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Lord Hanuman: What we can learn from this beloved God

Lord Hanuman, a central figure in the Ramayana, is known for his extraordinary devotion, strength, and loyalty. As a divine vanara or monkey god, Hanuman is crucial in assisting Rama, a prince and avatar of Vishnu, in rescuing Rama’s wife, Sita, from the demon king Ravana.

But who was Lord Hanuman, and how does he and his actions fit into Advaita philosophy? 


Birth of Lord Hanuman

Hanuman’s family history, as recounted in the Ramayana and various Puranas, involves a blend of celestial influence and divine blessings. His father, Kesari, was a vanara chief and a brave warrior. His mother, Anjana, a beautiful apsara (celestial nymph), was cursed by a sage to be born on earth as a female monkey.

Desperate to relieve her curse, Anjana performed intense penance to please Lord Shiva. Moved by her devotion, Shiva granted her the boon that she would be freed from the curse upon giving birth to an incarnation of himself. He decreed that the child would be born due to the blessings of Vayu (the god of wind) and that he would embody the characteristics of Shiva himself.

Anjana consumed sacred pudding (payasam) carried by Vayu and thus conceived Hanuman. The divine essence of Lord Shiva, combined with the power of the wind god Vayu and the celestial nature of Anjana herself, culminated in the birth of Hanuman, who was also named Anjaneya (son of Anjana).

Hanuman’s birth story highlights themes of redemption, the fulfillment of divine promises, and the interconnections among various elements of the cosmos, as represented by the gods involved in his birth.

 

Heavenly characteristics

Hanuman was born with divine physical strength, stamina, and the power to fly. Thanks to the divine aspects of his lineage, he could change his form at will. His unwavering faith and selfless service to Rama and Sita in the Ramayana exemplify perfect courage, devotion (Bhakti) and selflessness.

Hanuman is considered a chiranjeevi, or immortal. It is believed that he lives on earth to protect and inspire the devotees of Rama.

 

Advaita’s perspective on Hanuman

Advaita Vedanta, a school of Hindu philosophy that emphasizes non-duality, offers a unique perspective on many deities, including Hanuman.

In Advaita Vedanta, all forms are seen as manifestations of the same underlying reality (Brahman). Therefore, the devotion of Hanuman to Rama transcends personal attachment and becomes a symbol of the soul’s devotion to the supreme self. Hanuman’s exemplary devotion is seen as an allegory for the jiva (individual soul) realizing its oneness with Brahman (the ultimate reality), personified by Rama.

Hanuman’s acts, especially his leaps of faith and selfless service, are interpreted as the jiva’s journey towards Moksha (liberation) through realizing its true, divine nature.

Hanuman as a model of Bhakti: In Advaita, the path of Bhakti (devotion) is one approach to realizing oneness with Brahman. Hanuman is often cited as the perfect devotee (Bhakta), whose Bhakti is pure because it is devoid of personal desire and wholly focused on the divine.

His devotion is not just to the form of Rama but to the universal self that Rama represents. Therefore, Hanuman’s Bhakti is also a form of Jnana (knowledge) because it stems from recognizing Rama as the supreme Brahman.

Symbolism for faith and spiritual growth: His leap to Lanka in the Ramayana can be seen as a metaphor for the leap of faith each soul must take toward spiritual growth and the ultimate realization of its divine nature. His strength, intelligence, and powers symbolize the attributes the soul can manifest upon realizing its unity with Brahman.

Teachings and influence: Hanuman teaches that true power and freedom come from humility and recognizing one’s divine nature. His life prompts devotees to look beyond the physical and the phenomenal, urging a deeper inquiry into the nature of self and reality.

His chant, “Rama,” is not just the name of his lord but a mantra that encapsulates the essence of Brahman. It aids in the dissolution of the ego and the realization of the self’s non-duality with the divine.

 

Examples where Hanuman demonstrates non-duality

In the Ramayana, Hanuman demonstrates several profound examples of non-duality, embodying the idea that the individual soul (Atman) is inherently non-distinct from the universal soul (Brahman).

Meeting with Rama: When Hanuman meets Rama for the first time, he recognizes Rama not just as another exiled prince but as the Supreme Being incarnate. This recognition is not based on external appearances but through spiritual insight, reflecting the Advaitic view that true knowledge (Jnana) comes from the inner realization of the divine presence within all.

Leap to Lanka: Hanuman’s mighty leap to reach Lanka symbolizes transcending physical limitations and the dualities of existence. His faith and reliance on Rama’s name during this leap illustrate that surrendering the ego (the individual self) to the divine (the universal self) can bridge the seeming divide between the individual and the absolute.

 

Burning of Lanka: Hanuman’s journey to Lanka to find Sita and his subsequent act of burning Lanka are significant displays of his capabilities. Yet, he remains humble and devoted, attributing all his power and accomplishments to Rama. This selflessness and surrender to Rama are seen in Advaita as the dissolution of ego (Ahamkara), which is essential for realizing non-duality.

Bringing the Sanjeevani Herb: When Lakshmana is wounded in battle, Hanuman is tasked with fetching the Sanjeevani herb from the Himalayas. Unable to identify it, he lifts the entire mountain, demonstrating his extraordinary devotion and power. This act symbolizes the Advaita principle that when one operates from a state of unity with the divine, there are no limits to what can be achieved. It also represents lifting the mountain of ignorance and realizing the underlying unity of all beings.

Presentation of the Ring: Before leaving for Lanka, Rama gives Hanuman a ring as a sign of identity to be shown to Sita. Upon meeting Sita, Hanuman presents the ring and recounts Rama’s plight. This moment highlights the Advaita Vedanta perspective, where Hanuman acts as a medium through which the individual soul (Sita) reconnects with the supreme soul (Rama), emphasizing the reunion of the separated with the eternal essence.

 

Hanuman’s devotion as non-dual worship

Throughout the Ramayana, Hanuman’s devotion is portrayed not merely as worship of a distinct deity but as adoration of the universal self, Rama. His services are acts of love performed in the spirit of non-duality, where the lover and the beloved are one.

These instances from the Ramayana not only illustrate Hanuman’s roles and achievements but also align closely with the teachings of Advaita Vedanta, showcasing how devotion (Bhakti) and knowledge (Jnana) are intertwined paths leading to the realization of non-duality (Advaita). Hanuman exemplifies this through his actions, which teach that ultimate liberation is the realization of one’s inherent oneness with the divine.

 

Excerpts by Swami Chinmayananda

HANUMAN represents a perfect man of education and culture, proficient, efficient, and ever a go-getter. Nothing seems to be impossible for him. To think is to act for him; to conceive is to achieve. Yet, this beautiful characterization, all along Ramayana, so tenderly handled and dandled by the sensitive poet Valmiki, has been deliberately wrapped up in the outer anatomical shell of a monkey!

Any sensitive literature student will be compelled to pause for a moment to wonder, “Was it a monkey?” To suggest this question in the readers’ mind, Valmiki himself describes him as, “is he a man?” (VA – Nara?). The symbolism suggested is clear to all deep students of our spiritual texts, who are familiar with our cultural diction and trained to be sensitive in Indian traditions of poetry.

Monkeys represent THOUGHTS, and the similarity is that both are restless (chinchilla) and unsteady (asthma). Of all thoughts, the very minister of Su-greeva (sushtu greevam — well reined), now in exile was HANUMAN, extremely erudite and scholarly. Yet, this thought-personality cannot bring out its potential might and beauty, albeit serving as the minister to “Self-Control”. Knowledge and erudition, with moral restraint and physical control, is the highest from the standpoint of material education and according to the systems of worldly education. Yet, Valmiki demonstrates that all the inherent potentialities can blossom only when that knowledge bows down to Rama, the Spiritual Essence!

From the moment Anjaneya meets with Rama, Ramayana distinctly reveals a mysterious unfoldment of great powers, an explosion of inconceivable merits and beauties in that apparently ridiculous and seemingly insignificant form of a monkey. However wise and intelligent we may be, even when that wise man has character and self-control, it is not all. Only when these thoughts move, in utter devotion and total loyalty towards “that which revels in everything” (Rama), can all the inherent potentialities divine get a chance to blossom.

Thereafter, as the loyal servant of Sri Rama, the personality of Hanuman unfolds its infinite strength and endless beauty for all generations to watch. Yet, in himself, he remains outwardly a “va-nara” and inwardly a steady and total devotee. Every hair on his body was heard to whisper the divine name of RAMA.

Hanuman’s mind was always totally involved in singing Rama’s name. Centred in Rama, he acted. For Rama, he achieved. Rama’s glory was his only glory. There stands now the puny monkey, larger than life: greater than the greatest, the eternal devotee, his strength, his wisdom, his love, and his all, dedicated totally to Rama. Thereafter, we detect the Supreme expressing through this insignificant-looking monkey, making us all wonder, “is it a man (Va-nara)?” or “is it a God (Va-deva)?”

HANU is “killing,” and MAN is “vanity.” So HANUMAN can be interpreted as someone who has destroyed his vanity. Though a monkey, he has risen to the stature of a Divine God, only because of his PHYSICAL READINESS TO SERVE THE CAUSE, MENTAL DEVOTION TO THE CAUSE, and INTELLECTUAL CONSISTENCY OF FAITH AND PURPOSE IN THE CAUSE. Whoever brings out these sincerities in his actions, even if he be a monkey, will certainly unfold himself to reveal his divine stature and might. Such an individual is the Child of “Pavana,” the Lord of Storms — the Might of the mighty!

Victory over the “animal” can be gained, even if you are Sri Ramachandraji, only with the help of HANUMAN, the monumental strength of perfect “Brahmacharya.” Control the Indriyas; delve within. Cross the Sethu—the distance between the DIVINE that you want to become and the animal you ‘are’ now!

When you lead a life in complete surrender to Lord Rama, then the strength that rises from within you, THAT IS HANUMAN. When love, beauty, erudition, courage, determination and success come to your life from a source beyond the body, mind and intellect, THAT IS HANUMAN. When you reach your life’s goal, like a sure-shot arrow from Sri Rama’s bow, THAT IS HANUMAN.

Grace of Rama Dhoota Bhakta Siromani Hanuman brings Health, Devotion and Spiritual Success. We need them all on the Path Divine. Keep Him always within your heart as the situation demands, chanting the Lord’s name in times of peace and in the face of imposing challenges, for that is where He belongs!!

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