Friday, October 2, 2009

Extraordinary Hanuman

Once a young girl named Anjana was cursed to take the form of a monkey, until the day she would give birth to a god. And so she prayed every day for this child, and finally the gods Shiva and Parvati heard her, and ordered Vayu, the wind god, to grant her this divine pregnancy. Thus was born Hanuman, with the form of a monkey and the powers of a God.

One day when Hanuman was still young, he was playing outside in the yard. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a flash of yellow and thought: "mmmm... a mango!" And sure enough when he looked up into the sky he saw a bright yellow ball - the sun - and he thought to himself: "THAT is the BIGGEST, JUCIEST mango any monkey has ever seen!!". And so Hanuman set out towards the sun, determined to take a bite out of this most perfect of mangoes.

However as Hanuman approached the sun, he interrupted the planet Rahu, who was also on his way towards the sun to cause a solar eclipse (don't you hate it when that happens...). Hanuman, flying out of control, collided with Rahu, who became convinced that Hanuman was trying to usurp his place in the cosmos! Rahu ran to Indra, the Lord of the Skies, to complain. And so Indra took a lightening bolt and threw it at Hanuman, who was knocked back to Earth and broke his jaw. Now, when Vayu saw what had been done to his son, he became very sad and withdrew his wind from the world. But without wind, the world wilted, and so the great God Brahma intervened. To make amends, Brahma healed Hanuman's broken jaw, and granted upon him eternal life. All the other Gods also granted Hanuman with special powers and protections.

However, there was one catch. Hanuman would not remember his special powers until, unaware of his magical protections, he tried to perform an act of great selflessness which would cause him to remember his true nature. Until that day he would live in ignorance of his gifts.

And so, unawares of his magical powers, Hanuman grew up. He studied hard, mastering all the scriptures, and became a great devotee of Lord Rama. One day, the terrible demon Ravana kidnapped Rama's beloved wife Sita. Hanuman immediately vowed to help Rama rescue Sita, and set out with an army of monkeys to find Sita and tell Rama of her whereabouts. The monkeys journeyed far, seeking Ravana, only to come to a vast ocean that separated India from Ravana's kingdom, Lanka. Seeing the ocean, Hanuman was disheartened - how could he cross it? But he had vowed to Rama to try, and thus prepared to undertake this impossible feat. Seeing his truly selfless devotion, one of Hanuman's companions reminded him of his true powers - and Hanuman, restored to his full self, made the vast leap accross to Lanka, setting in motion the chain of events that would lead to Sita's rescue and Ravana's destruction.

The symbolism of this 'catch' holds the key to the emotiveness of Hanuman's tale. The monkey is a symbol for the human mind - which, like Hanuman, can be fast and cheeky, easily distracted. In the Hindu world view, as humans we are all living in a state of forgetfulness of our true nature, which is pure, noble and divine. Hanuman was a Karma Yogi - he did not act for his own good, but devoted everything he did to a higher ideal, never wanting or seeking reward. This story is telling us that by training our mind and acting selflessly - devoting our actions to a higher benefit, we can unlock our own forgotten nature.

I like this story because the deeper message is that inside, we are all extraordinary beings! Thus to become our true, amazing selves is not a question of doing or achieving, but simply of remembering who we really are. :)