“Hearing those words from Hanuman, the glorious Rama, being very happy and smiling, spoke to His brother Lakshmana, who was by His side.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.25)
There are various schools of thought on how one should approach God. Some view Him as all-powerful and a person worthy of the highest respect. Others view Him as an intimate friend, someone who already knows our innermost desires and fears. What if we got the chance to actually meet the Lord face to face? What would we say to Him? How should we act towards Him? A long time ago, a great personality had the tremendous honor of greeting the Lord, who had appeared in human form at the time. This great personality, Shri Hanuman, made the most of his opportunity by speaking pleasant words in praise of God. The Lord, the recipient of such a beautiful sound vibration, was highly pleased upon hearing these words. The Lord’s reaction to this praise shows us that God always hears our prayers and is most certainly satisfied by our kind words, should they be presented sincerely and honestly.
Of all the objects of worship known the world over, Hanuman might be the most famous. He is not God, but close to it. The oldest scriptures in the world are the Vedas, which emanate from India. The country of India, as it is drawn out today, hasn’t existed forever, for the nation only got its independence in recent times. The land that India occupies, however, has existed since the beginning of time and is where man first settled. The Vedas come from that land, which is more commonly known as Bharatavarsha. Followers of the Vedic tradition are today referred to as Hindus, but there is no mention of this word in any of the Vedic texts. Rather, Veda means knowledge, so the Vedas represent a collection of eternal truths that are applicable to every single person, irrespective of birthplace.
Originally, Vedic wisdom was passed down through an oral tradition, with hymns and mantras memorized by all the pious sages. No one can quite trace the date of origin of the Vedas, for the scriptures tell us that Vedic information first came from God Himself. Though Vedic knowledge is quite comprehensive, the essential teachings can be summed up in this way: God is great; the living entities are spiritual sparks emanating from the great spirit known as God; human life is meant for reconnecting with God and returning to His spiritual abode. These facts are simple enough to understand, but actually acting out these instructions is a different story. Two necessary pieces of information are what God looks like and what kind of nature He possesses. Thankfully, the Vedas go into great detail in these areas, telling us that God has unlimited forms, with His original being that of Lord Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
But not everyone is attracted directly to Krishna. They are either blinded by the effulgence beaming off His giant body, or they have a natural attraction to some other part of creation. To allow such people to offer worship to Him, God expands Himself into multitudes of forms. The famous Shrimad Bhagavatam states that it is impossible to accurately count all the incarnations of God, for it is like trying to tally up the number of waves in the ocean. Nevertheless, the primary incarnations have been noted down by Vedic scholars. This wasn’t so difficult a task because the primary incarnations, known as avataras, all performed great pastimes directly here on earth, Bharatavarsha. One such incarnation was Lord Rama, the handsome and pious prince of Ayodhya who appeared on earth during the Treta Yuga, or second time period of creation. Lord Rama’s life and pastimes have been well documented in classic texts like the Ramayana and several Puranas, and more recently in the wonderful poem written by Goswami Tulsidas titled the Ramacharitamanasa.
By reading about the activities of Krishna’s different avataras, we can get an idea of who God is and what His features are. This information is certainly nice, but it doesn’t touch on the issue of how we are to act towards the Lord. Theoretical information pertaining to the constitutional position of the soul in relation to God is available, but how should we act upon this information? Luckily for us, devotees of the past have blazed the trail for us to follow. Of all of God’s devotees, we’d be hard-pressed to find one more famous than Lord Hanuman.
Hanuman is a monkey-like human figure, technically known as a Vanara. Some will immediately dismiss this as being part of mythology, but it’s not the case. Vedic information states that material bodies are composed of varying combinations of goodness, passion, and ignorance. These three modes of material nature can be studied in depth, but such study isn’t necessary to understand the differences between living entities. Just looking around us, we see that people have different natures. Some people are nice, some are mean, some are strong, some are weak, etc. If we extend this concept out to all the material bodies, such as those of insects, beasts, fish, and animals, we can gain an understanding of how the modes of material nature work. In times past, humanity was generally more pious and pure, so even the monkeys had the ability to talk and communicate. Therefore it is not surprising to see that one of God’s greatest devotees could be a monkey.
Today, Hanuman is worshiped around the world by millions for his bravery, honesty, strength, and chivalry. Hanuman possesses all the good qualities a person could have. More than any other feature, Hanuman is known for his devotion to Rama. He served the Lord purely and without motive, and for this, Hanuman is never forgotten by Rama. Hanuman’s most famous activities occurred in relation to the rescue of Sita, Lord Rama’s wife who had been kidnapped by a Rakshasa demon named Ravana. Hanuman is eternally linked with Rama, His younger brother Lakshmana, and Sita.
Though Hanuman is famous today for his service to Rama, how did the two actually meet? What was their first encounter like? The Valmiki Ramayana provides accounts of their first meeting. After Sita was kidnapped from the forest of Dandaka, Rama and Lakshmana made their way to the forest of Kishkindha, which happened to be inhabited at the time by a monkey-king named Sugriva. Kishkindha was Sugriva’s asylum, a place where he was safe from the attacks of his rival brother Vali. Upon seeing Rama and Lakshmana approaching, Sugriva became apprehensive, thinking that they were sent by Vali to come and kill him. Sugriva asked his chief minister, Hanuman, to go down to meet Rama and Lakshmana and find out what they wanted.
Hanuman assumed the form of a brahmana and kindly approached the two brothers. He welcomed them with the sweetest words; prayers that were perfectly composed and well-spoken. Hanuman kept going and going with his praise. Even though he was sent by Sugriva to meet the brothers and gather intelligence, Hanuman’s praise was sincere and heartfelt. He didn’t need to think of anything; he simply looked at Rama and Lakshmana and spoke from the heart. Hanuman was so pleased just by seeing Rama that he eventually gave up the ruse and revealed his true identity. He told Rama who he was and how Sugriva had sent him to find out information. Rama’s initial reaction to Hanuman’s kind words is conveyed in the above referenced passage.
We see that Rama had a delighted countenance upon hearing Hanuman’s words. This one fact speaks volumes about how one should approach God. Hanuman offered kind words in an unmotivated and uninterrupted manner. Since he lost himself in praise of Rama, he eventually forgot why he was sent there. In this way, there was no motivation for Hanuman’s kind words; he just wanted to please the Lord. Rama, for His part, was greatly delighted. This means that God indeed likes to hear our prayers and that He derives great pleasure from the kind words of His devotees.
How can God feel pleasure? He is, after all, atmarama, which means one who is satisfied by his own self, comfortable in his own skin, so to speak. Rama’s deriving pleasure from Hanuman’s speech doesn’t contradict this fact. The devotees are considered one with the Lord; they are a part of Him. When the devotees give pleasure to the Lord, the Lord is actually being satisfied by the Self, as represented by the devotees. This reveals the hidden secret to success in life. In the conditioned state, we are thinking that we are separate from God. In this deluded condition, we take to praising ourselves and other fallible living entities. It is certainly laudable to offer praise to those who deserve it, but we shouldn’t neglect God at the same time. Since we are part of Him, we have the ability to give Him pleasure. Knowing that we can make God happy, who wouldn’t want to make devotional service to the Lord their only occupation?
So how do we approach God? How do we offer Him prayers? There is no difference between the Lord and His names. Therefore, simply by chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, we can offer the highest praise. We aren’t required to be great Sanskrit scholars capable of composing well-crafted poetry. It’s the sincerity that counts. In addition, the Lord doesn’t consider who the praise is coming from; any person in this world can take up devotional service, regardless of what language they speak and who their parents are. Love is a universal language, and when directed at the proper object of worship, it can be a beautiful thing.
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