“Simply by the persuasive words of a messenger who is this qualified, all of the objectives of a king, in whose service the messenger is engaged, are achieved.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana about Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.35)
In this passage, Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is praising the wonderful character of Shri Hanuman, a skilled diplomat and courageous warrior. Many thousands of years ago, the Supreme Divine Entity, the person we know as God, appeared on earth in the form of a human being. This was no ordinary human being either, for Rama was the greatest of bow warriors, capable of defeating the most powerful enemies with His fighting prowess. During His time on earth, the Lord associated with many exalted personalities and divine figures, of which Hanuman was one. From Rama’s statement to Lakshmana, we see that any king who would have an envoy such as Hanuman would certainly have all their objectives fulfilled simply by the envoy’s words. Though Hanuman was acting as the emissary for the monkey-king Sugriva in this instance, his primary message to others is conveyed through his actions. Through his words and deeds, Hanuman proves to be one of the most powerful representatives of the Lord.
The first meeting with Hanuman brought on these nice sentiments from Rama. When God comes to earth, He likes to take part in wonderful pastimes for the enjoyment of the devotees. Just as we enjoy watching adventure movies where the good guys eventually come out victorious, the Lord knows that His adherents enjoy seeing Him emerge triumphant in battles with enemies. By His very nature, the Lord is unconquerable, ajita, so His acts of bravery aren’t necessary. Being the original creator, maintainer, and destroyer, what need does God have to show off? Rather, the exploits of Lord Rama, Krishna, Narasimha, and other avataras are all intended to give pleasure to the fallen souls of this universe. Currently we take to praising mortal men, people we can relate to. Knowing that it would be difficult for us to relate to the Supreme Lord in His original all-powerful form, the Lord decides to come to earth and give the appearance of fallibility. Yet at the same time, He can’t help but show off His extraordinary qualities. These exhibitions of strength serve two purposes: to annihilate miscreants and to reestablish the true principles of religion.
What is religion? The Vedas define the term as dharma, which means an occupational duty. Dharma can never change; hence it is much more than a simple faith. Dharma is the right way to do something. For example, if we are going to build a house, there is a proper way to set up the frame, foundation, and pillars. If we build the house correctly, abiding by the proper guidelines, we are in line with dharma. If we ignore the proper blueprint and build the house incorrectly, we will be going against dharma and taking part in sin. When applied on a grander scale to include all the activities of every living being, dharma can be thought of as the right course of action as it pertains to the mission in life. And what is that mission? Beyond this temporary and miserable universe is an imperishable land which is full of bliss and knowledge. This land is inhabited by God and His dearmost associates. In order to reach this realm, one simply has to have a sincere desire to go there. Bearing this in mind, the aim of human life becomes the changing of one’s desires to the point that one no longer wishes to stay in the temporary universe. When desires are shifted in the right direction, the living being develops a serious hankering for entering the imperishable spiritual sky.
Dharma is that set of regulations and recommendations that allows a person to gradually shift their desires from the material world to the spiritual. In this way, we see that dharma is not sectarian, nor is it something that ever changes. Nevertheless, there are different levels of dharma depending on the granularity of the situation. For example, since people may not take to spiritual life right away, there are smaller systems, or other dharmas, that allow a sincere student to make gradual progress. The varnashrama-dharma system calls for four social and four life divisions. In this sense, these subdivisions all represent a type of dharma, or occupational duty. The priestly class of men has a specific dharma, as does the administrative class, and so on.
As mentioned before, the highest dharma, the one occupational duty that is foremost among all others, is the developing of a permanent consciousness fixed on God. This mindset at the time of death allows a soul to return to the spiritual world. Consciousness is a window to the soul, the collection of desires that is determined by the work that one performs. Since material life pulls us in every which direction, causing us to work for things that aren’t necessarily conducive to developing this spiritual consciousness, the Lord kindly appears on earth to attract our hearts and minds. This was precisely the case with God’s appearance as Lord Rama.
In order to gain the attention of others, Rama couldn’t just sit idly by and do nothing. Instead, He went through so many trials and tribulations, allowing others to develop a loving attachment to Him. One of the toughest moments of the Lord’s life came when His beautiful wife, Sita Devi, was kidnapped from the forest of Dandaka. At the time, there was a Rakshasa demon roaming the world by the name of Ravana. He appeared in Dandaka in disguise and took Sita away while Rama wasn’t around. Seeing that she was gone, the Lord went searching the forest for her whereabouts.
Lord Rama, along with His younger brother Lakshmana, made their way to the forest of Kishkindha, a place inhabited at the time by a race of monkeys known as Vanaras. The Vanaras were monkeys, but they closely resembled humans. Lest anyone think this is part of some mythology, these events took place in the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation. There are 8,400,000 varieties of species, each based on the material qualities of the particular body, therefore it shouldn’t surprise us that there was a race of monkeys who could act like human beings. These particular Vanaras were headed by their king Sugriva. Seeing Rama and Lakshmana approaching, Sugriva sent his chief minister and warrior, Hanuman, down to see what the princes wanted.
Hanuman descended Mount Rishyamukha and approached Rama and Lakshmana while in the guise of a mendicant. Upon seeing the two princes, Hanuman immediately went into praising them, offering them the kindest and sweetest words well versed in the truth. Rama was very impressed by Hanuman’s speech, so much so that He remarked to Lakshmana how Hanuman’s words could persuade anyone into agreeing with him. To be praised by God in this way is no ordinary occurrence, but then again, Hanuman is no ordinary person.
Shri Rama joined forces with Sugriva as a result of this meeting. Eventually, Sita would be found, Ravana would be defeated, and the divine couple would reunite. Hanuman played an integral role in these successes, so to this day, he is always associated with Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana as their faithful servant. Hanuman is of such a fine character that he chose not to return to the spiritual world with Rama. Instead, he asked to remain alive for as long as Rama’s story continued to be told in this world. How many of us would ask for such a boon? It’s natural to seek relief from one’s troubles, but Hanuman didn’t take this route. He only wants to hear about Rama’s glories, for that is all he needs to be completely satisfied.
Hanuman is far more than just a sponge though. He doesn’t only take in knowledge. Just as he was Sugriva’s chief emissary, he is also Shri Rama’s top spokesperson. For this reason, Hanuman is one of the most popular divine figures in the world. Millions worship him daily in hopes of receiving his blessings. And what blessings does Hanuman bestow? Just as Lord Rama stated, Hanuman is capable of fulfilling a king’s objectives simply by using his words. In the spiritual realm, Hanuman is the emissary of the king of all the universes, Shri Rama. The Lord’s mission is to reclaim the wayward conditioned souls by convincing them of the superior nature of the spiritual realm. Hanuman, as Rama’s ambassador, can accomplish the Lord’s objective simply by his words.
“The greatest achievement for a devotee is to become a servant of the servants. Actually no one should desire to become the direct servant of the Lord. That is not a very good idea. When Prahlada Maharaja was offered a benediction by Narasimhadeva, Prahlada rejected all kinds of material benediction, but he prayed to become the servant of the servant of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya, 14.18 Purport)
What are Hanuman’s words? What is he telling us to do? Several hundred years back, Goswami Tulsidas, an exalted Vaishnava saint, met Hanuman face to face and took instruction from him. In this respect, Tulsidas can be considered the servant of the servant of God. This is the method of devotion taught by Lord Chaitanya, Krishna’s most recent incarnation to appear on earth. By serving the servant of the servant of God, one maintains their humility, while at the same time learning the art of devotion. By practicing this style of devotion, one can gradually shift their desires to the spiritual world and thus achieve perfection in life.
As the servant of the servant of Rama, Tulsidas tells us to always chant the names of the Lord. “God” is sort of a generic term, so the Vedas provide much more specific names for the Lord. Two of the best names for God are Krishna and Rama, and they appear together in the famous maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Simply chanting this mantra regularly can elevate one to the highest platform of worship.
Can we meet Hanuman face to face? Can we take instruction from him? Hanuman’s only business in life is to serve Rama. In India, if you walk into any store, you’ll likely see a picture or a deity of Hanuman somewhere. So many posters are sold which depict Hanuman engaged in some type of devotional activity. He is always shown either chanting, worshiping a deity of Rama, sitting in meditation, or carrying out some business for the Lord. Hanuman never spends a single moment outside of God’s association. He teaches us through his actions. Hanuman’s words of wisdom are quite straightforward: never forget the Lord for even a moment.
So where does that leave us? Who will deliver us? In this age, we simply have to chant God’s names as often as possible, refrain from the most harmful of sinful activities [meat eating, gambling, illicit sex, and intoxication], and always remain in the association of sadhus. By reading about Hanuman’s exploits in the Ramayana, or hearing songs praising him such as the Hanuman Chalisa, we will always be with Hanuman. Anyone who is always with Hanuman will always be with God, and anyone who is always with the Lord will never have anything to fear.
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