“I offer my obeisances unto you, O daughter of Daksha. Indeed, I have entered your mouth, and the truth of the boon granted to you has been maintained. I shall now go to where Vaidehi is.” (Hanuman speaking to Surasa, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 1.169)
A true hero doesn’t speak much. The idea is that if you are confident in your abilities, if you know that you can accomplish difficult tasks, then there is no reason to go on and on talking about it. There is also the saying, “The empty can rattles the most.” There isn’t much there, so to compensate the person keeps boasting as a way to distract. Create fear when there really is no reason to be worried.
Shri Hanuman is a genuine hero, and his abilities are amazing. He possesses the mystic perfections of yoga, and he can use them at any time. One of those siddhis is the ability to become very large. Since he is so humble and pure at heart, Hanuman only exhibits that ability when necessary, when the shape shift is helpful in his service to the Supreme Lord Rama.
1. When ready to leap over the ocean
From the Ramayana we learn that Hanuman didn’t even know about these abilities for a long time. Something like having a million dollars in the bank but still worrying about how to find money for food and shelter, there was a wealth of ability residing inside him, just waiting to be used.
There was a curse previously applied to Hanuman, so that he would only be able to use these abilities when reminded. That reminder came from Jambavan, and at a very opportune moment. A group of Vanaras from the Kishkindha forest were on the verge of success in an important mission. They were tasked with finding Sita Devi, the missing wife of the prince named Rama.
The group received valuable intelligence information. Sita was on the island of Lanka, held there against her will by the Rakshasa king named Ravana. The problem now was that the island was far away from the shore. The monkeys had no ability to cross the ocean.
Except for Hanuman. After the reminder from Jambavan, Hanuman expanded his form so as to be able to leap across. Using the top of a mountain as his launching pad, the fearless servant was on his way.
2. When encountering Surasa
That large form was coursing through the sky, but there were some impediments. A female demon had received the benediction from the gods that no one would be able to pass by her without first entering her mouth. This usually meant that she would eat such a traveler.
Hanuman used his intelligence by asking Surasa to expand her mouth to be able to fit his size. Then his own size started to increase more and more. When Surasa’s mouth was sufficiently enlarged, Hanuman quickly became diminutive again, entering and exiting her mouth before Surasa could close it. Problem solved.
3. When meeting Sita for the first time
Hanuman finally found Sita, in a grove of Ashoka trees of all places. She was naturally skeptical at first, as there were fakers all around her. That was how Ravana had succeeded in taking her in the first place. The wicked ten-headed one masked his real rupa, or form, and assumed that of a wandering mendicant. This was to fake innocence, to keep others in a neutral or accepting position.
Hanuman was a Vanara, which is a monkey-like person. Even more reason to be skeptical of the claims that he was sent by Rama, Sita’s husband. After her favor was won, Hanuman felt great empathy for her plight. He thought maybe she could return to Rama’s side, that he could bring her back with him. He proposed the idea, but she rejected it. He then expanded his form to show that he was indeed capable of crossing the ocean, that she should have no reason to worry.
The sentiment was appreciated, as there were only good intentions. But Sita did not want to have contact with a man other than her husband. She also wanted the glory of rescue to go to her beloved, which Hanuman wanted as well.
4. When meeting Bhima
Years after the incidents of the Ramayana, the Pandava warrior named Bhima was roaming through a particular forest. He came upon an impediment on his path. Something that looked like a giant log, Bhima was unable to move it, despite having great strength.
That object was actually the tail of Hanuman. He knew that Bhima was coming and set up the roadblock on purpose, to protect the Pandava from harm that awaited up ahead. The two were actually brothers, both born of the wind-god Vayu.
After learning that it was Hanuman, Bhima felt great appreciation. He repeatedly asked to see the large form that Hanuman had used to cross the ocean in Rama’s service. Hanuman was reluctant, but seeing the persistence he finally acquiesced.
After made repeated request,
Hanuman finally acquiesced.
That large form to brother showing,
Who from stories the prowess knowing.
Once also when ocean to cross,
And past demon Surasa across.
Ability only for Shri Rama using,
Proper time and place choosing.
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