“Maithili, in great surprise, thought as follows: ‘Alas, this person with the form of a monkey is fearful, difficult to approach, and difficult to be looked at.’ Knowing this, she was again bewildered.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 32.3)
maithilī cintayāmāsa svapno ayam iti bhāminī |
aho bhīmamidaṃ rūpaṃ vānarasya durāsadam ||
durnirīkṣamiti jñātvā punareva mumoha sā |
Planetary systems emerging through breathing, serpent heads holding up all the universes, an ocean of milk, and even a monkey carrying unimaginable auspiciousness – all such things are possible through the work of the Divine. We think these are contradictions, something out of mythology, but in fact so many things happen every day that to an outsider would be considered a miracle. Taking them for granted, we mistakenly think that the rules of nature are stringent to the point that its creator must abide by them as well. But He does not have to, and neither do His dearmost servants like Shri Hanuman.
Within a tiny seed is a giant banyan tree. This seems ridiculous, but make a test out of it. Plant the seed in the ground, give it careful attention, and see what happens after a while. The same can be done with any kind of plant. The female human being is no larger than the size of an American football when emerging from the womb, but that same person can one day give birth themselves. Such are the workings of nature; miracles are all around us.
We consider these to be miracles, but they are merely the products of the material nature acting in conjunction with the spiritual energy. In Sanskrit the undeveloped full collection of matter is known as pradhana. When the glance of the Supreme Spirit reaches this pradhana, we get the material creation and everything within it. The atoms move, the planets come into being, rivers start flowing, clouds start moving, and yes, life forms start to come and go. Without the glance of spirit, which provides an injection of sorts, none of this would be possible.
sarva-yoniṣu kaunteyamūrtayaḥ sambhavanti yāḥtāsāṁ brahma mahad yonirahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā
“It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.4)
We were not watching when this glance first took place, so we have difficulty believing in it. Even if we did see it and then report on it to others, who would believe us? In fact, the original event is not so significant, as time travels infinitely both forwards and backwards. There is a beginning to the beginning. Correspondingly, there is an end to the end. Try to reach the end of space and you’ll fail. The human mind cannot grasp infinity; so there is no point in trying.
As the Supreme Spirit bypasses the laws of time and space, He can also get past any rule of the material nature. From our experiences, we know that a pinky finger cannot hold up a mountain. An infant cannot thwart the attacks of a large being who operates with a more advanced intelligence. We also know that a monkey doesn’t come bearing news of our beloved, after braving the obstacles of nature and penetrating the defense of beings equipped with every weapon of the black arts.
Yet all of these things can and do happen. Here Sita Devi pays a nice compliment to Shri Hanuman. By extension, the praise makes its way towards Rama as well. He is Sita’s husband and Hanuman is acting for Him for looking for Sita. Sita, who is also known as Maithili [the daughter of the king of Mithila], here spots Hanuman for the first time in the Ashoka grove in Lanka. From her words we see that she identifies Hanuman by his outward form, which is that of a monkey.
That form is bhima, or fearful. Indeed, Hanuman must instill fear from time to time. He faces bad guys who try to get in the way of his service to Rama. Rama is the Supreme Lord in an avatara, so whatever He asks is always in line with dharma. Someone who gets in the way of what Rama asks is in adharma, or acting unrighteously. Sometimes an awe-inspiring form is necessary to carry out righteousness.
Sita also says that Hanuman’s form is difficult to approach and difficult to look at. What would you do if you suddenly spotted a monkey on a tree branch above? Would you not be startled? Would you think it was a good sign? The monkey is known for stealing. It is known for looking for food and taking it from wherever it can get it. The monkey then runs away, feeling no remorse. The monkey has no shame.
Despite this initial impression of Hanuman, we know that he was indeed a well-wishing friend to Sita. To her, he was very approachable. His form was beautiful, kind, and inviting. It is possible for a monkey to be all these things. Indeed, any living entity can bear the same properties, regardless of the body type they inherited at the time of birth.
Rama could have sent a servant of a more conventional appearance to look for Sita. He could have sent someone who wouldn’t startle her upon first glance. But God can break the rules whenever He wants. Indeed, He purposefully does so from time to time to show that He is not subordinate to anyone or anything. His servants can also bewilder the person whose vision is limited through sole reliance on the laws of nature.
How can a monkey serve Rama? How can he be auspicious? In the worst setting, in a terrible place, Hanuman came to offer a shining light of hope. It is indeed amazing that a monkey came to give Sita the good news about her husband, that He was coming to rescue her. Hanuman is so amazing that the Vedas themselves can’t fully describe His glories. As Rama Himself continues to be praised to this day, through Hanuman the mercy of the Lord extends even further. The more one thinks they know God, the more they have yet to learn through the example of Hanuman, who can break all the rules through the power invested in him by Rama.
Though at first a tiny seed to see,
Through time to become banyan tree.
Same through creation amazing,
At pradhana Supreme Lord gazing.
When Hanuman to Sita came near,
Monkey form to her instilling fear.
Service to God possible in form or shape any,
Hanuman of virtues to count too many.
Categories: spotting hanuman