“When angered, Raghava is capable of bringing the entire world, including all devas, asuras, and Gandharvas, under His control simply by taking up His bow.” (Hanuman speaking to Sugriva, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 32.19)
This cogent advice, forever grounded in the truth, was offered by the esteemed, supremely worshipable, Shri Hanuman, the most celebrated servant of Shri Rama. In this passage, we are reminded both of the Almighty’s all-powerful strength and His ability to take away everything visible before us. This world is temporary after all, so there must be a creator and a destroyer. Only the original Divine Being exists forever in His transcendental form; thus He is the only person who lives through the creations and destructions of the innumerable universes. Though there is no reason to ever forget about the original person, the ultimate reservoir of pleasure, the living entities invariably do shift their mind’s attention towards other interests. When the mind starts to drift, it is helpful to be reminded of the Lord’s attributes, especially as it relates to our particular areas of interest.
In this particular instance, the areas of interest relate to a kingdom and all the opulences that come with it. Many thousands of years ago, the forest dwellers in Kishkindha were basking in the reacquisition of a lost kingdom. During those times, the forest inhabitants were known as Vanaras, which is a Sanskrit word which means “of the forest.” Since these events took place so long ago, the species residing in the forests weren’t necessarily human beings or monkeys. The Vanaras were a combination of both; not some mythological creatures, but rather, a species specific to the time period. According to Vedic information, the varieties in species are caused by the innumerable combinations of material qualities that souls accept upon entry into the temporary creation. The only permanent creation exists in the spiritual sky, a realm where the Lord in His original form and His liberated associates enjoy each other’s company. The temporary creation is the world that we currently inhabit, a place full of misery, duality, and heartache. Since every soul has different desires to act out on this temporary playground, they are each given bodies with different qualities to make use of. The Vanaras of the Treta Yuga were one particular type of species who primarily possessed monkey-like characteristics, along with the ability to speak and take in knowledge.
Since they were also human-like, the Vanaras assembled together into kingdoms just as ordinary human beings do. In one particular kingdom, there was a quarrel between two brothers, Vali and Sugriva. On one occasion, Vali was drawn into a cave while fighting with an enemy. Sugriva, who was waiting outside, thought he heard Vali breathe his last, so in order to save the rest of his kingdom from the wrath of the demon, he decided to close up the only exit/entry to the cave. In reality though, it was the demon who had died and Vali who had lived. Able to make his way out of the cave, Vali became enraged towards Sugriva, thinking that his brother had closed up the cave on purpose so as to take over the kingdom. A fight ensued, with Sugriva eventually being driven out of his kingdom.
Sugriva, taking shelter in the forest of Kishkindha, a place where Vali was forbidden from entering, had the good fortune of meeting Shri Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana. Rama and Lakshmana are famous throughout India today, as is Hanuman. Rama is considered an incarnation of Godhead, a primary avatara of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu, Krishna, Rama, and Narayana are interchangeable names for the person the rest of the world refers to as God. These names are more descriptive than the name “God” because they reference specific attributes and transcendental qualities possessed by the Lord. In the case of Rama, the name also refers to a specific incarnation of Godhead who appeared on earth and enacted wonderful pastimes.
As Lord Rama, the Supreme Absolute Truth, the blissful Personality of Godhead, roamed the earth in His transcendental form of a pious kshatriya prince. Rama, as the eldest son of Maharaja Dasharatha, played the part of the pious descendant of the Raghu dynasty based in Ayodhya. While roaming the forests for fourteen years with His younger brother Lakshmana, Rama’s wife Sita Devi was kidnapped by a Rakshasa demon named Ravana. Sita was also with the group on their sojourn through the forest, but at the time of the kidnapping, both Rama and Lakshmana happened to be absent from the group’s hermitage. Upon learning of Sita’s disappearance, Rama and Lakshmana frantically began a search for her whereabouts. One particular Rakshasa later informed them that the monkey-king Sugriva living in Kishkindha would be able to help them in their search.
Upon reaching Kishkindha, a meeting between Rama and Sugriva was brokered by Hanuman, Sugriva’s chief minister. This meeting then led to an alliance, a sort of implied agreement. Sugriva wanted to regain his kingdom from Vali and Rama wanted to find His wife. Both agreed to help each other out with what they needed. Lord Rama held up His end of the bargain. Sugriva challenged Vali to a fight, and while the monkeys were engaged in battle, Rama shot Vali in the back with an arrow. Upon the monkey’s death, Sugriva and his subjects regained their kingdom.
Since the Vanaras were more monkey-like than human-like, they naturally took to excessive celebration after their victory. Sugriva spent months engaged in intoxication and sex life with innumerable female consorts. After considerable time had passed, Lakshmana’s patience ran out. Rama was faithful to the agreement, but Sugriva had failed to live up to his end. Sita was still missing and no one knew where she was. Lakshmana then angrily approached Sugriva’s home and asked to have a face-to-face meeting with the king. Hearing of Lakshmana’s anger, Sugriva became afraid and asked his counselors about what should be done. Hanuman stepped in and offered some sound words of advice.
In the above referenced quote, Hanuman is reminding Sugriva of Rama’s powers. Hanuman, who is a pure devotee of Shri Rama, knows the Lord very well. Hanuman never thinks of anyone else, so he never fails to remember Rama’s potencies. Lord Rama is generally depicted as very happy, wearing a pleasing smile on His face. He is God after all, so why wouldn’t He be happy? Yet here Hanuman is reminding Sugriva that Rama can also get angry if need be. It was through the Lord’s fighting prowess that Sugriva was able to enjoy the happiness that he was currently basking in. Therefore it was incumbent upon the monkey-king to hold up his end of the bargain. Lord Rama, as the most powerful warrior the world had ever seen, was not only capable of killing Vali and others, but He was capable of destroying the entire creation, including the residents of different planets. The demigods are the pious elevated living entities who reside in the heavenly planets. The asuras are the demons; they generally reside in the lower hellish planets. The Gandharvas are the celestial singers who entertain the demigods in heaven with their sweet songs. Lord Rama was so powerful that He could bring all of these entities under His control simply by shooting one arrow from His bow.
While Hanuman’s words reference a specific situation where an agreement between two parties was broken, the statement applies to all of us. The natural order of things, the way things ought to be, is to have the living entities constantly serve God. The mood of this service can vary, but the two separate entities, with one being superior and one being inferior, must be recognized. The Lord is meant to be worshiped, and the living entities are meant to provide that worship. But this devotion must be practiced voluntarily.
There is an inherent covenant established between the living entities and their supreme object of pleasure, Shri Krishna. God has already held up His end of the bargain. He supplies our food and other necessities through His different agents who are in charge of the material creation. The Lord has already established the condition in which our service to Him can be carried out. One may be inclined to disagree with this assertion, for how can everyone offer service to God? Aren’t some of us in distressful conditions, forced to suffer through famine, war, and natural disasters? For the people of this age, the easiest and most effective devotional activity is the chanting of the Lord’s names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Since this chanting process is available to all of us, it should be understood that the Lord has already created a condition sufficient enough for our devotional efforts to be carried out without impediment.
The ball is now in our court. Sugriva, upon hearing Hanuman’s words, decided to kindly pacify Lakshmana and pay back the debts owed to Shri Rama. Sugriva was eternally benefitted as a result, for Rama was able to find Sita , kill her abductor, and return triumphantly to His kingdom with all His friends and associates. Sugriva not only regained his kingdom, but through his service to Rama, he became famous throughout the world as a great devotee. For the conditioned entities living in the present, there is no reason to forget Rama or His powers. Currently our devotion is directed elsewhere towards objects which are nothing more than transformations of matter. Since God is the creator, maintainer, and destroyer of that matter, we would be better served shifting our devotion towards Him. There is no need to forget the all-powerful and all-merciful Lord. He is kindly awaiting our service and our subsequent return to His spiritual abode.