“I have gone over this southern direction, wandering all by myself, capable of changing my form at will, desirous of finding you.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.76)
mayā iyam asahāyena caratā kāma rūpiṇā |
dakṣiṇā dig anukrāntā tvan mārga vicaya eṣiṇā ||
Pretend that you had the ability to change your form at will. The Sanskrit equivalent of this ability is the kama-rupa siddhi. It is a perfection of yoga. Still, a proper understanding of the ancient eightfold system of mysticism is not required to carry out this hypothetical exercise. What if you could take any form you desired? What would you do next?
An obvious way to go is larger in size. Become seven feet tall. Have large, bulging muscles that enable you to overpower any aggressor. Yet there is an accompanying limitation. You’ll have trouble getting into a car. Seating on an airplane will be difficult. Others will be much smaller than you, and so they will naturally look at you in an odd way.
Another option is to go in the other direction. Become small. This way people will have a difficult time recognizing you. Smaller usually means quicker. It will be more difficult for others to catch you. You’ll be able to fit into small spaces, places where others cannot go.
Vedic philosophy teaches that the living entity is not their body. This is the foundational instruction in the discipline known as Vedanta. The conclusion of all conclusions starts with the basic difference between body and spirit. Knowledge of this difference carries an individual very far. It helps them to cope with loss, which is the full manifestation of the time factor effecting change.
The form on top of spirit is matter. More specifically, it is a collection of material elements. Earth, water, fire, air and ether. Every living thing in this world has these elements covering their individuality, which is the spirit soul. There are the subtle elements of mind, intelligence and ego also.
The gross form does not identify the individual, but spirit is not necessarily formless. Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says that the eternal svarupa, or real form of the self, is servant of the Supreme Lord. The svarupa is Krishna-dasa. Krishna is one name for the Almighty. Just as He is not limited to one name, Krishna has many different manifestations.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana we see a person subtly referencing their svarupa. They are eternally a servant of God, and they actually carry out that service while in their body. As the service is to the Supreme Lord, the body and spirit merge together, i.e. the individual becomes completely spiritual.
Shri Hanuman possesses the kama-rupa siddhi of yoga. He can take any form he chooses. Whatever change he makes, the work done as a result is identical in nature. He changes his shape to facilitate what needs to be done to please Rama. Rama is the same Krishna. The two are one, the Supreme Lord. Hanuman’s eternal service is to Rama, while someone like Arjuna has the svarupa of servant to Krishna directly.
Here Hanuman is describing how he arrived in the presence of Sita Devi, who is Rama’s wife. He wandered in the southern direction, all by himself. No one was there to help. Hanuman changed his shape several times in order to fit the situation. He needed to be very large to cross over the ocean. He needed to be small to search through the city of Lanka undetected.
Now he has found Sita. The mission has been successful. From his example, we see that despite changes to the external form, the svarupa does not change. Hanuman is as much a servant of Sita and Rama while flying in the air as he is while searching the different palaces in Lanka. He is as much a servant while fighting with Rakshasas like Ravana as he is while blissfully hearing from the Ramayana.
Being pleased with his service, Sita and Rama provide for everything Hanuman needs. They do so for all the living entities when they are aware of their svarupa. Only a person who is already engaged in that service can reveal this vital information to others. Hanuman is the best person to consult for guidance in the journey through life, which is meant to culminate in pure love for the Supreme Lord and those associated with Him.
If ability to change shape in you,
Which direction, what would you do?
In greatness one option to go,
Also becoming smaller ever so.
The nature of activity the key,
Pleasure of Supreme Lord to see.
Hanuman that ability in searching or fighting,
His work always Sita and Rama delighting.