Saturday, January 21, 2017

Practical lessons from Hanuman's dilemmas in Lanka - Part 2

Hanuman is benefitting the entire mankind through the attitude, alacrity and mental fortitude he displays throughout this search mission. His thoughts, words and actions have a direct bearing in our daily lives as we also undergo similar application moments. We will never even come close to a millionth of the dilemmas Hanuman had to go through, yet the techniques we can learn by a closer svadhyaya of Ramayana can guide our lives in the proper direction. Having searched all over Lanka, a mentally tormented Hanuman, finding no options, lets himself to be aligned to the Cosmic intentions through his prayers. He lets his intuition guide him to the Simshupa tree and wait there for the next turn of events.

Dilemma 9: Hanuman saw a lady (Sita) - emaciated, untidy, torn by worry and tied down by the threats of rakshasis. Though a lot of reasons made him suspect the lady seen in Ashoka Vana was Sita, he was forced to reassess (partly owing to his mistake of thinking Mandodari as Sita). He recalled the jewellery groups Rama had narrated and tallied it with the marks left on her body owing to wearing them for a long time. Since he was the one who got the jewellery bundled with the part of her upper garment, he could see that Sita was wearing the same torn piece of auspicious yellow garment. Also seeing Sita pining for Rama showcasing the epitome of chastity was another sign. Hanuman had to rely on the samudrika description of Sita given by Rama as he had not seen even a picture of her.

Lesson: Do not let excitement or anticipation of success (or worry of failure) overtake the mind. Have a good presence of mind. Use every tool at your disposal to ascertain if the steps taken are in line with your intent. Analyze from multiple angles whenever pondering over any situation. Life is multi-faceted and hence demands such an approach. Thinking the pros and cons gives a distinct edge over knee jerk reaction. If the response is not analyzed then such a response is a mere reaction, whilst any measure done after due analysis and with detachment become an action.

Dilemma 10: The biggest of dilemmas that Hanuman ever confronts is in the form of Sita who is ready to hang herself with her own hair. Lashed by the lust of Ravana's words and threats of the rakshasis, Sita's last ray of hope is also dimmed by her faulty reasoning that Rama Lakshmana must have been killed during the golden deer chase; else it is impossible to keep them from rescuing her.

Hanuman understood that when Rama gave his signet ring, the mission will be incomplete without handing it over to Sita and give her hope. If Hanuman left without consoling Sita, she was bound to give up her life. But there were some insurmountable obstacles - so many rakshasis guarding her, Sita's level of mistrust beginning from the golden deer to Ravana's threats few hours ago. 

Hanuman also wondered if he spoke in Samaskrita, Sita will wonder how a vanara speaks such chase samaskrita. Also a mere look of Hanuman can push Sita to the brink as she is bound to assume this as another of Ravana's tricks. She could scream and catch the attention of the rakshasis and spoil his only chance to communicate with her. They can raise the issue to Ravana who can start a battle. If he gets captured then the entire mission to aid Sita will have gone waste. Or worse still even if Hanuman escapes, the evil minded rakshasas could kill Sita, making Rama's arrival futile. Even more horrible, the fact Sita is concealed in an island, guarded by so many rakshasas will never reach Rama's ears if Hanuman does not return alive. To add to this woe, Ravana has set a time limit of only two months and how can Rama and the vanara sena reach here on time.

If he did not speak up to Janaki, she is on track to end her life out of desperation.
We already saw how Hanuman is a superlative communicator, one whom Rama could hardly stop praising, even at his first meeting. Hanuman starts singing in a sweet voice, the story of Rama up to the current situation. This gave familiarity to Sita for most parts, but also an introduction to the events and characters after she was kidnapped.  It was impossible for Ravana or any other rakshasa to conjure such a trick.

Lesson: Think outside the box. In life many events, relationships and situations are very fragile. Unless one understands how to empathize with others, it becomes impossible to make proper connections. We may fail in this effort many times. But it is imperative to think through the good techniques and also learn new ones and apply them intelligently. Seek first to understand than to be understood. Once we can think in someone else’s shoes, it becomes easier to communicate. For this one must cast aside one’s ego.

Also having a constant idea about the mission helps the mind stay engaged.

Dilemma 11: Overcoming Sita's deep mistrust - Sita feels that early morning she must have been dreaming and seeing a vanara in morning is believed not to be auspicious. She started to pray for Rama and Lakshmana's welfare and her father, Janaka. Then she consoled herself that this is a hallucination on account of her constantly remembering Rama. Very eloquently and cleverly Hanuman asks Sita who seems to be born in a good family with great traits, if she was really Sita, whom he had come in search of. He also shares his reasoning why he believes her to be Sita, Rama's wife.

Hanuman with his sweet words and excellent skills wins Sita's trust and begins the process of bringing some hope to her heart. Hanuman stepped forward to have a conversation and this reactivated Sita's fears. She accuses him of Ravana in guise. She is tormented between her fears and her desire to see Hanuman as Ramadhoota. She started questioning her own sanity and chose silence.

Hanuman started to describe Rama's characteristics and repeats his connection with Rama. He kept reassuring that Rama will be there shortly to rescue her from Ravana. Encouraged Sita asked Hanuman to narrate all the events after her capture, which Hanuman obliges. Hanuman takes extra effort to explain the pitiable state of Rama in the absence of Sita and his lamentations. Hanuman knew the aggreived heart of Sita needed to hear how much Rama missed her. He also informed her of Vaali vadha and Sugriva's friendship. He tied the knots of Jatayu and Sampati, as Sita knew only the former. One must read Sundara Kanda in original and listen to numerous commentaries to enjoy the nectar of Hanuman-Sita samvada.

To win her trust, he offers Rama's signet ring and answers her questions and doubts repeatedly to console her troubled heart.

Lesson: Win the trust of the people in your life. Unless one sees the trust, their commitment to us or the mission will always be in question. To earn that trust, cultivate trustworthiness and being straight forward. Take the mind off the selfish goals and try to serve. Hanuman forgot all about his mission and was solely engaged in winning Janaki’s trust. A trust deficit in any team is bound to result in a catastrophe. Servitude is the best way to earn trust, by meeting others at their needs.

Dilemma 12: Hanuman proposes to take Sita on his back and restore her to Rama. He could not see the trouble she was going through. She wonders how the small Hanuman could carry her and Hanuman shows her enlarged form. After responding to various objections of Sita for his plan, he finally understood that Sita's desire was to have her rescued by Rama. She could not tolerate a thought that will dent Rama's valor.

Hanuman pleads Sita to give a token of her remembrance to show Rama as a proof. She narrates Kakasura incident (Saranagati) and gives Hanuman (in his smaller form) Chudamani, the crest jewel. 

Lesson: Go the extra mile in resolving the problems. Hanuman did not merely spot Sita and console her. He went the extra mile of proposing to extricate her.

Reapply the past lessons. Having seen the trouble of providing proof for Sita, he wanted to cover his bases on his return trip. Unless the past lessons are applied, we are bound to repeat the same lesson forever.

Dilemma 13: Sita pleads Hanuman to stay for a day, so she can hear more about Rama. She wonders who else could cross the ocean but for Garuda, Vayu and Hanuman. (Hanuman is having the same doubts on the strategy). He mentions that in the army of Sugriva, there are many superior to him or equal, but none inferior. He tells usually scouting missions are left to the inferiors as superiors focus on strategy.

Sita sets a new demand that she will hold her life for only one month and not the two months given by Ravana.

Lesson: Do not lose sight of the big picture even when cornered by strong emotional requests. Sita’s requests were very realistic and practical, yet Hanuman had to constantly keep in mind the ticking clock of all the lives at stake in case of a failed mission to rescue Sita. Sometimes we tend to be too close to the trees that we forget the forest.  Stay detached else we get entangled unnecessarily in the turn of events by the force of errors in our judgment.             

Always be humble and edify others on the team. Do not burden others in doubt or desperation with your own confusion. Let your actions give hope to others, not mere words. At the same time, choose words carefully so as to lend credence.

Dilemma 14: Hanuman was not satisfied with the level of success he had achieved by spotting and conversing with Sita. He pondered on the next steps. He decided that rakshasas do not qualify for Sama-Dana-Bheda methods and only deserve Danda. Open assault. Again let us make use of Valmiki’s actual words to capture the essence without any distortions. Hanuman’s internal dialogue is captured here below:

कार्ये कर्मणि निर्दिष्टः यो बहूनि अपि साधयेत् |
पूर्व कार्य विरोधेन स कार्यम् कर्तुम् अर्हति || ५-४१-५

"He alone can accomplish his purpose, who implements many (secondary) tasks even after the initial task has been carried through, without impairing the previous achievement."

न हि एकः साधको हेतुः स्वल्पस्य अपि इह कर्मणः |
यो हि अर्थम् बहुधा वेद स समर्थो अर्थ साधने || ५-४१-६

"There is indeed no single exclusive method to accomplish a purpose however small a task may be. On the other hand, whoever knows to do a task in many ways, he alone is capable of achieving that task."

Hanuman wanted to test the strength of Ravana's army in battle. He destroys the Ashoka vana. Hanuman terrorizes the Rakshasis by taking a gigantic form. The Rakshasis smelling a connection between Sita and the vanara, inquire her. Sita said she too is terrrified and said he must be one of them. They still suspect her as destruction is all around Sita but never closer to her. Enraged by their report, Ravana sent 80,000 strong Kinkaras and Hanuman despatches them to Yama's abode. Shortly it was Jambumali, minister Prahasta's son to take the same southerly direction. Enraged the seven sons of Prahasta enter the battle with Ravana's blessing to meet the same fate. 

Ravana summons his five topmost generals - Virupaksha, Yupaksha, Durdhara, Praghasa and Bhasakarna. Hanuman despatches them to Yama duly. Ravana now turns to his son, Aksha who also gets sacrified to Ravana's decision. Ravana sends Indrajit to confront Hanuman. After a wonderous battle, Indrajit figures out that it was not possible for him to kill Hanuman, but perhaps take him as a prisoner.  Hanuman also was puzzled at the excellence of Indrajit's archery and thought this may open the door to meeting Ravana. Hence when Indrajit invoked Brahmastra, though it had no effect on him, he pretended to be bound by its influence. To add insult to injury, the rakshasas also bound him with ropes which nullified Brahmastra's effect. (Something Indrajit was quite aware)

On meeting Ravana, Hanuman launches into an eloquent discourse, advising him to choose the path of self preservation and avoid catastrophe by sending back Sita. Ravana's orders Hanuman to be killed only to be met with strong counters from Vibhishana. As a compromise, they set the tail on fire. 

Thinking of humiliating Hanuman, they parade him through the streets with fire on his tail. Sita gets informed by the guarding rakshasis about the burning tail. Sita prays to Agni fervently to protect Hanuman’s tail and be cool to him.

Hanuman found that fire was raging all around but had no impact on him. He could not figure the reason behind the coolness - was it the grace of Rama or Sita or his father Vayu or his new friend Mainaka. He sought to take advantage and took a huge form to sever from his tethers. He leapt from building to building to set fire all over Lanka. He makes sure he spares Vibhishana's abode, but ensures that all the main buildings are set on fire.

Lesson: Go the extra mile and beyond the call of duty. Create opportunities. Open every door and window by hard work. Meeting Ravana was possible only through a series of battles. Though Rama never instructed Hanuman to go and meet Ravana, Hanuman assumes the responsibility on account of completely aligned with Rama’s mind. (Re-read Hanuman’s words above)

Dilemma 15: As Hanuman's excitement turned to reflection, he started condemning himself for getting carried away in the spur of the moment. He had not pondered about Sita and he worried if he had set her also on fire. He started worrying about the impact of Sita's news on everyone like before and started condemning his unpardonable act.

Despite his confusion, his mind was reading the auspicious omens. He reasoned that the fire was cool on his tail only due to Sita's grace and how will fire even touch her. He overheard the charanas praise of Hanuman's deed and assured himself that Sita must be safe.

Only personal verification could soothe Hanuman, so he headed straight to Asoka vana. He met Sita and consoled her with the promise to return soon with Rama and liberate her. This way he also ensured that Sita is fully aware of his well being, else this could cause another point of confusion.

A triumphant Hanuman returned to the southern shores of Bharata. 

Lesson: This is the second mistake Hanuman makes in excitement. Take stock of your situation and take the next steps without brooding over it. Never leave anything to chance. Trust, but always verify. Try to keep the communication channels open and avoid any possibilities of confusion.

A simple cursory insight from walking in Hanuman’s shoes not only reveals the pattern of human thinking, but also the methods of rising above. Hanuman’s dilemmas and his powerful buddhi and Rama bhakti has given us all these practical pointers to a successful life. What if we ponder about Rama and Hanuman constantly?

May this Veera Maruti guide our thoughts, words and actions to remain steadfast in Dharma. May his mere thought stiffen our spine in the defense of Dharma. May Hanuman's superlative example be a daily remainder in every activity of our life. Let our minds be rejuvenated by constantly thinking of not only Hanuman’s exploits and Rama Bhakti, but also by reflecting and applying the techniques Hanuman lived by.

Om Tat Sat

Practical lessons from Hanuman's dilemmas in Lanka - Part 1

            The great characters that appear in the puranas and itihasas have inspired countless generations to rise up to their true potential. But with the mythification of these scriptures due to a very motivated western prism, half baked mythologists who equate Upanishads with Greek mythology, the lack of reading amongst the masses and a mindless shift towards a western consumeristic outlook to life have robbed us of these wonderful treasures. This self depravation mode can be broken the minute we crack open the scriptures and even start studying or listen to lectures by traditional scholars. One such attempt is being made here to translate Hanuman’s dilemmas in Lanka and map them on to our daily lives. This will get magnified with svadhyaya of Valmiki Ramayana.
Traditionally Sundara Kanda is prescribed for people who lack hope in life or in their own actions. I never could fathom it, till it started getting clearer when Hanuman took me on this journey. I encourage all to read Sundara Kanda. On the same token Mahabharata also has Vana Parva which is prescribed for a mind in turmoil, to give hope. This article is to merely shine the light into the mine entrance that is studded with diamonds and gems. Every miner can unearth much bigger treasure than what is described in this article.

Hanuman had to surmount innumerable obstacles to reach Lanka. But we realize that his dilemmas and landmine ridden options had only begun. It appears that he jumped from a level 1 of a video game straight onto level 20, in terms of complexity. He successfully navigated not only the task given on hand, but went far beyond the literal objective of finding Sita. It is no wonder why he was the one chosen to receive Rama’s signet ring.

Valmiki has blessed us all with intricate details of not only Hanuman’s actions, but also his subtle thoughts and deep doubts. This is a real blessing as one can follow Hanuman’s footsteps not only in our spiritual journey, but also in day to day mundane life.

Hanuman’s dilemmas and how he solved

            Perhaps the beauty behind all these subtleties is why Valmiki got inspired and named this as Sundara Kanda. The sad part behind the modern narration is only on the plot. Hanuman lands in Lanka, searches and finds Sita and fights Ravana in a more cartoonish or TV soap style. The emotions, thoughts and actions of Hanuman are worth studying for every student of life. Most of us live, eat, breed and die like animals as we do not take time to study life. Hanuman can be a very easy bridge to charter into this territory.
Dilemma 1:  As Hanuman approached Lanka aerially, he was constantly soaking up all the information, at the same time studying every angle. The city was dazzling and seemed impregnable to even Devas, not to mention vanaras. Lanka was the erstwhile the capital for Kubera, Ravana's half-brother, from whom he snatched it.

Hanuman, based on the geography, opined that only four vanaras - Angada, Nila, Sugriva and himself as fit to clear the distance. Even if he transported Rama and Lakshmana, he wondered if they can even make a dent into the fortress of Lanka, guarded by millions of mighty rakshasas.

Hanuman reined in his thoughts by focusing on the task on hand - finding Sita's status, if she is alive or not and then turn his attention to other questions on his mind.

Lesson: Do not get distracted from the task on hand, no matter how critical that aspect can be. This wasting of energy and attention can mess up even the simplest things we are doing.

Dilemma 2: Hanuman now pondered what will be the best way to enter Lanka undetected. In his natural or his enlarged form, it was bound to get attraction. Once he is detected, his mission will not only be in jeopardy but also become a risk for Sita's life. He also was constantly pondering on how to meet Sita alone, undetected, so he can impart Sri Rama's message to her.

अर्थानर्थान्तरे बुद्धिर्निश्चितापि न शोभते |
घातयन्ति हि कार्याणि दूताः पण्डितमानिनः || ५-२-४०

न विनश्येत्कथं कार्यं वैक्लब्यम् न कथं भवेत् |
लङ्घनं च समुद्रस्य कथं नु न वृथा भवेत् || ५-२-४१
            Hanuman ponders in these two verses how he can overcome his mental gloom, how the task on hand will not be messed up, how the ocean crossing will not be futile. He reminds himself that even a decided mind will not shine if not taking into account artha and anartha, what is possible and not, what is reasonable or not. In other words do assessments before you take the next step.
Hanuman decided against changing his form as a rakshasa as Rakshasas were much superior to him in deception and hence he will be caught in no time. He decided that a smaller form, akin to the size of a cat and the cover of darkness at night will be the best option to search Lanka undetected by the teeming Rakshasas.

Lesson: Think before you leap, says the adage. Here Hanuman leapt already into Lanka, but invests time to take stock of the situation. A smart person is one who has a feedback loop of what is happening on ground, which is used to take the next step. This does not mean be paralyzed by analyzing only. This makes sense before we undertake any endeavor. Be adaptable to the ever changing situations.

Dilemma 3: As Hanuman went about his search, Lankini, a demoness who was responsible for guarding Lanka, challenges him. Before Hanuman could assess her intentions, she smashes him with her palm quickly. Hanuman again resists his anger and uses mild force of his left fist to ground her. Immediately he talks to her politely, being considerate of her being a woman and also inferior in strength. Lankini blesses him and informs the doom time has begun for the rakshasas headed by Ravana, on account of Sita. Hanuman rejoiced as it was one more proof for him that Sita was in Lanka.

Lesson: Confront the ever changing challenges. Lankini went from talking to attacking. Be alert for course correction. Never be afraid to go after tough situations, as it builds your character. It also opens more doors which are not available without such an action. We saw a similar approach from Hanuman against Simhika, enroute to Lanka. Hanuman also demonstrates how to not let the emotions lead us astray. He used force, but didnot let his anger carry him away.

Dilemma 4:  Hanuman searched every building and having found no trace of Sita, decided to search Ravana's Palace. He found the mighty Ravana in deep sleep. All around him were rakshasa women filled with lust, asleep in different poses. The gynaeceum was not only a reflection of Ravana's splendour but also his amorous side. 
Hanuman saw a lady who was the most graceful, beautiful and youthful among them. It was Mandodari. Immediately he danced in joy as he thought he found Sita. Simultaneously he also thought with a calm, reasonable mind, Sita away from Rama will never be interested in anything but Rama.  

Lesson: Even in victory, retain calm. Never lose sight of your intellect. This happens usually when our victory turns to a mirage, like in Hanuman’s case. Sometimes we settle for whatever we get instead of the ideal. If the ideal is lofty, strive harder. Do not give up Great and settle for Good. Do not let reason leave you under any circumstances.

Dilemma 5: Although Hanuman had no intention to see other women, he ended up seeing scores and scores of women in all sorts of poses. Being a Brahmachari and a dharmic adherent, he was overwhelmed by a doubt, how these vistas of rakshasa women will hurt him. He focused long and hard on this serious problem and concluded firmly that it is the mind's condition and not the sensory inputs that matter. How the mind reacts to the senses determine their impact. Also in searching a woman, it is obvious the search includes where women reside.

            Lesson: Test your sincerity and morality. As long as one is grounded in Dharma, one is on the safe side. We see all great characters known to mankind, be it Yudhishtra or any dharmic raja, constantly re-evaluated themselves against this benchmark. This reassessment of measuring ourselves against Dharma is very essential for not every spiritual seeker, but every human being. We must note Dharma is not just morality or our conscience as it is normally mistranslated.

            Many a time, a thinking person confronts a question - “Am I doing the right thing?”, “Am I doing enough of the right thing?” The answer lies simply in mapping our thoughts, words and actions against the map of DHARMA. When someone is striving hard to do this and only then their conscience can be said to be active.

Dilemma 6: Hanuman was overcome by a sense of deep depression having searched all the buildings and palaces for the missing Sita. He opined that since she could not be found out despite a thorough search, Sita must have been killed by Ravana as she would never forsake her chastity and traditions. Sugriva will not be patient to this failed mission and all the vanaras life seemed to be at stake. He wondered what his response can be to the waiting vanaras who firmly believed in him. 
Lesson: It is harder to grasp the essence without reviewing the words of Hanuman, captured by Valmiki. Despite the serious depression clouding Hanuman’s mind, his wisdom shone brightly to guide him.

अनिर्वेदः श्रियो मूलम् अनिर्वेदः परम् सुखम् |
अनिर्वेदो हि सततम् सर्व अर्थेषु प्रवर्तकः || ५-१२-१०

"Non-depression is root of development. Absence of despondency is the greatest comfort. Self reliance always is indeed the promoter in all matters."

करोति सफलम् जन्तोः कर्म यच् करोति सः |
तस्माद् अनिर्वेद क्ऱ्तम् यत्नम् चेष्टे अहम् उत्तमम् || -१२-११
अदृष्टामः विचेष्यामि देशान् रावण पालितान् |

"Whatever action a human does that action of man is made to be successful by non-depression. For that reason I will perform a best effort together with non-depression. I will search all those regions ruled by Ravana not yet seen."

            Never Give Up. After assessing the path, mapping it to dharma, the only task remaining is to keep at it. Hanuman does take time to constantly reassess his bearings, but is very careful to use his buddhi, his clues on hand and the consequence of his inaction to keep himself motivated. Motivation is an inside job.
Dilemma 7: The mental anguish and turmoil of Hanuman's conflicting thoughts grew new bounds. He continued searching and felt that he had searched every four angulas of the land. His mind projected the possibilities of Sita dying from a range of possibilities that ranged from wriggling out of Ravana's hands into the ocean to being eaten by the Rakshasis or mere fright of looking at them killing her. As he firmly concluded that the entire mission had turned out to be wasteful, how could he face the vanaras, let alone Rama. If he ever communicated about Janaki's absence, Rama is bound to not live a minute longer. Seeing this Lakshmana, Bharata, Shatrugna, Dasaratha's wives, Sugriva and every single vanara will give up their lives. The lives of all these innocent ones seem to rest upon Hanuman and this made the situation even worse.

If he did not be the messenger of death, the vanaras and Rama-Lakshmana will live on hope. The thought of becoming a hermit or renouncing his life crossed his mind. He sought to kill Ravana to avenge the death of Sita or perhaps capture him and drag him in front of Rama. Again his mind went back and forth without a direction, burdened by a deep sense of desperation and dejection.

He glanced at the Ashoka vana in front and understood that he had not come across this place in his travails before. Hanuman now took time to pray the Vasus, Rudras, Adityas, Maruts and Aswinis. He saluted Rama with Lakshmana, Rudra, Indra, Yama and Vayu. He saluted his king, Sugriva. He prayed to them for a successful mission and to remain undetected by the teaming rakshasa warriors.

Lesson: Prayer or divine guidance is not a factor of dumping what we want to an idea of God and wanting our desires to be fulfilled. Hanuman demonstrates his willingness to comply with the cosmic direction. Prayer is not HOPE – Highly Optimistic Prayerful Expectation. Prayer is aligning our body, mind and buddhi along with the Cosmic intention. When this happens, it appears our prayers are answered.

If a terminal patient in death bed keeps on praying for good health, is he or she hopeful or prayerful? Many New Age and motivation speakers keep confusing us with useless prescriptions. If Prayer does not bring us PEACE within, then it means we are only chasing our desires. Such prayers are to anticipated outcomes disguised as our mental image of God. PEACE can happen only when we rise above the dichotomy of Good and Bad, desirable and undesirable, likes and dislikes.

Dilemma 8: Having searched all over the Ashoka vana, Hanuman finds a very auspicious pond and firmly believed that Sita will come to this pond to dissipate her grief. There was an exuberance of auspiciousness in that pond and the time was dawn and Sita must be pondering Rama over Sandhya rituals.

Lesson: Having exhausted relying on sensory inputs, manas and buddhi, Hanuman is now resorting to Intuition. This is an internal guidance system that works constantly in all of us, but due to the cacophony of the senses and mind, its voice gets drowned. We saw earlier that Hanuman has prepared his mind on prayer. He selects this Simshupa tree to watch the activities of Ashoka vana.

Om Tat Sat