“O large-eyed one, I will speak of the symbols and characteristics of Rama and Lakshmana that were evident to me. Hear about these from me.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.7)
yāni rāmasya cihnāni lakṣmaṇasya ca yāni vai |
lakṣitāni viśāla akṣi vadataḥ śṛṇu tāni me ||
The way Shri Hanuman phrases these words to Sita Devi is important. He references Shri Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana. From the Bhagavad-gita, we learn that the Supreme Lord is a person who descends to the earthly realm as Himself from time to time.
yadā yadā hi dharmasya
glānir bhavati bhārata
tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmy aham
He comes as Himself, though He doesn’t always look the same. Since He is a distinct individual, He is not everyone. As an example, I cannot accurately say that I am God. I do not appear in millennium after millennium, and neither am I the source of the material and spiritual worlds. A separate personality spoke of these things in the Bhagavad-gita, a personality who is identifiable by characteristics.
Rama is one such appearance of the Supreme Lord. A name is merely a sound vibration. It can be applied to any person, to a dog even. The name is one way to identify God the person, but there are other ways to know the distinction between Rama the Supreme Divine Being and others with the same name.
Lakshmana is an incarnation of the servitor aspect of God. He is just like Rama except playing a different role. He is a unique individual as well, with specific characteristics. We can try to speculate on what the ideal servant of the Divine would look like, what they would do, and what they would say in specific situations, but there is no need; factual evidence is available.
Hanuman has been specifically asked to describe Rama and Lakshmana. In response, he doesn’t go into an abstract discussion. He doesn’t say that Rama is an attributeless energy that pervades the entire creation. He doesn’t say that Lakshmana refers to the service potential within all of us, a quality rather than an individual.
Hanuman is specific. He asks Sita to please hear about these characteristics, as they were seen by him. This is authority. This is disciplic succession. There are two principal ways to gather knowledge. One is the ascending process. Take little bits of information and then work your way up. As an example, one day you notice that the sun comes up. Your observation gets noted in a book. Then the next day you see that the sun again rises, at around the same time. Your observations grow to the point that you can make a claim: the sun rises every day.
The second method is known as the descending process. Using the same example, instead of having to record the observations on the sun each day, you first take the information on authority. Your mother tells you that the sun comes up every day. She explains that the whole concept of a day is based on the relative positioning of the sun, the way it changes with respect to the earth and the viewpoint of the individual.
The descending process is superior, but there is the requirement that the person of authority be bona fide. If someone lies to me, then obviously the wrong knowledge will descend to me. In the case of Hanuman, the authority source has the greatest credentials ever seen on this earth. They are so great that they are almost impossible to fathom.
Shri Hanuman jumped across a massive ocean, overcoming difficult obstacles along the way. He infiltrated a well-guarded city without being noticed. He won the favor of a rightfully skeptical princess. He did all of this for someone he knew for only a short time. There was nothing in it personally for Hanuman. He risked everything for the pleasure of Shri Rama.
His amazing unselfishness established, Hanuman has the proper standing to pass down knowledge of Rama and Lakshmana. The process is simple. He saw them face to face. He interacted with them. He knows what they are like. He remembers the key details, and he shares them with people who are interested. Sita knew these characteristics already, but she takes great delight in hearing about them from people who love and serve her husband with the same selflessness that she does.
To this day Hanuman continues his service. He glorifies Rama and His wife through continuously chanting their names. He gives guidance to the sincere devotees, passing down knowledge of the Divine that is perfect and capable of dissipating the darkness of ignorance. The Vaishnavas are benevolent in this way. They are eager to speak about God. They want very much for the descending process to continue. For the individual, the key is to be receptive to that knowledge, to be sincere in the desire to hear.
For knowledge different ways to send,
One going up, the other to descend.
Latter method effective the best,
But from authority source the test.
Of Rama and Lakshmana Hanuman could tell,
Since from eyewitness accounts knowledge to him fell.
Sita eager to hear, despite already knowing,
From Vaishnavas succession continuously going.
Categories: hanuman the messenger