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

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