Wednesday, November 23, 2016

In Drona's defence - the case of Ekalavya

            With the passage of time and changing values, we have always interpreted historical events in different light. When there are very motivated forces and no resistance from the original thinkers and with sepoys ploughing their way into the minds of the masses, fundamental shifts occur. This is exactly what has been happening in India. Throughout many millennia, certain characters have shaped the civilization. Bhagwan Rama is a great example. From the ideal Maryada Purushottama, HE has been under assault by atheists, missionary zealots and crass politicians, not to forget highly motivated western indologists who want to twist everything through their perverted prism either to achieve some social engineering on their terms or exhibiting a weird sense of prevarication. To thwart these forces, the only defense, Sanatana Dharmists have is to get connected to the itihasas and puranas. In Subtle Dharma behind Vaali vadam, we saw in detail with the evidence from within Valmiki Ramayana, how these false stories fall flat.

The Background of the case:
            Ekalavya has been a similar story. He is one of the side characters that appear in the Mahabharata. Traditionally given as an example of obedience to a Guru, today he has been projected as an unfortunate lower caste being taken advantage of and worse still a plethora of organizations use his name and story to peddle their deception. In this article, we will attempt to demolish these fabricated, bigoted, twisted interpretations and shine light using the original text and context. It is noteworthy to see the contrast in Ekal Foundation.

            Rajiv Malhotra, a keen intellectual scholar, has always been at the forefront in challenging both the motivated western indologists and their motives and also the tamasic Indians who either are busy getting converted into Sepoys or indifferent to all these forces at best. Through his though provoking books – Breaking India, Being Different and Indra’s Net  he has alerted the masses of these forces. Only when one reads and understands The Battle for Sanskrit and reflects upon these forces, its’ vice grip and long reach, it becomes obvious.

            To make the case very evident, let us begin with some deliberate transformations of Ekalavya. I came across this article written by a westernized Indian with very poor to non-existent understanding of Itihasas – Ekalavya : A progressive Reading – by Sunita Viswanath. The worst part of the article was the author claimed to use her Brahmin birth to condemn the way in which texts are interpreted. She goes on to claim 

“Hindu scriptures, like all religious texts, can be interpreted to support whatever worldview one chooses. The fact that they are constantly retold shows that Hindus have a time-honored tradition of scriptural debate and reinterpretation. All religions are constantly evolving, and it is up to us to reimagine texts and traditions so they are relevant to our time.”

            The irony is she and others need not reimagine. All they need to do is correctly understand. No Hindu scripture talks of discrimination and especially due to their birth. In Varnas – a journey to its roots, we studied about Varnas in detail. The ancient Indian society always had given more credibility to the present actions, attitude over the past. Even in karma theory, as outlined in detail in our deliberation on free will vs fate, we saw how Sanchita karma or present action triumphs the prarabhda.

            In her book, Srimad Bhagavatam, Geeta Kasturi narrates her misunderstood version of Mahabharata with her strong prejudiced opinion. What makes this irritating is, the author uses her pedigree to peddle her opinion. We are concerned only about the Ekalavya episode as given in the hyperlink. In many cases, these self styled experts either use their misinterpretations or ignorance to shove wrong ideas about their own roots.

            To top this, we have popular mass appeal holders who make a living by distorting these hoary scriptures with such aesthetics like Devadutt Pattanaik, that the negative is barely noticed by the masses as none of them have read it in the first instance. The account of Ekalavya as narrated in Indian Mythology – Tales, Symbols and Rituals from the Heart of the Subcontinent may appear very appealing. Yet it is the author’s myth that is diffused right through, be it gently masking the facts or reinterpreting it with the author’s strong prejudice and training from his teacher Wendy Doninger.  To get an insight of this highly prejudiced scholar, read these links – History of Ekalavya and Response by Wendy.

            Hence Rajiv Malhotra’s definition of Sepoys can be replaced with the pictures of such people. The sepoys operate under various monikers – activists, progressive people, liberals, Dalit leaders, Christian missionaries, atheists, minority appeasing politicians and the like. This army usually doesn’t generate the seed thoughts. It is usually left to the motivated western indologists. The irony and pain gets exaggerated when many donors financing such missions under the charade of aiding correct interpretation of Indian scriptures are many wealthy Indian donors.

            As observed at one end of the spectrum are folks who write with no proper understanding like above and the other end, there are so many websites, story sites in the name of propagating fables and mythologies of the world, give their cooked up versions of Ekalavya. But the best part is when the forces vie for spotlight by using Ekalavya as a dalit hero to spearhead a movement.  The website quotes Dalit writer Shashikant Hingonekar,

“If you had kept your thumb, history would have happened somewhat differently. But you gave your thumb and history also became theirs. Ekalavya, since that day they have not even given you a glance. Forgive me, Ekalavya, I won’t be fooled now by their sweet words. My thumb will never be broken.” 
In order to study these current exploitations through deliberate misinterpretations, we must study the truth. One must go to the original Mahabharata and acquaint oneself with the correct version. For the real scholarly oriented, I encourage them to study the Sanskrit version of Mahabharata. A better representation of this text, after reconciling the differences found across the subcontinent is available thanks to the Critical Edition from Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI). For a respectable English translation let us dive into the chapter at AncientVoice, though I would highly encourage not sticking with the English translations. 

Let us also set some ground rules. Always stick to Vyasa Mahabharata. There are numerous versions ranging from Devadutt Pattanaik’s flavor to Sarala Mahabharata in Oriya and many more. Subjective interpretation, regional affinities, temporal distortions and for more recent authors, personal bias, all play a vital a huge part in the twists in the narration. For Mahabharata, portions of the stories are correlated with both Bhagavatam of Vyasa and Harivamsa, depending on the focus of the text. These are the accepted as authentic traditional sources to augment the upakathas’ validity. We will for instance glean more about the genealogy of Ekalavya in Harivamsa than in Mahabharata where he features.

The following is a composite of what we know about Ekalavya from Mahabharata(Udyog Parva, Chapter 48) and Harivamsa. Vyatraj Hiranyadhanus had a son Ekalavya and as nishadas, who were primarily hunters lived in the forests, away from the then civilization. As Drona instructed the Kuru princes, per Bhishma’s request, his fame attracted many other princes who wanted to tap into his inexhaustible source of dhanurvidya. Ekalavya approached him as well. Upon understanding his genealogy, attitude and aptitude, Drona declined to take Ekalavya as his pupil, NOT BASED ON HIS CASTE. Not giving up Ekalavya then proceeds to make a clay statue of Drona and treats him as his guru. Due to his definiteness of his purpose and his extreme devotion to his mental guru, all the skills of archery came naturally to him which he honed it with lots of practice.

One day, the Kauravas and Pandavas were on a hunting expedition, along with their royal servants and dogs. A dog found the matted hair, filthy looking Ekalavya and started barking at him. Ekalavya sent seven arrows at the dog’s mouth in rapid succession before it could close it. This feat attracted the Pandavas who were eager to know about this skilled archer. Upon learning from Ekalavya’s mouth that Drona was his guru, they hurried to inform and parry more questions to Drona. 

Arjuna (one who is wrongly misinterpreted as a jealous character) approached Drona in privacy to clarify a doubt. Drona upto this point never shied from his pride in having created Arjuna as a supreme warrior. He had announced on numerous occasions that Arjuna was his best disciple. Arjuna saw a challenge to this statement. Drona pondered about this anomaly. They went to Ekalavya, who treated Drona with utmost respect. An eager Ekalavya was informed by Drona that if he were his preceptor, then his fee was overdue. Drona responded that if Ekalavya was really intent on a preceptor fee, then his due will be his right thumb.

These cruel words were met with cheer and unafflicted heart and Ekalavya cut his right thumb as an offering to Drona. Ekalavya found that despite this massive loss, he had not lost his ability to shoot arrows, but had most certainly lost his agility. Arjuna’s fever now left him. Usually this is wrongly mentioned as his fever of jealousy, but it was his fever that a Guru’s words must not go false, which was at the root of his fever. 

Ekalavya went on to become an ardent follower of the Magadha King, Jarasandha. Jarasandha was allied to Kamsa as his daughters were married to Kamsa. Jarasandha had a blinding enmity with Krishna and attacked Mathura repeatedly. Krishna eliminated him with a clever scheme by deploying Bhima against him. Following this, Ekalavya is supposed to have participated in numerous wars against Krishna. A few even wrongly portray him to be reincarnated as Drishtadhyumna, the nemesis of Drona. This is highly wrong if one were to merely study Mahabharata. But his death is confirmed by Krishna on the eve of Ghatotkacha’s death. Krishna informed Arjuna that Jarasandha, Shishupala and Ekalavya were all eliminated by HIM so that their hands will not strengthen the already numerically superior adharmic Kaurava forces. Krishna mentions that a rock hurled by him ended Ekalavya’s life.

The case on Drona
  •          Rejected Ekalavya due to his caste.
  •       Was cruel in asking his thumb.
  •          Was over protective of Arjuna, also favored him too much.
  •          Was unfair and mean to Ekalavya.

Collapse of the false case

Caste based rejection: Drona was famed for not only his mastery of weapons but also for his roots as a vedic scholar. He was well aware of the polity of Bharat at that time. This was a time when powerful kings like Jarasandha were still ruling. We can be certain that Kamsa was already eliminated. The Kurus, who ruled around Hastinapur were confronting strong challenges both frontally and through alliances against them. Hiranyadhanus was a vassal of Jarasandha. We see the evidence of this by Ekalavya’s future role before and after the passing away of Jarasandha. Ekalavya inherits a strong anti Krishna position, due to his asuric background.

            Though it will be a stretch to expect Drona be aware of these future incidents, one can definitely conclude that Drona weighed in Ekalavya’s political leanings, which was very inimical to the Kurus, and by being a natural hunter, his grasp over archery was much superior. Being loyal to the Kurus, Drona definitely did not want to create a super powerful enemy. Drona’s weakness has been his loyalty to his masters, we see this by his role in the Mahabharata war. Here we see the same instincts at display when he rejected Ekalavya as a student. 

            The clear evidence of this is in the sloka
          न तं प्रतिजग्राह नैषादिरिति चिन्तयन् | शिष्यं धनुषि धर्मज्ञस्तेषामेवान्ववेक्षया
     As one who is clearly aware of dharma, he declined to accept Ekalavya. 

So where is the idiotic, motivated and disillusioned allegation of Caste-based rejection?

            The Breaking India forces coupled by supremely ignorant interpreters who choose to neither read the original or ignore it, go on this campaign rampage, taking full advantage of the declining awareness of the original scriptural understanding by the masses.

            निषाद Nishad argument – The first fallacy in the Breaking India forces is to keep parroting that poor Ekalavya was a different caste and hence discriminated. A mere internal cross reference to the most celebrated upakatha in the vana parva reveals Nala, a great Nishada king who marries Damayanti, a kshatriya princess from Vidarba. This caste non sense situation, exacerbated by today’s politicians for votebanks and ignorant people are anachronistically applied to a society many millennia away which displayed maturity far beyond our understanding. These mischievous efforts for misinterpreting these scriptures fall flat if we choose to read our scriptures in Sanskrit or listen to traditional sources of interpretation. 

            Nishada identity goes back even further with the very beginning of Ramayana where a Nishada analogy is given of entire Rama avatar and by the fact Rama made the Nishada Guha his fifth brother. These clearly reveal the flaws in the mischief makers motivated arguments.

            It may be noted even Drona, Parasurama, Vidura and many others never went by their birth labels. It was solely their thought process and actions that defined them. So we can safely conclude the modern caste arguments are highly out of place.

Unfair and mean to Ekalavya argument:

            This one is more subtle to understand and hence requires a clearer understanding. Let us approach by simple logic. All great gurus have pushed the limits of their disciples by putting them to task. In Qualities of a good student, we learnt about Aruni’s display of character even when such a literal interpretation of Guru’s words was not intended. Though Sandhipani did not request Krishna any Gurudakshina, Krishna took his Guru pathni’s words seriously to revive a lost child. Drona himself sought Drupada’s defeat by Kauravas and later by Pandavas. Did he not risk their lives? Was it fair? Yes it was. Only when pushed to the limits a student’s character gets truly revealed. So in that sense, Ekalavya’s thumb showcased his splendid character though Drona did not hesitate to don that role. We will see later why he took such a role.

            Drona merely asked his right thumb, as he was fully aware of Ekalavya’s potential to use the left arm, a skill which Arjuna also mastered. As a great master, he was also aware of the ability to use a bow without the thumb, which Ekalavya mastered later. Drona did not take away his entire hand, as it would have deprived his livelihood. That would have been a stroke of meanness.
            Now let us look at from another angle. Drona had denied this powerful skillset, not mere archery which even hunters are cognizant of, but the subtleties associated with it to Ekalavya. Mahabharata merely mentions that by his devotion and practice Ekalavya raised his standards. Let us discard the argument that Ekalavya, being a hunter shadowed and learnt these skills. But Ekalavya wholeheartedly accepts Drona as his sole guru and attributes everything to him. If I set up a secret nuclear lab in the country, without any permission, will I be liable to be prosecuted? Can I claim persecution when caught?
            Another aspect is the vindication of Drona’s fears. Drona had assessed that Ekalavya was not good in following Dharma, leave alone upholding it. Ekalavya uses excessive force on a poor barking dog by shooting seven arrows in rapid succession. This becomes a platform to display his prowess and skill. We see in several later episodes how Arjuna rushes to the aid of the helpless, a critical role to be played by a person with such a skill set. Ekalavya, being a hunter, never had such an aptitude or thirst for dharma. He was merely hankering after a skill set. Possessing such a skill set without character was a grave danger to the society. (For more on Kshatriyata, the character needed). So Drona used the perceived Guru position to protect the society. Drona did not hide behind an ego, feeling hubristic that even his statue could teach and create an archer on par with Arjuna or higher. He was always aware of the responsibilities given to him as a guru, as a warrior, as a dharmic person.

            Fairness evaluation must be done within the bounds of the society and rules back then, not by twisting it and even more horribly applying today’s standards or our ignorance. Hence we can safely dismiss the unfair or mean charge.

Favoritism for Arjuna:

            This is perhaps the most ridiculous of all charges. It is well known fact that Drona was proud of creating Arjuna, but he will be the first to admit that Arjuna earned every single stripe. Arjuna was devoted to his Guru, a fact that stumps this intelligent warrior till Krishna fixes this malady through Bhagavad Gita. Krishna had to use strategy to remove Bhishma and Drona, rather than relying on Arjuna’s power alone. Arjuna’s wrath on Drishtadhyumna for killing Drona had to be shielded by Krishna.

            Ashwattama, the son of Drona, was dearer to Drona than his own life. That is evident when he is shocked amidst the carnage he was wrecking on Day 15 of Mahabharata war. Even to his own son, Drona did not teach all the weapons. He taught how to handle, recall and reuse the BrahmaSiras weapon to Arjuna and to the pestering Aswattama he merely dispensed how to use it once. Drona was fully aware of his responsibilities and he did not let petty things like favoritism to cloud his actions. We see another example when he asks Kripi, his wife, never to feed Arjuna in the darkness, for he was afraid of Arjuna’s intellect would discover the ability to shoot in the dark. Though he did not create impediments to the student’s progress, he did not aid them either.

We can safely dismiss the favoritism charge as it is baseless.

Verdict – Drona is NOT Guilty in this case:

            After having demolished and pulverized all the allegations against Drona, in the case of Ekalavya, we are still left with the mystery of the agent behind Drona’s move. Thankfully we have Krishna’s admission. On day fourteen of the war, after Ghatotkacha’s death, when the entire Pandava side was mourning, Arjuna is confronted by a gleeful Krishna. Krishna revealed the reason for his joy was the sole weapon that could have killed Arjuna, the Vasava Shakti weapon of Indra in possession of Karna was directed against Ghatotkacha instead of Arjuna. Arjuna is even in greater shock when Krishna revealed that HE would have been forced to kill Ghatotkacha had he survived the war, because of his asuric nature. Krishna said one of the key reasons behind his avatar was to reduce the overpopulation by adharmic masses, protect dharma and eliminate asuras. 

            Krishna’s explanation continues when HE revealed that for the protection of Arjuna and Pandavas, HE had eliminated Jarasandha, Shishupala and Ekalavya prior to the Mahabharata war. Krishna said these evil warriors were so powerful that when combined with the might of the Kauravas, it would have meant an impossible hurdle for Arjuna, which was already studded with formidable warriors in Bhishma, Drona and Karna. Krishna explained that he used Bhima’s strength to counter Jarasandha, but it was successful only due to his revealing the secret of Jarasandha’s birth. Krishna accelerated Shishupala’s death by appealing to the bloated ego to commit more sins. It must be noted that Shishupala was Krishna’s first cousin.

            In case of Ekalavya, as we observed, he enters the service of Jarasandha after the episode of losing his thumb. He remains steadfast on Jarasandha’s side. After Jarasandha’s death, he is again featured in the Rukmini escape episode with Krishna. He joins Shishupala, Bhishmaka (Rukimni’s father) and Rukmi (Rukmini’s brother) in attempting to stop Krishna. He meets his death when Krishna hurled a rock at his head. Krishna revealed that he was not only the actual cause of his death, but it was his guidance that motivated Drona to have clarity to seek Ekalavya’s thumb to give him a set back from committing more adharma. In that sense, not only was Krishna protecting the society, but also Ekalavya, as he curbed his potential to do more harm. If at all, we have to blame someone for the loss of Ekalavya’s thumb, it will be Krishna. But understanding Krishna and his ways needs a more subtle mind and a different article.

VERDICT: DRONA is EXONERATED from all these malicious, fictitious allegations in the case of Ekalavya.

            It is a fact that most of the warriors of either side were trained directly by Drona or indirectly. This goes on to highlight the primacy of Drona’s role in the Mahabharata. It would be a fallacy to assume that Dronacharya is without flaws. Being a human, he has his own share. But at least we have a choice not to wrongly foist these false allegations upon him and trying to mar the sheen of such a stellar character. 

Lessons from Ekalavya episode:

  • Partial obedience to a Guru is as bad as no obedience. Ekalavya did not get the intended message of Drona.
  • Acquiring any skillset must be preceded by acquiring the right mindset, a clear understanding of Dharma.
  • Be wary of your company (even internal) as it is a gauge to show your samskaric outlook. Ekalavya’s future companions were the strong clues behind his motives. Introspect more often.
  • Reading the original scriptures and understanding with traditional scholars is paramount to counter the false propaganda of mischievous forces.

Om Tat Sat

Recommended Reading:

Related Reading:

Friday, November 11, 2016

Hanuman - Overcoming obstacles by example

            Most Hindus do not read itihasas and puranas. Amongst the majority who read or who are aware, few leverage these inexhaustible mine of gems. The rishis appear to have adopted a series of layering technique. As our mind (d)evolves,  it can extract different levels of understanding, just as the different cuts of a diamond add to its sparkle. The saddest moment is, today our contact with these are either through a motivated western indologist or brain dead mythologist or a non practitioner desirous of interpreting his/her view for pushing their agenda. There was a practice amongst most Hindu communities of daily reading little bit of Ramayana and Mahabharata daily. The day we ignored this practice, not only has our ethos changed but also given space to weird interpretations of our texts. This is a layman's attempt at sifting and extracting some gems left at this mine entrance.

            Hanuman is not a mere hero of the epic Ramayana, but is a central figure that transcends the subtle variations within Sanatana Dharma. Even polar opposites within Hindu philosophy – Saivites and Vaishanvites, both worship him. Hanuman exemplifies being a great bhakta, yet it is the examples he sets at times of duress that act like a beacon for all the troubled atmas amongst us.

            It is usually said that Bhagawan, the Supreme Self, lived a life of example in Ramayana prior to preaching it as Gita through Krishna in Mahabharata. The message is to lead by example before talking about one. Rama is seen as confronting dharmasankata, a choice between two dharmas, when he kills vaali (Read more thoughts on the hyperlink), when his words make Sita jump in fire and when he lets her to be taken to Valimiki ashram. Rama’s situations are extreme as we normally do not even get to fantacize such extreme situations and leave alone being confronted. 

Hanuman, on the other hand, despite being a vanara and a scholar is often seen undergoing many humanly challenges. Hanuman excels even Rama’s example in the practicality of the obstacles he overcame and the lessons we can learn from it. If we can be little astute, we can use Hanuman as an entry point into this portal of Knowledge and Wisdom.


            The largest batch of Vanara sena, searching South, reaches the sea shore in search of Sita Mata. The team was headed by Angada and was populated with the biggest names in the vanara sena like Nala, Neela, Jambavan and Hanuman. Though buoyed by the information of Sampati, Jatayu’s brother, that Sita is in Lanka, the vanaras had given up hope of reaching owing to the gaping distance parting it. Jambavan shares the secret behind Hanuman’s birth to revive Hanuman’s spirits. The dejected vanaras are rejuvenated by listening to this awe inspiring history.

            Hanuman at the end of Jambavan’s narration enlarges his size in preparation to leap to Lanka. He soothes the minds of the vanara sena with his kind words. He promises to search Lanka thoroughly. In case Sita Mata is not found he promises to search in Devaloka and if she is absent even there, he thunders that he will imprison Ravana.

Satchitananda’s Microscope

  • The most popular version of Hanuman being forgetful or doubtful of his true self is wrong in my opinion. Here is the proof:
ततःप्रतीतं प्लवतांवरिष्ठम्
एकान्तमाश्रित्य सुसुखेपविष्ठम्
सञ्चोदयामास हरिप्रवीरो
हरिप्रवीरं हनुमन्तमेव।।4.65.35।।

Hanuman was seated alone comfortably when the vanara sena was sinking in despair. Hanuman definitely had enough faith in himself, else why would he be seated comfortably. Hanuman also had been given Rama’s personal ring with his name embossed on it. Hanuman was confident that the ring alone is enough to confer him all the strength to accomplish a successful mission, not to forget his bhakti or potential. It appears to me that he was contemplating if the mission will be as a part of a team or alone.
  • When confronted with tough choices, when the near and dear do not rise up to the challenge, a real leader rises up to the challenge. There is a calm confidence not only in the self, but in something that is behind the self. When one is connected to the Supreme Self, even the biggest strengths based on the ego will wither away. We see very powerful vanara sena warriors tuck their tail as they were merely debating based on their individual strengths. Hanuman chose to connect with the real source of the strength.

  • Hanuman knows that his team was looking up to him. But he could not merely fly away without leaving them inspired. Hanuman having no idea of the obstacles ahead, speaks words of inspiration to keep others motivated during his absence. A true leader ensures that their team or dependants are highly motivated to the task and remains committed.

  • Hanuman not only lays a roadmap, though fully aware of the uncertainties being the only certainty ahead. He invokes a series of prayers for the successful fulfillment of the mission. All the senior vanaras bless him, whilst the junior ones cheer for him. Today we see this technique in almost any field of competition. Boxers or critically pitted athletes cheer themselves up with positive upbeat notes or talks. New Age mantra is Self Talk. But Hanuman shows the way eons ago. Despite all these, there is a conspicuous absence of pride. Hanuman’s only tinge of pride is being Ramadhoota which Sita morphs into RamaDasa on the way back.


            As Hanuman ascends, he is confronted with three major obstacles along his path to Lanka. He is challenged by Mainaka, Surasa and Simhika. These obstacles and how Hanuman handles are the crux of our study.

            Hanuman’s beauty of the flight is so enchanting that Valmiki describes it for almost the first half of the first Sarga in SundaraKanda. As Devas, Rishis and others are in awe of Hanuman’s wondrous leap, Sagara, the ocean, reminisces the past help of Ikshavaku dynasty. His name itself was Sagara after the 60,000 Sagara brothers who dug the land to make it a sea.  Owing to Indra’s fear, aided by Vayu, Mainaka mountain takes refuge in sagara(ocean). Sagara reminds him that it will be a great opportunity to payback the kindness by becoming a resting point for Hanuman during this mission.

            Mainaka mountain started growing in its stature with an intent to serve Hanuman and Rama, which obviously posed as an insurmountable obstacle to Hanuman, who was ignorant of its aim. Hanuman bumps the peak with his chest. Mainaka reveals his intent of serving Rama dynasty and his gratitude to Vayu’s assistance in the past. He repeatedly pleads Hanuman to take some rest.

            Hanuman listened carefully, but refuses to yield as his mind is fixated on Rama Seva. He touched Mainaka and comforted him that he was duty bound and cannot afford to while his time when he was on a time critical mission.

            The third obstacle comes in the form of Surasa, the mother of Nagas. The Devas, Siddhas and Gandharvas request her to appear in a horrible form and challenge Hanuman. They intended to test if he will succeed in the task through his strength or his courage and intelligence or will obtain sorrow. Accordingly assuming an ugly demoness form confronts Hanuman and informs him that he has been given as her food by Brahma. Hanuman narrates the urgency of his mission which falls in her deaf ears. Hanuman realized that he cannot move without entering her mouth, due to the power of her boon and also due to fact she started to open her mouth to match his size in anticipation of swallowing him.

            Hanuman increased his size to outwit Surasa. She kept outmatching his size on account of her boon. After a few iterations, Hanuman instantly reduced his size to that of a thumb and promptly went inside her huge gaping mouth. Hanuman sought her consent as he had successfully fulfilled her wish and boon. Surasa assuming her real form praised and blessed Hanuman to have a successful mission.

            Simhika, a demoness capable of assuming any form and one who could control an object with its shadow, was the next obstacle. She was delighted about a large meal prospect and started tugging Hanuman by his shadow. Hanuman was already aware of this creature thanks to Sugriva. Recognizing the challenge and strength of the opponent, Hanuman grew his size and Simhika opened her mouth accordingly. Having sighted her internal vital organs, he quickly contracted his form and entered her body. Ripping her organs with his sharp nails and killing her, Hanuman exited her body through extraordinary courage and intelligence.

            Hanuman then proceeds unhindered and sights Lanka on his mission to locate Sita.

Satchitananda’s Microscope

Hanuman overcomes the different types of Obstacles along his flight path. His resolve and astute, ingenious approach in solving each obstacle is very insightful for all his bhaktas and students of Ramayana. Owing to the interpretation of the first obstacle, we actually have five obstacles and their possible solutions. Hanuman is actually joyous of encountering obstacles as he is now confident of being on the right track, according to Valmiki.

            Obstacle 1 – Unable to find a solution or realize your potential: The traditional narration is that Hanuman was sitting alone wondering what needs to be done. Jambavan dons the role of a GURU and shares not only his past, but also his potential. He spotlights the need to dig deeper and connect with our TRUE SELF and then the ATMIC SHAKTI will flow dynamically into our live.

            There are aspects in our life which others can see in us, yet we are having a blindspot. Guru is the one who can shine light on this. GURU means one who chases the darkness. New Age pandits have realized this huge potential and have spun many businesses of training, coaching and motivating. They all may play similar role, yet the role of a GURU is not providing material comforts but aiding in the spiritual journey.

            Jambavan’s retelling of Hanuman’s birth immediately made him realize the proximity of Lord Rama’s feet, his mission and the ring given by Rama. Hanuman’s bhakti gave him the strength as he was connected to Rama’s energy. This strategy is very useful that we can draw energy from a higher source and what can be higher and closer than Paramatma.

Solution: Tap into a higher energy source. Instead of saying God I have a big problem, tell the problem, you have a BIGGER PARAMATMA behind. Leverage a Guru’s guidance.

            Obstacle 2 – No one believes around you: Hanuman was surrounded by great vanaras. Either due to lack of potential or due to fear of Ravana, no one believed that they can undertake such an awe inspiring task. Sometimes the task on hand can be  so daunting with no probable solution. Despite a dire need to get it done, we tend to revolve around our deficiencies. Our mind can hardly focus on the possibilities or our strengths. 

Under such trying circumstance, Hanuman as we noted in sloka 4.65.35, was contemplating on the mission – will it be solo or is it possible that some more vanaras will accompany. Angada talks of going and hiding somewhere to escape the wrath of Sugriva over the failed mission. Leaving the disillusioned vanaras in such a state was very unwise. Hence, as a leader, Hanuman takes a huge form, speaks words of affirmation to cheer the vanaras. He leverages Jambavan’s narration to inject optimism.

            Building on existing strength is vital for any success. Hanuman, despite having only uncertainties ahead, demonstrates on the need for having RIGHTFUL thoughts, words and actions, all aligned. In Bhagavad Gita, Krishna calls this as YOGA. It is also important to maintain the morale of the ones dependant on us. 

            Hanuman draws his strength from his Rama Bhakti. He also remembers constantly that Rama chose amongst him all the vanaras as the one who can carry and deliver Rama’s signet ring. By constantly remembering that someone is having faith in our abilities, gives us the courage to face the obstacles. 

Solution: Though it may appear no one around believes in you or themselves, remembering the greater purpose, duty and the people dependant on our performance can energize and compensate for the lack of enthusiasm around. Learn to kindle the fire within.

            Obstacle 3 – Friendly Distractions: Hanuman’s perhaps toughest challenge was to pacify Mainaka. Initially Hanuman thought it was an obstacle to break through, but quickly understands that it was someone who is filled with love, respect and gratitude for the past kindness. Most of our distractions are in this category and it is easy to succumb and sacrifice the mission and bask in the great fun on hand. Hanuman was thinking of only one mission. He knew that the lives of Rama, Lakshmana, Sita were not the only ones at risk as he was aware of Bharata and Shatrugna. 

            Despite Mainaka's repeated pleading, he refused to rest even for a minute. At the same time, he puts his arm around Mainaka and displayed the best relationship skills. Hanuman assured that Mainaka’s offer itself was the best Rama Sewa. He wins his heart and affection even more by sticking to his urgent mission. Well-wishers always understand when we stick to our duties, if we treat them respectfully and explain our purpose.

Solution: One must learn to weave through friendly distractions by constantly remembering the larger purpose, the mission we are headed to.

            Obstacle 4 – Tests, challenges: Hanuman was tested by the Devas through Surasa. At the outset it appeared like an insurmountable challenge. Yet applying very sharp intellect and always taking control of the situation on hand, Hanuman not only overcame the obstacles but got Surasa’s blessings for a successful mission. 

            Many times the perceived mountains of obstacles in our path are mere opportunities for us to navigate and increase our strengths. Unless we get forged and hammered in the fire of the situation, how can we even realize our own strengths?

            The attitude we have while facing these challenges does matter. Hanuman was fixated on his mission and was willing to put all his calm, unperturbed intellect to task. He was able to outwit the opponent and situation only due to this.

Solution: Facing the obstacles with a sharp intellect and calm mind not only helps us resolve, but also increases our strengths to face even tougher challenges in future.

            Obstacle 5 – Real opponent: Hanuman faced a real opponent in Simhika. Due to his vast listening attitude he was aware of her from his talks with Sugriva. Having been aware, he was ready to confront with all his might so he may not waste any time. 

            Being mission driven, kept Hanuman always alert and on the look out for any potential game changers in the equation. When one appears, the speed at which the problem is correctly identified gives one a leg up in resolving it. Firmness and decisiveness in tackling the problem helps in a quicker resolution.

Solution:  Correctly identifying and firmly dealing with obstacles give us an advantage in solving it quickly and decisively. It also provides better choices to deal with.

            Valmiki sums the following four qualities as indispensable for succeeding in a mission or task - fortitude/courage, vision, intelligence and dexterity/skills, with his sloka

यस्य त्वेतानि चत्वारि वानरेन्द्र यथा तव।।5.1.198।।
धृतिर्दृष्टिर्मतिर्दाक्ष्यं सः कर्मसु न सीदति।

            Through Hanuman we can not only see a splendid display of these qualities, but an inspiring figure who can transmute our thought process, if we care to emulate our elders who made it mandatory to read Ramayana daily.

Hanuman is so one-minded that he akins his mission and mindset to be like that of Rama’s arrow – being fast, focused and always on target. Trying to incorporate these qualities in our lives will not only go a long way in us overcoming obstacles but be successful beyond our wildest imagination.

            May Hanuman bless all of us to evoke the ideal Maryada Purushottama, Rama, eternally in our minds and help us elevate our thoughts to HIM. May we follow the wondrous example of Hanuman in every aspect of our lives. May we strive our best to read Ramayana more frequently, mine these gems and practice in our daily life.

Om Tat Sat