Sunday, September 21, 2014

Vegavan

[Hanuman crossing the ocean]“By the words of Sampati, I swiftly leapt across the ocean, extending one hundred yojanas, for the sake of this wide-eyed lady.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 31.14)

aham sampātivacanācchatayojanamāyatam ||
asyā hetorviśālākṣyāḥ sāgaraṃ vegavān plutaḥ |

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Shri Hanuman is dear to Sita and Rama for so many reasons. There is his kindness. He is always looking out for their welfare. There is his compassion. If he sees either one of them in distress, he too feels distress. There is his intelligence. He uses his sharp mind for devising schemes to please them. He uses his brain to find ways out of difficult situations, those which hamper his ability to serve them. Another reason he is dear to them is that he does not waste a single moment in service. He is never idle due to laziness. On the contrary, he is always alert, moving swiftly to wherever he is needed.

“Oh, sure. No problem. I’ll take care of it. Let me get back home first and then I’ll look into it. Don’t worry.” We have likely uttered these words many times when asked for a favor. We mean it when we promise to do something, but if we know that the job isn’t that difficult, we’ll put it off until later. Who wants another task to complete in an already jam-packed schedule? Who wants to be burdened with another responsibility when so many others are higher in priority at the moment?

This procrastination increases the odds of completely forgetting about the task. Then the person who asked will have to remind us of it later on. They will not take too kindly to our forgetfulness, for it shows a lack of respect. There is a hint of dishonesty as well, as we promised them that we would take care of things. We didn’t tell them the truth; we didn’t warn them that we’d forget about the request a few minutes after promising to complete it.

A group of forest dwellers many thousands of years ago received an assignment of utmost urgency. They were told to scour the earth in search of a missing princess. These forest dwellers were monkey-like, and they had a unique ability to assume any shape they desired. Think of it like losing or gaining weight in a matter of seconds instead of days. Think of it like putting on a costume without having to go to the store to purchase clothes.

[Vanaras in Kishkindha]They carried out the mission since it was assigned by the king of forest dwellers, Sugriva. But there was little success. Despite their enthusiasm in the mission and their ability to range about, they could not find the princess. Shri Hanuman did not lose faith, however. Upon hearing the valuable intelligence offered by the bird named Sampati, Hanuman leapt across the ocean. The distance crossed was one hundred yojanas, or roughly eight hundred miles. Hanuman did this for the sake of the wide-eyed Sita, the wife of Shri Rama. Sugriva was Rama’s friend, and so the mission he assigned was for Rama’s benefit.

In this verse from the Ramayana, Hanuman describes how he came to Lanka, the place at which he presently sits. These words are directed to Sita, who is hearing of Hanuman and the forest-dwellers in Kishkindha for the first time. Hanuman uses the word vegavan, which means very swift. This is how he leapt across the ocean. He covered eight hundred miles very quickly. There was no time for rest. He was offered a resting place by the mountain named Mainaka. Hanuman accepted the kind gesture by simply touching his hand to the mountain peak instead of stopping.

“O Sita, see the golden lord of mountains [Mainaka], which is golden-peaked and which rose up, piercing the ocean, to provide rest to Hanuman.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kand, 123.18)

Imagine a total stranger doing such a thing for you. They have never met you. They don’t know much about you. They just know that your spouse is a wonderful person. From that splendid character they judge that you are worthy of whatever risk is necessary for rescue. It is difficult for us to imagine this situation, but this is precisely what occurred with Shri Hanuman. He faced many obstacles, and he didn’t have anyone guiding him along the way. He gathered information here and there, but there was no guarantee of success. Still, he maintained his vegavan attribute. He knew that time was of the essence, and so he did not waste a single moment.

[Hanuman]In the same way, for the human being time is extremely valuable, especially as it relates to meeting the mission of life. In so many previous lifetimes there was plenty of time for sleep, food, sex life, and general idleness. The human being is advised to wake up, jiva jago, as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says, and reclaim their constitutional engagement of devotional service. One who acts swiftly in serving the Supreme Lord becomes dear to Shri Hanuman, who is always dear to Sita and Rama.

In Closing:

All attributes in service to use,

For Hanuman not a moment to lose.

 

Despite obstacles many and risky,

Coursed through sky reaching Lanka swiftly.

 

All done for Sita and Rama’s sake,

And for Sugriva successful mission to make.

 

Time now for living entity to go with speed,

Waking to spiritual life following Vegavan’s lead.

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