“O best of the Vanaras, you are mighty. You are capable. You are intelligent, for by yourself you have infiltrated this place of the Rakshasas.” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.7)
vikrāntaḥ tvam samarthaḥ tvam prājñaḥ tvam vānara uttama |
yena idam rākṣasa padam tvayā ekena pradharṣitam ||
“Monkeys helping to build a bridge. Flying around the world, searching for a missing princess. Joining together to form a somewhat civilized society, with an acknowledged leader whose name means ‘auspicious face.’ Isn’t this all just mythology, with symbolic meaning? Isn’t it possible that Valmiki wrote the Ramayana to teach hidden truths in an easy to understand format?”
While this logic is appealing to the less informed, there is proper authority from which to get confirmation. From Vedic literature there is a preponderance of evidence of the eminently proficient use of time of the great scholars. They weren’t fiction writers, as that would fall under the category of maya, or illusion, for which the human being has the urgency and capability to escape.
The Ramayana is a wonderfully crafted Sanskrit poem of epic length that details historical events. That poem has endured through the generations due to the nature of the main character, Shri Rama. He is an incarnation of God, and just as a great leader will do, the Supreme Lord automatically teaches through the example that He sets.
“Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.21)
In the portion of the work dealing with the monkeys in the Kishkindha forest, Shri Rama highlights His ever-compassionate and loving nature. No one is prohibited from offering service. Surely, the human birth is an advantage over the animal species, but then there are varieties. Not every person is intelligent. Not everyone has the same strength. Does this mean only certain people are eligible for liberation?
Actually, as confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita, even what is considered a low birth does not present an impenetrable barrier to reaching the highest achievement possible. The mind is consumed with thoughts for sense gratification when in the body of a laborer. As a merchant, there is constant attention on profit. No amount of wealth is ever enough.
“O son of Pritha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth-women, vaishyas [merchants], as well as shudras [workers] – can approach the supreme destination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.32)
Imagine, then, the obstacles in the monkey form of body. Still, those that Rama befriended were not ordinary. One of the Sanskrit words used to describe them is Vanara. The literal meaning is “forest dweller.” We don’t know monkeys that talk, but this doesn’t mean that millions of years ago the species were as limited as they are today. These Vanaras were monkey-like, but they could interact with Shri Rama, who is the best friend of every living entity.
The above referenced verse of the Ramayana gives the certification of “Best Vanara” to Shri Hanuman. The certifying authority is Sita Devi, who is Rama’s wife. Amazingly, she has had little interaction prior to making this pronouncement. Just from the nature of the place she was staying, against her will at that, she could understand that the Vanara who reached it was certainly the best.
This fact was already known to Shri Rama. He invested all hope in Hanuman to find Sita, who had gone missing while in the forest of Dandaka. She was there with Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana. Hanuman left for the search with so many other Vanaras, his friends who were loyal to the Vanara-king, Sugriva. Hanuman looked like the moon amidst many stars.
“Then taking with him the leading monkeys of great strength, that monkey, the brave son of the wind-god, looked like the moon of pure orb in the sky after the parting of the clouds, brightened by a cluster of stars. (Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 44.16)
Hanuman found Sita in Lanka, and to prove the authenticity of his intentions, he gave to her a ring with Rama’s name inscribed on it. Receiving it Sita became bashful, as she felt like Rama was in her presence. The Supreme Lord has this amazing ability. His presence is felt through something as basic as a ring. Indeed, the Ramayana is adored today for this very reason; it is like being with Rama.
Sita is also with the Supreme Lord, as is the dearmost servant Hanuman. Sita says that Hanuman is prajnah, or intelligent. She says he is capable and mighty, as well. She knows these to be true because Hanuman has entered Lanka all by himself. The land is populated by Rakshasas. This is another interesting species. The Rakshasa is like a man-eating ogre.
Another name for Rama is Uttamashloka. This means one “who is praised by the best verses.” Think of the most amazing poem you have heard in your life. That is somewhat comparable to Vedic literature. The verses in Vedic literature singing the praises of the Supreme Lord are identical to Him.
It is no wonder, then, that Rama is also served by the Vanara-uttama. Hanuman’s amazing work continues to this day, as he is always chanting the holy names and inspiring others to follow the same imperishable path of devotion.
Like moon amidst stars in a cluster,
In Lanka summoning all courage to muster.
Though Rakshasas infesting that land,
Hanuman focused on task at hand.
Prajna, with intelligence a lot,
Finally Sita’s presence he got.
Then best of Vanaras does say she,
To this day still glorious is he.