Happy Thoughts

Hanuman carrying Lakshmana and Rama “Abandoning his beggar form and reassuming his monkey form, the elephant among monkeys [Hanuman] placed those two heroes on his back and departed.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 4.34)

“Think positively” is one of the more common prescriptions provided by self-help gurus to their ailing patients. If remaining positive was easy, authors wouldn’t make millions selling books on how to go about raising self-esteem. Since thinking positively is so difficult, the secondary option is to eliminate bad thoughts. These harmful thoughts are quite prevalent, so they serve as an easy target for elimination. If an enemy is visible and recognized, it makes them easier to thwart. In this way, the negative thoughts that creep into the mind get identified as what they are, the greatest enemy of happiness. Yet by studying one famous historical incident, a more effective option is provided, one that is assertive.  Through its impact on the psyche, this method supplants all others and firmly establishes the supremacy of positive thought.  From this one incident, we see that the best way to remain in a good mood is to always keep the most positive of images in the mind. A person can meditate on this one picture day after day, year after year, and continue to derive enjoyment from it.

Most of us, regardless of our age or disposition in life, have encountered a traumatic experience or two. We maybe faced a near-death tragedy or struggled through some hardship that really frightened us. The images related to these incidents are deemed traumatic because they have a lasting negative effect on the psyche. For an experience to be deemed traumatic, it must be revisited; it must be remembered. If we want to delve deeper into the issue, we must know how the remembering process works. Not surprisingly, memory is mostly awakened through images. We picture an incident in our mind or think about what the situation looked like when we had to suffer through our trauma. The images are really what haunt us because they are directly correlated to the terrifying incident.

An example which illustrates this point is the horror movie, or more generally, any film which is intended only for adult viewing. Children are not allowed to see adult movies primarily because of the images they would be exposed to. Sex, drugs, and violence have lasting effects on children. If they are exposed to these images before reaching a mature age, children are likely to be haunted by them. If they are not haunted, then at least their psyche gets altered in such a way that they start to behave abnormally, or against the standard codes of conduct.

Children are not the only ones shielded from negative images. In 2001, the United States suffered a great tragedy in the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings. Terrorists flew airplanes into the buildings, causing them to collapse and destroy much of the surrounding areas. This incident has had a profound effect on the people who witnessed or followed it on television. Yet an interesting practice to note is that television networks don’t show footage from the incident anymore. They have video footage of when the planes actually hit the towers, and similar horrifying images such as people jumping from the buildings. Even discussing this incident is enough to put one in a bad mood, so it is understandable why networks refrain from playing the videos.

So we see that much stress is given to the importance of shielding ourselves from harmful images, those memories which traumatize us. The absence of damaging images certainly can improve our psyche, but the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, provide more effective methods. Rather than simply eliminating the negative images, the seers of the Vedas advise that we keep our minds focused on positive things, i.e. happy thoughts. This certainly isn’t a groundbreaking revelation, for even self-help gurus broach this subject every now and then. But the Vedas are unique because they advise us to find that one person, that singular entity, who is capable of conjuring up the most positive of images. Generally, the “happy thoughts” we are advised to focus on involve areas of sense gratification, such as a peaceful beach, a calm ocean, home with friends and family, etc. While these images evoke varying degrees of pleasant thought, there is one entity who is the most pleasing to all of humanity.

“Shri Krishna’s complexion is as polished as powdered eye ointment. It surpasses the beauty of a newly formed cloud and is softer than a blue lotus flower. Indeed, His complexion is so pleasing that it attracts the eyes and minds of everyone, and it is so powerful that it defies all comparison.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 15.64)

Lord Krishna It shouldn’t surprise us to learn that this person is the Supreme Lord, God Himself. The Vedas don’t have an equivalent term for “God”. The concept of the Almighty tends to cause feelings of awe and reverence, sentiments which are indeed natural. But the Supreme Lord is actually meant to be viewed as the supreme object of pleasure. Therefore the Vedas refer to God as Bhagavan, which means one who possesses all fortunes. Someone who is fortunate is considered praiseworthy and attractive. If a person possesses a few fortunes such as wealth and fame, their attractiveness is further enhanced. The Supreme Lord, being the most fortunate, possesses beauty, wealth, renunciation, fame, strength, and knowledge to the fullest degree and at the same time. Since He is the only person with this feature-set, He is known as Bhagavan.

What does the richest, wealthiest, and most knowledgeable person look like? Since this person will be the most attractive person in the world, naturally He will have a form to go with His features. The Vedas tell us that the original form of Godhead is Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality. The word “Krishna” means all-attractive, and since the Lord is Bhagavan, He becomes a perfect candidate for the name Krishna. He is described as Godhead instead of just God because He has many, many forms. This should also make sense to us, because as the most attractive person, the Lord possesses features which catch the eyes of every single person. As is quite obvious, people have varying preferences, different things they find appealing and pleasing. In order to appeal to every living entity’s tastes, the Lord kindly expands Himself into innumerable forms which are non-different from the original. In this way, a living entity can choose to worship the form of Godhead they prefer and still be able to connect with the original Lord.

Lord Rama One of Krishna’s most famous non-different expansions to appear on earth is Lord Rama. Rama looks very much like Krishna; they both have a complexion like that of a dark raincloud, shyama. Lord Rama appeared in the guise of a kshatriya warrior, however, so He was more bound to the rules of dharma than Krishna was during His time on earth. This is also another appealing aspect of Lord Rama; those who are pious and dedicated to the rules of propriety certainly find Rama very attractive. Since He is non-different from the original form of God, Rama is equally as kind, merciful, renounced, and beautiful as other forms of Godhead.

The other appealing aspect to Lord Rama is His friend circle. The devotees and well-wishers who associated with Rama during His time on earth were of the highest character and worthy of eternal worship. To this day, probably Rama’s most famous and celebrated devotee is Lord Hanuman. The two had a very memorable initial meeting that took place in the forest of Kishkindha. Lord Rama was travelling through the wilderness with His younger brother Lakshmana. They were looking for Rama’s wife Sita Devi, who had just been kidnapped by the Rakshasa demon Ravana. Informed by a Rakshasa about a monkey-king living in Kishkindha, Rama and Lakshmana chartered their course to that place.

Sugriva was the king of the monkeys in Kishkindha, and while he was on the perch of Mount Rishyamukha, he saw Rama and Lakshmana approaching. Fearing that they might be enemies who had come to kill him, the monkey-king sent his chief minister Hanuman down to see what was going on. Hanuman then assumed the guise of a mendicant and humbly approached Rama and Lakshmana.

What transpired next was a very nice conversation, one started off by wonderful words of praise offered by Hanuman. Hanuman was meeting his Lord, the creator of the universe, face-to-face, so he didn’t squander the opportunity. Though he was there on the pretense of a diplomatic effort, Hanuman gave priority to praising Shri Rama. As a result, Rama was very impressed and knew immediately that Hanuman was a pure soul. After they agreed to form a friendship with Sugriva, Hanuman brokered a meeting between the two princes and his leader.

Shri Hanuman How did Rama and Lakshmana get to the top of Mount Rishyamukha to meet Sugriva? In the above referenced passage, we get the answer. Hanuman, aside from being a devoted soul, is a master of all yogic siddhis. A siddhi is a perfection acquired by one who seriously practices meditational yoga. One such siddhi allows a yogi to assume an extremely large form at the time of their choosing. Hanuman did just that and put Rama and Lakshmana on his shoulders. This is one of the most positive images in history, something which continues to give pleasure to devotees to this day.

Why is this image so beautiful? Since Bhagavan is the most attractive and the supreme object of pleasure, it would make sense that the highest objective in life is to have his association. When Hanuman met Rama and Lakshmana, that association was achieved. Their meeting serves as a real life example, a true manifestation, of life’s purpose being fulfilled. Moreover, we see that the loving relationship with God is not a unidirectional force. The Supreme Lord wholly reciprocates the affection shown to Him by further providing opportunities for service to the devotees. Rama and Lakshmana allowed Hanuman to carry them, an honor which is rarely bestowed to anyone.

Hanuman carrying Lakshmana and Rama We should always keep images like these in our mind. The best way to remain forever positive is to always remember Hanuman carrying Rama and Lakshmana. Meditating on the mental picture of this scene, contemplating it, and focusing the eyes on pictures depicting it are all acts of pure, loving devotion that constitute the sublime engagement for the soul. By keeping the beautiful picture of Hanuman with Rama and Lakshmana at the forefront of the mind, the negative images accumulated over the many experiences we’d just as soon forget will automatically be pushed away, leaving us in a peaceful and joyous state.

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