“O sinless one, certainly, how can any king accomplish his objectives if he doesn’t have such a messenger working for him?” (Shri Rama speaking to Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.34)
एवं विधो यस्य दूतो न भवेत्पार्थिवस्य तु।
सिद्ध्यन्ति हि कथं तस्य कार्याणां गतियोऽनघ
evaṃ vidho yasya dūto na bhavetpārthivasya tu।
siddhyanti hi kathaṃ tasya kāryāṇāṃ gatiyo’nagha
“I am absolutely fascinated by the Hindu culture. Yes, I understand that you use the term ‘sanatana-dharma’ instead, that Hinduism is more a misappropriation from an outsider’s perspective. They don’t know exactly how to label that timeless way of living, so they relegate it to the category of faith, as familiar to so many around the world.
“Within that culture, the deity of Shri Hanuman is most interesting to me. I find that he receives universal adoration. That is to say, whichever sect you belong to, whoever your primary object of worship is, there is only a positive opinion of that monkey-god, for lack of a better term.
“Hanuman is considered the greatest servant of Shri Rama, who is an avatara of the Almighty. Hanuman risks everything in his service, and he seeks no remuneration. No fame. No fortune. No lasting name, though he has these things automatically due to association.
“In trying to explain the character and story of Hanuman to people outside of the Hindu realm, there are the obvious cultural barriers. Others may not be willing to believe that a monkey-like figure, expanding his shape at will, speaking in Sanskrit, carrying mountains in his hand, leaping over oceans and the like, could be real.
“Is there an analogous character you can think of from another tradition? Someone to whom Hanuman would be compared, as a way to get the conversation started. Otherwise, if you hear about Hanuman, he would seem too good to believe.”
The truth is there is no one like Hanuman even within the Vedic culture. Spanning the history of the world, the countless people who have spent time here and left a lasting impression, the objects of worship, the revered saints and the like – Hanuman stands tall.
One way to tell is the content of the Ramayana poem. This work is named after the main character, Shri Rama. The author, Valmiki, received the encouragement to compose from the creator, Lord Brahma. There was a previous moment of inspiration for Valmiki while seeing a krauncha bird killed unnecessarily and without compassion by a hunter. Valmiki uttered a verse out of nowhere, and that came to be known as shloka. That was essentially the origin of poetry.
Valmiki then put shloka to the proper use – glorifying the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He made the jewel of Sanskrit literature that is the Ramayana even prior to many of the events taking place. He had Divine inspiration.
Though that work focuses on the prince of Ayodhya, Shri Rama, we see that an entire section is dedicated to Hanuman and his travels to Lanka, in search of Sita Devi, Rama’s missing wife. It is known as the book of beauty, Sundara-Kand. Though in a Vanara form, Hanuman is supremely beautiful as a result of his pure devotion.
That dedicated servant chooses to remain on this earth for as long as Rama’s glories are told. This means that he is close by, ready to help in our struggles against the illusory material energy. He could choose to stay in the spiritual kingdom eternally, always next to the Divine couple, basking in their direct association.
Instead, he daily reads from the Ramayana, setting the proper example for the human civilization. There is no one like him, nor will there ever be, but he is not the exclusive property of any single group of people. Just as the sun beams its rays across the entire world, so the splendid example of devotion that is Shri Hanuman is ready to assist every person struggling to cross over the ocean of nescience.
For comparative analysis in mind,
Wondering in other traditions to find.
A Hanuman-figure to resemble,
For proper understanding to assemble.
But truth that not even in Vedas to be made,
Who voluntarily in this world stayed.
For as long as Rama’s glories told,
Sacrifice immeasurable and untold.