“Hearing the words of Sita, keeping his joined palms to his head, the son of the wind, of tremendous prowess, spoke the following words in response.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.32)
sītāyā vacanam śrutvā mārutiḥ bhīma vikramaḥ |
śirasi añjalim ādhāya vākyam uttaram abravīt ||
In this verse from the Ramayana, the word bhima is used. This Sanskrit word is also a name of a famous fighter. One of the five Pandava brothers, Bhima had tremendous strength. He was an offspring of the wind-god, Vayu. Wind is so powerful that it can knock down tall buildings. One who has control of the wind within the body is able to do amazing things. This is one of the benefits to the meditational yoga practice of pranayama.
“And there are even others who are inclined to the process of breath restraint to remain in trance, and they practice stopping the movement of the outgoing breath into the incoming, and incoming breath into the outgoing, and thus at last remain in trance, stopping all breathing. Some of them, curtailing the eating process, offer the outgoing breath into itself, as a sacrifice.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.29)
Bhima also means “fearful” or “tremendous.” This Ramayana verse references another son of the wind. Known as Hanuman, he is a brother to the Pandava Bhima, but appearing on earth many years prior. He also is very powerful.
Hanuman’s vikrama, prowess, is bhima. It is both tremendous and awe-inspiring. Proof is in the journey to Lanka, where the son of the wind leaped over a massive ocean. He first increased the size of his body, which is that of a Vanara, or forest-dwelling monkey.
That leap across the ocean is tremendous in a good way for the saintly class. Hanuman was on a mission. Shri Rama was looking for His wife, Sita Devi. Many Vanaras in Sugriva’s army were enlisted for the cause, but only Hanuman had the required ability to succeed in the end. He was blessed by the Supreme Lord, who is the ability in man, paurusham.
“O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.8)
The leap was terrifying to the opposition. If Rama had one servant who could do this, what would happen if an entire army of capable fighters were to come to Lanka? There was apprehension over this happening, since the leader of Lanka had taken Sita there against her will. He had committed the worst sin, and time was ready to strike at the appropriate moment to deliver justice.
Despite having amazing ability, Hanuman here again shows his humility. Having heard sweet and appropriate words from Sita, after having just met her, Hanuman is preparing to respond. First, he makes sure to fold his hands and keep them upraised, on his head. This is a great sign of respect.
Hanuman knows that his abilities are only as good as the cause. Since they are used in God’s service, there is no false ego, ahankara. There is no pride that deludes the consciousness. Ravana, on the other hand, explicitly sought abilities from the creator Brahma. Though knowing that there was a benefactor, Ravana afterwards behaved as if he were a self-made man, very proud of his fighting prowess.
Humility is one quality that endears a person to God. Earning His favor is the most important. Who doesn’t prefer to be liked? Barring the heel character from professional wrestling, who makes it their business to intentionally irritate as many people as possible?
The person most worth impressing is the Supreme Lord. His Divine Grace Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura taught that one should act in ways that God will notice them instead of actively chasing a Divine vision. Hanuman is the perfect example in this regard. He saw God face to face, in the incarnation of Rama, and that wasn’t the end. He continued in service, acting fearlessly, using his tremendous prowess when necessary, and always maintaining the utmost humility.
Most amazing by him done,
Which could be repeated by none.
Over the ocean leapt,
But humility still kept.
When meeting Sita and hearing,
Appropriate and words endearing.
Preparing to respond before,
Bringing folded hands to fore.