“Abandoning his beggar form and reassuming his monkey form, the elephant among monkeys [Hanuman] placed those two heroes on his back and departed.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 4.34)
भिक्षुरूपं परित्यज्य वानरं रूपमास्थितः।
पृष्ठमारोप्य तौ वीरौ जगाम कपिकुञ्जरः||
bhikṣurūpaṃ parityajya vānaraṃ rūpamāsthitaḥ।
pṛṣṭhamāropya tau vīrau jagāma kapikuñjaraḥ ||
“Do you ever envy people who lived in the past? I understand that every generation has their set of problems. Tyrannical governments. Impure substances in the drinking water. Horrific conditions in the factories for work. Forced experimental medical treatment. Religious persecution, discrimination based on skin color, compulsory deployment in a foreign war, etc.
“I am having a difficult time today. It took me a while to pinpoint the exact cause of the distress. I think it is the preponderance of distractions. It seems that wherever I go, I never get enough time to focus and concentrate.
“Even on something you would consider to be generally peaceful, such as a train ride to the office, I am forced to suffocate as a condition of entry. At the office itself, there is one person after another walking by. I can’t help but overhear the conversations that others have.
“In the past, it seems like people could sit in one place and have open and honest discussions. They could read books, from start to finish, without interruption. They were not bombarded with fake images and false stories from the television, which stays in the ‘on’ position from morning until night.
“These distresses are part of normal living, for lack of a better term. How is anyone supposed to succeed in spiritual life, then? How are they supposed to implement restraint, in the form of acceptance of vairagya, when there is no peace? I am pretty sure there is a related Bhagavad-gita verse, which asks the question rhetorically.”
नास्ति बुद्धिर् अयुक्तस्य
न चायुक्तस्य भावना
न चाभावयतः शान्तिर्
अशान्तस्य कुतः सुखम्
nāsti buddhir ayuktasya
na cāyuktasya bhāvanā
na cābhāvayataḥ śāntir
aśāntasya kutaḥ sukham
“One who is not in transcendental consciousness can have neither a controlled mind nor steady intelligence, without which there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be any happiness without peace?” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.66)
The current period of time is known as Kali-yuga for a reason. It is not simply an identification based on juxtaposition to other time periods. There are accompanying qualities; a lack of auspiciousness. Dharma stands on only one leg, so the table is not sturdy.
Meditation [dhyana] was the ideal way towards success in a previous age. It can still carry a person to the spiritual world today, but the implementation is not ideal. Even five thousand years ago, that path was not recommended for the distressed bow-warrior named Arjuna.
For Kali-yuga, the recommendation is harinama. Chant the holy names of Hari. Chant either out loud in the open or softly in a secluded place. A basic room in the house suffices. A person needn’t travel to a remote cave or drop everything and take up residence in a holy place.
The distractions seem to increase with the passage of time. Even fifteen years ago, there was a much better atmosphere for concentration. There was not constant reliance on an electronic gadget, a device which is utilized so much that it appears to be joined at the hip.
If there are too many distractions to chant the holy names in a meaningful way, a person can always remember. What exactly should they contemplate? There are too many inspiring, bliss-inducing images to give a complete list, but we can take one from the Ramayana, for the purpose of analysis.
This image shows a person in a monkey form, large in stature, holding two youths on his shoulders. The youths are grown men, but beautiful in appearance. They are of the warrior class, holding their preferred weapons, bow-and-arrow.
The monkey has the mark of devotion, tilaka, on his forehead. He is not strained or under duress, as would otherwise be expected from holding heavy objects on the shoulders. This person is eager to carry forward, to bring the two youths, who are brothers, to the top of a mountain.
This single image speaks volumes about spiritual life. In our relationship with God, it is not always the small approaching the big. We are not required to ask for one thing after another. We can agree to offer service. If we are eager enough, the object of service will become smaller in stature, to accommodate our desires.
He is never in need. He is never poor. He is never weak. He is never in ignorance. He is never a beggar. He is never lost. He is never under the control of someone else. He is never the less powerful force in the relationship.
Yet, someone like Hanuman can carry God on their shoulders. They can do so with pride and joy, as if they are reuniting with a long-lost family member. They can put forth a plan of action and have God agree to participate, which essentially guarantees success.
We can remember this image day after day and not get bored. We can keep that image in the heart, so as to never misplace it. We can maintain that image on the forefront of the consciousness, through to the time of death, vaulting us back to the spiritual kingdom, in the same way that Hanuman took those brothers up the mountain to meet with Sugriva.
With distractions in mind,
Where peace not to find.
Seemingly joined to the hip,
Afraid gadget from pocket to slip.
How to concentrate when?
Is plight hopeless then?
Just image of Hanuman keep,
Where carrying brothers to leap.