“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 ||
“Could someone make the argument that Hanuman is actually stronger than God? We have the image of him holding the two brothers on his shoulders. Rama is the avatara of Vishnu and Lakshmana the incarnation of Ananta Shesha Naga from the Vaikuntha realm. They play their roles as one would expect.
“That is to say it is not surprising that Rama is the best bow-warrior in the world. He is so strong that He is the only person in the world who can lift the mighty bow of Lord Shiva passed down in the family of King Janaka. He can defend against fourteen thousand fighters attacking simultaneously.
“Lakshmana is similarly capable, except he intentionally suppresses the exhibition of strength as a way to honor his brother. Rama is the eldest brother, and so the younger three follow. Hence they are known as Ramanuja.
“There is the famous depiction of Hanuman holding those brothers on his shoulders. The first time is in the initial meeting, in the forest of Kishkindha. There are other moments, later down the line, when he acts in a similar capacity. Hanuman is the most dedicated servant.
“Does that not invalidate Rama’s position, though? He is small in stature compared to the expanded form of Hanuman. Rama requires assistance to reach the top of Mount Rishyamukha. He needs help in building a bridge of floating rocks. He takes the aerial car known as Pushpaka in order to return home to Ayodhya. Connect the dots.”
If that instance of accepting service from His devotee were to invalidate God’s proper standing, then no one would be eligible for offering service. There are demigods in charge of the material creation. They are like high officials in the administration of the universe.
If Vishnu were truly Supreme, then He wouldn’t need government officers, right? He is held in the hands of the brahmanas worshiping His deity form. He has a certain height and weight when roaming the material world, in His spiritual form, but there are always living entities who are larger in stature.
अवजानन्ति मां मूढा
मानुषीं तनुम् आश्रितम्
परं भावम् अजानन्तो
avajānanti māṁ mūḍhā
mānuṣīṁ tanum āśritam
paraṁ bhāvam ajānanto
“Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.11)
The explanation is that the Supreme Lord is certainly capable of doing everything. He creates the universes, maintains them, and then annihilates them at the appropriate time, with minimal effort. To get an idea of how easy it is for Him, we have the image of Vishnu lying down in rest. Everything takes place through His breathing.
भूत-ग्रामः स एवायं
भूत्वा भूत्वा प्रलीयते
रात्र्य्-आगमे ऽवशः पार्थ
bhūta-grāmaḥ sa evāyaṁ
bhūtvā bhūtvā pralīyate
rātry-āgame ‘vaśaḥ pārtha
“Again and again the day comes, and this host of beings is active; and again the night falls, O Partha, and they are helplessly dissolved.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.19)
We also notice that there are limitations in the service that others provide. The demigods sometimes run into trouble. People worshiping the deity find obstructions along their path. The Vanaras have issues on the battlefield against the Rakshasas of Lanka.
It is these circumstances which warrant extraordinary movement from Vishnu. He appears as an avatara at the request of the demigods, when they are overwhelmed by the influence of the asura class. Though Rama accepts service from the Vanaras, His arrows are needed in the final moments, to defeat Ravana at last.
If Vishnu simply did everything all the time, what would be left for us? We would simply sit around, remain idle, and allow the negative emotions of the world to permeate our thoughts. On the reverse side, devotional service is an exhilarating engagement, even when there is apparently inaction.
कर्मण्य् अकर्म यः पश्येद्
अकर्मणि च कर्म यः
स बुद्धिमान् मनुष्येषु
स युक्तः कृत्स्न-कर्म-कृत्
karmaṇy akarma yaḥ paśyed
akarmaṇi ca karma yaḥ
sa buddhimān manuṣyeṣu
sa yuktaḥ kṛtsna-karma-kṛt
“One who sees inaction in action, and action in inaction, is intelligent among men, and he is in the transcendental position, although engaged in all sorts of activities.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.18)
Someone chanting the holy names by themselves inside of a cave cannot get enough of the process, so they continue on a daily basis: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Another person is out in the field, feeling the rush of the unknown outcomes in describing the glories of the Supreme to those who are in need.
Hanuman displays versatility and adaptability in his life in devotion. Sometimes he is descending from a mountain and taking the form of a beggar. Sometimes he is reciting beautiful Sanskrit verses, composed on the fly, in front of Shri Rama. Sometimes he is taking those brothers on his shoulders, to reach the top of a mountain. And sometimes he simply reads from the Ramayana, recalling the glorious events triggered by the descent of Vishnu as Dasharatha’s eldest son.
Versatility to know,
Like when as beggar to go.
Or Sanskrit verses to recite,
Or with tail city to ignite.
All by Vishnu’s advent facilitated,
For purpose of Rakshasas annihilated.
Thankful that mercy gave,
For that service to save.