“He had affection for nonviolence, was not vulgar, and was always kind and truly valorous. He was the principal of the Ikshvaku dynasty, and he both possessed fortune and increased it for others.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 31.4)
ahiṃsā ratiḥ akṣudro ghṛṇī satya parākramaḥ |
mukhyaḥ ca ikṣvāku vaṃśasya lakṣmīvāml lakṣmi vardhanaḥ ||
Here’s the assignment. You need someone to write your biography. Obviously you must think very highly of yourself to believe that a written account of your life is warranted. Perhaps your opinion is well grounded in reality and perhaps others have encouraged the project. You would write it yourself, but you think that your skills lie elsewhere. You are a special person, for sure, but in writing, especially about yourself, you’re lacking.
So you set about looking for a biographer. What kind of person will you choose? Well, you might look for someone who has done something like this before. Someone who has written biographies previously would have an understanding of what it takes to gather all the disjointed pieces of information and make a compelling narrative. They would know how to find different people relating to your life, interviewing each of them, deciphering the truths from the myths. They would also know the right questions to ask.
In the search for such a biographer, the skill in writing is also important. Do you want someone who blathers on and on about points that are not important? Do you want someone who doesn’t know how to reach down to the essence of a topic? As Shakespeare said, brevity is the soul of wit. The less words you can use to convey a thought or idea, the more powerful the message will be. For your biography, you want someone who can properly tell others about you in the shortest amount of words possible.
Know that even if all requirements are met in this situation, the biographer will still fall short of Shri Hanuman. In this verse from the Ramayana, he continues to display his unmatched ability in describing those who are of the highest character. It is one thing to write my life’s story. I, as well as the majority of the population, am deeply flawed. What I think are strong points really aren’t in the grand scheme. Even if I’ve led a nation to victory in a war, likely I haven’t saved my citizens from the perils of birth and death, the samsara-chakra. It is described with this Sanskrit term because repeated birth and death is like being stuck in an ocean of misery. It’s like spinning around on a wheel and having no one there to stop it.
Hanuman here describes someone of the best qualities. So that automatically makes the job tougher. Also, Hanuman did not personally interview this person. He merely heard about him from others. And still no one is better at writing about this person than Hanuman. Indeed, who can write so well about any other person? And Hanuman does this on the fly. Here he is speaking from the heart. These are not words prepared beforehand. They are not the final manuscript tweaked and punched up from a starting draft.
Hanuman says that this person had affection for nonviolence. That is interesting considering that the person was a king. He had to use violence when necessary. The key is to not have an affection for it. Otherwise, the mighty power invested in a ruler gets abused. Abuse of power is grounds for dismissal in any position of authority. The abuse leads to negative consequences, and so we see that the king mentioned here took his position very seriously. He only resorted to violence when necessary, such as when defending against enemy attack.
This king was not vulgar. How you speak says a lot about you to others. If you are constantly vulgar in your words, others will think that you are not high class. Even if in mind you are pure, since you don’t use decent words, others will know that you lack common sense. A non-vulgar person can also better persuade others to adopt their point of view.
This king was always kind and valorous. Kindness is so nice to have from a person in authority. Kindness does not always mean a pat on the back. It means that there is a genuine desire to see the dependent succeed. Kindness offered to my child may be in the form of a punishment for having skipped school. It may be in the form of hiring a tutor to help them with the subject they are having trouble with. For a king kindness sometimes means punishing those who deserve it. To be always valorous means that there is no fear. A man in charge has the potential to meet so many problems. They can’t sit down and wallow in their misery. They have to be tough enough to rise to the occasion and deal with the situations that come to them.
This king was the principal of the Ikshvaku dynasty. That dynasty traced all the way back to the beginning of the creation. To be the principal of it means that the king, named Dasharatha, was quite special. He also had fortune and increased it for others. Not that he simply confiscated all the land of the wealthy upon assuming office. Not that his fortune came at the expense of others. He had fortune through being righteously situated. He helped others to increase their fortune by keeping them safe. The government exists to protect life and property. If these two are protected, those desiring to increase their fortune can do it through lawful means.
And to this king Dasharatha appeared the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His incarnation of Lord Rama. Hanuman is an expert biographer of Rama’s as well, though he is too humble to write an official work. Instead, his several extemporaneous speeches are recorded in Valmiki’s biography of Rama known as the Ramayana. Hanuman’s words cover the great father of Rama as well, and in this way we see that no one is better at describing the life and deeds of great men than Hanuman.
For light of my wisdom in future to shine,
Seek to find writer for biography of mine.
Even if best qualities, sharpness in mind,
Better than Shri Hanuman hard to find.
Virtues of King Dasharatha extolled,
Principal of dynasty, of compassion untold.
To that king the Supreme Lord Rama came,
Who better their natures than Hanuman to explain?