. In a golf tournament based on stroke play, the winner is determined by whoever has the least amount of strokes. On each hole the aim is to get your ball to fall into the cup that can be situated hundreds of yards away from the tee. The player that can do this in the least amount of strokes is obviously superior. There are eighteen holes on the course, so the cumulative stroke totals are used to determine the winner.
To make it easier to gauge your progress, to see how well or poorly you are doing in the round, each hole has a suggested stroke amount, which is known as par. On a par 4, for instance, it is assumed that the average player will put the ball into the cup after 4 strokes. Making par is important because it shows that you are at least not performing poorly. If you shoot under par, you are essentially giving yourself a credit, building up a lead. The reverse is true if you shoot over par; you fall behind.
The long putt to make birdie, which is one stroke less than par, carries less pressure than the par putt because a birdie is typically not expected. The par at least keeps you in line with expectations. Therefore if you can imagine yourself in a pressure situation where you have to make a long putt to save par, you can somewhat simulate what the pressure will feel like in a real situation. If you can envision a successful outcome in this difficult circumstance, your ability to succeed in the real life situation will increase.
A long time back, a warrior was given the herculean task of infiltrating an enemy land and finding a princess who had gone missing. He had never met her before, so he couldn’t go by past experience to recognize her. Moreover, he had never battled an entire army of the strongest fighters in the world all by himself. Why would someone be given such a task if it was so difficult? The difficulty in the mission would actually enhance this fighter’s fame for all of time. And since he possessed such endearing qualities, he was completely deserving of the fame and adulation that would subsequently follow.
This warrior would first show off his physical strength by leaping off of a high mountaintop and landing on the other side of a massive ocean. Along the way, his path was obstructed several times, but he used his mental wits combined with his physical gifts to overcome the obstacles. As a good golfer can master both the long and short game, this warrior would also show in the enemy territory of Lanka his ability to conquer small spaces. To reach this island, where it was believed the missing princess had been taken, the warrior in question became massive in size and leaped across an ocean. Now, to look for the princess without being noticed, he shrunk his stature and began roaming the land in that tiny form.
Such amazing displays of dexterity earned this person world renown, and yet there was still a problem. After searching practically every inch of space, he did not find the princess. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see that he is not ready to give up. The techniques he used to conquer the mental demons of doubt and trepidation are slightly revealed above. There was one place that he hadn’t searched yet: a park full of Ashoka trees. He wasn’t about to enter this place without thinking first, though. To do this, he mentally placed himself inside of the garden, accounting for all the possible outcomes.
What outcomes could there be? For starters, if this princess was being held in this area, she obviously would be guarded. The princess was taken away from the side of her religiously wedded husband, so whoever took her didn’t want her to be found. The fighter couldn’t just infiltrate this area without paying heed to the circumstances. The spy also happened to be a forest dweller, so he was accustomed to roaming the woods and jumping from tree to tree. He thus had no problem mentally entering a wooded area and placing every type of potential obstacle in front of him.
Despite his amazing abilities, this brave warrior was not so brash as to think he could just find success on his own. The foolish philosophers, misguided scientists and mental speculators look at the visible manifestations before them and think that they just came to be on their own. “Jobs are created automatically, heat and rain come on their own, and so do the various species.” Because of this viewpoint these variables are taken for granted, with the future aim focused on how to manipulate these aspects of life in favor of furthering a desired outcome. The wise, however, realize that there is an initial cause to everything. The job comes about through a desire for profit, the heat and rain from the controllers of nature, and the many species from the workings of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the cause of all causes.
This means that no outcome can just happen on its own. It’s very easy to get deceived in this area. For instance, if I want to say something, I simply speak and the audible words come out. I think that I am the cause of the released sounds, but in actuality so many other things had to happen for a successful outcome to arrive. From the time that I decided to speak to when the words actually came out, any force of nature could have attacked me. In addition, some disease could have affected my throat to prevent the words from releasing. While we naturally attribute the bad fortune to ill luck, we know that nothing happens without a cause. Therefore there is no such thing as luck; everything is managed by action and reaction, which is more technically known as the law of karma.
This fighter therefore saluted the principle deities of the world, which are spelled out nicely in the Vedic tradition. He also saluted the missing princess’ husband, who was Lord Rama, the Supreme Lord roaming the earth in the guise of a warrior prince. The dedicated warrior in Lanka then saluted Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana and also Rama’s wife, Sita Devi, whom he was searching for. He also honored the principle deities of the creation, asking for their blessings so that they would help him in finding Sita.
This courageous servant was none other than Shri Hanuman, who is famous today for his dedication in devotional service to God. His mental entry into the Ashoka wood allowed him to prepare for meeting Sita, as it only built up his anticipation to see the beautiful princess. She is the goddess of fortune herself, so she distributes the unimaginably large wealth possessed by her husband to those who are deserving of it, to those who know how to properly utilize it.
Wealth is not harmful as long as it is used to please the Supreme Lord. Hanuman was wealthy in abilities; he made use of every ounce of opulence he had by directing it towards Rama’s pleasure. He would go on to successfully find Sita and play an integral role in her eventual rescue. Since that time, he continues to use the practice of taking his mind elsewhere, except instead of travelling to the Ashoka wood he directs the mind to always gaze upon the beautiful form of Sita and Rama, who together with Lakshmana are the support of the sincere devotees well aware of life’s true mission, that of becoming God conscious.
Travel to future place within the mind,
So that knowledge of situation to find.
With this method the pitfalls you can detect,
Have better understanding of what to expect.
Many experiences stored in memory thus far,
So imagining future shouldn’t be that hard.
Upon the precipice of victory Hanuman stood,
Decided that he’d mentally enter Ashoka wood.
As forest-dweller familiar with what he’d see,
Finding Sita, Supreme Lord Rama he’d please.