“He has certainly studied well the entire range of Sanskrit grammar, for though he has addressed Me with many words, he has not used a single one out of place.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana about Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.29)Download this episode (right click and save)
The hero of the Sundara Kand, which takes up a full section of the Ramayana, a sacred Sanskrit poem of epic proportion. A servant of the Supreme Lord, roaming the world in the body of a monkey, not formally trained in any of the four classic varnas, or occupations, of Vedic culture.
An individual of tremendous strength, a lifter of mountains, a possessor of the perfections of yoga, the best friend a person could ask for. The list of attributes of Hanuman can go on and on. Though he is famously depicted in paintings lifting mountains and leaping across oceans, there are even more amazing things he has done during his time on earth, which continues through to the present day due to his desire to see his beloved Rama be glorified.
1. Speaking perfect Sanskrit on the fly
Hanuman is known as a devotee of Rama. That is his primary identification, though he is known for many things, which are actually just components of that devotion. Indeed, Shri Chaitanya has declared that every living entity’s original form, their svarupa, is that of servant of God.
“It is the living entity's constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Krishna because he is the marginal energy of Krishna and a manifestation simultaneously one and different from the Lord, like a molecular particle of sunshine or fire. Krishna has three varieties of energy.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 20.108-109)
In terms of the chronology of events described in the Ramayana, Hanuman first met Rama in the forest of Kishkindha. Rama is God in a special incarnation form. He is considered human, since that was the lone vulnerability for the king of Lanka, Ravana. Still, with God the gunas are always transcendental. Rama’s qualities are not of this world. He is saguna in the sense that He has features that are identifiable, and He is nirguna in the sense that the qualities never bind Him to the cycle of birth and death.
Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana were walking through the forest looking for Sita, who is Rama’s wife. The monkey-king, Sugriva, saw them while looking below from a mountaintop. Sugriva asked his minister Hanuman to descend the mountain and see what was going on.
Though on a fact-finding mission, Hanuman always has deep love for God. Therefore when he first saw Rama he amazingly broke out into wonderful praise. This was composed on the fly, in the Sanskrit language, which even during that time was reserved for only the most cultured. Rama Himself remarked on Hanuman’s amazing speaking ability. It was one of the first indications that the minister to Sugriva was a person worth forming a friendship with.
2. Continuing on in spite of fear of failure
Using the mahima-siddhi of yoga, Hanuman once made his body very large. He didn’t do this to show off or to instill terror in the innocent. Again, it was dovetailed with service to Rama, which is known as bhakti-yoga. Hanuman leaped over the ocean with that giant form.
Yet more amazing than that was his determination while inside of Lanka, where Sita was. Hanuman didn’t find her after a long time of searching. He contemplated quitting. He felt so bad that people trusted him and he failed to deliver. He wisely noted that only when a person is alive do they have the opportunity to please Rama, who is God. Therefore he continued on. Hanuman’s inner strength is just as great as his outer.
3. Skipping Vibhishana’s home when setting Lanka afire
Hanuman was not happy with Ravana or the leading men in the government in Lanka. They were great offenders. Ravana had taken Sita away in secret, against her will. Yet there was one person in Lanka that gave the proper advice: Vibhishana. He asked his elder brother Ravana to return Sita to Rama and thus be forgiven immediately.
Of course Ravana was too stubborn and too sinful to accept sound words of advice. After finding Sita, Hanuman ended up having a meeting with Ravana. While bound with ropes, Hanuman was brought in front of the king. Though Hanuman was only a messenger, Ravana decided to embarrass him by having his tail set on fire, then parading him around the city.
Hanuman used the burning tail as an opportunity to give Ravana a glimpse of what was to come his way. Hanuman freed himself from the ropes and then proceeded to burn down the city of Lanka. He was in a fit of transcendental vengeance. Yet even in that rage, Hanuman amazingly avoided burning Vibhishana’s palace. Not only does the Supreme Lord remember a kind act done in His favor, but so do wonderful devotees like Hanuman.
4. Lifting Lakshmana from the battlefield
In one painting of Hanuman, he is depicted carrying a mountain in his hand as he travels through the air. This was the result of being given the assignment to find a specific medicinal herb for Lakshmana. Rama’s younger brother got hurt during the final battle with Ravana to rescue Sita. Hanuman was the most trusted, so he was sent. The problem was that time was short and Hanuman had difficulty finding the exact plant. He decided to just take the entire mountain with him.
Even more amazing was another moment from the battle. Lakshmana was hurt and lying on the battlefield. Ravana tried to lift him up, but couldn’t, no matter how much force he applied. Hanuman then swooped in and lifted Lakshmana without a problem. The symbolic as well as literal meaning to the incident is that no amount of physical strength can help a non-devotee understand the guru, the best servant of God. Lakshmana is the origin of the guru, and an asura-like person such as Ravana would never understand him. The guru is heavy; in Lakshmana’s case both physically and in terms of spiritual insight. For a devotee, the truths of the spiritual science presented by the guru are understood through service and humility; academic qualification nor lack thereof are factors.
5. Destroying the Hanumad Ramayana
The Ramayana was written by Maharishi Valmiki. Hanuman loves to read it. To him, the work is identical to Rama. It is like having God’s association with you all the time. There is an interesting legend about Hanuman’s own written version of the events of that time period.
Hanuman’s written account of the life and pastimes of Rama, informally known as the Hanumad Ramayana, was one time shown to Valmiki. Comparing the work to his own, Valmiki felt defeated. Seeing that a devotee of Rama was feeling despondent about their devotional effort, Hanuman decided to destroy his version. He took the tablets on which the words were written and threw them away. We know that this work existed since many years later the famous poet named Kalidasa came upon one of the stones that were discovered and was able to translate the verse written on it. Hanuman is so amazing that he will destroy his own beautiful work in order to avoid discouraging others in their service to Rama.
So much strength in him to see,
Most amazing in service is he.
Carried mountain for life-giving herb,
After by Ravana’s weapon Lakshmana stirred.
When Valmiki despondent after version shown,
Hanuman destroying beautiful work of his own.
Impressed Rama when meeting first time,
A pure gem in every way to shine.