“As I am indeed very small, and specifically a monkey, I should now speak in Sanskrit, the language of humans.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.17)
aham hi atitanuḥ caiva vanaraḥ ca viśeṣataḥ |
vācam ca udāhariṣyāmi mānuṣīm iha sanskṛtām ||
Sanskrit is the language of the gods. Here it is specifically referred to as the words fit for man, manushim. From the Bhagavad-gita we get a brief history of mankind. It is said that the father of man was named Manu; hence the term manushim for referring to man, or human beings. There is no contradiction raised by Hanuman here, as during the time period in question the human beings were mostly godlike, and they used their language for a specific purpose.
What is the purpose to words? What is the reason for communicating? Why do we have the ability to reason and formulate opinions? And why are we then able to express those opinions and desires to others? Instead of trying to work our way backwards, we can jump to the start. The claim is that Sanskrit is meant for glorifying God. The gods are those who are godlike. They are very powerful, and not just in physical might. Their strength is in consciousness, where they are able to remember the transcendental features of the Personality of Godhead in virtually any circumstance.
Since they are always conscious of the original Divine Being, naturally when they speak the subject matter is about Him. As one of His names is uttama-shloka, only the choicest words suffice in describing Him. In reality, any heartfelt sentiment is enough to please God. Saying, “God is great,” to our friends is very nice. Indeed, in today’s political and social climate such a statement is very rare to hear. Still, if you are always conscious of that author of everything good and decent in this world, you will want to expand on your thoughts a little. You will want to explain that greatness in more detail. To this end, you will employ every literary trick known to you, such as allegory, simile, analogy, and the like. Whatever you have experienced in life can be juxtaposed with the transcendental goodness of the Supreme Lord; thereby giving you endless reference points to use in your glorification.
Shri Hanuman is a wonderful example for seeing how Sanskrit really is the language of the gods and how those who are expert in it employ it when necessary. He one time had the good fortune of meeting the Supreme Lord face to face. God had appeared in a seemingly human form. In the Bhagavad-gita, the Lord says that fools deride Him when He appears in such forms, for they know not His true transcendental nature, how He is never born and never dies. The transcendental form is eternal, but it’s not always visible to us. We human beings have limited sense perception; though we don’t know any better. We think that our vision is perfect if we pass an eye exam, but actually if we had perfect vision we could see beyond the wall behind the chart. We could see infinitely into the horizon and would not require external light to do it.
“Glaring with the effulgence of the king of mountains, you two brothers look like demigods or those who belong in a kingdom, so how have you arrived in this countryside?” (Hanuman speaking to Rama and Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.11)
Hanuman saw the beautiful, transcendental form of Shri Rama and immediately went into praise. He composed the choicest Sanskrit verses on the spot, without thinking of them beforehand. He showed how Sanskrit is meant to be used. As it is the language of the gods, when spoken the subject matter is dearest to the gods. They enjoy only speaking of the glories of God, and so Hanuman showed how that language was suitable to him. He was in a monkey form, by the way. Though Sanskrit is for the intelligent human beings, it can be employed by anyone if their motives are proper.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Hanuman deliberates further on how he should proceed. He is again in his monkey form, and a small one at that. He is about to approach the same Rama’s beloved wife, Sita Devi. He considers speaking in Sanskrit, for that will be more fitting for the subject matter. Also, if he spoke an ordinary language, in being a small monkey Sita might not understand his real love for Rama. She might not understand that he comes in peace bearing the message from her beloved husband. This message says that Rama will indeed come to rescue her from the clutches of the evil king of Lanka, Ravana.
It is noteworthy that an elevated soul of the upper crust of society did not go to Lanka to find Sita, who had gone missing due to the wicked deeds of Ravana carried out in secret. It was a lowly forest dweller, someone considered not even civilized by normal standards. Humorously, we see monkeys on television performing various tasks that humans do. No one would consider the monkey to be anywhere near as intelligent as the human.
Here the monkey is not ordinary, as he has pure love for God. He was more than a forest dweller as well, and since it was an ancient time those creatures had the ability to speak and reason to some extent. Hanuman was special because he could even speak Sanskrit, an ability suitable to his mental disposition. In modern times, where learning Sanskrit is very difficult, the choice poetry can be composed in any language, provided the sentiment is genuine. And even if we lack that ability, there is one Sanskrit mantra in particular that is easy to remember, easy to recite, and complete in its potency to deliver consciousness of the person most dear to both Hanuman and Sita: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Words of language do exist why,
And in communicating do I try?
Sanskrit language of gods meant,
For glorification to Supreme Lord sent.
Well this language Hanuman knew,
Would use it in praising God too.
Words for beloved Sita to hear,
To give her hope, remove her fear.