“Sugriva in particular broached the subject of finding Sita with Hanuman, for he was convinced that Hanuman, the best among monkeys, was capable of accomplishing the desired purpose.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 44.1)
“I’ve got my best man on it”, is an assurance we’ve likely heard when seeking out help in the accomplishment of a difficult task. Everyone is a dependent in this world, either to another living entity or to nature. The only truly independent entity in the universe is the Supreme Lord. Since we are similar to Him in quality, we also have the ability to create, maintain, and destroy on a small scale. Yet to live a peaceful life, to have all of our needs and desires fulfilled, we need the cooperation and help of other living entities. This holds especially true in the arena of spiritual life. Stimulation of the spiritual senses, which is the polar opposite of material sense gratification in terms of the reward it brings, can only be accomplished through association with the Supreme Spirit. Where to find this Divine Entity and how to go about connecting with Him are known only to the most exalted and purified of souls. Of all the saints and divine servants of Bhagavan, none can be considered greater than Shri Hanuman.
Some of the basic problems encountered in the life of a karmi, or fruitive worker, involve repairs and renovations. If there is damage to our automobile, we will likely take it to an auto body shop or the dealer’s repair facility. Aside from the cost concerns, the owner of the car wants to make sure that their car will be fixed up properly. With all the money that is going to be spent, the owner needs assurance that their hard earned wealth doesn’t go to waste and that the car will be safe to drive later on. The same expectations are present in construction and renovation projects. There is typically a leader of the repairing party, the group that is to perform the renovations and do the gritty work to repair whatever needs to be fixed. The leader not only provides the estimate, but also gives assurances as to the quality of the delivered product. To allay the fears of the apprehensive customer, the leader will often say things like, “Don’t worry. I’ve got my best man on the job. He never lets me down. He will surely come through for you.”
Often times this could just be the proprietor blowing smoke, but the principle behind the statement is certainly valid. The tougher the project, the more important it is to put the right people to work. It is said that a good leader or manager is one who does the least amount of work. This doesn’t mean that they are lazy, but rather, they know how to delegate. If a leader is constantly involved in the minutia of the project, performing hard labor and taking to various tasks, who will manage the operation? A good manager is one who can assess the skills of the members of the team and then assign tasks based on these qualifications. For the toughest tasks, those aspects of the project requiring the most attention and skill, the leader relies on their all-stars, their representatives, servants, workers, etc., who shine under pressure. Such dedicated servants, reliable workers, make the boss proud and feel confident that the task at hand can always be accomplished.
While this principle applies to all areas of endeavor, including police work, military operations, and housing projects, we’d be hard pressed to find a tougher task than that of the rescue of a kidnap victim. Yet this is precisely what a powerful king faced many thousands of years ago. Luckily for this leader, he had the all-star of all-stars, the most reliable living entity to have ever graced this earth, acting as his chief emissary. This superstar was none other than Shri Hanuman, and through his wondrous acts he proved to be the most reliable servant of not only his king, but of the Creator of the universe.
Many thousands of years ago, a beautiful and pious prince took birth in the royal dynasty of the Ikshvakus. This dynasty ruled the world, for the progenitor of their line, Maharaja Ikshvaku, was actually the first king on earth. Though the royal family’s supremacy spread far and wide, the base of their operations was stationed in the city of Ayodhya, which is located in the land today known as India. The splendorous prince born to Maharaja Dasharatha, the king of Ayodhya at the time, had every auspicious feature and measurement. In the Vedic tradition, the time of birth and facial and bodily features of a newborn are judged by expert priests. Based on the measurements and time of birth of Dasharatha’s new child, the priests concluded that He must be a divine figure. Only Lord Narayana, the Supreme Lord Himself, could possess all of these qualities.
“I am faithfully engaged in the service of Rama, who is greatly fortunate, fixed in truthfulness, gifted with all auspicious marks, and has the bodily measurements of a banyan tree [nyagrodha-parimandala].” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 47.34)
What was unknown to the residents of the town at the time was that this child was indeed Narayana appearing on earth in human form. Narayana is a Sanskrit word that means “the source of all naras”, or human beings. Hence the word is an appellation for God. The word “God” can mean so many things to different people. To some, it symbolizes the greatest order supplier, one who can provide anything to anyone. In this way, we see how other “gods” are created based on the arena of activity and the ability of the entity to provide for various necessities. Over the course of human history, many governments have tried to act as “God” to their citizens. They took over control of all producing capabilities and thus required the citizens to go through government for all of their needs.
In the Vedic tradition, the concept of God is certainly described through the ability to meet demands and wants. Narayana references the Almighty’s fixed position as the source of all creation. Since man is a kind of god of his own body, whoever created man would certainly be the owner of everything. So in this way, Narayana automatically means God. At the same time, there is another aspect to being the origin of all man and the greatest order supplier. Mankind seeks out different rewards and desires, and thus they view whoever can meet the majority of these demands as their worshipable object. Yet there is an end-result to these desires being met: enjoyment. By default, the conditioned entity views itself as the ultimate enjoyer. The acknowledgment of this viewpoint may appear baffling. “What are you talking about? Of course I’m the enjoyer. I’m the only one living in my body. Who else could be the enjoyer?”
It is with respect to this particular issue that the Vedas stand out from any other spiritual discipline. Not only is God deemed to be the ultimate order supplier and the source of all men, but He is also the ultimate enjoyer. Based on this information, the aim of human life becomes to seek out the most powerful divine entity and provide for His enjoyment. Such an endeavor speaks to the constitutional position of the soul as being the “enjoyed”. In Sanskrit terms, purusha refers to the enjoyer and prakriti refers to the enjoyed. In the material world, the living entities, the spirit souls, are purusha in that they seek to enjoy their senses through association with dull matter, or prakriti. But in the grander scheme of things, individual life forms are actually prakriti. Whoever can realize this by the time they quit their body is deemed to have achieved perfection in life. At the expiry of the current life, such a knowledgeable individual immediately returns to the spiritual world, where they get to be enjoyed by the Supreme Lord for eternity. The Divine Spiritual Entity, whose original name and form is that of Shri Krishna, enjoys with the living entities and thus provides the enjoyed with a level of satisfaction never before seen.
Realizing that God is the Supreme Enjoyer is not easy. Therefore, the Lord kindly appears on earth from time to time to exhibit His transcendental beauty and allow others to associate with Him. Shri Rama’s birth was one instance of this benevolence. As a warrior prince, Rama spent many years on earth putting forth the principles of dharma, or religiosity, and enacting wonderful pastimes. During one particular lengthy sojourn into the forest, His beautiful wife Sita Devi happened to get kidnapped by a Rakshasa demon named Ravana. Not knowing her whereabouts, Rama, along with His younger brother Lakshmana, eventually came to the forest of Kishkindha. There they met the monkey-king Sugriva, who agreed to help Rama find Sita.
It should be noted that Sugriva and the members of his kingdom are often referred to as monkeys, but this is not entirely accurate. The Sanskrit word for their species is “Vanara”, a term which refers to “vana”, which means the forest. So the Vanaras are essentially living entities of the forest. Based on many statements found in the scriptures, including ones made by Sugriva and his associates, the features of the Vanaras closely resemble those of monkeys. They have tails, they like to jump around, they like to steal people’s fruits, they like to drink honey to their satisfaction, and they also have an insatiable appetite for sex life. These descriptions certainly do point to the monkey species, hence the reason for the reference to Sugriva as a monkey. Since they were technically monkey-like, the Vanaras had many human-like features as well, such as the ability to talk, think, etc.
Sugriva had an army of powerful Vanaras at his disposal. Since no one knew where Sita was, a sort of scavenger-hunt of the entire world was required. This would be difficult even in today’s advanced technological age, but back during those times, it was even harder. Sugriva had thousands of monkeys ready to serve him, but finding Sita was the most important of tasks. Faced with this difficult situation, Sugriva turned to his trusted aide, the one person he knew wouldn’t let him down, Shri Hanuman.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sugriva is about to address Hanuman and entrust the success of the mission with him. We see that Sugriva had no doubt that Hanuman could accomplish this task. Hanuman was the best man for the job. Since he would go on to validate Sugriva’s intuition, it shouldn’t surprise us that Shri Hanuman today is one of the most widely celebrated divine figures. Though he faced many obstacles in the form of land masses, oceans, and demons, Hanuman was eventually able to find Sita, relay information to her about Rama, and then return to Sugriva. Not only did he help in finding Sita, but Hanuman also played an integral role in the subsequent battle between Rama, who was accompanied by Sugriva’s army, and Ravana and his Rakshasa clan. Due to his bravery courage, and dedication, Hanuman is considered Rama’s greatest servant, the person who never loses and never fails to accomplish the tasks assigned to him.
The aim of human life is to change our consciousness from that of material enjoyment to that of spiritual enjoyment. Lord Narayana certainly helps us out by coming to earth from time to time and performing activities, the descriptions of which are recorded in wonderful books for future generations to cherish. Yet consulting God directly is not recommended. Rather, it is better to approach one of His servants. The devotees, or bhaktas, are the most qualified for the job of reclaiming the lost conditioned souls who are seeking their return to the spiritual world. Since this task is also a spiritual one and in the interests of Shri Rama, Hanuman once again stands tall as the best man for the job.
Goswami Tulsidas, the great Vaishnava poet and devotee of Lord Rama, declares that Lord Hanuman can provide anything to anyone who kindly approaches him. When Tulsidas was in distress or pain, he would often call out to Hanuman or at least remember him. While Hanuman is certainly capable of providing us any benediction, the greatest reward he can give us is devotion to Shri Rama. He is the gatekeeper to the spiritual world, and anyone who kindly pleases him will surely be allowed in. Hanuman is the best man for the job of helping us cross over the ocean of nescience that separates us from the spiritual world. Sugriva was eternally benefitted by coming through for Shri Rama, but this success never would have been achieved without Hanuman. In a similar manner, if we put our full faith and trust in the son of the wind-god, the greatest of the Vanaras, Shri Hanuman, we can be assured of success in our spiritual endeavors.
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