Source of Fame

Hanuman“(Hanuman did not see Sita) who was firmly situated on the eternal path of devotion to her husband, had her gaze always fixed on Rama, was always possessed by love for Rama, had entered the glorious mind of her husband, and was always the most exceptional of women.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 5.24)

sanātane vartmāni samniviṣṭām |
rāmekśaṇāṃ tāṃ madanābhiviṣṭām |
bharturmanaḥ śrīmadanupraviṣṭām |
strībhyo varābhyaśca sadā viśiṣṭām ||

Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, had just listened to His dear friend, cousin and soon to be disciple advocate nonviolence and reveal both his dispassion towards ruling a kingdom and his fervent desire that no harm fall upon any of the members of the opposing army, many of whom were family members and teachers. This emotional response, which shows elevation from the desires for material advancement and the enjoyment of a kingdom, would seemingly make one deserving of praise and adulation, but Shri Krishna, as the kindest friend and the only all-knowing personality, immediately rebuked Arjuna, figuratively hitting him over the head with words of disapproval. Placing the primary concern over another living entity’s bodily condition is absent in the truly wise, those who know the eternality of the soul and its position of being above the ever changing bodies accepted during contact with material nature. When dejection comes from the right place, however, the behavior is forever celebrated. Shri Hanuman, the eternal servant of Lord Rama, gave us a wonderful example of this. Though he is famously known for his amazing displays of strength and bravery, Hanuman’s worshipable status really comes from his exhibition of divine love, a quality which is forever tied with the spirit soul, the essence of individuality.

Lord KrishnaOn that battlefield some five thousand years ago, Lord Krishna corrected Arjuna’s erroneous thinking in a sharp, concise, and yet thorough manner. In the famous American television sitcom, The Cosby Show, there was an episode where the eldest son of the family, Theo, was performing poorly in school. His grades were constantly not up to par and he had little motivation to study or live up to the standards set by his mother and father, who were a lawyer and doctor respectively. In this episode, Theo puts forth a passionate speech about how the father should love him despite what grades he gets. Shouldn’t the father’s love be universally available, through thick and thin, regardless of the character of the son? The speech was very nicely delivered, and the audience is left waiting to see if the father, who is played by Bill Cosby, will be won over by the wise words or not. In response, Cosby lashes out by saying that what Theo had said was the stupidest thing he had ever heard. He then famously said, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out”, as a way to emphasize Theo’s need to perform better in school. “Quit making excuses” was the message.

“The Blessed Lord said: While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.11)

Lord Krishna, on the receiving end of a similar speech, rebuked Arjuna through swift and cutting words that were fully rooted in the truth and thus completely flawless. Arjuna thought he had delivered learned words by saying that he didn’t want to kill his family members fighting for the other side. This particular day on the battlefield of Kurukshetra was the culmination of many tumultuous years of infighting and ill-fated attempts made on the lives of Arjuna and his family. The right to rule over a massive kingdom belonged to the Pandavas, but the opposing side, led by Duryodhana, wanted the kingdom for themselves. Krishna even tried to broker a peace settlement, but that was wholly rejected. What were the Pandavas left to do? They were military men by trade, so it was their duty to protect dharma, or righteousness. They were entitled to the kingdom, and because of the sinful activities of Duryodhana, the other side was worthy of punishment.

Nevertheless, Arjuna put forth some good arguments in favor of nonviolence. He would not be happy enjoying the spoils of victory knowing that the other side was no longer around. Not only that, he would be the one responsible for their absence. Why should he live with that guilt and pain? Shri Krishna, who is the original form of Godhead and the source of all knowledge, both material and spiritual, reminded Arjuna that what he was grieving for was not worthy of so much attention. The spirit soul is the essence of identity, the subtle aspect residing within every form of life. What we know as birth and death are simply the acceptance and rejection of an outer dress by the soul, who continues to live regardless of where it is placed and the nature of its surroundings.

“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.22)

Krishna and ArjunaUnderstanding that I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of God, is the most difficult conclusion to reach. It requires intense training under a spiritual master, or guru, who is firmly fixed on the devotional path. Krishna is the original spiritual master, so by instructing Arjuna during his hour of need, a new disciplic succession was created. Even if we know that we are not the body and that others aren’t either, we need these swift reminders every now and then, especially when our lamentation gets the better of us. Arjuna was a fighter by occupation, so there was no room for soft-heartedness in the execution of his duties. If a fighter should feel sorry for the other side, his fighting abilities will suffer as a result; hence the entire reason for his occupation gets negated. If the police fail to protect us, then who else will? If the military can’t defeat the enemies of the world, how will we be safe? The other side was going to fight nobly, and they weren’t going to hold back in their attacks on Arjuna. Whether Arjuna’s opponents died or not was of no concern, for the soul lives forever. In the larger picture, no person can ever slay another.

Now that we are familiar with these teachings of the ancient scriptures of India, the Vedas, the behavior seen many thousands of years prior of one of the most celebrated divine figures in history becomes all the more puzzling. Outside of India, Hanuman is sometimes known as the monkey-god, but to those who are devoted to him, he is the essence of purity. He is fully endowed with every auspicious attribute. He is kind, perseverant, knowledgeable, humble, sweet, intelligent, and most of all, dedicated to Lord Rama, the Personality of Godhead who appeared on earth many thousands of years later as Lord Krishna and delivered the Bhagavad-gita.

Are there many Gods in the Vedic tradition? There are many godlike figures, but there is still only one Supreme Lord. He is the same person that every other person worships, either directly or indirectly. Though there is only one God, He doesn’t limit Himself to just one form. The eternally fixed position, the original body, of the individual spirit soul is that of lover of Krishna, or God. For this love to remain at high levels, fully active, the soul needs an engagement that can never exhaust in the fruits it brings forth. The highest reward is that which remains ever manifest and capable of delivering satisfaction. Since the fixed position of the soul is to be a lover of God, any benefit that allows for that love to be further exhibited will naturally be considered superior.

Lord RamaTo ensure that engagements are always present and that the rewards continually provide enjoyment, the original Personality of Godhead, who is known as Krishna or Vishnu depending on the specific Vedic tradition followed, comes to earth in various non-different forms and enacts pastimes. The lila, or divine sports, of the Personality of Godhead carries out many functions simultaneously. As it is in our nature to glorify, or perform kirtana, the divine pastimes allow for endless glorification through singing and the tagging of different names. In the Treta Yuga, Krishna’s warrior prince incarnation was known as Rama, for He gave transcendental pleasure to His devotees. Amongst His well-wishers, none was more eager to serve Him than Hanuman, a pure soul residing in a Vanara body in the forest of Kishkindha.

While the pastimes of Rama allow for millions of devotees to today glorify God and sing about His divine qualities, during Rama’s time on earth the pure love of the devotees often manifested in direct service offered. When Rama’s wife Sita Devi went missing from the couple’s cottage in the forest of Dandaka, it presented an opportunity for a select few exalted figures to engage in service to please Rama. Accompanied by other monkeys, Hanuman was tasked with searching the earth for Sita. If he should find her alive, he was to hand her Rama’s ring as a sign of genuineness. Sita must have been taken away, for she was the most beautiful woman in the world. To this day the earth still has never seen a woman so kind, wonderful in every way, and devoted to her husband. Sita is forever with Rama, even in the spiritual sky. Just the opportunity to see Sita was enough of a reward; thus revealing Hanuman’s divine nature. He was the only one qualified to meet Sita alone and allay her fears. He was the only person given the benediction of meeting Rama’s wife and learning from her exemplary behavior through direct observation.

What behavior do we speak of? To gain a slight understanding, we can look to the above quoted verse from the Ramayana. Hanuman eventually learned that Sita had been taken to the island kingdom of Lanka by a Rakshasa named Ravana, who wanted her to be his wife. When he reached Lanka, Hanuman took on a small form and roamed through the city searching for the princess. He saw all sorts of beautiful women doing many different things, but he knew that none of them could be Sita.

Sita DeviHow did he know? He had not ever met Sita up until this point, so what did he have to base his assuredness on? What if Sita had somehow decided to become Ravana’s queen and enjoy with him in his palace? From Rama’s position as the Supreme Lord and worshipable object of every person in the world, Hanuman knew that the Lord’s wife was equally as worthy of worship. She was famous throughout the world for her chastity. No one could ever break her from her vow to love and adore Rama. She was known for not ever gazing at anyone else. Can we imagine how it would feel if someone were that dedicated to us? In this way we see that no one gives Rama more pleasure than Sita.

Sita is also described as always having her mind fixed on Rama. Since he saw queens getting ready to cavort with their husbands, and other beautiful women enjoying in different ways, Hanuman knew that he had yet to find Sita. Only when he would see someone deeply engaged in meditation on God would he know that he had found the right person. Sita was also the most exalted woman, so none of these people he had seen thus far could be considered superior. Not that they weren’t beautiful or worthy of good husbands themselves, but still, they couldn’t match up with Sita.

What’s interesting to note is that these qualities came to Hanuman’s mind when he was feeling dejected. He was not pleased over not having yet found Sita. He was worried about her well-being and also Rama’s. Sita was the very mind of her husband, as she had won Him over with her love. The one person who is above passion and the urges of the senses can still be mentally defeated by someone as wonderful as Sita, who loves Him with all her heart. Hanuman, as a pure devotee himself, fully appreciated Sita’s divine qualities. In fact, just thinking of them made him feel exhilarated. He was temporarily taken off of his determined path because of not having found her, but to cheer himself up, to give himself the pep talk he needed, he simply remembered Sita’s qualities.

HanumanThis wonderful exhibition of divine love, his dejection over having temporarily failed Rama by not being able to find the goddess of fortune and give her relief in the form of Rama’s ring is what really makes Hanuman stand out. Arjuna was distressed over having to enjoy regal life without his family members, so Krishna rightfully corrected him. Hanuman also showed concern for another human being, but since he was saddened over the fact that a wonderful devotee couldn’t be with her religiously wedded husband, his lamentation actually increased his stature. It was this very sadness that would keep him going, as he never wanted to fail Rama. Hanuman would rather die trying than leave Sita and Rama without hope.

It is not surprising therefore that Hanuman would end up a success and also eternally loved by Sita and Rama. After her rescue, from Sita herself he was granted the benediction of being able to always think of both she and Rama. As Hanuman so nicely points out in the Mahabharata during his conversation with Bhima, one of Arjuna’s brothers, Sita Devi takes care of all of his worldly necessities. Hanuman only wants to sing the glories of Shri Rama and His family members, so in this regard Hanuman doesn’t need much. Similarly, if we want to find our eternal engagement, we don’t require anything more than simply chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. By adherence to the principles of bhakti-yoga and by regularly remembering the heartwarming displays of affection and attachment shown by Hanuman, we can remain steadfast on the righteous path. Hanuman’s fame was established by his unflinching faith in Shri Rama and the mission provided by Him. And since that time, Hanuman’s stature has only increased with the countless devotees he helps to cross over the ocean of nescience by showing the proper path in life, that of devotion to God.

In Closing:

Lamentation over potential fight caused Arjuna grief,

Resulted in lecture from Lord Krishna, Yadu’s chief.

By speaking of nonviolence Arjuna thought he was learned,

But Krishna corrected Him, words delivered became blessed.

The soul is the essence of identity, not the body,

Thus no need for sadness, be faithful to your duty.

Yet many years prior, another warrior also found distress,

Unable to succeed in his task, could not locate missing princess.

Rama asked the warrior to find Sita His wife,

Hanuman took the Lord’s instruction as his life.

Grief in trying to please God source of eternal fame,

Synonymous with devotion is Hanuman’s name.

His temporary sadness led to ultimate success,

Sita and Rama reward those who fight through duress.

The path of bhakti-yoga is not easy in the least,

By remembering Hanuman, chances of success increased.

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