“After hearing my words, Raghava certainly will come here very soon, with a great military force consisting of a host of monkeys and bears.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.34)
śrutvā eva tu vaco mahyam kṣipram eṣyati rāghavaḥ |
camūm prakarṣan mahatīm hari ṛṣka gaṇa samkulām ||
- “This golfer is so great. He has won every major tournament. The Masters is played at the same venue each year, and it has a rich tradition. But most of these other tournaments switch venues. Yet this golfer continues to win. In warm weather, in the wind, on an American course or a Links style – it doesn’t matter.”
- “This tennis player is amazing. They win the biggest tournaments, against the best players. The surfaces change throughout the year. On one end is the fast, indoor hard court. On the other is the slow, red clay. There is grass to contend with, as well. This player wins on every surface. It doesn’t matter the weather conditions, either.”
- “This person is so smart they don’t need to rely on textbooks, the internet, or other reference materials. They can figure things out quickly. Both theoretical and practical, they are a genius. If you need help on anything, they are the first person to consult.”
In this way we have different ways of measuring greatness. Put a person in different conditions, which is the way of material nature, as it is ever-changing, and see how they fare. Greatness in this regard is measured in comparison to others. If there were no such comparisons made, everyone would be considered the same.
One name for the Supreme Personality of Godhead is Adhokshaja. The best translation for this word is “one whose qualities cannot be measured by blunt instruments.” A simple example is height. You take a ruler or some measuring tape, go from head to toe, and you have the height measurement. With the Supreme Lord this is not possible.
“Everywhere are His hands and legs, His eyes and faces, and He hears everything. In this way the Supersoul exists.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.14)
One reason is that in His plenary expansion as the Supersoul, God is everywhere. It’s like the electricity running throughout the town. It comes from a single source but maintains its identity. Still, electricity is inanimate and lacking intelligence. The Supersoul is everywhere, the same in identity, and supremely powerful. Without the sanction of the Supersoul nothing we see take place would occur.
There is no way to properly measure the distance covered by the Supersoul. And since this feature is an expansion, there is an original source. Known as Bhagavan, He is full of opulence. You can go to the temple and measure the size of the statue worshiped. This is the archa-vigraha, and it is considered a special incarnation of God. Nevertheless, Bhagavan is never limited to that size. The statue is there for the benefit of the conditioned souls; it is a sign of God’s mercy.
In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana we get another way to measure God’s greatness. This is more of an assessment in comparison than a true measurement. Here the messenger Shri Hanuman says that Raghava, which is another name for Rama, will soon march to Lanka. Rama will arrive as soon as he hears the report from Hanuman, who bravely travelled to Lanka to find and comfort Rama’s missing wife Sita.
Sita was missing due to the efforts of the king of Lanka, Ravana. The city was well-guarded. Ravana was a Rakshasa, which is a human-like species known especially for cannibalism. The Rakshasas in Lanka had special powers. They were expert in black magic, which augmented their already enhanced fighting ability.
Hanuman says that Rama will bring a massive army with Him. No big deal. That is to be expected. The interesting part is that the army will consist of many bears and monkeys. It is on this point that the comparison is made. God is so great that He can win a war against the best fighters in the world using just monkeys and bears for help.
That army will use trees and rocks as their weapons, while the other side will fire amazing arrows. The bears and monkeys will win since they are on the right side. They are empowered by bhakti, devotion. And not just any bhakti. Rama-bhakti. Rama is also Vishnu and He is also Krishna, hence the terms Vishnu-bhakti and Krishna-bhakti are interchangeable.
The Sanskrit word used for monkeys here is hari. This is also another name for God, meaning “one who takes away distresses.” The distress is Sita’s, and Hari Himself will come to punish the offenders, being helped by His hari servants.
Hari coming with many haris His own,
To win with rocks and trees alone.
Since by bhakti empowered,
Enemy in battle devoured.
This feat way to measure one,
Person with limits existing none.
Handicap Him this way and that,
Enemy still for Him no match.
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