MVP

Shri Hanuman “O sinless one, certainly, how can any king accomplish his objectives if he doesn’t have such a messenger working for him?” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana about Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.34)

In many professional sports leagues and organizations, awards are given out at the end of each season. These trophies acknowledge excellence and achievement by specific individuals. Usually there is an ultimate prize or series of prizes each year in a given sport. With team sports, the ultimate prize is the championship at the end of the season, but the annual awards are nice because they recognize individual achievement. Of all the individual awards given out, the Most Valuable Player trophy is the one most coveted. Due to its insightful name, this award has been the subject of much controversy over the years. When it comes to spiritual life, however, there is no greater MVP than Shri Hanuman, a fact validated personally many thousands of years ago by Lord Rama, God Himself.

Bobby Orr The controversy surrounding the MVP award usually focuses on the same issue. In any given season, there is usually one player that stands out in achievement. For example, in the National Hockey League, the “best” player each year is usually the top scorer, the person who tallies the most combined goals and assists. Sometimes a goaltender or defensemen will also be up for the MVP award, but this is usually only if they also have outstanding statistics. For a goalie, the statistical analysis focuses on wins, shutouts, goals against average, and save percentage. With defensemen, the plus/minus metric is taken into consideration, in addition to the point totals. Defensemen and goalies have their own awards each year specific to their position, so this makes it more difficult for them to win the most valuable player award as well. In special situations, like with the famous defensemen Bobby Orr, the achievements of a player are so great that they transcend their position.

Nevertheless, it’s usually seen that the MVP award goes to the player who has the best statistics in the season. In baseball, it’s the player with the most home runs, runs batted in, batting average, etc. In football, it’s the player with the most touchdowns scored, rushing yards, or the highest passer rating. The title of the award actually doesn’t reference anything relating to outstanding achievement or statistical milestones. This is where the controversy comes into play. Some take the term MVP literally, so they feel that the award should be given to a player who provided the most value to their team. For example, one player may not have had as great a season statistically as someone else, but their leadership proved vital in the team’s success. In football, for example, the quarterback is usually the most valuable player, a person who makes the biggest difference for the team. When deciding who was most valuable for a particular season, a reviewer must make a guess as to what would have happened to a team if the player in consideration wasn’t on it.

“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)

The same criteria for analysis can be applied to the spiritual efforts of notable personalities of the past. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, prescribe many rituals and regulations for people to follow, starting from childhood all the way up until the end of life. Even though there are many prescribed regulations, the ultimate objective remains the same: to become God conscious at the time of death. The laws of nature are pretty straightforward in this regard. Whatever a person’s consciousness is at the time of death, that state they will attain without fail in the next life. This information is confirmed in the famous Bhagavad-gita, a discourse on philosophy, religion, and the meaning of life given by Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Krishna is given this title because the word “God” doesn’t accurately convey His potencies and His position in relation to the universe. God is one, but there are many forms of God; hence the term “Godhead”. Though there are many forms, only one can be considered original and thus supreme. That form is Krishna. God can be viewed as an impersonal energy, a gigantic energetic force responsible for the movements of all the planets and the elements contained within. While this impersonal feature, which is known as Brahman, certainly does exist, the original form of God is still a personal one.

One who thinks of Krishna, or God, at the time of death immediately puts an end to reincarnation. The soul is eternal in its constitutional makeup, but it can be thrust into an endless cycle of suffering known as samsara. The pain and misery occur when the soul becomes embodied in a material form. This embodiment continues life after life, as determined by the living entity’s consciousness at the time of death. However, if the consciousness is fixed on God at the end of a particular life, the soul is put into a spiritual body in the next life. This spiritual body resides in the spiritual world, an imperishable realm where God and His various personal expansions reside. This place is so wonderful and pleasurable that the soul never has to leave it.

Lord Krishna So how do we ensure thinking of Krishna at the time of death? To help us along, there are the famous Vedic scriptures such as the original Vedas, Ramayana, Puranas, and Mahabharata. These texts are composed in Sanskrit, which is the oldest and most difficult language to understand. In order to truly comprehend Vedic wisdom, one must approach someone who already understands the truths expounded in these great texts. What if we can’t find such a person? What should we do? Luckily for us, the celebrated devotees of the past have written their own commentaries on the famous Vedic texts. They have also put forth a tradition of deity worship and the singing of devotional songs. In this way, we can approach God or one of His representatives simply by visiting a temple or singing a famous song. The most famous chant of all is the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This is considered the most sacred formula, something which is a means and an end towards spiritual realization. Due to this unique property, one can chant this formula at the beginning of their spiritual practice, and continue to chant it all the way through the liberated stage. One needn’t even read any Vedic text or visit any temple if they are regularly chanting this mantra. Krishna and Rama are names of God and Hare refers to His energy, so by regularly repeating this sacred formula without offenses, one is covering all their bases. Such an adherent is directly associating with God.

In addition to the maha-mantra, there are other famous songs penned by great devotees of the past. One of these songs is the Hanuman Chalisa, an ode to Shri Hanuman authored by Goswami Tulsidas. Millions of people around the world chant and sing this hymn on a daily basis to have association with the faithful servant of Lord Rama. And why is it important to associate with Hanuman? Many thousands of years ago, Krishna appeared on earth in the form of a human being named Rama. Krishna is God, but the Lord likes to come to earth from time to time to enact pastimes, reinstitute the principles of religion, and also to give pleasure to those who love Him. Rama certainly fulfilled all of these purposes. He was loved and adored by all in His hometown of Ayodhya. He punished many demons and also gave pleasure to the great sages around the world.

Rama and Lakshmana with Hanuman One of Lord Rama’s most famous devotees got to meet the Lord face to face and offer service to Him. This person was none other than Hanuman, the chief minister of the Vanara king Sugriva. Vanaras can be thought of as monkeys, but since the events of Rama’s life took place so long ago, even the monkeys were highly advanced in those times. Hanuman had the special capability of being able to assume any shape at will. This power came in handy when Sugriva one day saw two princes approaching the forest of Kishkindha. Fearing that these two princes were sent by an enemy to kill him, Sugriva asked Hanuman to go see what they wanted. Hanuman then assumed the guise of a mendicant and humbly submitted himself before the two beautiful warriors.

Hanuman was awestruck when he met the two visitors. Though he was tasked with gathering intelligence in relation to the purpose of their visit, he couldn’t help but praise the two young men, especially the older one who had a darker complexion. In addition to being brave, strong, and pious, Hanuman was also an expert Sanskrit scholar. On the fly, without thinking, he was able to compose beautiful Sanskrit poetry in praise of the two princes. Who was Hanuman praising? Why none other than Lord Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana.

At the time, Rama was looking for His wife Sita Devi, who had just gone missing. After hearing the nice words from Hanuman, Rama had a short conversation with Lakshmana. The Lord was quite moved by Hanuman’s speech, taking him to be a friend and someone He should align Himself with. Sugriva was the king of Kishkindha, and Rama was a king in His own right. For this reason, the Lord didn’t respond to Hanuman directly, but rather instructed Lakshmana on what to say.

Hanuman worshiping Sita and Rama In the above referenced statement, we see Lord Rama offering the highest praise for Hanuman. Prior to this, the Lord had remarked on how learned Hanuman was, and how he had no defects. Rama noticed that his grammar and speech were perfect in every respect. But this praise wasn’t enough. It would have been a wonderful enough compliment if the Lord had said, “Any king who has such a messenger is sure to meet with success.” This in and of itself would have greatly enhanced Hanuman’s stature. The purport of such a statement is that a king may or may not have a messenger like Hanuman, but if they did then their chances of success would be greatly increased. But Rama went much further than this. He wondered aloud how anyone who didn’t have such a messenger as Hanuman could ever meet with success. This opinion has a much larger scope of restriction, for it states that no monarch, regardless of their power or strength, can have their objectives accomplished without having a servant like Hanuman. This means that for one who is in a position of power, such as a king or leader, they must have Hanuman as a counselor, or at least someone on a level equal to him.

Hanuman deity So how does this requirement apply to us? The majority of us aren’t of the royal order, nor are there many monarchies in existence today. Yet we are kings, in a sense, of our own bodies. The body is destined for destruction, but the soul is not. We do have a say in the future destination of the soul. In this way, we see that we are kings in respect to our future spiritual fortunes. Keeping Lord Rama’s rhetorical question in mind, we can deduce that in order to achieve the ultimate perfection in life, that of going back to Godhead, we must have the association of Hanuman or someone like him.

Hanuman is a pure devotee of God. The “pure” in this context means someone who has no other interest except serving God. It’s not that Hanuman is callous or mean towards others; it’s just that he only wants to be in Rama’s association at all times. If not personally with the Lord, Hanuman at least wants to hear about Him or read about His great exploits documented in the Ramayana. It is for this reason that the glories of Lord Rama are sung in Hanuman temples around the world. Praise of Rama is done for the benefit of Hanuman; it is his greatest source of happiness.

Association with Hanuman in his temple is not a one way street though. We please Hanuman by singing Rama’s praises, and he pleases us by showing us the proper path. Hanuman is the gatekeeper to Lord Rama’s kingdom, so if anyone wants association with God in His form of Shri Rama, they must receive the blessings of Hanuman first.

Hanuman If we want to achieve success in life, we must follow the path set forth by the great devotees of the Lord. The bhaktas are already on the perfectional stage, so they can kindly show us the proper way. Not only does the association of a devotee allow us to be successful in our spiritual pursuits, but it is actually impossible to achieve this success without the association of said devotee. In this way, kind-hearted souls like Hanuman prove ever worthy of the title of MVP.

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