From the Jacket
Once again Vanamali has brought out a unique offering for the English speaking public of India and abroad. Sri Hanuman Lila is the first book in English which portrays the character of the Monkey God fully and his exploits from birth to the present age where he is still supposed to be doing tapasya in the Himalayas.
This book will be a great boon to all devotees of Hanuman and of Lord Rama.
Swifter than the mind, Louder than thunder, Stronger than adamantine, Searing like fire, Braver than the bravest!
Cool as the breeze, Soft as the clouds, Kind and compassionate as a mother,
With dulcet tones,
Singing the glories of Rama,
O Hanuman! Pray accept this gift from Vanamali,
For thou art indeed the beloved of Vanamali!
Sri Vanamali is a rare being. She is a Devotee of the Lord in all His forms who has been blessed with the compassionate desire to communicate His Lilas to the English-speaking world.
In the West, there are many new devotees who desperately need access to the revered ancient scriptures of India. Sri Vanamali comes as the cool breeze of grace, filling the hearts and minds of the thirsty devotees with the stories of the Lord’s joyous play. In this book on Sri Hanumanji, as in all her other books, she gives us access to the inner world of our beloved’s Lilas.
Sri Hanuman is the greatest of all devotees of the Lord. He is a Jnani in the fullest sense of the world. He has merged with his Lord, Sri Rama, in his own being and He sees his Lord in everything and everyone. His realization of the truth does not end there.
As Sri Krishna says,
“And when he sees me in all and sees all in me,
Then I never leave him and he never leaves me.
And he, who in this oneness of love
Loves me in whatever he sees,
Wherever this man may live,
In truth, he lives in me…”
This is the key to understanding Sri Hanuman. He serves Sri Rama in all beings, by removing the obstacles for those beings who realize the truth in themselves. He sees that, in fact, there ARE no “other” beings but only Rama. Motivated by love born of truth, which manifests as compassion for beings who believe themselves to be separate, he words tirelessly to remove their suffering.
Another mystery of Sri Hanuman was revealed by Sri Neeb Karori Baba to one of his great old devotees, Dada Mukerjee. A small party of devotees had, along with Maharaj ji, climbed to the top of Hanuman Dhara in Chitrakut. They rested by the spring that comes out from the rock at the top of the hill.
Maharaj ji said to Dada, “This is where Hanumanji came to become calm and to cool himself off, after burning Lanka.”
Then after a few seconds he said very softly, as if to himself, “Of course Hanumaji was always at peace.”
No matter what he was doing, burning Lanka, destroying the demons, singing Ram Naam or serving the devotees, Hanuman was never outside of Sri Rama’s being.
May the Lord be gracious to all.
Sri Krishna Das is well known to all lovers of music especially in the West, for his numerous recordings of heart-rending devotional lyrics. Even though he is known as Krishna Das, yet he can as easily be called Ram Das or Hanuman Das since he is a devotee of both.
Yatra Yatra Raghunatha Kirtanam
Tatra Tatra Krita Mastaka anjalim
Bashpavari pari purna lochanam
Marutim nammascha raakshasantakam
“I bow to Maruti, the destroyer of demons,
Who stands with folded palms,
In all the places where the glories of Sri Rama are sung,
Shedding tears of devotion and joy”
Modern science may claim to have traced the mechanical laws of evolution, but the ancient rishis of India discovered the spiritual laws of eternal values called the Sanatana Dharma, which is the divine thrust inherent in the human psyche enabling it to attain greater heights of evolution. This is the great contribution which India has made to the world, inspiring in the human being a strong desire to shake off his humanity and bring to light the divinity which is inherent in him. This is what is known as enlightenment. Age after age, India has produced enlightened souls who have continuously renewed and refreshed this great dharma - the Sanatana Dharma - and made it available to the whole of the human race. The sages desired that our country should progress not just materially but through a constant inner renewal of the cosmic law of righteousness, guided by the wisdom embedded in our heritage.
The epics and Puranas of this country are thus store-houses of wisdom and by reading them our spiritual evolution will be hastened. Truth is a matter of direct realization by our own individual efforts but the sages gave us many different methods to attain it. These saints were great souls who were far above the vulgar herd who want to see their names emblazoned in anything they write. Thus, their names remain a mystery. We can only show our gratitude to them by trying out the many paths which they gave us.
We find a great urge on their part to share their vital experiences with all those who have the hearts to understand. This experience is the highest available to the human psyche and is known as brahmajnana. The knowledge by itself is not the aim of life. It has to become a living understanding in which we actually experience the unity of life underlying all living beings - in fact the entire cosmos. From this is born an overwhelming love for the whole of creation and a burning desire to see human beings free themselves from the strangling limitations and illusions of this waking world of our common experience. This type of love is totally unselfish, characterized by a deep desire to share their most cherished possession with the whole of humanity and thus we see that the rishis tried every means in their power to enable our tragic and ignorant human race to acquire that which was the sumum bonum of human life. Every human being is nothing but a reflection of the divine. Involvement in the illusions of this world alone stops us from realizing our divinity.
The Upanishads give the path of jnana or wisdom, which is difficult for many to follow. They appeal only to those who are already endowed with great spiritual earnings. However, it is said that the Absolute, timeless and formless presence descends to this mortal plane in the form of the gods for certain mysterious purposes of its own. This is known as the lila or the play of god. The sages who came after the age of the Upanishads were determined to cater to the majority of human beings who might not have any spiritual leanings at all. They resorted to bringing the truths of the Upanishads forcibly to the minds of the average human being in the form of stories. The sage Vyasa, the author of the Mahabharata, was the greatest of these story-tellers. He said that if we listen carefully to a story, we will never be the same again. The story, especially if it has some spiritual basis will worm its way into our heart and break down our self-constructed barriers to the divine. Even if we start off by reading these stories as an entertainment, one or two of them will eventually slip through our defences and explode the hard shell of our humanity and disclose our divinity. These stories have an inexhaustible vitality in them so that people are never tired of listening to them. They can be listened to or read and pondered over and thus they are capable of promoting in the listener a deep understanding of life, death and destiny. Every story had implicit in it a moral value, which is likened to the fragrance of a beautiful flower. The rishis taught us that all forms are the letters of a form-world-power alphabet of a language which can help us to realize our spiritual reality, which is unconditioned by any form and yet is the supreme source of all forms.
The path of bhakti, or devotion to a personal God, is forcibly brought out in the Puranas or epics which tell stories of the great incarnations and of all the numerous gods of the Hindu pantheon, which are completely in tune with truth of life. The culture of the Indian sub-continent was developed in the climate of these great epics. Every child was taught to emulate the classic examples given therein and thus bring his or her own life to perfection. The Hindu mind had no difficulty in picturing the Supreme in the form of an animal or of a human. Thus, we find Ganesha, depicted as a human being with the head of an elephant, and Hanuman, who was a monkey.
Hanuman is one of the most beloved figures in the Hindu pantheon of gods called Kimpurushas, who are actually animals but behave like humans. He is the symbol of utter and selfless devotion to his supreme deity, Sri Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu, scion of the solar race, the pinnacle of human perfection. Hanuman’s entire strength came through the repetition of the name of Rama, the greatest mantra for this age of Kali, which if chanted with devotion, is said to give liberation from the coils of mortal life. Every temple of Rama has a figure of Hanuman seated at his feet bowing to him. Wherever the Ramayana is read or recited, a seat is left vacant for Hanuman since it is believed that he is always present at the reading of the story of his beloved master.
The Sanskrit word sadhana means any method by following which the aspirant or sadhaka can establish contact with the inner realms of her being. One of the easiest methods of sadhana is known as japa or the repetition of the name of God in whatever form we picture him. Hanuman gives us the picture of an animal that attained perfection solely by chanting the name of Rama, his personal deity and of utter and complete self-abnegation of his interests to that of his Lord and god - Rama. Humility and selflessness is a measure of our knowledge. The more we know the more we realize how little we know and how little we can do by ourselves.
According to legend, Hanuman is the son of the Wind God. Air sustains all living beings. One can exist without food, spend days without water, but it is impossible to exist even for a short time without air. Air is life. Therefore, Hanuman is also called ‘Pranadeva’ or the God of breath or Life.
Vaishnavites believe that the Wind God Vayu underwent three incarnations to help Lord Vishnu. As Hanuman he helped Rama, as Bhima he assisted Krishna, and as Madhavacharya (1197-76) he founded the Vaishnava sect known as Dwaita.
In Hindu symbolism, a monkey signifies the human mind, which is ever restless and never still. This monkey-mind happens to be the only thing over which man can have absolute control. We cannot control the world around us but we can control and tame our mind by ardent discipline. We cannot choose our life but we can choose the way we respond to it. Truly Hanuman is symbolic of the perfect mind, and embodies the highest potential it can achieve. He is the true picture of the sthitha prajna (man of steady intellect) of the Bhagavad-Gita and had perfect control over his mind. The name “Hanuman” gives a clue to his character. It is a combination of two Sanskrit words, bonan (annihilation) and man (mind), thus indicating one who has conquered his ego. According to yoga, the body is only an extension of the mind. Hence, Hanuman who had perfect mastery over his mind had the mot developed body. He is Bjrangabali (one whose body is like a thunderbolt and whose movements are like lightning). He is so strong that he can lift mountains, and so agile that he can leap across the sea.
His strength is proverbial and thus he is the patron of physical culture. His image is enshrined in gymnasiums all over India and wrestlers worship him before commencing their practice. The yogasana known as Surya namaskara, or salutation to the Sun God, is a mixture of all the main yogic postures combine with devotion and was composed by Hanuman in honour of his celestial guru, Surya.
Vayu, his divine father taught him pranayama or the science of breath control, which he is turn taught to human beings.
The scriptures refer to several events where Hanuman exhibited his power over the celestial bodies including the sun and Saturn. Hence, he gained power over the navagrahas or nine planets. These planets are Ravi, the sun; Soma, the moon; Mangal, Mars; Buddha, Mercury; Brihaspati, Jupiter; Shukra, Venus; Shani, Saturn; the bodiless, Rahu and the headless, Ketu. Their alignment in the astrological chart of a human being is supposed to decide a person’s destiny. In many of his images, Hanuman is shown trampling a woman and holding her by her braid. This women embodies ‘Panavati’ or baneful astrological influences.
Sorcerers manipulate cosmic powers to invoke malevolent spirits. People normally call upon Hanuman to protect them from such people. When Ravana invoked tow such sorcerers, Ahiravana and Mahiravana, Hanuman turned the tables on them and invoked the power of Kaali to subdue them. Many Tantrics worship him because he has many siddhis, or supernatural powers, like the ability to change his size and ability to fly, etc. which he gained through his strict brahmacharya and tapasya. Thus, he displays the dual characteristics of bhakti and Shakti. Either one or the other is given prominence in his shrines.
He is also the patron of Ayurvedic healers since he played a vital role is saving Lakshmana’s life by bringing the magic herb from the Himalayas. He later saved Shatrugna’s life also with the same herb.
As a warrior, Hanuman has no parallel. He uses both strength and guile to overpower the enemy. This was exhibited many times during the war with Ravana. He used both brawn and brain to achieve victory over his enemies.
Hanuman was also a master diplomat. He knew how to speak sweetly and make others see his side of the matter, without the use of force. Hence, he was Sugriva’s spokesman when he approached Rama to find out his intentions. Again Sugriva sent him to try and subdue Lakshmana’s anger at his own lapse. Rama sent him as his envoy to Sita twice, once to Lanka carrying his signet ring and again to fetch her after the war. He also sent him to Bharata to find out his intentions before setting foot in Ayodhya-All those who came into contact with him were most impressed by his diplomatic method of talking and beguiling ways.
Hanuman impressed both Rama and Ravana by his mastery over language, his grammar and his ability to use the right word at the right moment and in the right context as well as his perfect diction.
Strangely enough, he was also a great musician. He had been blessed by the goddess Saraswati and was thus able to play on the lute and sing lyrics in praise of Rama. He was the first to sing bhajans, songs of adoration and kirtans, songs of praise. His music was an outpouring of his great love for his beloved master and hence had the power to even melt rocks.
Hanuman is the perfect example of a student. He was totally focused. Hard-working, humble, determined and brilliant. He flew to the solar orb in his determination to have the Sun God, Surya as his guru. However, he never flaunted his brilliance and scholarship but always sat at the feet of Rama - ever the humble servant.
Hanuman had no desire for name or fame. He preferred to live in mountains and caves. He practiced total brahmacharya, which was very strange in a simian. Even when he lived in the palace he lived like a hermit, never indulging his senses. This was what gave him so much spiritual power.
He was also a hatha yogi since he practiced yogasanas and pranayama. He was a laya yogi since he knew how to control his mind with mantras and yantras. Thus he acquired many siddhis or supernatural powers.
If yoga is the ability to control one’s mind, then Hanuman was the perfect yogi, having perfect mastery over his senses, achieved through a disciplined lifestyle and by a strict adherence to celibacy, brahmacharya and selfless devotion, bhakti. He controlled his mind through absolute faith in the divine. Every event in his life was a gift from his master to be accepted without question. His life is a classic example to be followed by all devotees of God in any form. He shows us how a devotee should spend his or her life so as to reach the Supreme. He symbolizes the pinnacle of bhakti and Hindus consider him to be the eleventh avatara of Rudra or Lord Shiva. Once it is said that Narada asked Brahma who he considered to be the greatest devotee of Vishnu. No doubt the sage was hoping that his name would be suggested. However, Brahma directed his to Prahlada, the king of asuras for whose sake Vishnu had taken a special avatara as Narasimha (the man-lion). Prahlada, with his characteristic humility, told him to go to Hanuman who he thought to be the greatest devotee of Vishnu since he chanted the name of Rama constantly.
Hanuman was a perfect karma yogi since he performed his actions with detachment, dedicating everything to Rama, his God. He was totally free from any desire for personal aggrandizement. In the whole of the Ramayana there is no incident in which he did anything for himself. All his feats were for the sake of others. When he described the war to his mother, she childed him for not killing Ravana and rescuing Sita by himself for that would have made him more famous than Rama. Hanuman replied that his life was not given to him to gain fame for himself but for serving Rama. His utter selflessness comes into great prominence when he saw how dejected Valmiki was by his work and without hesitation threw his own immortal classic into the sea.
Hanuman spent his entire life in the service of others. First he served Sugriva, then Rama. He personifies bhakti through dasya bhava or the attitude of the servant. This type of devotion is the perfect instrument to destroy the ego. He performed his duties humbly and modestly and with great devotion. He chose not to marry and have a family of his own so that he could devote himself entirely to the service of others. He never exceeded his orders even when he was capable of doing so. For instance, he could easily have killed Ravana and conquered Lanka on his own, as his mother said, but he refrained from doing so since he wanted to be the true servant and obey his master’s order.
He is one of the seven chiranjeevis (those who live till the end of this cycle of creation). He is noted for his mighty intellect and is supposed to be the only scholar who knows all the nine vyakaranas (explanation of the Vedas). He is supposed to have learnt the Vedas from the sun god himself. He is the wisest of the wise, strongest of the strong and bravest of the brave. He had the power to assume any form he liked, to swell his body to the size of a mountain as well as to reduce it to a thumb nail. One who meditates on his will attain power, strength, glory prosperity and success in life.
Hanuman is the epitome of wisdom, continence, bhakti (devotion/faith), valour, righteousness and strength. His indispensable role in reuniting Rama with Sita is likened by some to that of a teacher helping an individual soul realize the divine
Rama himself describes Hanuman thus: “Heroism, cleverness, strength, firmness, sagacity, prudence and prowess and power have taken up their abode in Hanuman.”
Sage Agastya endorsed this view when he said to Rama, “What you say regarding Hanuman is true O Raghava! None else is equal to him in might, speed or intelligence.”
He is easily reachable - just by chanting the mantra ‘Rama’. Conversely, it is also held that the easiest way to attain Lord Rama is to worship Hanuman.
He is worshipped on Saturdays and Tuesdays, which are associated with Shani and Mangal, Saturn and Mars. Both these planets are associated with death and war and known to disrupt human life by their malefic influence. His offerings are simple. Sindoor (red lead), til oil (sesame), in the north and garlands of betel leaves in the south. In the south his idols are often pasted with butter, which strangely enough never melts even during the hottest summer. He is also adorned with garlands of rice and dal doughnuts (vadas).
The reason for the vermilion paste will be given in the chapters that follow. But esoterically speaking, red is the colour of strength and virility. Til oil is used by wrestlers and gymnastics to massage their body. Butter and dal are sources of protein and generate energy, stamina and muscle.
The two scriptures which are read by all Hanuman devotees are the ‘Sundara Kanda’ of the Ramayana, where he discovered Sita in Lanka and the forty verses of the Hanuman Chalisa by Tulsidas. Wherever the Ramayana is read, a special seat is always reserved for Hanuman since the belief is that he will always be present at such a reading.
What are his physical characteristics? Is he the black-faced langur or the red-faced Bandar? Sometimes he is described as a golden monkey with a red face. His face is supposed to have turned black when he wiped his face with his tail after destroying Lanka.
His tail is arched upwards and is the symbol of strength, agility and virility. He wears earrings made of five metals, gold, silver, copper, iron and tin. He came to the world adorned with these. Normally he wears only a loin-cloth in the manner of wrestlers and body builders. His images usually show him saluting Rama or standing guard and displaying his strength as he holds the mountain in one hand and his mace in the other.
The Hanuman Chalisa declares categorically that there is no blessing that he cannot bestow. Sita granted him the power to bestow the eight siddhis and nine types of wealth on others. However, the greatest boon one can ask of Hanuman is the uplifting of the spiritual qualities that he himself is known for.
Having polished with the dust of my master’s feet, the mirror of my heart, I narrate the pure fame of Raghupati (Rama), which bestows life’s four desires. Considering myself to be devoid of intellectual merits, I invoke Sri Hanuman, the son of the wind god. Bestow on me strength, intelligence and knowledge. Remove my bodily ailments and vicious qualities. (And allow me to write this book).
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