“Having reflected for a moment and entered the Ashoka garden mentally, the highly powerful Hanuman jumped off of the ramparts of that palace.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 14.1)
sa muhūrtam iva dhyatvā manasā ca adhigamya tām |
avapluto mahā tejāḥ prākāram tasya veśmanaḥ ||
A yogi is known for their control over the senses. “Don’t eat as much as you are inclined to. Don’t sleep whenever you get tired, and don’t scratch that nagging itch for sex life. In that controlled state, you can be very powerful, capable of doing things you otherwise thought impossible”. But the real purpose of yoga is not simple renunciation nor mystic ability. From giving up attachment to maya, or “that which is not”, the yogi is better situated to use body, mind, intelligence, and even the senses for purposes that bring and maintain purification.
To see how this works we can look to the example of Shri Hanuman. Arguably the most important events of his life unfolded during his initial visit to the city of Lanka. He wasn’t a formal visitor, as there was no announcement made of his arrival. That wasn’t required, as no one had asked the daughter of King Janaka if she would like to live in Lanka. The delight of Maharaja Janaka and Queen Sunayana was already married, with her husband alive and providing her so much pleasure through His association.
She wasn’t afforded a choice when going to Lanka because the king of that city forcibly took her back to his home. He didn’t have the courage to fight her husband out in the open. Though he was certainly boastful of his fighting prowess, having previously conquered so many notable fighters, this king heard from his advisers that Sita’s husband was unconquerable in battle.
Ravana’s first encounter with the couple occurred through the visit of his sister, Shurpanakha. She went to the Dandaka forest where Sita and Rama were staying with Lakshmana. The trio were there due to an order imposed by the youngest queen of Ayodhya. King Dasharatha had four beautiful sons that were like to Vishnu Himself, the Supreme Lord. Rama was a direct incarnation of that very Vishnu, and the younger brothers Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna were partial incarnations of the origin of spirit and matter.
As was customary, the eldest son was to inherit the throne from his father. Dasharatha loved Rama so much that he was ready to pass over the torch as soon as possible. On the eve of the would-be transfer of power, inspired by jealousy and the goddess of speech, Mother Sarasvati, Dasharatha’s youngest wife Kaikeyi asked that her son, Bharata, be placed on the throne instead. That was okay with Dasharatha, as the brothers loved each other very much, but it was Kaikeyi’s second request that was like a dagger to the king’s heart. She insisted that Rama be banished to the forest for fourteen years, just in case He would have thoughts of overthrowing the new king.
The final blow to Dasharatha came when Kaikeyi reminded him that he had previously promised to grant any two wishes she would ask for at a future time. This meant that the king had to agree to both of Kaikeyi’s demands. Taking the news in stride, Rama was ready to depart for the forest. He didn’t even bat an eye; as no one is more renounced than Bhagavan, who possesses the six major opulences to the fullest degree and at the same time.
Sita and Lakshmana insisted on coming with Rama,, so the group eventually travelled through the forests and set up a cottage in Dandaka. They were threats to no one, except to perhaps the night-rangers who were harassing the sages at the time. Lanka was the home of these creatures, and not surprisingly Ravana was one of them. Shurpanakha propositioned Rama, but the Lord jokingly pointed her in Lakshmana’s direction. When the hideous creature saw that Sita was her competition, she rushed at her. At this Lakshmana responded by lopping off her nose and ears. She then ran home to tell Ravana what had happened.
The leader of Lanka, he of cruel deeds, sent fourteen thousand of his men to the forest of Dandaka, also known as Janasthana, to do away with Rama. Seeing the attack coming, the jewel of the Raghu dynasty told Lakshmana to take Sita to a nearby cave. He would win this battle alone. And emerge victorious He would, showing that this world has never seen a better fighter than Shri Ramachandra.
“Rama is like a mad elephant in battle. He has a purified and unblemished family lineage for His trunk, brilliance and splendor for His excitement, and two powerful arms for tusks. O Ravana, you are not even qualified to look at Him.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.46)
One of the creatures, Akampana, somehow managed to return home with his life intact. He reported to Ravana what he saw. He said that Rama was like fire and Lakshmana the wind. Combined together, no one could defeat them, but in this instance Rama acted alone. No celestial helped Him either. Akampana advised Ravana to try to take Sita if he wanted to defeat Rama. The demon king then approached his adviser Maricha, who warned Ravana not to go through with his plan. Maricha had seen what Rama could do many years earlier when the Lord protected Vishvamitra’s sacrifice.
Has lust ever lost against someone who was completely devoted to their senses? Could a vile creature like Ravana, who regularly ate human flesh, feasted on wine, and cavorted with countless women, ever control his lusty urges, despite the best advice from others? He went through with his plan and took Sita back by creating a ruse that temporarily lured Rama and Lakshmana away from the group’s cottage.
Now it was Hanuman’s turn to enter Lanka. At the beginning of his journey he didn’t know that was where he would end up. The Vanaras in Kishkindha teamed up with Rama to help the Lord find Sita. Sugriva was the king of the monkeys and Hanuman was his chief minister. Hanuman’s group came upon valuable intelligence that the daughter of Janaka was in Lanka, and then the dedicated servant leaped across the massive ocean alone to enter the city.
Hanuman’s actions during his search for Sita embodied yoga, as there was not a hint of personal sense gratification sought. Hanuman was completely attached to pleasing Rama, ready to punish himself if he failed. Hanuman used his body to expand his size and then leap off of a mountaintop. This launched him through the air, using the wind to his advantage to reach the distant island. He used his mind to stay committed to the mission and his intelligence to devise the proper strategy moving forward.
In the above referenced verse, we see Hanuman entering the Ashoka garden that was situated next to Ravana’s palace. Hanuman had searched through all of Lanka thus far to no avail. He saw this park of Ashoka trees that he had yet to search, so he decided to first enter it mentally. This way he could estimate what he would be up against and decide if physical entry would be a good idea. We see that the yogi Hanuman is not sitting in a posture conducive for meditation nor is he concentrating the mind on a specific object and repeating a certain sound.
Yet he was in yoga all the same, for he was using his body, mind, intelligence and senses to remain pure. The height of purity is the connection to the Supreme Lord, and since that wonderful Personality is full of transcendental features, one can work directly for His interest. This was Hanuman’s business, as he was the perfect servant, in Lanka engaged in dasya-rasa, or the transcendental mellow of servitude.
Hanuman would eventually find Sita and calm her initial trepidation with sweet words about her husband. The distressed wife of Rama was so pleased with Hanuman and the news he brought that to this day she is still his greatest well-wisher. Sita Devi is the goddess of fortune, so whoever has her favor is never bereft of materials necessary for continuing in worship of her husband. Moving forward, Hanuman would again use all of his senses and abilities to please Rama. On the way out of Lanka, he would fight many of Ravana’s clan and then set fire to the city to let the evil king know what was coming his way. Whether in war, peace, action, or inaction, Hanuman is always connected to Rama in yoga, so he is always in a pure condition. Whoever is fortunate enough to think of him similarly finds a wonderful object of contemplation for the mind, someone who shows how the bhakti spirit brings everything favorable in life.
For spirit of yoga stay totally renounced,
Attain peace and abilities pronounced.
But real aim is to find internal purification,
To become situated for constant glorification.
To God body, mind and intelligence direct,
The hankerings for material rewards forget.
Hanuman the full picture of yoga showed,
Sprung into action from walls of king’s abode.
Brought life-giving news to Sita distressed,
Since then by her always is he blessed.
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