Book: MY HANUMAN CHALISA
In the Ramayana, Lakshman is horrified when Shabari offers him berries after tasting them to check if they are sweet; he considers the food contaminated, but Ram has no problem eating the berries for he rises above such cultural meanings and is able to recognize that they exist in context and are not universal.
This reminds us that Hanuman has no desire to impress anyone. His knowledge and powers exist to help others, materially and spiritually; else he is happy being monkey.
Each jati isolated itself, like most tribal communities around the world, by not permitting marriage with outsiders, thus protecting its knowledge system, which was its source of income.
In the Puranas, on the other hand, the three worlds refer to earth, the celestial regions (Swarga), home to the devas, and the nether regions (Patala), home to nagas and asuras. Initially, there was not anything negative about the nether world. The two were just different. But gradually, perhaps under the influence of Christianity, or Islam, as society became increasingly linear in its worldview, the devas came
Problems arise when there is misalignment between what we think, what we do, and what we say—when we are forced to repress our feelings and pretend.
One day, Hanuman asked Sita why she marked her forehead with a red dot. She told him that it was a sign of her love for Ram. Hanuman concluded that the colour red indicates the chemistry (rasayan) between devotee and deity. Hanuman wondered how much red colour he would need to indicate his love for Ram, since he was a mere monkey, and a servant, far lower in stature to Sita, the consort of Ram. He finally decided to colour his entire body with red powder, which is why Hanuman images are coloured red in temples dedicated to him, it is believed. Deities associated with the Goddess, such as Ganesha (her son) and Hanuman (her guard), are typically coloured red, a colour usually associated with the Goddess.
When the atma shines, we don’t crave wealth, power or knowledge, as we are wealthy, powerful and knowledgeable, like Ram and Hanuman, we are happy in the palace as well as in the forest. When the atma shines, the other matters more than the self. And it is the other who decides who is a leader. Ram does not want to be the leader. Hanuman, however, wants to follow Ram. To realize this is to realize Ram’s chemistry (rasayan).
The idea of living multiple lives distinguishes the Indic faiths from Abrahamic faiths. In Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, we live multiple lives, whereas in Judaism, Christianity and Islam it is believed that we live only one life. In one-life cultures, we have one life to lead a perfect life; in multiple-life cultures, every life is an outcome of the ones that came before. In one-life cultures, the quest is to align oneself to the rules of God revealed through His messenger; in multiple-life cultures, the quest is to either stop the cycle of rebirths, or overpower the suffering that comes as a carry-over from each life. In one-life cultures, God is outside, watching us, loving us, judging us, as we live our one and only life; in multiple-life cultures, God is within, awaiting discovery patiently over multiple lives.
In Hindu mythology, even God is not outside the realm of karma. In the Naradeya Purana, one hears the story of how once Narada asked Vishnu to give him Hari’s face. Hari is a proper noun, the name of Vishnu, as well as a common noun, referring to a monkey. Narada wanted Vishnu’s face to impress a princess but Vishnu gave him a monkey’s face. When the princess saw Narada’s new face she burst out laughing. When Narada discovered Vishnu’s prank he cursed Vishnu that when he would descend on earth as Ram his success would depend on a monkey. So it came to pass that Ram needed Hanuman’s help to find Sita and overpower Ravana. Curse is a mythological tool to explain karma. Even Vishnu, who is God, cannot escape the reaction to his actions.
In folk retellings of the Ramayana, Ravana had locked up Shani, lord of Saturn; Mangal, the god of Mercury; and Preta-raja, or Mahakala, or Yama, lord of disease and death, under his throne. Hanuman released them and so Shani, Mangal, and Mahakala are in Hanuman’s debt. If one prays to Hanuman on Saturday, the day associated with Saturn, then Shani, who delays things, does not assert his malevolent force. If one prays to Hanuman on Tuesday, the day associated with Mercury, then Mangal, who causes strife, does not assert his malevolent influence. And if one worships Hanuman at night, when Preta-raja rules, then disease and death, caused by negative energies and black magic, fail to act.
The gods are already in our heart and around us. It is upto us to discover them, both without and within. Hanuman Chalisa begins with acknowledging the Hanuman outside. It ends with acknowledging the Hanuman within. What does this mean in practical terms? To understand this we have to remind ourselves that all living creatures are consumed by hunger and fear. In humans, this hunger and fear is amplified infinitely by imagination. To cope, we use imagination to invent technology and gather resources. But all the resources in the world do not explain the purpose of our life. We remain restless. We either cling to wealth, or use power to dominate others.