“You crossed over the ocean of one hundred yojanas wide, the reservoir of sharks and alligators, as if it were a small puddle.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.8)
śata yojana vistīrṇaḥ sāgaro makara ālayaḥ |
vikrama ślāghanīyena kramatā goṣpadī kṛtaḥ ||
Try losing weight. Try eating healthy. Try doing a better job at work. Try to improve your grades. Try to reduce stress. In this way the human being tries so much, with varying degrees of success and failure. The worst of it all – at the end the cycle renews. Based on the consciousness at the time of death, the living entity gets another type of body; i.e. the next life. The subtle body – consisting of mind, intelligence and false ego – come along, like the air carrying aromas.
“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.8)
Rebirth is often called reincarnation, and the concept need not be relegated to the “mystical” category. There is reincarnation going on at every second. I am not the body. I am spirit soul; aham brahmasmi. Brahman is pure. It is everlasting. It is unchanging. Brahman never can be killed. Brahman remains the functional unit of existence, within every sphere.
Within a single lifetime, with the body changing at every second and the external matter shifting constantly, it is a struggle to find peace and happiness. Compounding the difficulty is the reset triggered by the event known as death.
For these reasons and more the cycle of birth and death is described in Sanskrit as the samsara-chakra. It is like a spinning wheel of suffering. The spinning continues, fueled by the desires of the person on the wheel. Another comparison made is to a vast ocean. The ocean of suffering, in which can be found many different species, i.e. body types.
“For one who has accepted the boat of the lotus feet of the Lord, who is the shelter of the cosmic manifestation and is famous as Mukunda or the giver of mukti, the ocean of the material world is like the water contained in a calf’s hoofprint. Param padam, or the place where there are no material miseries, or Vaikuntha, is his goal, not the place where there is danger in every step of life.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.14.58)
Shrimad Bhagavatam has an interesting verse regarding the size of the material ocean. With all the suffering and rebirth going on, obviously in terms of crossing over that metaphorical ocean is very large. But when there is the shelter of the Supreme Lord, through surrender, then that same ocean becomes the size of a small puddle. More specifically, it is the puddle of the size that fits inside the hoof-print of a calf.
The Supreme Lord is Mukunda, which means “the giver of liberation.” Mukti, or liberation, is the end to the cycle of rebirth. More than just getting free from the ups and downs of a life in duality, no more having to accept a material body. No more having a dividing line in identity, between body and spirit.
The above referenced verse from the Ramayana gives tangible proof of the promise. Here Sita Devi is praising Shri Hanuman, who is a dear servant of the Supreme Lord in His incarnation of Rama. Hanuman has the shelter of Rama. It is noteworthy that the existence of that shelter doesn’t necessarily prevent work. It doesn’t bring protection against having to take up difficult tasks. The difference is in the nature. The devotee is assured eventual success due to the desires within; they only want to please God.
He kindly obliges. Sita praises Hanuman for crossing a vast ocean. This ocean was one hundred yojanas wide, which is roughly eight hundred miles. That ocean was filled with makara, which can refer to sharks or alligators. The mention is intentional. The ocean Hanuman crossed was not only vast, but dangerous as well.
How did Hanuman cross it? Using almost the exact same comparison, Sita says Hanuman made that ocean seem like the size of a puddle. The Sanskrit word used is goshpada. This is the puddle filling the print left by a cow. Hanuman was able to do this due to the grace of Rama. He figuratively crossed over the vast ocean which tried to prevent him from serving the beloved husband of Sita. That ocean was dangerous, with many obstacles placed along the way. Hanuman was able to overcome them.
To this day he continues in that service, helping the sincere souls who wish to similarly cross the ocean. The suffering borne of the many distractions to the mind vanishes in full surrender, and Hanuman helps in inspiring the service that brings the surrender. His amazing ability is verified by someone who knows him very well.
As best of Vanaras to certify,
His amazing ability can verify.
Since onward in mission kept,
When over vast ocean he leapt.
Logic and sound reasoning to befuddle,
By turning eight hundred miles into puddle.
By Rama’s grace anything can do,
Continues still to help devotees too.