“There is a well-known verse spoken by Hanuman in which he says, ‘My dear Lord, if You like You can give me salvation from this material existence, or the privilege of merging into Your existence, but I do not wish any of these things. I do not want anything which diminishes my relationship with You as servant to master, even after liberation.’” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 4)
In any given scenario, the master is in the position of superiority. The servant is the inferior, and through serving the superior they get what they want. Perhaps there are different motives involved, but the conditions with respect to benefit don’t change. In the workplace, the employees serve the boss so that they can get paid. The more pleased the boss is, the more handsome the reward will be. There can even be a promotion to rise up the ranks. As there is no one superior to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, pleasing Him allows one to get whatever they want. A long time back one specific servant offered the best service, and what he asked for in return was quite telling.
Why must the superior be pleased? Aren’t we all equal?
We are equal spiritually, but there are certainly differences with respect to temporary conditions. Think about the parent-child relationship. If the child asks to be allowed to stay awake into the wee hours of the night, should the parent allow it? “You know, there is no difference between me and my son. We are both spirit souls at the core, so whatever they ask for is legitimate. It should be taken into consideration.” Such thinking is foolish, as the parent has been around much longer. They are wiser in this area, and so they should be offered the respect due the superior.
And through that service, the inferior party can get whatever the superior can offer. In the case of the parent, the limit of the gifts is whatever can be offered materially. Also included is the wisdom, protection and guidance of the loving parent. A good parent will be objective, not caring whether or not their child is kind to them, but there is no doubt that good behavior will endear the child to the parent. A model citizen has an easier time getting favors from the authorities in a society than does a miscreant, a person who always breaks the law.
With the Supreme Lord, you can get whatever you want if He is pleased. He is described as a “He” in the Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of India. He is the cause of all causes, the beginning of beginnings. He is the source of the material and spiritual worlds. That which is material represents His separated energy, known as the external force. The spiritual is His internal potency. We are part of the latter, but since we can choose in favor of the external energy, we are technically known as the marginal potency. By constitution we are spiritual, but through illusion we can choose to turn our back to God and try our hand at competing for supremacy. This is a mistake, as there is no way to defeat God in any area of opulence.
On the other side, if we make the decision to serve Him, He can grant any reward. This should make sense if we think about it. If He can create many universes through a simple exhalation, as it is said He does in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, then why couldn’t He give us a paltry reward? Whatever reward we ask for is paltry considering the fact that there are innumerable other spiritual fragments who are the same as us in quality. The Supreme Lord, as the Supersoul, resides within their hearts as well. Therefore if we were to compare, the collective rewards asked for by others far exceeds whatever we could want.
Unlike God, we are not all-pervading, so we can’t fathom the sum total of the desires of all other living entities. We therefore take our own interests to be very important. If we ask for a bicycle for our birthday and our parents give it to us, we think it’s a big deal. It doesn’t have to be a bike per se, but any object that we get that we think is important brings us the same happiness.
If you served God properly, if you had the opportunity to see Him, honor Him, and then courageously act for His benefit, what would you ask for in return? Would it be endless glory and fame? Would it be unimaginable wealth? Would you want to be king of the world? One of the most famous servants of all time could have gotten anything he wanted. His service was that good. He was the most courageous, following through on orders under the most trying circumstances. He faced the pressures of both time and space, and yet he passed with flying colors. Ironically enough, his service involved flying through the air, which was accomplished by leaping from a mountain peak.
This servant’s exploits are described in the Ramayana, a famous Sanskrit poem authored by Maharishi Valmiki. The poet described events prior to their enactment; such was his prescience. He became qualified to do so through rigorous austerity and constant recitation of the holy name of Rama. That name then seemingly came to life as the personality Shri Rama, the eldest son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Rama is part of the internal energy of God; considered a non-different expansion. He is the same Supersoul residing within our hearts, except He has a visible form that one can serve directly in addition to viewing with appreciation.
In simpler terms, Hanuman saw God. That vision which is elusive to even the meditational yogis and mental speculators free of sin was easily available to Hanuman, who was in a monkey form living in the forest of Kishkindha. Surely there was tremendous appreciation when Hanuman first saw Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana, but the reverence aspect was only the beginning. In the subsequent service was where he would endear himself to Rama.
“Hearing those words from Hanuman, the glorious Rama, being very happy and smiling, spoke to His brother Lakshmana, who was by His side.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.25)
At the first meeting, Hanuman offered wonderful praise in an odd way. Hanuman was sent to see why the two princes had approached the Kishkindha forest. Sugriva’s chief minister, Shri Hanuman, masked his form so that the two brothers wouldn’t be threatened by him. Under the order to find out their purpose, Hanuman found a way to praise the two of them, finally revealing his true identity. Rama was immediately very pleased with Hanuman, and he knew that Hanuman could help Him find His missing wife Sita.
Hanuman’s first service was taking Rama and Lakshmana on his shoulders and leaping back up to the mountain called Rishyamukha. This is where Sugriva and the other monkeys, known as Vanaras, stayed. There an alliance was formed between Rama and Sugriva, two parties who could use each other’s help. When it came time for Sugriva to help Rama, he sent the entire monkey army to scour the world to look for Sita. It was assumed that Hanuman would have the best chance at success, and that hunch would prove correct.
Hanuman’s difficult journey to Lanka, the place where Sita had been taken, is described in great detail in the Sundara-kanda of the Ramayana. In this way we see that Rama’s dearest servant has a large section dedicated to him in the book that is known to be about Rama. The Supreme Lord was so pleased with Hanuman’s service that He offered him anything he wanted. This was after Sita’s eventual rescue and the couple’s return to their home of Ayodhya.
From Hanuman’s service we know that no one in history has ever deserved more in gifts. We also know that no one in history can provide more than Shri Rama. Therefore if Hanuman were to be given control over the entire world, it would be understandable. Shabari, the female ascetic, got liberation from the cycle of birth and death. After pleasing Rama with hospitality in the forest she ascended to the heavenly realm to be with her spiritual guides. Sugriva and Vibhishana became kings of their respective areas. The wife of Gautama Rishi, Ahalya, returned to heaven to be with her husband just from touching Rama’s feet. We could expect Hanuman, therefore, to get something most amazing. He was also very wise, serving Rama immediately upon seeing Him, so we know that he would ask for the most valuable gift.
He felt bad asking anything from Rama, but since the Supreme Lord takes great pleasure in giving gifts to His servants, Hanuman asked for the ability to remain on earth for as long as Rama’s glories continued to be told. He wanted to remember Rama and His pastimes throughout his life. In essence, he wanted to only chant the holy name of the Lord without cessation.
Was Hanuman stupid? Did he not know that material opulence would have been better? Did he not know that Rama could have taken him back to the spiritual world?
Actually, what Hanuman received was definitely the greatest reward. It is rarely asked for because one needs intelligence in order to know its true value. It is also rarely received, for who actually pleases Rama in such a way? The interesting point is that through remembering Hanuman, through serving him by always chanting Rama’s name, the same gift can be ours. Goswami Tulsidas made the task easier for the world by authoring a wonderful poem in praise of Hanuman. Known as the Hanuman Chalisa, this poem is very popular, likely the most sung song in the history of the creation. Whether the motives of the reciters are pure or not, at least there is a connection to Hanuman, who can grant the great gift of devotion to Rama. From his own example, he proved that this was the best thing anyone could ask for. Hanuman is a devotee of the Lord, and through service to the devotee one pleases God. And by pleasing Him, whatever you could ever want arrives easily in the palm of your hand.
When completed the toughest task,
Gift from superior you can ask.
Whatever to their limits they will give,
In enhanced material opulence you can live.
Anything possible with you God can share,
Sovereignty over whole world if you care.
Best service from Hanuman, who to Lanka went,
Asked only for life in devotion to be spent.