“At night, on the sun having set, Maruti [Hanuman] contracted his body. Becoming the size of a cat, he was a wonderful sight to behold.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.49)Download this episode (right click and save)
The Ramayana is rather lengthy. That was the brainpower of rishis from the bygone era. They could remember thousands of verses composed in the complex Sanskrit language after hearing them only one time. Then they could recite them flawlessly; no stuttering, no fumbling, no consulting notes.
Despite its volume, for some the work is not long enough. This is due to the main subject, the person whose name is found in the title. Shri Rama, an incarnation of God, is limitless. His potencies are without end, ananta. The saints write as much as they can, suited for the time and place, but the glories continue to increase, like an ocean that has waters rushing in but never swells over.
A significant portion of this work is dedicated to a character other than Rama. His name is Hanuman, and the attention is justly deserved. There were several areas in which only Hanuman was qualified to help Rama, an engagement which is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service.
1. Leaping over the massive ocean
The real-life tale is that the king of Lanka, Ravana, has a boon that grants him immunity from death against every living thing except human beings. The issue is that he is very powerful at the same time. This means that no normal human can even think of taking him on in battle.
The apparent loophole, which is merely a fact of life, is taken advantage of by the Supreme Lord to help the devas, the gods who are in fear of the ten-headed Rakshasa. Let not the mind be disturbed by the amazing descriptions. God can do things well beyond the limits of the imagination. In this mortal world it is not a big deal to get ten heads or to have safety from death in a variety of situations.
The human being to take care of Ravana is Shri Rama, an incarnation of the Divine. Rama is so kind that He doesn’t act alone, nor does He do everything immediately. Time works with Him to increase the pleasure of the devotees and teach valuable lessons at the same time.
Time also works to glorify those Rama chooses to put in the spotlight. Hanuman is one of the chosen souls, and his first difficult test comes when his friends are really close to reversing their fortunes. Hanuman is in the body type of a Vanara, which is a forest-dwelling monkey-like creature. Hanuman and his friends are working for Sugriva, the monkey-king who is friends with Rama.
The group was looking for Rama’s missing wife Sita, but they hadn’t found success. Then, almost out of nowhere, they got intelligence of her whereabouts. Dejection immediately followed that great happiness. The location was the island of Lanka, and they were on a shore many miles away. How were they going to cross the ocean?
In this instance only Hanuman was qualified to continue in service. Reminded by Jambavan of his mystic abilities, Hanuman increased his size and then took a giant leap from a mountaintop. That was enough to reach the island.
2. Searching properly in Lanka
Hanuman was qualified to increase his size and take the leap, but there were obstacles along the way. Life is not easy if you are trying to satisfy a material desire. If you’re trying to serve God without motive then even more obstructions will be encountered.
After passing those tests Hanuman reached Lanka. With such an amazing accomplishment behind him, now the difficulties were really beginning. He had to search in Lanka without being detected. Sita was there against her will, taken by Ravana, who was guarded by the ocean as well as the many formidable Rakshasas in his city. These were night-ranging cannibals, who had no respect for dharma [righteousness].
Only Hanuman was qualified to search properly once inside Lanka. He had never met Sita before, but he knew Rama. Therefore he knew that the beautiful princess for whom he was searching would be the most despondent person around. To make sure no one recognized him, he decreased his size to that of a cat.
3. Not getting discouraged by lack of success
The search inside Lanka was not easy. At one point there was a false positive. Hanuman saw a beautiful woman inside of Ravana’s palace and thought she was Sita. In excitement he even kissed his tail. A few moments later he realized that it wasn’t Sita, because Mandodari, Ravana’s chief wife, did not show the proper signs of sadness.
Only Hanuman was qualified to continue on, all by himself, without any outside help. At one point he thought of quitting. He felt so bad for having let everyone down, as they were all counting on him. After deliberating, he wisely noted that only through living is a person able to please the Supreme Lord. Quitting wouldn’t help anybody.
4. Knowing what to say to Sita
You search for months. By good luck you get the location. Then you cross the ocean by yourself. You search inside the enemy territory without being discovered. Finally, you find Sita. Time to rejoice. Relief of the burden.
Not so fast. Now you have to win her trust. Ravana used a false guise to trick her into being hospitable back in the forest of Dandaka. The Rakshasas were expert at changing their shapes to accomplish their sinful desires. Why would she now trust someone in a monkey body?
Only Hanuman was qualified to know what to say to Sita to win her trust. He decided to simply glorify her husband. This was easy for Hanuman since he had devotional love in his heart; it is what defines him. Only a friend to Rama would be able to glorify in such a way.
Ramayana tale with God in the name,
But bringing honor to Hanuman the same.
Devoted to him a section entire,
How search for Sita to transpire.
Over the great ocean he leapt,
Despite dwindling time hope he kept.
Meeting her knowing exactly what to say,
Continuing in that service to this very day.