Saturday, September 15, 2012

Auspicious Indications

Sita and Rama“This divine lady’s beauty and the perfection of every body part is like it is in Rama, and His beautiful features are the same as this dark-eyed lady’s. Hence she must be His.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 15.51)

asyā devyā yathā rūpam anga pratyanga sauṣṭhavam |
rāmasya ca yathā rūpam tasya iyam asita īkṣaṇā ||

Aside from the documented historical evidence presented in Vedic literature, there are other indications that can be used to substantiate the claims of divinity with respect to notable characters. Depending on time and circumstance, a particular divine incarnation will appear and carry out specific tasks. In many instances only a representative is sent, as through that leader’s influence others get a tangible example to follow. The path is set for returning back to the spiritual kingdom, an ascension that grants a release from the prison-like environment. To help in recognizing the divine presence, there are also features considered unique and auspicious and which only belong to the Supreme Lord and His eternal consort. These were duly noted by a clandestine agent deep within the enemy territory of Lanka a long time ago.

The special agent’s name was Hanuman, and he was in the form of a monkey. As these events took place so long ago, the population of the earth was a little different than it is today. The monkeys were known as Vanaras, and they had human-like tendencies. In addition, many notable figures were adept in mysticism, so they could make use of the various siddhis of yoga. Real yoga is not practiced for ancillary health benefits. Just by eating and sleeping in moderation, allowing the air to flow freely through the body, one can remain relatively healthy. Real yoga is an out-of-body experience, connecting the individual soul with the higher spiritual being. In that discipline the inhibiting influence of the body is lessened, allowing the spirit soul to do amazing things like change shape, become extremely light, and travel at the speed of the mind.

Hanuman was also an expert at all aspects of yoga. He used whatever features he possessed to carry out service to the Supreme Lord. Rama was the divine incarnation of the time, and Hanuman noticed auspicious signs in Him at their first meeting. There was extraordinary beauty coupled with gentleness, a combination rarely seen in a warrior. Rama was chivalrous and at the same time wholly affectionate. He was deferent to the law codes of dharma. He never backed down from a fight, and yet He was greatly saddened when His wife Sita went missing.

Along with many other Vanaras in the forest of Kishkindha, Hanuman was sent to find Sita. He finally reached the end-point when he saw a beautiful woman from a distance in a grove of Ashoka trees. This princess looked like she could be Rama’s wife. It was difficult to know for certain due to external conditions. This woman’s clothes were not in a good condition. She was also sighing repeatedly and her body was worn thin from fasting.

Shri HanumanBut from what Hanuman could make out, he could tell that the image was a match for what was seen prior on Mount Rishyamukha. Sita was taken against her will by the king of Lanka, Ravana, through a backhanded plot. Upon the initial aerial exit from the scene of the crime, Sita struggled with Ravana and some of her ornaments fell to the ground. Vanaras were perched in trees at the time and so they took note of these ornaments. From what Hanuman could tell now, this woman was wearing whatever was kept on her body, that is to say the ornaments that previously fell matched what this woman had on at present.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Hanuman notes that Shri Rama’s beauty and the perfection of every one of His limbs matched that of the divine lady in question. The same held true the other way around. Sita’s beautiful features were a perfect match to Rama’s. Through this match Hanuman had another leg to stand on with his assertion that the woman in the distance was indeed the missing princess of Videha.

That these features should exist in Sita and Rama is not surprising. They are the most benevolent, the kindest souls with respect to how they treat their devotees. In the Supreme Lord the opulences exist to the highest degree. As an incarnation dedicated to protecting the innocent, Rama played the role perfectly. At the same time, His divine features couldn’t be hidden. From His beauty one could tell that He was not of this world. To be paired with a wife, there had to be a perfect match. And so Sita’s features were equally as brilliant, showing that she too was not of this world. The divine couple resides eternally in the spiritual sky, and they are always served by devotees like Hanuman. Though he is in the form of a Vanara, he too is beautiful, and so are his acts of devotion, which include contemplating upon his beloved Sita and Rama.

In Closing:

Towards devotion to God we must go,

But how the divine qualities we will know?


Vedic texts of God’s incarnations tell,

But cheaters in this age of Kali do dwell.


Hanuman, missing wife of Rama to seek,

In princess in grove saw features unique.


Divine beauty and perfection of every body part,

Match to Shri Rama, resident of Hanuman’s heart.


Features thus gave the divine indication,

Hanuman to make proper identification.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Suffering in Four Ways

Sita Devi“She is the woman for whose sake Rama is suffering in four ways: compassion, pity, grief and love; compassion due to a woman being lost, pity because she is a dependent, grief because a wife is lost, and love because she is very dear to Him.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 15.49-50)

iyam sā yat kṛte rāmaḥ caturbhiḥ paritapyate |
kāruṇyena ānṛśamsyena śokena madanena ca ||
strī pranaṣṭā iti kāruṇyād āśritā iti ānṛśamsyataḥ |
patnī naṣṭā iti śokena priyeti madanena ca ||

The Supreme Lord’s suffering is different from ours. His is not indicative of a defect nor does it lead to any harm going forward. Anything He does on a personal level is beneficial to those directly affected. With respect to Shri Hanuman’s observation noted above, the suffering is to show the unmatched level of affection Shri Rama holds for His eternal consort, the daughter of King Janaka, Sita Devi. Moreover, the external show of suffering helps to fuel the fire of devotion in exalted servants like Hanuman, who always think of what they can do for God instead of what God can do for them.

The latter mentality is quite understandable. One person is deemed to be superior, so why shouldn’t they be approached for help? Ah, but what is it exactly that we need help with? Do we need money? How about success in romance? Landing that new job sure wouldn’t hurt. The help in these areas isn’t required from the Supreme Lord directly, as His energies take care of the necessary results, apportioning them fairly and in a timely manner.

One person really wants it to rain. Their plants are dying, and so hydration from the heavens is the only thing to save the plants that took so long to grow. The next door neighbor, however, has no explicit desire for it to rain. He is just going about his business, taking whatever comes his way. “Easy come, easy go,” is his motto in life. When the rain does come, the person who asked God for it thinks that they have been helped, while the neighbor likely doesn’t even notice the rain. The rain was scheduled to arrive on time regardless of the explicit request. And irrespective of the neighbor’s apathy towards the rain, the heavens were set to pour down water at a specific time.

When asking for things from God, the personal benefit arrives only when there is a desire in devotion. Devotion is the soul’s constitutional position. It already manifests in so many visible ways in our everyday affairs. Service is always offered; irrespective of class or gender. With devotion to God, the service is offered to the one entity who is truly deserving of it. With the petitions made at His lotus feet, a direct intervention results, as He considers His devotees to be His friends.

samo 'haṁ sarva-bhūteṣu 

na me dveṣyo 'sti na priyaḥ 

ye bhajanti tu māṁ bhaktyā 

mayi te teṣu cāpy aham

“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.29)

Hanuman is one such friend. More than just asking for things from Rama, Hanuman went one step further by risking his life to please the beloved eldest son of King Dasharatha. Hanuman braved his way through many obstacles, both physical and mental, to make it into the Ashoka grove in Lanka. The devoted wife of Rama, Sita, was likely to be there. Hanuman spotted a woman from a distance, and to make sure that she was Sita, he reviewed some of her qualities in his mind.

In this particular instance, we see that Hanuman is confident that the woman is Sita based on the types of distress she could cause for Rama. Her divine features made her a perfect match for Rama, and because of these qualities any person who was married to her would be in the types of distress that Hanuman saw in Rama prior to leaving for Lanka. Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana were back in Kishkindha awaiting news of Sita’s location. The Vanara-king Sugriva had dispatched his massive army to scour the earth to find the missing princess, who was taken away from Rama’s side through a backhanded plot executed by the evil king of Lanka, Ravana.

Hanuman says that Rama was distressed in four ways. First there was compassion. This was due to a woman having gone missing. Playing the role of a kshatriya king, Rama’s voluntarily accepted occupational duty was to protect the innocent. Women and children are the innocent members of society, and when they are left unprotected, there are so many negative consequences. Children are the future, so if they are corrupted the future generation of leaders will be corrupt. If women are left unprotected, the women-hunters can have their way with them and then leave them all alone afterwards. Illegitimate children result from illicit sex, which increases the likelihood that many children won’t be loved and protected while they grow up.

Sita and RamaRama felt pity, or mercy, because Sita was a dependent. In the Vedic tradition, the marriage vows are supposed to mean something. The wife is to serve the husband as her primary deity and in return the husband must protect her for her entire life. Rama was known as the greatest protector in the world, so for Sita to go missing did not reflect well on Him. She insisted on accompanying Him for the fourteen year exile stint in the forest, and so Rama was always attentive to her wellbeing. The fact that she had gone missing increased His feelings of mercy.

Rama felt grief because Sita was His wife. Though they didn’t know each other prior to marriage, they felt the highest levels of affection for each other. To lose one’s wife in such a way surely will lead to grief, and the constant worry is over when the reunion with the missing wife will take place.

Rama suffered from love as well, as Sita was very dear to Him. Rama is an incarnation of God and Sita an incarnation of the goddess of fortune. Though one of the properties of the Supreme Lord is that He is atmarama, or completely self-satisfied, He shows signs of love when separated from His beloved because that is the influence the greatest divine lover has on Him. Sita is such a wonderful devotee that she wins Rama over with her undivided attention offered to Him.

Hanuman knew that Rama was tormented in these ways and he could see for himself that Sita was also afflicted greatly due to the separation. This only made Hanuman more anxious for success. And how can such a dedicated servant ever fail? He knows the position of both Sita and Rama and yet he still acts as if they depend on him. This is a wonderful attitude to have, and it is thus no wonder that Hanuman is worshiped so much to this day.

In Closing:

With vision of Sita, who golden garment wore,

Hanuman understood Rama’s torments four.


A warrior to protect innocent at all cost,

So pity that an innocent woman was lost.


Protection of superiors dependents take,

So pity because Sita’s life was at stake.


Losing a wife the cause of grief,

Especially one of beauty beyond belief.


Love also because Sita to Him very dear,

Source of Rama’s agonies to Hanuman clear.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Just Think

Sita and Rama“This golden-hued good and virtuous lady must be the dear queen of Rama. Though He is separated from her, she has not departed His heart.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 15.48)

iyam kanaka varṇa angī rāmasya mahiṣī priyā |
pranaṣṭā api satī yasya manaso na praṇaśyati ||

“How do I go about worshiping God? Do I have to visit a church? I’m supposed to sit there and listen to someone go on and on about things I don’t even understand? And through it all I’m supposed to know that I’m saved, that I’ll be okay in the afterlife? Oh, and in the interim I can ask for stuff through prayer? ‘God, please give me this, give me that.’ This doesn’t make sense, really. So many people get what they want without going to a house of worship. They don’t pray at all and everything seems to fall into place for them. Why should I have to go through so much trouble?”

Indeed, these are pressing questions that a perceptive person will no doubt look to answer. How does worship actually take place? And if the spiritual entity is superior and to be offered tribute, why is not His association the cherished objective? Wouldn’t that make more sense than asking for smaller rewards, benefits that only wash away like the sand on the ocean’s shore? From a perception made by a famous figure of the Vedic tradition, we get the simplified version of worship. If the key component of this worship is present, no other condition is required. All other rituals, regulations and observances are actually meant to create and solidify this key component.

What is this key? You just have to think about God to worship Him. It’s as simple as that. Try to make it more complicated and you’ll miss the mark. The workings of the mind indicate the presence of a consciousness, which in turn shows that there is life. A person is deemed dead when their consciousness is no longer noticeable. According to the Vedic science, that consciousness, which is part of the subtle body, just travels to another place after death. In its new home, the mind, intelligence and ego work together to show the presence of the consciousness to others. Though travel takes place, never does the consciousness cease to be; it is a product of the spirit soul, who is the individual.

śarīraṁ yad avāpnoti 

  yac cāpy utkrāmatīśvaraḥ 

  gṛhītvaitāni saṁyāti 

  vāyur gandhān ivāśayāt

“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.8)

The philosophical point, “I think therefore I am”, shows that thinking is the essence of being. Thought can then direct the other aspects of the individual, such as the eyes, ears, limbs, etc. The mind is driven by the consciousness which exists because of the soul, which has its own properties. The dharma, or essential characteristic, of the soul is to serve. Hence the mind is best situated when thinking of serving. The seed of thought fructifies into action in service. We think of the wellbeing of our family, so we then act to serve their interests. We think of the health of the country, so we spring into action to bring about change in public policy.

So to serve God should not be that difficult, no? First you must think of Him. Then from that thought, spring into action. Such was the case with Shri Hanuman. He thought of God when he met Him in the Kishkindha forest. At the time, the Supreme Lord was roaming the earth in His avatara of Lord Rama. Hanuman met Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana while they were looking for Rama’s missing wife Sita.

Hanuman’s thoughts focused on God based on the personal meeting and the crisis at hand. The thoughts of Hanuman turned towards service when he wanted to do something to help Rama. Such is the nature of God that when others have a sincere affection for Him they will do whatever they can to try to help Him. That affection is harbored when the individual is pure, when they are not tainted by sin. Sin is just the wrong way of doing something. The regulations of spiritual life are thus put into place to bring an ultimate benefit. To sin is to go against these regulations, thereby causing negative outcomes, the worst of which is further forgetfulness of God.

Hanuman worshiping RamaHanuman lived without sin, and so when he saw God he had no problem forming an attachment. With pure thoughts focused on Rama, Hanuman used all of his abilities to offer service. Know that there are endless opportunities for this service, as through the divine will anything can happen. Sita could have been rescued by Rama very easily, but why take the effort when so many Vanaras in Kishkindha were eager to offer service? Rama gave them the chance to find Sita, with Hanuman leading the way to success.

Though Hanuman worshiped God through offering service in his travels around the world in search for Sita, we see from the above referenced verse that just thinking alone is enough to please the Lord. Hanuman here is concluding his review of the features of this woman he sees from a distance inside of the Ashoka grove in Lanka, the land ruled at the time by the ogre Ravana. He was the fiend who had taken Sita away from Rama’s side through a backhanded plot. Seeing the princess, Hanuman could tell that she had distinguishable divine features which matched those belonging to Rama’s wife. Thus he finally concluded that she must be Sita.

Hanuman also notes that although Sita is lost to Rama, she is always in His heart. He could tell this based on Sita’s disposition. She was devastated emotionally due to the separation from her dear husband. This took a toll on her physically, as she was worn thin from fasting. How could she eat when she was constantly worried about not ever seeing her husband again? Her external conditions revealed to Hanuman her thoughts, and from that thinking Hanuman knew that she was in Rama’s heart. Rama’s mental condition back in Kishkindha also revealed this.

In this way we know that just thinking about God is enough to please Him. He is omnipresent after all, so wherever we are, in whatever condition we find ourselves, to think of Him in a kind way is an act of divine love; it is bhakti-yoga itself. To help facilitate that remembrance, to ensure that we think of God as often as possible, we can chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

In Closing:

To have the divine link,

All you need is to think.


Foundation on which all other methods built,

Towards eternal felicity your fortunes to tilt.


Even after to Lanka she was brought,

Of Rama wife Sita always thought.


Thus though she was far away,

In Rama’s mind she did stay.


Hanuman this could understand,

After on vision of Sita his eyes did land.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Still In His Heart

Sita and Rama“This golden-hued good and virtuous lady must be the dear queen of Rama. Though He is separated from her, she has not departed His heart.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 15.48)

iyam kanaka varṇa angī rāmasya mahiṣī priyā |
pranaṣṭā api satī yasya manaso na praṇaśyati ||

You’re not with the person you love the most. The separation brings uncertainty. “What are they doing right now? Are they okay? Are they thinking of me? Do they think about me as much as I think about them? Did all that time I spent with them mean as much to them as it did to me? When will I see them again? Maybe I’m not forgotten, which makes my state all the more pitiable. Perhaps it is better to forget them, though I’m having a hard time doing it. My heart belongs to them, so how can I get it back before knowing for certain whether they are taking care of it?”

In the course of our everyday dealings these concerns seem completely valid. We don’t know for sure if someone who is far away from us is actually pondering over our welfare. We don’t know whether the time we spent with them was as meaningful to them as it was to us. But with the Supreme Lord there is no need for such worry. His eyes and ears expand everywhere, as does His presence. This means that He can hear any prayer offered His way. He doesn’t always respond in the manner requested; but the superior benefit of His association within the mind does arrive.

We can look to Sita Devi’s plight within the Ashoka grove in Lanka to see how this works. Sita is a historical personality as well as a divine goddess, a person still worshiped to this day. A long time ago, in an ancient time, she was in Lanka not of her own choosing. She was taken there against her will by a wicked king who wanted to make her his chief queen. She was already married, though, and happily so. She never got to say goodbye to her husband. He was diverted into the dense forest for a brief moment by an illusion hatched by the wicked king of Lanka. To make matters worse, Sita could have been protected by her husband’s younger brother, who was by her side. But she heard her husband apparently scream out for help, so she ordered His younger brother to leave the scene and check on Him. The younger brother didn’t think Sita’s husband was in trouble, but Sita insulted him in such a way that he finally gave up the opposition and left the scene.

After the fact, Sita felt responsible for the subsequent abduction carried out by Lanka’s king Ravana. Now she was in this grove of Ashoka trees, left to wait for an uncertain future. She didn’t know if Rama, her husband, even knew where she was. He was already famous for His high level of renunciation. Rama was the heir to the throne of Ayodhya, but He gave it up to fulfill a promise made by His father. He didn’t want Sita to come with Him to the forest, where He was to serve an exile punishment for fourteen years.

If Rama could give up the throne and regal life, surely He could live without Sita. At least this is something someone in Sita’s position would have thought. She only came along to the forest after she convinced Him with unassailable logic offered in a presentation that would put the best lawyers in the world to shame. Rama previously showed that He could live without His wife, and now in Lanka she was out of His way. But more than just worried about herself, Sita was very concerned over how Rama and Lakshmana felt. She knew that Rama would feel bad over having failed to protect His wife. Lakshmana too would feel remorse over having left her side. Thus Sita’s misery had many sources, and compounding the situation was the falling hourglass of time, indicating that the chances for her rescue were diminishing.

Never fear, though, as Shri Hanuman came to the scene to find Sita and notify her of Rama’s fervent desire to rescue her. Hanuman was Rama’s servant, and in the above referenced verse from the Ramayana he is finishing up his review of the features belonging to this woman he could see from a distance. Perched on a golden tree in the Ashoka grove, Hanuman could see a princess up ahead. Though she wasn’t in a pleasant state, by carefully observing her he could discern divine qualities, which matched those belonging to Rama’s wife.

Sita and RamaHanuman here is firmly convinced that the golden-hued woman he is looking at is Sita. He also notes that though Sita is physically lost to Rama, she is always in His heart. There are many ways to reach this conclusion, but seeing Sita’s distressed condition was one way to know for sure. She was sighing repeatedly and was thin from fasting because of anxiety over separation. This meant that she was always thinking about Rama. As Dasharatha’s eldest son is the Supreme Lord Himself in the guise of a warrior prince, anyone who thinks of Him is automatically with Him. As Sita only thought about Rama, she was always with Him.

This reveals the kind nature of the person most of us refer to as God. The benedictions of temporary significance that we ask for are not as important as the association of the person who is to offer those benedictions. More important than keeping the requests coming is keeping the faith going. Without seeing for ourselves that a divine controller is within our heart, it is very easy to lose faith, but from Hanuman’s wise words know that those who think of God are never lost to Him.

In Closing:

“Supreme Lord difficult to see,

Does He hear prayers offered by me?


Why not to my side does He run?

When to rescue me will He come?”


Understandable are these concerns,

How the divine company will we earn?


From Hanuman’s thoughts one fact derive,

That by thinking of God never alone to reside.


Sita in Lanka all by herself seeming,

But lived in Rama’s heart through devotion beaming.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Divine Color

Sita's lotus feet“Although this piece of cloth has been worn out due to extended use, still, it is glorious and certainly of the same color as the other.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 15.47)

idam cira gṛhītatvād vasanam kliṣṭavattaram |
tathā hi nūnam tad varṇam tathā śrīmad yathā itarat ||

Sita Devi’s dress, though worn due to extended use, is still of the same glorious color as the matching garment seen previously on Mount Rishyamukha by the monkeys perched on trees. More importantly, the cloth she is wearing now is shrimad, or glorious. This not only describes her clothing, but her character as well. The same adjective is placed in front of sacred texts like the Bhagavad-gita, Bhagavatam, and Ramayana, the book from which the above referenced verse is taken.

Why is Sita glorious? She is the goddess of fortune. This means that she can bestow any type of material reward on her devotee. A devotee acts in a way that is pleasing to the object of service, and the devotion must exist beyond the potential. We can say we are devoted to someone in thought, but unless we act upon that devotion, it is really no different than not being devoted. Two husbands can each proclaim to love their wife, but if only one of them is faithful in conjugal relations, then the two men aren’t equal.

Devotion to Sita is generally practiced in explicit worship of Goddess Lakshmi. She is the husband of Lord Narayana, who is the same person most of us refer to as God. Narayana says that God is the source of all men, and in the Vedas Narayana’s form is described as well. He is opulently adorned, has four hands, and is constantly served by the goddess of fortune. She is in charge of the limitless fortune possessed by the original creator. When she is pleased with someone, she loans a portion of that fortune to them.

Sita is glorious for more reasons than just her ability to distribute fortune. Everything we see around us has a purpose. Fortune can be two-sided. If used improperly, it can cause more strain to the mind than if it were absent. To maintain an existence, however, requires provisions of some sort, and in most civilized societies procuring those provisions requires the possession of some type of commodity. In simpler terms, you need money to live. Somehow or someway, you need to get your hands on money that can be used to purchase food, clothing and shelter.

An interesting fact to note, however, is that the animals already have their basic necessities provided to them. They don’t worship Goddess Lakshmi at all. This means that the human being’s worship is for a different purpose. The fortune provided by Sita is meant to be used for the pleasure of her husband. How does this work exactly? How do we please someone who creates the fortune we receive? We know that just because the parents own the home doesn’t mean that the children can’t please them. The room is given to the child by the parents, and within that room the child can study to do well in school and thereby please the parents. With their allowance money they can purchase gifts for the parents, and with the various supplies given to them they can also make unique offerings for the parents’ pleasure.

The parents are in the superior position and so they don’t require any of these gifts. Yet they take tremendous joy just from the sincerity of the offering. In the same way, Narayana takes pleasure in seeing His sons and daughters come to Him in a mood of affection. Mankind doesn’t own anything outright, so the raw materials must be gifted to them. Therefore the proper way to honor Lakshmi is to use her rewards for putting a smile on the face of her husband.

Hanuman chanting the glories of Sita and RamaShri Hanuman’s travels within the foreign territory of Lanka provide more information on how to go about pleasing Sita’s husband. Hanuman was given a monkey form at birth, and through the course of maturation he acquired scholarly wisdom of the Vedas and mastery over the mystic perfections of yoga. These are considered great blessings that any person would be fortunate to have. Having knowledge of just one of the four Vedas is considered a boon, as is the ability to invoke just one of the siddhis of yoga. Hanuman had it all, but he used everything for the right purpose.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, he uses his gift of intellect to do a pattern match. Again, this was for the pleasure of Sita’s husband, Shri Rama. Rama is the same Narayana. Both Lakshmi and Narayana descend to earth to kindly bestow their mercy upon select few individuals. Sita and Rama are so glorious that devotees still worship them to this day in lieu of Lakshmi-Narayana. It is a matter of choice, as there is no difference; Radha and Krishna are the same Sita and Rama as well.

Hanuman was in Lanka to look for Sita, something asked of him by Shri Rama. Hanuman used the information previously gathered relating to a garment and ornaments that fell from the sky. A while back the Vanaras living on Mount Rishyamukha noticed a distressed lady being taken away on an aerial car. She was resisting the fiendish leader of this car, and in the struggle some of her ornaments fell to the ground. Now Hanuman was in this Ashoka grove inside of Lanka looking at a princess from a distance, and he could notice many similarities.

The princess was in a distressed condition, and so her garments were not in the best shape. She had worn her sari for a long time, so it was now worn out. Nevertheless, its color was still the same as the garment seen previously, and it was also glorious. This means that in any condition Sita always retains her resplendence, and keen observers like Shri Hanuman never fail to notice it.

The same pattern matching technique can be applied to Hanuman as well. Though he is described to be a monkey who performs amazing feats during an ancient time, his gloriousness still stands out. His actions are painted with the color of devotion, which is the same color that all the devoted souls wear when serving the Supreme Lord. Thus from Hanuman alone we can tell that Sita and Rama are divine figures and that devotion to them is the highest engagement in life.

In Closing:

Rama’s wife of golden clothing brilliant,

Seen by Shri Hanuman the valiant.


Sita’s sari worn for a long time,

But still had splendid golden shine.


From color Hanuman could tell,

That garment same as that which previously fell.


Shrimad of the divine influence speaks,

Match for he who Supreme Lord seeks.


Hanuman’s actions with same color painted,

Through Ramayana with his qualities get acquainted.

Monday, September 10, 2012

More Than a Photograph

Sita holding Rama's ring“That shining yellow garment, which looked like a band of gold, was seen by the monkeys in a tree when dropped. They also saw principal ornaments on the earth which were certainly dropped by her and which made a tinkling sound.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 15.45-46)

pītam kanaka paṭṭa ābham srastam tad vasanam śubham |
uttarīyam naga āsaktam tadā dṛṣṭam plavam gamaiḥ ||
bhūṣaṇāni ca mukhyāni dṛṣṭāni dharaṇī tale |
anayā eva apaviddhāni svanavanti mahānti ca ||

Sita Devi’s dress was so splendorous that it looked like a shining band of gold. Such a unique vision wouldn’t go unnoticed, not even by monkeys perched on a tree. Strange it is for golden garments to come raining from the sky. Something must have been up. It was up to these monkeys to do a “Columbo” style investigation, wherein a crime was known to have been committed and only certain pieces of evidence were available at the time. Shri Hanuman, the most notable of the Vanaras in this area of the Kishkindha forest, was the private investigator assigned to the case. He held all the evidence in memory and later put the pieces together when necessary.

There was the garment like a shining band of gold and also principal ornaments that made a sound when they hit the ground. Hanuman, as if mentally recreating the initial incident, assembled the pieces of information together when observing a princess from afar. Endowed with a monkey shape from birth, Hanuman was at this time perched on a tree in an Ashoka grove situated next to the head palace of the king of Lanka, Ravana. On a reconnaissance mission, Hanuman had to find the missing princess of Videha without anyone finding him. Success also relied upon a proper identification. He had not met her previously, so he only had clues to go by.

He also didn’t have a photograph to use. That is one way to help the situation, but even the photograph can be deceiving. Taken at a specific angle and while the face is contorted a certain way the photograph can give off an image of someone that isn’t entirely accurate. It is for this reason that multiple photographs are more helpful when trying to locate someone that you haven’t met before. Hanuman had none of this; he only had information he gathered from hearing.

The ornaments and clothing were a key because only some of them had fallen off. The woman was being abducted at the time the monkeys saw her, so the descent of her clothing items was the result of a struggle. If only some of them fell, the rest of them likely remained on her person. Therefore if Hanuman could find someone who had the corresponding items on them, they would likely be Sita, the devoted wife of Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

God is more than an abstract figure that we only call out to in times of trouble. He has names, forms, attributes and pastimes, all of which are kindly described in the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. Rama is God’s personal incarnation as a warrior prince who plays the lead role in the real-life drama known as the Ramayana. Hanuman is also one of the principal characters, and an entire book, the Sundara-kanda, is dedicated to his exploits.

Sita possessed valuable ornaments and dresses because she was both a king’s daughter and a prince’s wife. She took it upon herself to always please her husband, to follow Him like a shadow and never fail to put a smile on His face. Shri Rama had the best wife in the world, one worthy of the Supreme Lord. Just the chance to go searching after such a wonderful person represented a boon, showing that Hanuman was no ordinary person. He could be trusted with this important mission because he had the same love and affection for Rama, though it was exercised in a different mood.

Shri HanumanHanuman is the greatest servant, and so he was sent to find the greatest wife of the greatest man on earth, with his travels to be documented in the greatest work of all time, the Ramayana. He would make the right match in pattern because of his keen intellect and his sharp memory. Sometimes it is said that one person’s memory is better than another’s, but in actuality memory is selectively sharp. Those things remembered initially are what are easier to recall later on. For instance, if what we did yesterday is pondered over many times going forward, it will be easier to remember many years from now. On the other hand, if we never again think about what we did yesterday, we won’t remember it in the distant future.

Hanuman obviously contemplated upon the information given to him, and this wasn’t a chore either. The mind takes the greatest pleasure in thinking about God, and thinking is helped by remembering. Therefore remembering the information about Sita given by the Vanaras and Shri Rama helped Hanuman to think about God, and that constant attention to thought, which is known as bhakti-yoga, enabled him to find success in one of the most difficult reconnaissance missions in history. Hanuman is the sterling example of fearlessness in devotion. He avoids the pitfalls relating to fear and self-doubt, and instead just goes full speed ahead with the orders handed down by Rama. We can follow suit by steadfastly chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, all the way up until the time of death, to achieve life’s mission.

In Closing:

To remember something in the aftermath,

It helps to have a photograph.


Especially beneficial to the eyes,

When stranger you must recognize.


But Hanuman had only monkeys’ word,

Along with information from Rama he heard.


Sita had dress like gold’s band,

Piece of which in Rishyamukha did land.


Ornaments that made tinkling sound,

Also on Sita, they fell to the ground.


Knew these matched what princess from afar wore,

With devotion Hanuman than a picture had more.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Remainder

Shri Hanuman“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.

Sita and Rama in the templeThis 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.

In Closing:

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.