Lighter Than Air

Shri Hanuman “In motion, speed, splendor, and lightness, O great monkey, you, O hero, are exactly like your father, the very powerful wind-god.” (Sugriva speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 44.5)

At this most critical of junctures, Sugriva, the king of monkeys, is turning to his trusted aide, the person he can count on most. The qualities the monkey-king is looking for are energy, swiftness of motion, and agility. The task at hand was quite a formidable one after all, so no ordinary member of Sugriva’s army would be up for the task. Indeed, for this particular mission, Sugriva needed someone he could completely count on to get the job done. That someone was Shri Hanuman, the faithful servant of Lord Rama.

Hanuman Literature and cinema often describe the plight of the downtrodden and their adventures in overcoming opposing forces. Of all the conflicts between good and evil ever witnessed, arguably the most intense struggle took place during the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation. Just as the duration of one’s life can be divided into different stages such as infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, the duration of the creation is broken up into different time periods, with the attributes and characteristics of the members of society living in each age gradually regressing in the area of piety. During the Treta Yuga, the earth was still relatively young, so the members of society were mostly set on adhering to the principles of dharma, or religiosity.

“In the Satya-yuga everyone was situated in the mode of goodness. Gradually the mode of goodness declined during the Treta and Dvapara-yugas, and the general mass of people became corrupt.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.4.24 Purport)

In the mostly pure age of Treta, there were still demons to be found, with one in particular who had ascended to power. Living on his island kingdom of Lanka, this ogre named Ravana could travel the three worlds and defeat any being, heavenly or otherwise, that would stand in his way. A king needs to be the most powerful man in a particular area since his duties involve providing protection. If a ruler is weak or incapable of defeating enemies, his post is more or less useless. In order to prove their strength and fighting abilities, kings would often tour the world and challenge other kings and great fighters. The standard code of conduct prescribed to the warrior caste, the kshatriyas, called for leaders to take up any challenger who would come their way.

Ravana was no ordinary king. Though he was powerful and capable of protecting his subjects, he would often take to attacking ascetics residing in the forest. This information will immediately raise some eyebrows. Why would the innocent sages be attacked by powerful rulers? After all, a brahmana, or member of the priestly class, is the epitome of non-violence, virtue, and harmlessness. Yet Ravana knew that the sages worshiped God, someone the demon viewed as his number one enemy. The primary difference between a demon and an ordinary person is the belief in a higher power. Not only does the average citizen believe in God, but some of them take to worshiping Him. The Supreme Divine Entity is unique in three specific areas of interest. He is the best friend of the living entities. We may be friendly towards one or many people, but only the Supreme Lord is everyone’s friend, whether they are aware of it or not. God is also the ultimate enjoyer. When we surrender ourselves to someone emotionally, we are essentially putting their needs ahead of ours. The enjoyment of the object of our affection is seen as paramount. The Almighty, as everyone’s friend and companion, is viewed as the most important person in the lives of those wholly dedicated to righteousness and virtue as laid down through scriptural tradition.

Lord Krishna The other important aspect of being God is that You are the Supreme Controller, an entity more powerful than anyone else at creating, maintaining, and dissolving. God is the original proprietor of everything; therefore every object of this world, animate and inanimate, can trace their ancestry back to Him. It is for this reason that the Divine Entity in the Vedic tradition is known by such names as Ishvara [the supreme controller] and Achyuta [one who never falls down]. In addition, the original supreme controlling entity that never falters is described as sarva-karana- karanam, meaning the cause of all causes. Naturally, whoever caused the entire creation to be generated along with its various species would be considered the original cause of everything, and thus also the most powerful person.

“Furthermore, O Arjuna, I am the generating seed of all existences. There is no being-moving or unmoving—that can exist without Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.39)

The mentality of the demon is deluded to such a point that they take themselves to be the most powerful entity. According to the mindset of such fools, in order for their position as most powerful to remain valid, the concept of a God or an original cause must be absent. The demon doesn’t pay any attention to the fact that at the time of their birth they had no fighting or thinking abilities. Their intelligence levels were similar to those of animals. Through good fortune, manifested in the actions of caretakers, teachers, and the forces of nature, a human being is able to acquire the necessary skills to survive in this world. Yet the demon neglects these facts and eventually takes himself to be the most powerful entity and the ultimate enjoyer. This logic is obviously flawed; thus the miscreants, the lowest among mankind, also represent some of the most unintelligent individuals roaming the earth.

It would be one thing if the falsely puffed up fool stopped at this point. After all, thinking oneself to be God doesn’t really harm anybody, right? Ah, but for the skewered mindset of “I am God” to be justifiable, there cannot be any other entity who is worshiped and offered tribute. As such, the demon, by any means necessary, seeks to end the worship of any other entity, be it the Almighty or even another person. If someone else is worshiped as God, it takes away from the demon’s perceived controlling and enjoying powers. If I say that I am God, and yet thousands of others take to worshiping someone else, how can my definition be valid? For this and several other reasons not grounded in any reality, Ravana, the king of all the powerful ghoulish figures of his time, took to harassing the innocent sages residing in the forests. These vipras, great thinkers schooled in all matters material and spiritual, were bothering no one. They had no possessions; they simply performed austerities and sacrifices all day. Yet Ravana and his clan of Rakshasas would invade the sacrificial arenas and then kill the sages. Since they were the lowest among man, members of the demon species, Ravana and his associates would then eat the flesh of the dead sages.

“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion-at that time I descend Myself.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 4.7)

Lord Krishna dancing on the Kaliya serpent The Supreme Divine Entity, the cause of all causes, seeing the deplorable situation, decided to appear on earth at that time in the guise of a human being to take care of Ravana and give protection to the innocent souls who were sincerely interested in spiritual life. According to the spiritualist’s angle of vision, life on earth is considered to be one that ultimately leads to misery for those who choose to neglect God. But the distressful resulting conditions aren’t directly created by the Supreme Lord. Rather, the forgetfulness of the Divine is the reason for the earth’s existence in the first place. The earth, and any other planet that goes through cycles of creation and destruction, can be thought of as a giant playing field. Anyone who wants to play in such a realm is given full facility to do so. In relation to the games played on this field, there are really no winners and losers because at the end of the day, no one can become God. It is due to this property of the game that any activity on the material platform will end in misery. As far as the activities that actually do take place, the Supreme Lord plays no direct role. As the creator, He certainly sets the rules and puts the necessary entities in place to enforce them, but the pendulum that perpetually swings between victory and defeat doesn’t really interest Him.

The Lord makes an exception, however, when the sincere souls, those who are interested only in pleasing the real God, take to pious activities. For such purified souls, the Lord kindly does whatever is necessary to ensure that their devotional efforts bear fruit. Unlike activities performed in karma, which have material reactions both good and bad, the fruits of devotional activities involve rewards for the soul residing within the body. The spiritual spark is the guiding force for activities, the growth and maintenance of the various cells and tissue matter. Since the outer covering of the soul is eventually discarded at the time of death, it is the individual spiritual entity, jivatma, which retains its form and function at all times. The soul is the primary functional unit of life, the indication of individuality. The Supreme Lord, through His kindness and indebtedness towards His adherents, ensures that the soul disassociated from the objects of the phenomenal world returns to the imperishable spiritual realm after its current stay on earth.

Lord Rama The Almighty’s direct intervention in the activities of the pious not only manifests through the benediction of spiritual rewards at the end of life, but also in the area of protection. If there are outside elements thwarting the practice of genuine adherents of spirituality, the Supreme Lord directly intervenes to ensure that the unwanted elements are squashed. In most instances, Bhagavan, the most fortunate supreme master of all worlds material and spiritual, will send one of His representatives to help the sincere soul, but in special circumstances, He makes a personal appearance. This was the case with Lord Rama, the handsome and pious prince of Ayodhya. As a son of a king, Rama was trained in the military arts. When the Lord comes to earth, there is no reason for news of His divinity to be spread far and wide. Rather, the enjoyment is heightened when others offer their sincere love and devotion to the incarnation without any knowledge of His true nature. Rama was certainly loved and adored by all the citizens of His hometown, so in this way, the residents of Ayodhya were able to perform devotional service with a pure attitude, taking Rama as their protector and supreme object of pleasure.

Lord Rama’s mission was to rid the world of Ravana, his Rakshasa associates, and their unwanted influence on the pious sages residing in the forests. To set the wheels in motion for the demon class’ demise, Rama needed to first go to the forest, a realm which was reserved for animals, beasts, monkeys, and the most renounced ascetics. While residing in the forest, Rama’s wife happened to get kidnapped by Ravana himself, who set up a ruse to carry out the deed. This actually helped Rama gain the excuse He needed to take on Ravana in a fair fight. But first things first: He needed to find out where His wife Sita was and which demon had carried her away. A group of Vanaras, an elevated species of monkeys, was residing in the forest of Kishkindha at the time. Their leader was Sugriva, and he was fortunate enough to form an alliance with Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana through the efforts of Hanuman, the chief emissary for the monkeys residing in Kishkindha.

Hanuman After Rama helped Sugriva gain his kingdom back, the monkey agreed to help the Lord find His wife. He gathered round his most trusted associates and told them to divide up into teams. Each group would search a specific sphere of the earth for Sita’s whereabouts. After providing marching orders to the various teams, Sugriva then specifically addressed Hanuman, the person thought to be the most capable at carrying out this most important of tasks. In the above referenced statement, Sugriva is directly praising Hanuman by highlighting his attributes. This praise was offered so as to encourage Hanuman in his task. Shri Hanuman, who is still worshiped to this day as the greatest devotee of Shri Rama, is kind, quiet, peaceful, humble, and virtuous by nature. Yet the task at hand called for fighting ability, bravery, and perseverance, so Sugriva wanted to remind Hanuman that he certainly already possessed all of these attributes.

The more difficult the mission, the more capable the challenger must be to succeed. Of all the tasks handed out by Sugriva, the one given to Hanuman was the most difficult. Sugriva knew that Hanuman would have to be the one to find Sita, deal with whichever enemies had taken her, and then successfully and safely return back to their camp. Sugriva’s confidence in him shows just how great Hanuman is. Herein Hanuman is described as being extremely fast, fleet, and splendorous. Indeed, he also has mastery over the ability to become very light, i.e. he possesses the laghima siddhi. Being able to make oneself very light thus makes one extremely agile. Hanuman’s characteristics are compared to the same glorious attributes that belong to his father, the wind-god. Vedic information tells us that each aspect of the material creation has a presiding deity. There is someone in charge of rain, earth, fire, and even wind. The wind-god, Maruta, is considered extremely powerful for obvious reasons. The wind can pretty much destroy anything, and within the body it is considered the vital force. Those who can control the air inside the body can actually perform great feats. Therefore one of the most difficult, yet important, practices of yoga is known as pranayama, which aims to control the vital airs within the body, thus giving the performer good health and control over their senses.

Hanuman was begotten by the wind-god as part of the grander plan to help Rama in His mission. In fact, even Sugriva was a celestial figure, born to the sun-god. In this way, we see that whoever is sincere in their desire to serve the Lord will be automatically given whatever attributes they need to carry out their respective missions. Sugriva’s words would prove to be much more than just lofty praise. Hanuman would eventually find Sita by making use of each of the attributes mentioned by Sugriva in the passage above. To this day, Shri Hanuman is worshiped and adored by millions. His name is synonymous with love and devotion to God. Wherever Hanuman is seen or worshiped, Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana are also there with Him. In this way, he is an agent for deliverance, one who can help us change our consciousness from the flawed mindset of “I am God” to the purified and correct one of “I am part and parcel of God; I am His servant.”

Hanuman The qualities needed to perform transcendental tasks already exist inside of us. The combination of spirit and matter results in individual life forms which are just booming with potential. The intrinsic ability of man, the energy given to us by God, has nothing to do with winning and losing in the game of life, but rather has everything to do with satisfying the senses of the owner of all senses, Hrishikesha, which is another name for God. To tap into our potential, we need to kindly enlist in the transcendental army of the Lord. By so doing, Bhagavan will find a suitable mission for us, a task we are guaranteed to succeed at. For the people of this age, joining the bhakti brigade requires a simple shift in consciousness, a mindset that can be easily adopted by regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

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