“He speaks words which are pure, well-composed, amazing, fluent, auspicious, and pleasing to the heart.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana about Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.32)
In this passage, Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is talking with His younger brother Lakshmana about the wonderful qualities of a speech the two have just heard from the great emissary of Sugriva, Hanuman. Amongst followers of the Vedic tradition, there is likely no more a celebrated divine figure than Hanuman. For all his good traits, he is best known for his love and devotion to God. Rama, being an incarnation of that divine figure in the spiritual sky, while engaged in His pastimes on earth, met Hanuman face to face. The above referenced passage touches on their first encounter, a meeting which very much impressed the Supreme Lord. By studying the wonderful qualities exhibited by Hanuman, we can gain insight into the nature of a lover of God and what we should be striving for in relation to spiritual life.
Why is it important to become a devotee? Vedic information, knowledge which emanates from the eternal truths known as the Vedas, informs us that the soul of the living entity is trapped in an endless cycle of birth and death technically known as reincarnation. Since this cycle is viewed in a negative light, the repetition of birth and death is often referred to as a samsara-chakra, or the wheel of existence in the miserable world. Why is material life miserable? For starters, every birth has an accompanying death. Usually a person realizes their mortality at some point in their lifetime. They can understand this fact simply by studying the lives of others. Parents, grandparents, friends, and relatives all die at some point, so it makes sense that every individual must go through the same process. Death is not a welcome event because it is a forced end to one’s life. By the same token, birth is also forced in the sense that no one has control over the circumstances of their entry into their specific body. Since both birth and death are out of one’s control, it’s understandable that material life would be considered miserable.
If material life is so miserable, why are human beings even put on the earth? The material world is a sort of flawed reflection of a more purified universe known as the spiritual world. We can think of the creation as a reflection in the water, similar to how a tree appears in the waves of a pond. The reflection is only temporary, and the ripples of the pond cause the image to change. In a similar manner, this universe is constantly going through change, with creation and destruction occurring at regular intervals. The spiritual world, on the other hand, does not suffer from the same defect. The inhabitants of the spiritual world are also free from all miseries. Therefore one of the names for the spiritual world is Vaikuntha, a place free of anxiety and misery.
The purpose of human life is to allow the soul to rekindle its relationship with the Supreme Lord. God resides in the spiritual world, so anyone who wants to associate with Him will certainly be allowed entry. The problem is, however, that most living entities in the temporary realm have no desire to return to their permanent home. Being illusioned by the forces of maya, they take the reflection to be the original. In order for something to be classified as a reflection, there must be an original form. Not knowing that the earth is a perverted reflection of something real and transcendental, the living entities take to temporary material activities. This crooked path can be straightened through the acquisition of knowledge. This knowledge makes a person sober, or dhira, and gives them the intelligence to understand where their priorities should lie.
A sober person will realize that they would be better served living in a place where there is no birth, old age, disease, or death. As mentioned before, in order to reach this transcendental abode, one simply has to change their desires from material life to spiritual life. This is easier said than done, so to help us along, God gave us the Vedas. The Vedas are scriptures consisting of various branches of knowledge passed on through stories, aphorisms, mantras, and chants. As we all know, not everyone will have an interest in reading scriptures, especially when the subject matter is mostly philosophical. Not to worry though, as the same Vedic teachings can be learned by studying the activities of realized souls of the past. The eternally liberated souls, the mahajanas, set the standard for proper behavior and conduct. Since they understand that the aim of life is to work towards pleasing the Supreme Lord, they serve as the perfect role models for the rest of society.
One such mahajana is Lord Shri Hanuman, the Vanara warrior and eternal servant of Lord Rama. In the Vedic tradition, there are many gods, which are technically known as devatas, or demigods. While there are innumerable gods, there is still only one supreme controller. His original form is that of Lord Shri Krishna, who is also known as Bhagavan. God doesn’t limit Himself to His Krishna form; He takes to many expansions which allow for the living entities to become attracted to Him in varying moods. One of Krishna’s most famous expansions is Lord Shri Rama, the warrior prince of Ayodhya. Rama is not only an incarnation of God, but He is also a historical personality who appeared on this earth many thousands of years ago. Lord Hanuman is attached to God in His form of Lord Rama. In fact, Hanuman doesn’t really look at God in any other way; he is exclusively devoted to Rama in thought, word, and deed.
Hanuman is probably the most popular deity of the Vedic tradition. This is due to his good nature and the fact that he possesses all good qualities. As he is a great devotee of Rama, his feature set shouldn’t surprise anyone. The great saints tell us that a person’s academic scholarship, fame, and fortune are meaningless if they don’t have devotion to God. By the same token, a person may be very poor, unpopular, and not intellectually advanced, but if they are pure devotees of God, they should be viewed as members of the topmost class of society. Hanuman is a notable figure in that he possesses all good qualities according to material estimation, while at the same time possessing the highest level of devotion possible to the Supreme Lord.
What are some of Hanuman’s qualities? Who better to tell us about Hanuman than Lord Rama Himself? While the Lord was enacting pastimes on this earth, He met up with Hanuman for the first time in the forest of Kishkindha. At the time, Rama’s wife Sita had been kidnapped by a Rakshasa demon named Ravana, and the Lord and Lakshmana were roaming the forests looking for her. They came upon the forest of Kishkindha which was at the time inhabited by a race of monkeys [Vanaras] headed by Sugriva. Sugriva actually sought refuge in Kishkindha from the attacks of his brother Vali, who was out to kill him. Rama and Lakshmana were members of the princely order, so when they walked around, they carried their weapons with them. In addition, since they were divine figures, they had a natural luster about them. Seeing the two princes approaching from afar, Sugriva was worried that maybe they were messengers of Vali who had come to kill him. Therefore he asked Hanuman to descend from their perch on Mount Rishyamukha and see what the princes wanted.
Hanuman gladly obliged, and taking up the guise of a mendicant, he approached the two brothers. Hanuman is always a devotee, but due to special circumstances, from his childhood he was unaware of his extraordinary abilities and his devotion to Rama. This devotion would be rekindled once he met Rama face to face. Therefore, when Hanuman saw the Lord, he immediately went into wonderful words of praise. Eventually Hanuman revealed his true form and the purpose of his visit.
From the above referenced statement, we see that Rama was quite pleased with Hanuman’s words of praise. Since Hanuman was acting as an emissary for Sugriva, Rama didn’t think it appropriate to respond directly to Hanuman. Rather, He instructed Lakshmana to act as His emissary. While advising Lakshmana on how to respond, the Lord couldn’t help but remark on Hanuman’s wonderful characteristics.
Rama described Hanuman’s words as pure [samskara]. Vedic reformatory processes are known as samskaras, and they are considered purificatory rites which allow for gradual elevation in spiritual understanding. Though Hanuman’s initial guise wasn’t real, his words were pure; they were not tainted with any selfish motives or duplicity. Since Hanuman’s words were all in praise of the Supreme Lord, naturally they were free from any impurities of speech.
“Here is another great fault. You have arranged the word ‘bhavani-bhartri’ to your great satisfaction, but this betrays the fault of contradiction. The word ‘bhavani’ means ‘the wife of Lord Shiva.’ But when we mention her husband, one might conclude that she has another husband.” (Lord Chaitanya speaking to Keshava Kashmiri, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 16.62-63)
Hanuman’s words were well-composed. Almost all Vedic information is transmitted through the Sanskrit language, which is also known as the language of the gods. It is not an easy language to master by any means, so anyone who can speak it well is considered highly learned. Hanuman was a Sanskrit scholar, so Lord Rama was impressed by the composition of his words. The rules of Sanskrit are so strict that even the slightest transgression can be picked up by the ear of one who is trained in the language. Lord Chaitanya, Krishna’s most recent incarnation to appear on earth, in a famous incident once picked out a defect from a speech given by a great scholar named Keshava Kashmiri. The scholar had used the terms “bhavani” and “bharta” side by side. Bhavani is a name for Goddess Durga which means the wife of Lord Shiva. Bharta means husband, so by speaking bhavani-bharta, the scholar was essentially saying “Lord Shiva’s wife’s husband”. Obviously no one would speak like this, so the statement itself wasn’t very well composed. In addition, it also implies that Goddess Durga may have another husband besides Lord Shiva, something which is not possible at all. Goddess Durga is the model of chastity and dedication to one’s husband. Lord Chaitanya is God Himself, so it makes sense that He would be able to recognize the scholar’s flaw. In a similar manner, Shri Rama carefully listened to Hanuman’s many Sanskrit words, but He instead declared them to be free of any defects.
Lord Rama noted that Hanuman’s speech was amazing or wonderful [adbhuta]. The words were amazing because no ordinary human being could come up with them. Lord Krishna is usually described as adbhuta due to the wonderful activities He performs. By describing Hanuman in this way, we see that even Lord Rama is impressed by Hanuman. That alone should tell us how exalted Hanuman is.
Since Hanuman’s words were spoken without delay [avilambitam], they were considered fluent. The more we learn about the speech, the more amazing it becomes. Hanuman not only addressed Lord Rama with beautiful Sanskrit words which were pure and amazing, but he delivered them without blinking an eye. It’s the equivalent of writing a song or poem on the fly just by looking at someone else. Hanuman’s devotion to Rama was so pure that he was able to compose such beautiful Sanskrit poetry without even thinking.
Hanuman’s words were also auspicious [kalyanim]. Something is considered auspicious if it brings about favorable conditions in the future. Lord Rama could tell that Hanuman was going to be His devotee for life and that he would perform miraculous deeds in His service in the near future. Rama wanted to inform Lakshmana that Hanuman was indeed auspicious and that the two brothers would be well served striking up a friendship with him and Sugriva. This auspiciousness mentioned by Rama actually applies to all aspects of Hanuman. It is for this reason that Hanuman is one of the most worshiped deities in the world. Any person who is as devoted to God as Hanuman is certainly will bring about good fortune to anyone they associate with.
Finally, Lord Rama states that Hanuman’s words were pleasing to the heart. The previously mentioned qualities are all well and good, but this last one certainly takes the cake. God is completely self-satisfied; He is in need of nothing. But if someone offers something to Him with love and devotion, the Lord kindly accepts it. If the devotee’s sentiments are pure enough, the Lord’s heart will be pleased by such an offering. Such was the case with Hanuman and his beautiful speech.
From this incident we see evidence of the fact that God can only be pleased by love and devotion. Knowledge, renunciation, self-control, peacefulness, kindness, etc. are all certainly good practices, but the most important quality to possess is love and devotion. This pure love should be directed towards the Supreme Lord in order for it to really mean something. Such was the practice of Shri Hanuman, and for this he is worthy of our eternal love and respect. As Goswami Tulsidas so accurately points out, Hanuman is the gate-keeper to Lord Rama’s kingdom. If we please Hanuman, a devotee who possesses all good qualities, we will most certainly achieve God’s association in the near future. As Hanuman is pleasing to Lord Rama’s heart, he is just as pleasing to the hearts of pure souls around the world.
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