Tigers Among Men

[Lakshmana and Rama]“Those two tigers among men anxiously desire to see you. Searching the whole earth, they came together with us.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.23)

tāvubhau naraśārḍūlau tvaddarśanasamutsukau |
vicinvanau mahīm kṛtsnāmasmābhirabhisamgātau ||

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The living entity, the spirit soul, the atma, is known as sarvaga. This means that it can go anywhere. With great difficulty man attempts the journey into outer space. They require a costly rocket ship, built just perfectly to withstand the long and difficult journey. At the individual level, there is the need for oxygen tanks . With these artificial means man can temporarily inhabit foreign areas, including deep below the surface of the water.

Yet the artificial means are not necessary. There is life everywhere. The soul of the fish is the same in quality as the soul of the bird. One flies through the air while the other cannot survive outside of the water. The change in location occurs through time, which operates according to karma, or fruitive work. The soul is covered by the material nature, prakriti. The prakriti changes based on the factors of time and karma, which are influenced by the living being, jiva.

There is variety to the species. There are those that don’t move, like the trees. Then there are those with many legs, like the insects. There are those without any legs, like the birds. Among the four-legged animals, there are those who are more ferocious than the others. The lion is the king of the jungle. It instills fear through a simple roar.

[tiger]The tiger is one of the feared animals. It is non-vegetarian; it eats other animals in order to survive. The tiger kills its prey; it does not rely on others to do the dirty work. Though the tiger lacks features of civilized behavior, it nonetheless gets enough food to eat. Based on animal instincts alone, it can survive.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman refers to two brothers as tigers among men. The exact word is narashardula. Nara means “man” and shardula means “tiger.” The description is used as a way to illustrate the prowess of the two brothers. If they need to attack, they do so with domination. They do not suffer defeat in battle.

The description is appropriate to the context. In Lanka, it appeared that the Rakshasas were tigers among men. They indeed feasted on the flesh of other living entities, up to human beings in fact. The leader Ravana and his men would attack innocent sages living in the forests. They would attack in the dark of night, use deadly force, and then consume the dead bodies.

Unlike tigers, man is supposed to use discrimination. They have dominion over the animal kingdom for sure, but with power comes responsibility. Parents have dominion over the children, but this doesn’t give them license to kill and eat the children. In the same way, the civilized human being doesn’t have the sanction to cause needless suffering to others in order to satisfy the tongue.

The behavior of the Rakshasas was actually cowardly. It was more the way of snakes than tigers. The true tigers among men were Rama and Lakshmana, brothers coming from Ayodhya. Hanuman describes them in this way to reassure Sita that Ravana and his men would be defeated. The Rakshasas would be like the prey to the tigers walking the earth as human beings. Those tigers would act according to dharma, or duty. They would provide the just punishment that was due Ravana, who had perpetrated an iniquitous deed in stealing Sita away in secret.

“Lakshmana, who is His [Rama’s] brother from a different mother, is very powerful. That tiger among men is Rama’s assistant and the destroyer of enemies in battle. His brother named Lakshmana follows the Vedic principles with firm determination. Carrying a bow in his hand, he has renounced his home in order to follow Rama along with myself.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 47.18-19)

[Lakshmana and Rama]Sita herself had previously given a similar description of Lakshmana. This was when she was speaking to Ravana one time. The word she used was vyaghra, which is another Sanskrit word for tiger. Hanuman and Sita thus shared the same opinion of Rama’s younger brother. Great minds think alike.

Rama and Lakshmana were on the hunt for the fiend who took Sita after she had gone missing. The search for her led them to Hanuman and his Vanara friends in Kishkindha. Rama is the Supreme Lord in His incarnation made famous through the Ramayana and other authentic Vedic works. Rama and Lakshmana are one. Rama is God who is offered service, and Lakshmana is the aspect of the divine that offers the service. They are identical in that they share the same interest.

[Lord Vishnu]The Supreme Lord can be as gentle as a feather and as ferocious as a lion. In His four-handed form of Vishnu, He holds the lotus flower, the conch, the club and the disc. The former two items are symbols of peace; they are for the pleasure of the devotees. The latter two are weapons; they are used for the protection of the devotees. Each item is actually the same in nature; they are glorious in their own right. For the protection of the devoted souls, the Supreme Lord brings the swiftness and attack capabilities of the tiger, who easily triumphs over the miscreants, who act more like cowardly jackals. Ravana had no respect for God or His property, and so He was soon to reap the punishment for that costly mistake.

In Closing:

Thinking that God’s property could take,

Ravana soon to reap punishment for mistake.

Though seemingly getting away then,

Approaching fast were tigers among men.

Rama with Lakshmana younger brother,

Complexion only difference between each other.

Hanuman and Sita the same description using,

Appropriate term of tiger for them choosing.

Categories: hanuman the messenger

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