“Then I removed the intense fear of the army of monkeys, who were worrying very much on account of seeing the ocean, and leaped over that ocean of the length of one hundred yojanas.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.70)
atha aham hari sainyasya sāgaram dṛśya sīdataḥ |
vyavadhūya bhayam tīvram yojanānām śatam plutaḥ ||
Sita Devi knew the journey all too well. Unfortunately, she had to make it while on the aerial car of the king of Lanka. Ravana dragged her away, against her will, from the hermitage in Dandaka. Previously she was happy by the side of her husband, Shri Rama. She enjoyed having Rama’s younger brother there as well. Though they were alone, she felt right at home. This is the result of having the Supreme Personality of Godhead by your side and offering service to Him in a mood of love.
Here Shri Hanuman describes the same service, but performed in a different way. He is speaking to Sita Devi after having just met her. He is in the body of a Vanara, which is something like a monkey. The literal definition to the Sanskrit word is “forest-dweller.” Those who worship Hanuman for being the fearless servant of God that he is take offense to his being labeled a monkey. Nevertheless, Hanuman himself refers to his monkey-like body many times. In the case of a pure devotee of the Lord, the gunas that cover them are not binding.
The Sanskrit word guna generally refers to a material quality, of the kind of goodness, passion or ignorance. Guna can also mean “rope.” Both definitions are essentially identical, as even the quality of goodness keeps a person bound to the cycle of birth and death. Those in the mode of goodness go to the heavenly realm after death; this is their reward for pious behavior. Those in the mode of passion basically remain where they are, and from ignorance there is regression to a lower species.
There is rebirth all the same, but for the devotee, the next destination is the Supreme Lord’s planet. They stay liberated in that state, but the choice of residence may not be identical. Sometimes the liberated souls come to the land of birth and death, also known as the material world. Hanuman is one such liberated soul, and he does not mind entering even the worst places, like the sinner’s paradise called Lanka. As long as he continues to serve Rama, Hanuman is happy.
Here he only briefly covers some of the most heroic portions of his service. One section of the monkey-army under the command of Sugriva fell into despondency due to lack of success in the mission. They got some lifesaving news from a bird named Sampati. He told them where Sita was. The monkeys became excited, that is until they reached the northern shore of the ocean. From there they realized that in order to find Sita, they would have to somehow cross that ocean, which was vast.
Hanuman removed their fears by leaping over that ocean, which was one hundred yojanas in length. The rough equivalent is eight hundred miles. Hanuman can do such things since he is blessed with the siddhis of yoga. These are mystic perfections. Hanuman can become larger than the largest when he needs to. At the next moment, he can become smaller than the smallest.
Hanuman met several obstacles along the way, and once he landed on Lanka’s terrain there were still issues. Still, he does not mention those obstacles at all. He glosses over them, just letting Sita know that he made it to Lanka by leaping over the vast ocean. After all, the mission is to find Sita and tell her that Rama will come to rescue her. Hanuman has no interest in boosting his stature, inflating his ego, or impressing others with his ability.
The lesson is applicable to the entire human society, not just those who are serving the Supreme Lord. Hanuman’s attitude descends from intelligence. He knows that God is the strength of the strong and the ability in man, paurusham. He knows that Rama helped him in that journey. Though he rightly deserves to boast of his accomplishments, Hanuman does not. His genuine humility is one of the reasons Rama chooses him for such difficult missions. Hanuman is most dear to Sita and Rama, who are the couple most worth pleasing.
Expansive ocean with a single leap to clear,
Undeterred in service, to Sita-Rama so dear.
From accomplishments praiseworthy the most,
Still humble, of his victories not to boast.
Rather only Shri Rama’s happiness seeing,
Sita from the clutches of despair freeing.
Every man of Lord’s guiding hand should know,
And not be eager of personal victories to show.