“Hearing those wonderful words from the best of monkeys, Maithili’s every limb was thrilled with joy. She then spoke to Hanuman as follows: O Hanuman, how can you desire to carry me such a great distance? Verily I think this is due to your apishness, O chief of the monkeys.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 37.28-29)
maithilī tu hari śreṣṭhāt śrutvā vacanam adbhutam |
harṣa vismita sarva angī hanūmantam atha abravīt ||
hanūman dūram adhvanam katham mām voḍhum icchasi |
tat eva khalu te manye kapitvam hari yūthapa ||
Risk your life. Take a dangerous journey. There is no precedent. There is no guidebook to consult. The library didn’t have, “How To Jump Across Oceans For Dummies,” in stock. Indeed, no one else in a group full of capable and brave soldiers as part of a Vanara army could even give the idea a thought.
Hanuman wasn’t ready to, either. He was just as upset as the rest of them, who had travelled so far in search of Shri Rama’s missing wife, Sita Devi, only to meet the obstacle of the material element of water, in abundance. They didn’t have a boat, and neither did they want to wait so long to travel by such means.
After being reminded by Jambavan of the amazing powers gifted from childhood, Hanuman expanded his form and jumped from a mountaintop. Like a yogi temporarily liberated from their material body, the devoted servant of the Supreme Lord took the aerial route. This was not to show off. This was not to chase after an out of body experience. Indeed, devotees of the Lord would rather spend time with Him than enjoy any of the perfections arriving from mysticism.
“Whether it be residence on top of a palace, traveling on airplanes, or flying through the sky (via yogic powers), in all circumstances the shade of the husband’s feet is by far superior.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 27.9)
Hanuman was devoted to Rama. A devotion spontaneous and without cause. That is to say there was nothing in it for the chief minister to the monkey-king Sugriva. Hanuman had pure devotion. It would stand to reason that after meeting God you would want to stay with Him. Better to bask in His aura, to be guaranteed of His protection from close by, than to travel to foreign territories where people would kill you if they recognized you.
Hanuman is such a selfless person that he does whatever is asked of him. He did not stay in one place and meditate on the lotus feet of the prince of Ayodhya. He did not sit in a secluded area and chant the holy names. There would be time for that later. The moment called for action, namely proceeding in a dangerous mission.
Hanuman succeeded. There was difficulty, for sure. There were moments of self-doubt. There was a brief contemplation on the option of ending life, rather than returning a disappointment. He persevered and the reward was meeting Rama’s wife, who was in great distress.
Hanuman felt so much pain seeing her condition that he proposed taking her back with him. This was an on-the-spot decision, not carefully thought out. Nevertheless, the sentiment was well-placed. It is something like a parent seeing the suffering of their child and taking any and all risks, even at great financial loss, to reduce that pain even a slight amount.
From the above referenced verses from the Ramayana, we see Sita’s initial reaction. She was thrilled in every limb. There was harsha, or great happiness. Hanuman’s words did not offend her, and yet her reply was offensive to him. She essentially said that his idea was not very intelligent. It must have been because he was a monkey that he could even consider it.
This was the thanks Hanuman received? No appreciation? No praise for doing things no human being could do, let alone a monkey? Hanuman did not take offense. The wife of Rama still addressed Hanuman as the chief of monkeys. This means that she knew he was something extraordinary.
Reciprocation might not always be immediate in bhakti-yoga. Pure devotion sometimes requires withstanding obstacles, impediments, barriers, and even personal insults. As events would unfold, the world would witness the great love and appreciation that both Sita and Rama feel towards Hanuman, who is the eternal guardian of their kingdom, ready to offer his recommendation for any person willing to serve in the same spirit.
Dangerous ocean elements braving,
All for wife of Shri Rama saving.
Then foreign city of Lanka through,
Small form after previously grew.
Now from her suffering to see,
Rescue now, “Return with me.”
Personal insult immediate thanks getting,
Table only for appreciation setting.