“Who wouldn’t become fearful seeing these two, who have prolonged arms, possess large eyes, wear arrows, bows, and swords, and who look like sons of demigods?” (Sugriva speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 2.20)
Not only are there innumerable forms of Godhead, but there are also different ways to view Him. God is always God, and His original form is that of the beautiful Lord Shri Krishna, who is also known as Shyamasundara. But due to different conditions in material life and different levels of spiritual vision, people can view the same Lord in different ways. Some see Him as His original kind self, while others see Him as extremely opulent. For those who are suffering through the pangs of material misery, God can be an imposing figure, someone who instills fear immediately upon sight. This fear isn’t very difficult to remove; it simply requires one to make a few small adjustments to their way of life. Once fixed up in the right position with the proper set of eyes, we can see the Lord as the most harmless and loveable person in the world. This is how Shri Hanuman always viewed the Lord, even at their first meeting.
Material life entails the struggle for existence. Every single person in this world is struggling, even if they are unaware of it. This seems like a negative way to view things, the glass half-empty type of mentality, but it is solidly grounded in reality. For example, let’s take the most well-off person, one who has loads of money in the bank and never has to work again for the rest of their life. Does this financial security bring about peace of mind? Money alone doesn’t secure peace, for the living entity must always be active. We always have to be doing something. Most of our activities revolve around maintenance. Sleeping, eating, cleaning up, doing laundry, and running household errands are all part of maintaining the body, keeping the internal vital force secure.
The basic activities of an animal life are eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. Since human beings are animal-like, they naturally take to these activities as well. The human being can certainly eat nicer food and enjoy dishes that take hours and hours to prepare. The taste buds are tough to satisfy, so the palate needs to be constantly cleansed with new dishes. The twenty-four hour television cooking channels are on the air for this very reason. These networks show food all day long, with some hosts visiting famous restaurants and diners around the country, and other hosts giving recipe tips. Even though the nature of eating is different for human beings, the activity is more or less the same as it is with animals.
The same principle holds true with defending. Defense is caused by fear; being afraid of losing possessions, familial relationships, and one’s own life. It is the animal instinct to defend, and since human beings are like animals, they will also take to defense. Since human beings have a higher level of intelligence, they feel they have a lot more to defend than ordinary animals. For example, a beaver constructs a dam and then worries about defending itself. Similarly, the human being goes into great debt to own their home and then has to worry for the next thirty years about meeting the monthly mortgage payment. Human beings also worry about so many other things: relationships, employment, source of income, the future, etc.
It is this fearing that is the root cause of the miserable condition of material life. Matter is temporary, mutable, and thus inferior to spirit. For this reason, the living entity’s natural home is in the spiritual world, where there is no fear or anxiety. The spiritual planets are known as Vaikuntha, a word which means a place free of anxiety and worry. This condition can only exist in the presence of God, the supreme spirit. God is the owner of everything and the creator of matter. Since He creates material objects, He naturally doesn’t have any fear of losing or acquiring them. The human beings, being part and parcel of God, should be similarly immune to the effects of matter, but due to their conditioned state, they fall prey to lamentation and grief.
“Just as the ripened fruit has no other fear than falling, the man who has taken birth has no other fear than death.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 105.17)
For the human being, there is no greater fear than death, the loss of life. Since this is the greatest fear, all other fears are derived from it. Being afraid is bad enough, for it causes mental anguish and makes it more difficult to live peacefully. Another negative side effect to fear is that it causes us to have a skewed vision of God. For instance, those who are overly sinful naturally have a fear of religion and the Supreme. When they hear about religion or spiritual life, they automatically look to the restrictions. “Ok, if I take to this religion, what will I be allowed to do? Can I eat meat? Can I have sex?” The strictest adherents to the rules and regulations of spiritual life are known as brahmanas in the Vedic system. A brahmana is a person who knows Brahman, which is God’s feature as the all-pervading energy, the sum and substance of all matter and spirit. In order for a person to be considered a bona fide brahmana, they must be free of all sinful tendencies, the most potent of which manifest through meat eating, gambling, illicit sex, and intoxication. For the average conditioned living entity, abstention from these activities seems impossible.
The four regulative principles are enough to keep a person from trying to become a brahmana. These restrictions can also cause a person to always view God and spirituality through a negative prism. Since they know they can’t give up the most sinful of acts, such people will always feel like they are offenders of God, and so when they see a form of the Lord, such as the deity in the temple, they don’t necessarily see the Lord to be a kind and gentle person. Rather, they view the Almighty as a strict punisher, an executive who maintains law and order. Since God is all-powerful, He can most certainly assume the role of punisher, for He has often appeared on earth to do just that. But His original nature is that of a kind and sweet person, the ever well-wishing friend of the living entity. God’s original name is Krishna, which means one who is all-attractive. It stands to reason that the most attractive person in the world would also be the source of the greatest pleasure. If someone gives us the highest pleasure, how can we be afraid of them?
Lord Krishna appeared on earth many thousands of years ago for the purpose of doling out punishment to one particular miscreant, the Rakshasa demon Ravana. By default, the Lord is neutral towards every living entity. Material life revolves around the unending pursuit of sense stimulation through the acquisition of matter. Since matter is part of the Lord’s inferior energy, God really has nothing invested in it. This means that when it comes to the “rat race” of material existence, the Supreme Lord doesn’t play any favorites, nor does He really care who wins and who loses. On the highest level of thinking, there is really no such thing as winning or losing in the material sense.
What is the point to life then? We can think of life’s mission in terms of the hot and cold game. Young children often play a game where they hide something from one of their friends. Since the location of the hidden object is not disclosed outright, the object seeker will move around the room and be told that they are either getting hotter or colder to the location of the object. Getting hotter means they are close to finding the object, and getting colder means they are being led further away. The object of life in the material world is to eventually find the source of all heat and energy: God. Keeping this in mind, all of our activities either lead us closer to Him or draw us further away. The wrench in the equation is the process of reincarnation. We may feel like we are getting hotter after we have achieved a stable and comfortable existence, but at the time of death all of our material possessions are removed, and we are forced to start from scratch again in the next life. For this reason, material life is considered neither hot nor cold in relation to God. Spiritual life, on the other hand, is the main business of the living entity. Life after life, we are meant to get closer to the light. Even if we fail to achieve the supreme destination in the current life, in the next life we get to start from where we left off in the previous one.
“By virtue of the divine consciousness of his previous life, he [the unsuccessful, reincarnated yogi] automatically becomes attracted to the yogic principles-even without seeking them. Such an inquisitive transcendentalist, striving for yoga, stands always above the ritualistic principles of the scriptures.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.44)
For people who take to the hot and cold game in relation to spiritual life, God takes a special interest. Not only will He help the sincere spiritual seekers find what they are looking for, but He will also punish anyone who intentionally gets in their way. This was the case during Ravana’s time. A Rakshasa demon by birth, one of Ravana’s favorite activities was terrorizing the innocent saints dwelling in the forests. These saints were all brahmanas, and they had taken to forest life because it was more conducive to spiritual practice. The quiet surroundings and meager lifestyle were conducive to the cultivation of transcendental knowledge. In essence, they were getting closer to God. Ravana was a demon by nature, so he didn’t really believe in an absolute authority. He knew of the demigods, the elevated living entities in charge of the material creation, but he didn’t think there was anyone above them. Seeing the sages take to spiritual life, Ravana was not very happy. He and his band of Rakshasas would regularly attack these sages during occasions of sacrifice. To understand the behavior of the Rakshasas in modern terms, it was as if priests were being attacked while giving sermons in church on a Sunday. The Rakshasas had no shame; they would kill the sages and then eat their flesh.
The world was terrified of Ravana, so it took the Supreme Lord Himself, Hari, to come to earth to deal with the situation. God appeared in the guise of a pious prince named Rama. Since Rama was chivalrous and dedicated to dharma, He didn’t go out and attack Ravana right away. Rather, He needed an excuse to attack; otherwise His violence would appear unjustified to others. Rama’s excuse would come in the form of a fateful transgression from Ravana. While Rama was dwelling in the forest of Dandaka with His wife Sita Devi and His younger brother Lakshmana, His cottage was approached by Ravana. Rama and Lakshmana were just lured away by a distraction set up by Ravana. This enabled the demon to forcibly take Sita away back to his kingdom. Upon returning to the cottage, Rama saw that Sita was gone, so He immediately set about searching for her.
Rama and Lakshmana eventually made their way to the Kishkindha forest. This forest was of special interest because a powerful group of monkeys, known as Vanaras, lived there. The leader of this band of monkeys was Sugriva. In reality, Sugriva was the son of a celestial, the sun-god Surya. Sugriva had a powerful brother named Vali whom he was quite close with. Unfortunately, the two had a major disagreement once which led to a great fight. Fearing death at the hands of Vali, Sugriva sought refuge in Kishkindha. Due to a curse, Vali was restricted from entering this forest; hence Sugriva and his monkeys were safe from his attacks.
While Rama and Lakshmana were approaching, Sugriva could see them from his perch on Mount Rishyamukha. Immediately he was apprehensive. He knew that Vali couldn’t attack him, so he figured that these two imposing figures must be emissaries of Vali, or worse, hit-men coming to take him out. Rama and Lakshmana were warriors by trade, so they carried their weapons with them at all times. Hanuman, Sugriva’s trusted aide, immediately told him not to worry. It is interesting to see the difference in attitudes. Hanuman saw the same two men, but he wasn’t afraid at all. Being a great devotee from birth and also a pure soul, Hanuman saw God and His younger brother for who they were.
In the above referenced quote, we see Sugriva posing a rhetorical question to Hanuman about the fear that Rama and Lakshmana impose on anyone who looks at them. Why was there such a difference in vision? Why did one person fear God and another didn’t? The difference was in the clarity of vision. Sugriva was living a distressed life, being always in fear of Vali. It was this fear that clouded his vision and didn’t let him see God for who He was. Hanuman, on the other hand, is Rama’s greatest devotee. This devotion was inside him before he even met Rama. To allay his fears, Sugriva asked Hanuman to go down to meet the two men and see what they wanted. After finding out their intentions, Sugriva would take the appropriate action.
The lesson here is that we don’t need to fear God. In the conditioned state, we can never see Him properly. The key is to take to devotional service so that we can gradually start to see His presence everywhere. In the purified state, we can see Rama and Lakshmana as two great sources of pleasure. Though they carry deadly weapons, to the devotees these items are just as beautiful as lotus flowers. Goswami Tulsidas correctly states that Hanuman is the gate-keeper to Rama’s kingdom. This truth was revealed in this incident with Sugriva. It was through Hanuman that Sugriva would become a devotee of Rama and help in Sita’s rescue. We can follow the same path by regularly showing our love and respect to the peaceful and kind Hanuman. If he is pleased with us, he will surely allow us into Rama’s kingdom so that we can see the Lord for who He is: the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Categories: meeting hanuman