Saturday, August 20, 2016

How to communicate effectively - Rama's insights on Hanuman

Rama and Lakshmana, after defeating Kabandha, set out in the direction of Pampa Lake with the hope of finding Sugreeva, per Kabandha's advice. They meet Shabari. After her ascent to heaven, they sighted the Pampa Lake. Rama's memories and sorrows get stirred at every step of the way. From the Rishyamukha peak meanwhile Sugreeva spots Rama and Lakshmana. Sugreeva is confined to Mount Rishyamukha due to fear of his brother, Vaali. He lived there with Hanuman and few other loyal companions. 
Seeing two strange men in a forest evokes deep fear in Sugreeva, despite hanuman's efforts. Sugreeva asks Hanuman to confront the strangers in disguise and learn more about their aspirations.
Hanuman assumed the persona of an ascetic. Approaching them, in a soft, pleasing voice greeted and praised the two valiant ones. Hanuman praised, "You two look like Rajarishis with the best of features. What brought you to this forest filled with animals?  Despite wearing hermit clothes, you both are brandishing very powerful weapons. Hanuman makes multiple verses of geuine praise, with no trace of flattery. Despite Hanuman's best efforts, he could not pry a single syllable from Rama-Lakshmana.
Let us take a moment to see Rama's masterclass in communication as described by Valmiki. Rama's speech pattern is described as Srutha Bhashi (One who spoke TRUTH at all times), Hitha Bhashi (One who speaks pleasant things to hear), Mitha Bhashi (Spoke very limited, as per the need) and Purva Bhashi (One who initiates the conversation, without waiting for others to begin a dialogue). We can see evidences throughout Ramayana in support of these traits of Rama. For instance, when Ravana was defeated on day one, Rama very briefly asked Ravana to go back that day and come back the next.  In another case when Soorpanaka comes in and abruptly asks who he was, Rama gives a very brief, yet completely accurate autobiography, thereby eliminating the need for a second question. So we have Rama, who already is well versed in the art of communication, simply smiling at Hanuman. The psyche of this silence is revealed in the upcoming slokas where Rama shares his deep insight about Hanuman's monologue.
Unable to make a dent in the silence maintained by Rama-Lakshmana, Hanuman mentions that Sugreeva, the virtuous monkey banished by Vaali lives on the mountain and has been delegated by him to seek the hand of friendship and that his name was Hanuman. Though it was a failure on part of Hanuman's plan, he was left with no other choice but inform his mission to Rama-Lakshmana.
It appears that the revelation of Hanuman's identity aids in Rama getting off the wonderment of Hanuman's speech. Following the Royal protocol of having a delegate talk to an ambassador, he directs Lakshmana to give a briefing to Hanuman. But before he lets Lakshmana get started, he shares some of his deep, insightful analysis of Hanuman to him (and us).
We may be finding it hard to find Rama, anywhere else in Ramayana, launching into an uncontainable, vivacious praising as highly as he does Hanuman. This is despite the fact that Rama is a good finder in everyone. We see this aspect when he instructs Vibhishana to cremate his fallen brother.


Rama's Observations on Hanuman

For this discussion, we will highlight the traits we want to dive deeper in these slokas.

तमभ्यभाष सौमित्रे सुग्रीवसचिवं कपिम्।
वाक्यज्ञं मधुरैर्वाक्यैस्स्नेहयुक्तमरिन्दम।।4.3.27।।
'O Saumitri, conqueror of enemies this monkey, Sugriva's minister, is skilled in friendly communication. Reply to him in words gentle and sweet.
वाक्यज्ञम् - vaakya j~nam - sententious one; good wordsmith
स्नेह युक्तम् - sneha yuktam – friendliness

 नानृग्वेदविनीतस्य नायजुर्वेद्धारिणः।
नासामवेदविदुषश्शक्यमेवं विभाषितुम् ।।4.3.28।।
Unless well versed in Rigveda, Yajurveda and Samaveda, for sure, it is not possible for anyone to articulate so well.

नूनं व्याकरणं कृत्स्नमनेन बहुधा श्रुतम्।
बहु व्याहरताऽनेन किञ्चिदपशब्दितम् ।।4.3.29।।
Surely, he seems to have studied well the whole of grammar, for there is not a single mispronunciation in his entire speech.
कृत्स्नम्  व्याकरणम्  - vyaakaraNam kR^istsnam - grammar, comprehensively
बहुधा श्रुतम् - bahudhaa shrutam - Studied in many ways
बहु व्याहरताऽनेन किञ्चिदपशब्दितम्
bahu vyaaharataa anena  na kimchit  apa shabditam - In his long speech, there is not a single mispronounciation or wrong choice of words
मुखे नेत्रयोर्वापि ललाटे भ्रुवोस्तथा।
अन्येष्वपि गात्रेषु दोषस्संविदितः क्वचित् ।।4.3.30।।
No fault can be found in his face, eyes, forehead, between the eyebrows or any other part of his body (during his expression).
मुखे in his face, नेत्रयोर्वापि in the eyes or, ललाटे on the forehead, तथा likewise, भ्रुवो between the eyebrows, अन्येष्वपि or anywhere, गात्रेषु parts of body, क्वचित् even a little, दोषः fault, संविदितः not found

उरस्थं कण्ठगं वाक्यं वर्तते मध्यमे स्वरे ।।4.3.31।।
His sentences are not too elaborate, not ambiguous, not dragging, not fast, raised in the chest or throat, in a medium tone.
वाक्यम् sentences, अविस्तरम् not too elaborate, असन्दिग्धम् not ambiguous, अविलम्भितम् not dragging, अद्रुतम् not fast, उरस्थम् raised in his chest, कण्ठगम् from the throat, मध्यमे medium, स्वरे tone
उच्चारयति कल्याणीं वाचं हृदयहारिणीम् ।।4.3.32।।
His words are auspicious. They are refined. Neither fast nor slow, his utterances captivate the heart.
संस्कारक्रमसम्पन्नाम् refined, अद्रुताम् not too fast, अविलम्बिताम् not too slow, कल्याणीम् auspicious, हृदयहारिणीम् captivating the heart, वाचम् language, उच्चारयति speaks
अनया चित्रया वाचा त्रिस्थानव्यञ्जनस्थया।
कस्य नाराध्यते चित्तमुद्यतासेररेरपि।।4.3.33।।
His speech raises from the three places (chest, head and throat, indicating it is not a weak lip generated one) His words are so enchanting that even an enemy with a drawn sword will be captivated.

Rama goes on to praise what a king can not achieve with such a wonderful ambassador.
Satchitananda’s Microscope

Rama in a few sargas before claims that he is the worst sinner and had to undergo so many traumas, unlike anyone before. A fact unknown to Hanuman is that Rama in clearly at the abyss of sorrow. Yet Hanuman’s words (One must go and enjoy the original slokas) bring such joy to Rama’s troubled heart that his enchantment makes him temporarily forget all his sorrows.

           Hanuman displays incredible wisdom. He earlier tried to dispel Sugreeva out of his baseless fear. When it failed, he donned the role of an emissary to assuage Sugreeva’s mental turmoil. His conduct and words place Sugreeva at a very high position in Rama’s minds. Rama was already in search of Sugreeva, per Kabandha’s advice. Yet it is Hanuman’s talk that swings heavily in favor of Sugreeva. In Bhakti tradition, Hanuman is playing the role of a Guru. Only a Guru can introduce a normal Jeevatma to the Paramatma. Hanuman dispels the darkness of vasanas in the jeeva that is ignorant of Paramatma’s leela. The Guru also aids in bridging the huge intellectual, bhakti gap that exists between the Karuna sagara and the alpa buddhi.
  • Being friendly in approach is the first trait of good communication.  Hanuman’s first impression on Rama is that of being friendly. All doubts and barriers even as strangers in a forest are removed. Hanuman proves to be an epitome of these traits elaborated in Bhagavad Gita in his next avatara.  
  •  Being a good wordsmith is at the heart of communication. Use of correct choice of words, which means having a better command of the vocabulary, is critical. The varying degrees of emotions may be captured better. This not only aids the listener as the communicator is able to capture his/her moods more accurately, but also builds a subtle connection and respect for the communicator.
  • Read our scriptures. The sad truth is communists, atheists and proselytizers are reading more of our scriptures than an average Hindu. Of course if one were to call Hindu one is considered communal, whilst others claiming their religion are minorities, even if they are extreme. This sad state has to change.
  • Adishankara sang Vedo nityam adiyatam. Even if it is not cryptic Vedas and Upanishads, atleast Puranas and Itihasas. Make sure one does not read cheap mistranslations from characters like Devadutt Patanaik, who is a sepoy of Wendy’s clan. NEVER READ A NON SPIRITUAL PERSON’S TRANSLATIONS OF OUR SCRIPTURES OR FOLLOW THEIR ADVICE IN SPIRITUALITY. Daily reading little of a good Bhagavad Gita commentary can not only sharpen our intellect but also work on our personality. Our old vasanas that are detrimental to our spiritual progress get replaced by good ones. Unlike abrahamic religions, there is no talk of infidels or kafirs. Sanatana Dharma talks of Universal Love and Brotherhood. Even a simple prayer is for the good of everyone.
  • What is in our thoughts and character only gets expressed in our words. Hence, the emphasis is placed in Sanatana Dharma to constantly work on oneself and purify the individual. This being an individual’s effort, our progress. A good example is that of Duryodhana who refused the good words of Krishna or that of Ravana who refused to pay heed to Hanuman or Angada. So it goes without further emphasis to communicate or to receive communication properly, one must be constantly be working on oneself.
  • The traditional Indian way of learning involves Tarka, where different points of view of different acharyas as learnt. Thus standing on the shoulders of giants, it allows the freedom to extend. Unlike Abrahamic cults which believe ideas should be frozen in time as understood by one person in remote past, this open architecture allows for a constant improvement. Unless one is well read, one may not be effective in proper communication. Ability to relate to different diverse ideas is of prime importance. This is very evident when great orators of different times have given great speeches. The size of audience does not matter as much as the ability to stand in someone else’s shoes, especially well learned ones.
  • We see a new generation who use internet and chat slangs. As these replace proper communication as pop culture, we already witness difficulties in communicating and etiquette issues amongst others. Hanuman’s emphasis on proper grammar, sentence structure enabled him to put across his thoughts and emotions clearly to the listener. The lack of ambiguity facilitates a proper response. It forces the listener to act in your best interests.
  • As a personal testimonial, I can attest to the numerous instances where I had chosen the wrong choice of words leading to unnecessary acrimony. I am sure many of us have a similar experience. Rama is so much enthralled with Hanuman’s choice of words. He also admires his pronunciation. In Samaskrita a single syllable, stressed or dropped can have completely different meaning. Hanuman’s long speech had no such defects.
  • One entire sloka is dedicated by Valmiki to the importance of body language. Modern science also informs us of the same. Most of the communication happens through non-verbal means. The sad thing is, we do not know the value of these scriptures or following them till we accrue these western evidences. By the time, we as a society have followed these practices and it becomes very difficult to re-create the ecosystem.
  • Rama opines that sentence delivery is as important as the content. The words must be paced according to the situation. Imagine if one were to express love in an angry tone of voice. The words must be delivered at a nice pace - neither too fast nor too slow. There must be no ambiguity caused with the words used. The words need not be so detailed that the audience has already lost the connection. Rama’s thoughts on the origin of words like chest and throat are more relevant when speaking in Sanskrit or ones who are focused on Vedas. Perhaps something we must start reviving more.
  • Hanuman’s choice of words is always auspicious. Interestingly modern new age has been popularizing this idea as do not speak negative. Of course just like in any digestion, the original concept is only half absorbed like in other digestions from Hinduism we have seen like Yoga, Vegetarianism, and Environmental Consciousness. NOT SPEAKING NEGATIVE IS NOT THE SAME AS SPEAKING AUSPICIOUS.
  • The language used must be refined. We do see in pretty much every language there is a difference between written and spoken language. Furthermore there exists slang in every language. A choice of refined language not only separates from others, but also makes the listener add a shade of respect more. This may not be confused with the modern idea of mirroring the listener for effective communication. Though the mannerisms may be mirrored for being relatable, one need not lower the standards in the choice of words.
  • We already noted speaking auspicious gets the speaker closer to the listener’s heart. When keeping the listener’s best interests in mind, if the words are delivered, it captivates the listener. Of course there are exceptions like Duryodhana or Ravana. But under normal circumstances when the listener understands that the speaker is expressing words of their interest, the listener is spell bound and gravitates more towards the speaker and the message.
  • When someone masters these skills like Hanuman, one achieves a level where even the enemy with a drawn sword is stopped on their tracks. Note it is important to stay grounded in DHARMA for being effective. We know Hitler was an outstanding communicator, yet not being grounded in dharma; he caused extreme suffering to millions. So being grounded in dharma is imperative.

When one studies just few slokas with an objective to absorb, the wealth of information given in our itihasas and puranas, they have the ability to transform us. It is very important to have a spiritual connection when reading scriptures. There are too many negative forces who cleave the spirituality part and try to doctor a socio-political spin on Ramayana or Mahabharata like ones of Sheldon Pollock. There are weird characters like Wendy Doninger who use a distorted Freudian lens to paint everything with a hypersexed idea. There are the likes of Wendy’s children like Devadutt Pattanaik who are popular writing books and serial episodes. These characters deliberately twist the meaning and easily influence the masses that have lost the tradition of learning directly from the source or spiritual masters. To top all these there are digestion forces like proselytizers who imitate and aid in further twisting our understanding.

      To counter these negative forces, please read these scriptures directly from spiritual sources. Read the originals if possible. Listen to the commentary from great spiritual gurus from your respective guru paramparas. Educate yourselves about these forces by reading books and watching videos of Shri Rajiv Malhotra.
Om Tat Sat


  1. Enjoyed every bit of thoughts.. Good mix of friendship, bhakti, loyalty and integrity. Very positive.. Superb

    1. Thanks Mohinta. The purpose of a candle is not just to shed light, but to light as many candles as it can, so the light will live past its life. Let us learn from each other and benefit.