Lessons from Hanuman’s devotion to Rama 1 – When we hide ourselves from the Lord, he hides himself from us
[Congregation program at Phoenix, USA]
Transcription of Lecture
Transcribed by: Sadananda Prabhu
Lessons from Hanuman’s devotion to Rama 1 – When we hide ourselves from the Lord, he hides himself from us (1)
I will talk about devotion of Hanuman to Ram and various lessons that we can learn from it.
One main thing that I will focus on today is how humility and ambitiousness can be both brought together. How to be humbly ambitious? Hanuman himself is the manifestation of both Bhakti and Shakti. He is often depicted as hands folded which signifies his bhakti. But along with that in those folded hands he holds a mace, and that mace he uses for doing heroic things in the Lord’s service. So, that is his Shakti. So, we could say Bhakti corresponds with humility, and Shakti corresponds with ambition. So, how to be humbly ambitious?
In the practice of Bhakti there is the aspect of devotion to the Lord and dependence on the Lord, but there is also the diligence for the service of the Lord. So, Hanuman manifests both dependence and diligence. We will focus primarily on Hanuman’s journey to Lanka and especially his …1.30…(inaudible) in Lanka. That is the time when Hanuman is most prominent, and while doing that we will do some flashback or we will do some fast forward and discuss some other related pastimes also with respect to the Ramayana and its philosophical things.
The Ramayana in its first two books: the Bala Kanda and the Ayodha Kanda speaks primarily in the realm of humans. There are a few demons who come over there, like Ram defeats Subahu and Tataka and Maricha also flees, but it is mostly interactions with human beings, and then when Ram goes to the forest, at that time the initial part of the forest days is also with human beings; he is interacting with other sages. He goes to Citrakuta, and there he resides over there on the Citrakuta mountain on the advice of the sage Bharadwaj, but then he sees that although demons are not present over there, but they are terrorising that area. They keep coming in and doing incursions and going back. So, he decides to put his stay in the forest for good use, and when he comes to a place called Ramteka in Maharastra, there he sees that there is a mound of bones of ascetics and sages who have been devoured by the demons, and he decides that the kind of atrocities that this demons are performing, I have to stop them. So, Ram is no longer enjoying the privileges of being a king, but still he is conscious of his responsibility of being a king. He sees himself as a ksatriya and as a member of the royal dynasty, and he sees that it is his duty to protect people, and not just his citizens. Ayodhya’s kingdom was quite big, but now they were in the forest, but here also Ram felt that it was his duty to protect. And then Ram comes to Nasik and stays in Dadakaranya in Nasik, and that is where the unfortunate interaction with Surpanakha happens, and then the whole conspiracy by which Ram and Laxman sidetracked and Ravana comes in as an imposter form and abducts Sita. After that when Ram is frantically searching and he first meets Jatayu, and there is several other encounters
after which he comes to Kiskinda – and that is near Pampa Sarovara where he meets Sugriva for the first time. Actually he meets Hanuman first. Sugriva spots him first, and when he spots him, he immediately becomes apprehensive. Hanuman however is surprised to see these two princes in the forest. In the forest Ram and Hanuman are unusual sight to behold. Sugriva’s vision is shaped entirely by fear. Sugriva has been misunderstood by his brother Bali who thought that Sugriva wanted to kill him and usurp his kingdom. So, he has now driven him out of his kingdom and now is trying various ways to finish off Sugriva.
Whenever Sugriva sees anyone coming in the vicinity of the forest he is suspicious. So, our vision is shaped by our conception. If we are filled with fear, whatever we see we will see it as a source of fear and danger. We hardly see the world as it is. We see the world as we are. In general when we function in the world, we don’t function based on the physical reality of how things are. Rather we function based on our mental conceptions of that physical reality. Suppose we are going through a forest and we see a mirage. Now we don’t see it as a mirage but we see it as water, and when we see it as water, at that time we may rush towards it thinking that it will relieve our thirst. The physical reality is that there is only sand over there, but our action is determined not by the physical reality, but it is determined by the mental perception of the physical reality, and the mental perception is sometimes accurate and sometimes inaccurate. So, of course the consequences of our actions will be determined by the physical reality: that I may go there and try to drink water. If I pick up the sand and put it in my mouth and my tongue will get burned by that and I won’t get any relief. Rather my thirst will get aggravated. So, the physical reality does matter in terms of the consequences that our actions will have, but the mental conception of the reality determines what action we will take. Therefore the prime function of the intelligence is to get the mental conception in alignment with the physical reality, or at least to recognize that there is misalignment between the two.
Even after we intellectually know that there are mirages in the desert, still the mirage will appear like water. So, the physical reality will appear in the mind as water, but with our intelligence we can understand that this is not a right perception. Similarly for us we all have our own attachments, our own misconceptions and our own biases because of which we perceive things in particular ways, and in this case of Sugriva because he was filled with fear, and especially because he knew that Bali could not come to that area of the Pampa Sarovara because there was a curse that if Bali ever comes in that area he will fall dead. So, then this could have acted as source of security for him, but the mind that is filled with fear doesn’t see security. Even in security it looks for insecurity. Yes, he was confident that Bali cannot come here, but still he was fearful that Bali will send someone else over here, and that’s how anybody who comes to the forest his first reaction was fear. And they had made their camp on top of a mountain from where they could see what was happening, and Sugriva was sitting on the top of the mountain; he had earlier been the king or at least the prince, and among the other soldiers who had come with him Hanuman was one of them, and they were his assistants.
Sugriva was in the watch out and when he saw this two young and powerful people,
they were a mysterious site because on one hand they were dressed like munis or they were dresses in ascetic garb. But while being in the ascetic garb they were carrying bows and arrows and were carrying weapons. This caused even greater confusion to Sugriva. He was thinking, “What is happening here?”
Normally whenever we look at the world, the world is so complicated that’s it is not so easy for us to make sense of it. There are so many different kinds of people, so many different kinds of objects and so many different kinds of events. So, usually we try to make sense of the world by potting things in some conceptual categories. For example, if we meet someone we think, “Oh this person is Indian, this person is American, this person is Chinese.” then we have not just nomenclature; it is not just the name that we give, but we also have certain conceptions, “Ok, this person is like this. This person is like this.” and this kind of categorization at one level is essential for functioning. So, if we know that somebody is from India, then I may speak with him in Hindi, if somebody is from America I will speak with him in English and if somebody is from my own state I will speak with them in my mother tongue. This kind of categorization is good because it is required for functioning, but sometimes this kind of categorization doesn’t work because people may blurk? 11.24 at us.
One time I had gone for an interfaith conference. I was talking about religion and different issues on earliest? 11.40 harmony and conflict. After that one Muslim approached me. He had a typical cap and a long beard; and then he came to me, and he clearly pronounced sanskrit and he started reciting Bhagavad-gita verses. Normally if somebody is a muslim you don’t expect them to recite Bhagavad-gita verses, and that too in clear sanskrit. Then I talked with him. The idea of course was that he wanted to convert Hindus to Muslims. So, for that purpose he had studied the Bhagavad-gita and had even memorized Bhagavad-gita verses. Then we became friends and he told me later that, “Actually after I started reciting the Bhagavad-gita verses, I feel very good while reciting these verses.” So, Krishna was acting in his life also. So, the point is that we are based on the categories that we put the people in, and we have certain expectations from them, like I won’t expect a muslim to speak sanskrit verses.
There are brahmanas and there are ksatriyas. If somebody is dressed as a muni or an ascetic; they should not be carrying a weapon. So, what is going on? Who are these people? For Sugriva, the first thing he saw was, “Oh! They are carrying bow and arrow.” and that increased his fear, and he immediately called other monkeys, “Come there is danger over there.” When all the monkeys came out there, then Hanuman came and said, “O prince, what is there to worry about? They are simply ascetics. Ascetics keep wandering in the forest, and they are also wandering.” So, Hanuman with his vision saw that they are simply a’scetics, but Sugriva’s vision went on their carrying bow and arrow. So, Sugriva said, “Can’t you see they are carrying bow and arrow? It is very suspicious.” Hanuman looked at them closely, and he said, “They don’t look suspicious at all to me. If they were on some hidden agenda, then they would not come in such a contradictory appearance. They have come openly, they are talking loudly, and they are not trying to make any attempt to conceal their passage, and they are not searching for you, they
seem to be going on their own journey, they don’t seem to be aware of your presence. If they had come on some agenda, then they would have concealed their weapons and they would have concealed their presence, they would have concealed their passage.” Sugriva said, “We can’t take risk. So, you better go and find out who they are.”
In the Bhagavad-gita (4.11) Krishna says that, ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamyaham: as all people surrender unto me, I reward them accordingly. This verse comes in a very interesting context. Before this Krishna has talked about his appearance in this world. The famous verses are Gita (4.7 & 4.8). In the next verse after this Krishna will talk about the worship of the Devatas.
Arjuna gets the question, “My dear Lord if you descend here anyone by knowing you and loving you can get delivered from this material world. Then why are there different forms of worship?” Then Krishna says, “I reciprocate according to people’s desires.” Here the theme is, when Sugriva’s consciousness is filled with fear he sees Ram as a source of fear and as a cause of danger. Hanuman is not driven by that fear. So, there is no fear that he perceives. It is just an intrigue. Who are these people? So, he comes along, but because Sugriva has told him to be cautious, he assumes a different form.
It is interesting that in the Ramayana there are many different characters who assume different forms. Hanuman himself changes forms, Indrajit sometimes changes forms, and Ravana changes forms on the demons side, and Hanuman changes form on the Vanaras side. It is interesting that Ram never changes his form. So, Lord Ram in the Ramayana acts as a maryada purusottama. So, he doesn’t use any covert strategies for doing anything. He is very open in doing whatever he wants to do. Hanuman will change his form on many, many different occasions. In the Ramayana it is his first appearance, and he appears as the assistant of an exiled king, and there is also Ram who is an exiled king and his assistant is Laxman. So, Ram has only Laxman, and Sugriva has some other monkeys with him, but the primary assistant is Hanuman. When Hanuman descends he changes his form.
As I said earlier for Hanuman, he had seen Ram and Laxman as ascetics. Sugriva has seen them to look as warriors because they have weapons. So, because Hanuman focussed on the fact that they are ascetics, he decided to approach them in that mood. So, he took the form of a Brahmana, and as a Brahmana he started approaching them, and different people when they interact with each other based on their particular nature, they interact in different ways. If two people who are Brahminical interact, their interaction point or their intersection point of their interaction would be their common interest. So, when Hanuman appears over there, Hanuman greets them and Hanuman is speaking in a very sweet, learned and profound way. Generally when we approach people, we all carry some impressions about people, and broadly speaking there are four parameters by which we derive our impressions of people. First is how they dress, second is what they talk, third is how they talk, and fourth is what they do? There are appearance, content of their speech, the manner of their speech and their profession. Broadly speaking these are the four parameters by which we evaluate others. Till now
Bali and Sugriva have not heard Ram and Laxman speak. They can see that they are speaking something, but they have not heard them directly. On the other hand Ram and Laxman have also not interacted with Hanuman till now.
In the Lord’s lila, when he descends to this world, there are two aspects: One is that there is his aiswarya; we could say his Iswaratwa, his divinity, and then there is his humanity. He in never an ordinary human being; he is always the supreme being, but when he descends to this world he acts like an ordinary human being. Nara lila Kaivalyam. The Vedanta sutra says that the absolute truth performs naralila and acts like a human being. Here on most of the occasions Ram doesn’t act as if he is omniscient. He acts as if he is a human being; a powerful and resourceful human being. When required he will manifest his omnipotence.
When Hanuman approaches Ram and Laxman, he asked them, “O ascetics, what are you doing here in this lonely forest. He introduces himself as a brahmana and he enquires, and just by a pinch the gentle, cultured way in which he greets them and the sweet way he speaks – generally when some people speak; just by the way we speak we can understand their culture and their level of education and their background. We all have our accents, we all have our vocabulary and we all have our speed and fluency of speaking. This is not necessarily to judge others as somebody being less educated or more educated, but it is just a observation that we make. So, Hanuman is actually a remarkable being. On one side Ram and Laxman are blurring social categories; they are dressed like brahmanas but carrying ksastriya weapons. Hanuman is actually a vanara. So, he directly belongs to any human category, but the categories of brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra; they are also functional. Every society for its organisation needs some kind of division. So, Hanuman is in the Vanara kingdom and he is a warrior. But he is not just a warrior but he is also very learned. Buddhimatam varistam – as he is glorified. He is the best among wise people. So, he has learned from a person who is actually the source of illumination for everyone; the Sungod. He has learned from Suryadeva and that is why he speaks in a very cultured way. Ram when he hears this, his mind which is distressed because of separation from Sita; not just separation from Sita – The separation is itself bad enough. When we love someone and they are far away from us, that causes great grief, but if somebody is far away from us and we don’t know how they are, that is even worse.
If somebody has gone far away and we can’t contact them, and they haven’t returned back to us, and they are not returning our phone calls; it is great anxiety. If somebody is far away from us and we are not able to contact them, and we also know they are in danger – maybe somebody is in a part of America where a hurricane is hitting and we are calling them but they are not responding; then that causes even greater anxiety. So, for Ram, he is separated from Sita; actually this is the first time after their marriage that there is a significant separation. After the marriage they are always together and Sita insists that she will come with Ram to the forest also, and they are separated, and not only are they separated, but he doesn’t know where she is and he knows that she is in great danger, because before this he has met Jatayu, and Jatayu has told that Ravana
has abducted us. So, Ram is in great anxiety at that time and while he is in such anxiety, just the soothing words and the soothing speech of Hanuman pacifies his mind and Ram tells Laxman, “This sage is a very learned person. See how sweetly he is speaking. Surely he must be knowing all the Vedas. That is how his speech is so sweet.”
Anudwega karam vakyam
Satyam priyam hitam ca yat
swadhaya abhaysina caiva
van mayam tapa uchyate
In the Gita (17.15) Krishna talks about the austerity of the speech; austerity of speech means we should speak in a disciplined way, and the first characteristic of austere speech or regulated speech Krishna says is, Anudwega karam vakyam – speak in a way that it doesn’t do udwega. Udwega is agitation. The world is an agitating place and when we interact with each other we shouldn’t want to increase the agitation of people; we should speak to give others peace of mind, not to give them a piece of our mind.
Actually everybody is disturbed in this world. Afterwards when we are disturbed, and we give them a piece of our mind, that takes away their peace of mind. Of course sometimes when we are disturbed and we have to share our concerns with them – but in general if somebody can speak in a pleasing way they are welcome everywhere, and just by their appearance and their speech people feel pleased. Actually Chanakya Pandit said that if a king wants to conquer the world, the first ability he needs to have is to learn to use the power of speech properly. We should learn to speak in a way that inspires others. A king may be heroic, but the wars are won not just by the king’s heroism. The wars are won by the king’s ability to inspire the whole army. So, the power of speech is very important, and when we can speak in ways that decreases people’s agitation, then we can become agents of well-being for everyone. Of course sometimes we may be agitated and we just can’t keep it inside. We will have to express it, but we can express in a way that leads to further understanding, or we can speak in a way that aggravates the misunderstanding that increases the barriers.
Here Ram is in distress, but just by hearing the sweet speech of Hanuman he feels peaceful, and then Ram says to Laxman, “Please answer. The culture is that when two people are there and one is elder and the other is younger, then the younger does the introduction. So, when Hanuman is asking who they are, then Laxman introduces himself. He says, “He is the prince of Ayodha and he speaks the glories of Ram”, and then he says, “I am his servant. I am his younger brother Laxman.” When Hanuman hears this he is delighted.
Ram and his glories are known far and wide. Ram in his youth itself had busted terrible demons, and till that time the greatest feat that he had performed, the feat that had brought him the greatest fame was the lifting of the bow which he had lifted to win the hand of Sita in the swambhara. Even powerful warriors and demons like Ravana had
been unable to do that. So, Ram’s glory simply as a prince also went widespread. But Hanuman was not just a warrior who knew about the glories of another greater warrior; Hanuman is also an eternal devotee of Ram. Therefore in this particular situation when he hears that this is Ram, he is delighted. He said, “My dear Lord I did not recognize you.” He offers his respects to Ram and says, “I am delighted to see you, I am grateful to be in your presence.” He offers his obeisance’s and he says, “How is it that you my dear Lord I didn’t recognize you?” Actually Ram smiles and he says, “O Hanuman you concealed your presence from me; therefore I concealed my presence from you. You came in a hidden form. You did not reveal who you truly were. Therefore I did not reveal to you who I truly am.” Actually by this time what had happened was, when he hears that it is Ram, and Laxman also tells that we are looking for Sugriva; because before this he has met several people and they have told that you can form an alliance with Sugriva and that can help you to find Sita. Especially he has met Kabanda. Kabanda bahu chedan Rama; also he had met Sabari before this; sabari datta phalasan Rama; he took the berries that Sabari offered. So, he is being guided. He is looking for Sugriva, and when Hanuman hears that Rama is looking for Sugriva to seek an alliance with him he is delighted, and he says, “Oh I am the servant of Sugriva.” And then when he speaks he realizes, “O how could I not recognize Ram?” When Ram says that, if you want to hide yourselves, then I hide myself; this has a very deep significance for all of us.
When we approach the Lord; in general whenever we function in this world, there is always a distance between what we are and what we appear to be. We all portray certain image of who we are, but internally our desires and our feelings may be quite different.
All of us can’t read each other’s minds, and that is a great blessing. (laughter) If we could start reading each other’s minds, not a single relationship could be maintained. For us, we all have desires and emotions that we would be proud of, that we wouldn’t want the world to know, and nature has given us a buffer by which the emotions and desires come within us and they stay and they go. Just having desires and emotions which just comes and goes is not necessarily a bad thing. So, the difference between what we appear to be externally and what we are internally is not necessarily a bad thing. It becomes bad when there is no attempt to decrease this difference.
When I continue with the externals simply to cover up the internals and I am not trying to bring the external and internal to harmony, then I become hypocritical. Rather I cover that up so that I can continue the internal. So, sometimes this difference between the external and the internal is a healthy thing because that is what culture is about.
Sometimes I feel really angry with someone and I feel like beating them up, but then I won’t do it. That’s culture. Now I can’t wish away the anger. The anger is there, but I won’t act on that anger.
Last year when I had come I had gone to one place where I spoke at a mental health
care center. Now in crude Hindi you would call the mental health care center as a pagal khana. (laughter) But it is not exactly that. Rather what they say mental care is who requires mental health. Whether they need to be admitted in the mental health care center or not, who is it that needs mental health care? So, I was talking with one of the doctors over there, and he was saying that we all have impulses. For example, we all get angry. Now different people respond to anger in different ways. Some people just become irritable, some people just become silent and they just don’t talk with anyone because they try to give the other the silent treatment. Like when small children quarrel they do katti and say, “I won’t talk with you.” So, like that some people just become silent, some people just become irritable, and with just any small thing, they speak harshly and rudely; some people just explode and blast out when they get angry; some people don’t just blast out verbally but they may assault physically or they may just start beating someone. Some people may even go worse; especially in America it is big concern that guns are available freely, and some people may just take a gun and shoot someone. So, all of us have impulses and all of us respond to those impulses differently. If our response to impulses become destructive to others, or if we act on our impulses which is destructive to other, then such a person is a danger to others, and in order to process their impulses better they may need mental health care. So, we all will meet difficulties in life and we may get depressed, and when we become depressed we will want to be alone and say, “I want be alone; I don’t want to do anything, I don’t want to talk with anyone.” But in the depression if someone starts taking too much alcohol or drugs or starts becoming suicidal, then that person needs mental health care.
In the course of our life difficulties come up with everyone, and difficulties create unhealthy emotions within us. Now how do we respond to those emotions? That will determine whether we are mentally healthy or not. Negative emotions will come in everyone because negative situations will come in everyone. But what do we do with those emotions? That is important. So, the point which I was making over here is that this is the external and this is the internal, and there is a difference between external and internal. So, Ram told Hanuman, “Because you hid yourselves from me I hid myself from you.” So, we are talking about this concept of external and the internal. In this difference one could be that just out of civilized culture we control the emotions within us. For example, if I am angry I don’t act out of anger. That is simply because emotions are temporarily coming and I need to discipline and it would go away. Sometimes we do it because of determination, like sometime we just don’t feel like studying, but we want to study and we want to work. Sometimes the boss may give a lot of work, and we feel so angry internally, but we stay polite; that’s just discipline and we just need that.
I read a quote which read, “The harder you work, the better the vacation your boss goes on.” So, sometimes we may be angry, but because the job is important for us and because our relationship with our boss is important for us; with determination we control our emotion, and sometimes we cover up because we want to do something which is unscrupulous. In Hindi they say, “Ati bhakti chorer lakshana – if somebody is acting too obsequious and too flattering; if someday a person who is not normally nice to us,
suddenly one day starts speaking very nice to us, we start wondering, “What does this person want, why is he speaking so nicely with me?” So, sometimes inside and outside are different, and this difference we are continuing with no intention of trying to change it, and by concealing the internal we want to do something unscrupulous. That is bad. Having this difference is just a fact of human condition. We all have certain differences and we live according to, and if we are not at their level, and that is fine, but we are trying to breach the difference. But when we are not trying to do that at all and simply covering it up and just keeping it up that way so that we can continue acting internally in a negative way or in a bad way without anyone coming to know; that is bad.
Here when we talk about Ram and Hanuman, what is happening?
In the world we often put on a facade; not just a facade in the negative sense, but we put on an appearance in the negative sense.But when we go in front of the Lord, to some extent we may dress as devotees or we may act as pious people when we go and pray before the Lord. This is also out of culture. At the same time in front of him we cannot hide anything. He is sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisto; he is there in our hearts itself, he knows everything, but to the extent we hide ourselves from him, to that extent he hides himself from us. That means when we conceal our real self from him, then he conceals his real self from us. So, what is that real self? There are many impurities within us; we are all in different ways very fallen, but when we are try to act that nothing is wrong with us and everything is very good, then we are all fallen, and if we don’t think that we are fallen, then we are really fallen. It is like if somebody is drunk, and they are little drunk, they understand, “I better be careful, now I cannot drive the car.” Then they may call someone to pick them up or they may take a cab or something like that; now that they are drunk and that they can’t drive the car. Then they may call someone to pick them up or they may pick a cab or something like that. If they have drunk a lot, and then a friend tells them, “You cannot drive the car anymore.” Then he says, “Who has said I cannot drive the car. I can.” (laughter) So, when we are a little drunk, then we can understand that we are drunk, but when we are too drunk we don’t understand that we are drunk. Similarly, when we are all fallen but when we don’t understand that we are fallen, and then we are really fallen or we are extremely intoxicated by illusion. So, we all have impurities within us, and these impurities will be removed by the purificatory process of bhakti. However, when we go in front of the Lord, we need to admit the impurities. If we try to conceal that everything is fine –
There are different modes in which we worship the Lord. There is the devotional way or the bhakti way of worshipping the Lord, and there is the karma way of worshipping the Lord. There is punya and bhakti which is often thought to be equivalent, but there is difference. In bhakti we understand how small and fallen we are and how great the Lord is. However, in karma kanda or when we are doing punya we think that God is good and I am also good and we are connecting with each other. What is that Hindi song? Tumse barker kaun, aur tumhare bhakto jano mein humse barker kaun? Who is greater than
you Lord, and among your devotees who is greater than me. Bhakti Vinod Thakur in one of his writings says that this is the attitude of people who are pious materialists. They are pious, but they are not spiritually minded, or in other words they are materialists. They think, “Ok, God is good, but I am also good. Our relationship is between two good people.” That is also better than impious materialism or atheism, but still at that platform we cannot really take shelter of the Lord. For taking shelter of the Lord we have to be aware of our smallness.
In the Vedic path there are three broad pathways: karma kanda, jnana kanda and the bhakti kanda or upasana kanda which leads to bhakti basically. So, karma kanda is the idea that this world is a good place and by devotion to God the world will become a better place and my life will become happier. So, I worship God so that I can get more and more good things. In jnana kanda this world is a terrible place and I just want to get out of here. In Upasana kanda we think, “O my dear Lord, you are my ultimate object of worship, I want to focus on you, and if I serve you in this world I will serve you in this world, if I get out of this world I will come and serve you there.” The focus is on serving the Lord, and there is some similarity in karma kanda and jnana kanda. In karma kanda the idea is that, “God is good, this world is good and I am also good, let us all make all things all good.” Similarly, in jnana kanda there is the idea that we may not think that this world is good, but we think that God is spiritual and I am spiritual, and we are to become one. So, oneness of the jiva and God is sought in jnana kanda. In Bhakti the idea is that we want to focus on iswara mahima, how great the Lord is. Sripad Ramanujacharya says that Narayana is endowed with innumerable qualities. So, when we approach the Lord, at that time we approach him with humility and we say, “My dear Lord. I am fallen.” This humility actually is empowering. How is it empowering? Because humility opens the door of our heart for the Lord’s mercy to flow in.
Krishna or Lord Ram are always present within our hearts, and their mercy is available, but our heart is closed to that. When we are humble and we say, “My dear Lord! I need you.” – humility can have different meanings, and we will discuss different aspects of humility as well as ambition in our future classes, but here the basic theme is that when we have humility we feel the need for the Lord, and that makes us call out to the Lord.
There is humility and there is humiliation; and the two are different things. What is the fundamental difference between the two? The difference is in the foundation. Then I want to prove to the world that I am great; I have a false ego, but somehow that false ego has been shattered. I wanted to do something great, and somebody insulted me and I feel terribly because I made a mess of everything. So, humiliation is false ego frustrated, whereas humility is false ego rejected. Rejected means that, I don’t want to think that I am a big person. We pray, “My dear Lord I am a small person, I am your servant, please guide me how I can serve you.”
We often equate humility with humiliation, and that is why we feel, “How can I become humble? Where will be my self esteem? Where will be my self-respect, where will be my dignity? I will lose all that. I will talk about how we get our deepest dignity in our relationship with the Lord because that is the relationship which is based on reality, and
that is based on who we actually are. We have to appear who we actually are. Now who are we? Are we contaminated, fallen, sinful people? We are and we are not also. We are in the sense that we have many conditionings because of which we have done many wrong things, but at our core beyond it all we are pure. Krishna is supremely pure and as his parts we are also eternally pure. So, bhakti is a journey in self-understanding. Self understanding means, initially we are at the level of the body where we think, “I am good looking or I am not good looking, I am tall or I am not tall, I am short, I am this and that.” This is because we have a self-conception based on the body which may make us proud or it may make us frustrated. From there we go inwards and we can recognize the reality of the mind where there are so many impurities within us, and then we know, “O this is who I am. So terrible!” That will make us very discouraged. But we are not the mind; we are beyond that. We are the soul, and the soul is an eternal part of Krishna, and just as Krishna is supremely pure, the soul is supremely pure. To the extent we identify with the mind, to that extent we will think, feel and act impurely. But to the extent we identify with the soul, to that extent we will become purified. So, when Hanuman heard this from Ram, he said, “O my dear Lord. Please forgive me. I was in a mission from Sugriva because of which I had to be cautious.” So, Ram understood, and Ram didn’t hold it against him. When he told Ram, Ram said, “Yes, you hid yourselves from me, and I hid myself from you.” But he said, “I am also eager to meet Sugriva. So, please take me to him.” And Sugriva was on the top of the mountain. So, Ram and Laxman started walking. Then Hanuman said, “O you don’t have to walk up. I will carry you.” Then Ram said, “You will carry us?” And that’s where he was acting like a sage, and Ram and Laxman were Ksatriya warriors. So, Hanuman, he immediately changed his form, and he manifested a huge form. It was a significantly large form and Hanuman does this with Sita also later. There he takes a very small form and then he takes a very big form. So, Hanuman takes a big form and he tells Ram and Laxman, “Please sit on my shoulders.” And they both sit on his shoulders, and this is Hanuman’s opportunity to touch Ram and Laxman’s lotus feet. They sit up on his two shoulders, and Hanuman just rises up and flies up holding on to their lotus feet and cherishing the lotus feet near his heart. They are already there in his heart but now they are also externally there and he takes them up to get them to meet Sugriva. This is the first interaction between Ram and Sugriva. So, Sugriva is actually happy now and that is facilitated by Hanuman. So, although at one level Hanuman in the hierarchy of Kiskinda is subordinate to Sugriva and Sugriva is the prince of the king’s brother we could say. He is the member of the royal dynasty and Hanuman is one warrior in the dynasty, but it is Hanuman who meets Ram first. It is Hanuman who arranges the meeting between Ram and Sugriva, and later we will see how Hanuman comes into his own. This is the Kiskinda kanda, and Hanuman comes into his own in the Sundara kanda where he is the undisputed hero of the whole narrative. That we will discuss in our future sessions.
I will summarize today what I spoke and then if you have any comments or questions we can discuss.
I spoke about lessons from Hanuman and I started by talking about how Hanuman appeared in the Kiskinda kanda; initially there are humans over there in the Ramayana.
It is in the Kiskinda kanda that vanaras and other beings started appearing. So, Sugriva because he is filled with fear that Bali may attack him, sees even Ram as a source of fear, although eventually Ram will become the source of freedom of fear from him. So, we see things not based on how they are, but how we are. So, we act not just based on the physical reality, but on the mental perception of the physical reality. We chase a mirage thinking that it is water. So, intelligence means to recognize this alignment between our physical reality and the mental conception. So, we all have conceptual categories while we try to make sense of the world. We expect a person who looks in a particular way to talk in a particular way or to conduct in a particular way. So, Ram and Laxman in the forest blur the conceptual category of ksatriya and brahmana because they are dressed like ascetic brahmanas, but they are carrying weapons. Sugriva because of his fear focuses on the weapons. Hanuman because of no fear focuses on the brahminical aspects, and that is how he comes there in a garb of a brahmana or of a wise person.
When we meet someone we basically carry impressions of people, and that is based on how they appear and what they speak and how they speak, and what they do. So, Hanuman by his cultured speech creates a very positive impression in Ram, and although Ram is in great agitation because of separation from Sita, because of not knowing about her whereabouts, and because of knowing that she is in great danger; that time the agitated mind also becomes pacified by hearing the sweet, cultured speech of Hanuman. We should speak not to give others a piece of our mind, but peace of mind.
And then when the introductions happen, initially Hanuman is not able to recognize Ram because Ram tells him that, “You hid yourselves from me. So, I hid myself from you.” So, generally we all hide some aspects of ourselves from others, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We get all kinds of emotions within us, and nature has given us a buffer between our emotions and our actions which is, that emotions can’t be seen. So, we all by life’s difficulties will be subjected to that negative emotions. How we process those emotions determines how mentally healthy or unhealthy we are. If our emotions lead to destructive actions, then that’s when somebody needs mental health care. So, we have difference between actions and our emotions and that distance is healthy if we maintain it out of culture or we maintain it out of discipline and determination for a particular purpose. When it become unhealthy and we are not making any attempt to bridge it and we are continuing it as a cover up for our unscrupulous tendencies; for functional purposes we may maintain this difference and we try to bridge it. When we approach the Lord our mood is to know everything about him. So, I don’t hide myself from the Lord.
The difference between the bhakti way of approaching the Lord and the karma kanda way of approaching the Lord is: in bhakti we think, “I am so fallen O Lord, and you are so great, I need you.” In the karma kanda way, one thinks, “You are great and I am also great. So, let’s have a partnership.” That is the idea. Similarly, in the jnana kanda also we may think, “You are spiritual; I am spiritual.” The difference is only in what is the
focus. In the karma kanda the material world is good, you are good and let’s be good; but in the jnana kanda, the spiritual is good, the Brahman is good, I am one, I am Brahman, you are brhman; but in bhakti there is a difference. We think, “My dear Lord! You are great. I am small.” So, we are all fallen, and if we think that we are not fallen, then we are really fallen. Like a person who is so drunk and who doesn’t even understand that he is drunk.
When we say that we are fallen, and we feel the need for the Lord, that will lead to humility. Humility is empowering because it opens the door of our heart for the Lord’s purity to come into our heart and cleanse the contaminations. We may hesitate thinking humility is not for me because we may equate it with humiliation. Humility is false ego rejected, whereas humiliation is false ego frustrated. So, at one level of the body we may conceive ourselves as good or bad, but when we go inwards in the level of our mind we understand that there are a lot of problems that we have, but we are not the mind, but we are the soul. In that sense even now we are pure, and the connection with Krishna takes us from the body though the mind to the soul, and helps us to actually develop our self-understanding, self-esteem and dignity at the level of pure spiritual understanding.
Hanuman acts not just humbly, but also heroically which is signified by his having both folded hands and a mace in the folded hands. Thus he is embodying both bhakti and shakti that we will discuss in our future sessions.
Questions and comments:
Question: If the Sita that was abducted was not the real Sita, why was Ram so agitated, why was Ram so worried?
CCP: The Ramayana happens in different levels. If we say that at the ultimate level Ram is the supreme Lord himself, he is all knowing, he is all powerful, and so he could know that way that Ravana is going to come and abduct Sita; so he would not have gone at all. When Maricha called out on Laxman, he would not have gone at all, or even if he is gone, since he is God, though he far away from there, he could have taken one jump and come back directly from that deep forest. But he is acting as a normal human being. So, the lila basically functions wherein the Lord conceals his divinity for the reciprocation of love. Sometimes for the manifestation of his love his divinity also requires to be manifested. He will manifest. Just like if you consider Krishna lila, in that the concealing and revealing is more graphically seen.
Krishna at one level is just like a sweet cowherd boy who is asking, “Why are you performing the sacrifice? Who are you doing this for?” Just like this the curious boy is asking, but then when there is danger, suddenly this curious boy becomes supremely powerful, and this curious boy can counter the furious Indra also. So, when the Lord wants he will manifest his omnipotence, but in the normal course of life he doesn’t manifest that. So, Ram doesn’t manifest his omniscience over there; he manifests that,
“O Sita who has been taken away and I have to find her and I have to protect her.” At another level we also understand that the Ramayana is spoken at a particular time, and then there are revelations which comes later.
In the Valmiki Ramayana itself at one level he is like a sweet cowherd boy who is asking, “Why are you performing the sacrifice, who are you performing for?” Just like this the curious boy is asking, but then when there is danger, suddenly this curious boy becomes supremely powerful, and this curious boy can counter the furious Indra also. So, when the Lord wants he will manifest his omnipotence and omniscience, but in normal course of life he doesn’t manifest that. So, Ram doesn’t manifest his omniscience over there. He manifests that, “O Sita who has been taken away and I have to find her and I have to protect her.” At another level we also understand that the Ramayana is spoken at a particular time, and then there are revelations which come later. So, in the Valmiki Ramayana itself there is no indication of direct reference to Maya Sita. That is mentioned in Agni Purana and other scriptures. So, the historical narrative is revealed to different extents through different devotees. Ramayana is one event that is happening; but different Achayas, poets, and saints get more and more realizations or revelations of what is happening over there. So, for Ram and his pastimes, as well as the narration of the Valmiki Ramayana there is no explicit mention of Maya Sita. For functional purpose in the Ramayana it is Sita who is lost, who is Ram’s consort and that is why Ram moves heaven and earth as they say to get her back.
Question: When we talk about Hanuman as an example of being humble and ambitious; He was ambitious he could have been a prince and he could have had a more influential position for serving the Lord.
CCP: I will talk about the ambitious aspects in the future class, but the central point which I am talking about is that devotion means purposefulness.
Srila Prabhupada translated Bhakti as devotional service. So, we have a purpose to serve the Lord, and if that purpose is great we are ready to do great things for the service of the Lord. So, Hanuman’s ambitiousness will be seen when he alone is ready to go into the camp of Ravana. Not only does he have to go alone into the enemy camp; he has to actually alone cross the ocean to go to the enemy camp. The ocean itself is filled with danger which he has to cross alone, and then he has to go further into the enemy camp all alone.
Sometimes there are movies which talk about some groups of spy who go to an enemy camp, and before they reach the enemy camp there are so many dangers. Basically for us the essence of devotion is, being purposeful in the service of the Lord and if that purpose is great we are ready to do great things to fulfil that purpose. So, we don’t think that I am great, but we think that “My Lord is great, and this is what he wants me to do, and he can greatly empower me to do it.” That purposefulness gives us a sense of ambition. At the same time there is humility for a devotee, and humility doesn’t mean
that, when people come in front of us we fold our hands and tell everyone, “I am very fallen, I am very fallen, I am very fallen.”
In conduct humility simply means that we don’t let our ego come in the way of our purpose. We have a purpose and if somebody’s behaviour or people’s conduct or some situation leads to the hurting of our ego – but that situation is required for furthering our purpose and we are ready to do that.
When Srila Prabhupada was in India, he was respected as a sadhu. When he went to America nobody knew him. Here in India although he was poor, any wealthy person’s house he would go to, they would give him a respectful place, give him food, and they would hear from him. When Prabhupada went to America he stayed with the hippies, and the hippies would just eat the food and go away and he would have to wash their plates. So, Prabhupada was ready to do that because he saw that the hippies or the people in India who were receiving him were pious, and do have interest in becoming spiritual. Prabhupada saw in America that these people were interested in becoming spiritual. So, basically if we center on the point of purposefulness, then for the purpose of the Lord if our ego comes in the way we are ready to have that ego being hurt or battered also, but for the service of the Lord if great things are to be done we have to be ambitious also.
Question: How do we live before we get our purpose like Srila Prabhupada or Hanuman got.
CCP: It is not that there is necessarily one particular moment of revelation where the purpose comes. If you look at Arjuna, he was born in a ksatriya family and right from his early childhood he knew that he wanted to be a ksatriya, and nobody told him specifically among the five Pandavas that you have to become a champion archer. He went to Drona’s academy and there he saw that archery was something that he was good at, and he started specializing in that. It was not that when he was tirelessly practicing archery he knew in the future there is going to be a great dharma yudha or a great war for establishing dharma in which he would have to play a pivotal role. He saw that this is the ability that I am good at, and so let me use this in Krishna’s service, let me develop it as well as I can, and whenever the opportunity for service comes I will use it. So, we can say that the sense of purpose can be at different levels. At one level we have the ultimate purpose that we want to attain Krishna, we want to develop pure love for Krishna and attain Krishna, but that purpose can sometimes seem too far away.
We sometimes say that there are lost souls in the material world whom we want to get to Krishna’s movement. That is why we distribute books, we invite people for programs. Yes, there are lost souls in the material world who don’t know what is the goal of life but there can be lost souls even in Krishna’s movement who don’t know what to do now in Krishna’s movement, because even in ISKCON you may have: “O this is happening, that is happening.” Nowadays it is very easy to get lost; especially if you go to dhams where hundred people are talking about hundred things; we go on the internet and this
people are saying this, and this people are saying that. So, even in Krishna’s movement we need a purpose. We have a long term purpose of going back to Krishna, but we need short term purpose, we need medium term purpose, we need to have multiple levels of purposes. That’s what will give us focus. So, for us it need not be any particular specific revelation coming up. We just look at ourselves and we see what is our situation and what is our disposition, and we think how best we can serve Krishna in this situation.
There is pastime where Srila Prabhuapada and one of his disciples named Ishan Prabhu; he is now in Alachua. Whenever I go there I will meet him sometimes. So, Prabhupada was in England, and at that time England was the head quarters of the European outreach in Krishna bhakti. Devotees from Germany, from France, from Netherlands, and all these places had come to see Prabhupada, and everybody was reporting to Prabhupada, and Ishant Prabhu felt that everybody had some service to Prabhupada but he didn’t have any service. Then he asked Prabhupada, What can I do for you? Prabhupada said, “What do you want to do for Krsna?” But he said, “No, Prabhupada whatever you tell me I will do.” But Prabhupada said, “What do you want to do? Understand our philosophy. Just find out what you would like to do and do it for Krishna.” So, find out what you would like to do and do it for Krishna.
There are some devotees who may be specifically told, “Do this for Krishna”, but it is not that even in Puranas also we don’t see everybody being givens specific instructions. Is it that all the great sages are told, “Go and become sage now?” There are so many great kings. Are they specifically told to become a king? It is understood from their situations that that is what they will do, but it is not always so clear. So, rather than waiting for some instructions to come we see that I have been given some situation and certain disposition. Let me see how best I can serve in this situation.
If we have service of distributing books, then we try to learn the best skills possible so that we can distribute as much books as possible for Krishna. If we have the service of decorating the Deities we try to learn how best we can decorate the Deities, and then we do that. If we are taking care of our children, then we see how best we can give them the samskaras or the impressions by which they can become wonderful human beings and become wonderful devotees. When we take care of our home we think about how best we can spiritualize our home, if we have a job we can think about how I can conduct myself in a job in such a way that I can attract more and more people to Krishna; either directly the way I am acting in my job or using the position to attract others, or by using the job to create financial security so that I can focus more of my energy on Krishna. So, we have to find out how our present situation can be used to serve Krishna.
I was in L.A recently. There one of Srila Prabhupada’s scientist disciples named Dhrita Karma Prabhu was there. He is not exactly from science background, but he took up that service. Then I asked him how he took up that service. He said, “When I read Srila Prabhupada’s books several times, I felt that Srila Prabhupada very strongly wanted
scientific outreach to happen. I see Prabhupada’s books itself filled with jewels of his instructions, and we take just one of his instructions, and if we take that instruction and if we try to fulfil that, that will be like a jewel which will enrich our life.” So, he took that instruction of Srila Prabhupada to scientifically establish the principles bhakti; he took that and he made that the purpose of his life. Now he invited all over the world in places where great scientists have spoken in Britain, and all over the world. That just became his purpose. So, it is not that we have to given a special purpose or we don’t have to specially given a purpose through some special occasion or some special purpose. It can be the ordinary thing that we are doing, but we do it with an extraordinary consciousness; we do it for Krishna.
Question: There are three paths: Karma, jnana and bhakti. Is a particular path to be preferred or we can do whatever we are doing for Krishna?
CCP: There are different levels at which we all are at on our spiritual evolution. The soul is evolving over many life times, and because we all are at different levels, there are multiplicities of paths available for us.
In the Bhagavad-gita there is a summary description of all the paths. At the same time in the Bhagavad-gita there is a clear recommendation of which path to follow. In the end of the Bhagavad-gita Krishna tells, sarva dharman paritajya mam ekam sharanam vraja, aham tvam sarva papebhyo mokyasami ma sucha, give up all other varieties of religious paths and just follow the path of surrendering to me; this is the path of bhakti. This is Gita (18.66) and before this Krishna talks about something similar in Gita (18.56, 57 & 58) Basically when we talk about the flow of the Bhagavad-gita Krishna talks about the path of Karma yoga in Gita (18.40) to around Gita (18.46) Then from Gita (18.47) onwards to Gita (18.53) he talks from Karma yoga to jnana yoga, and then in Gita (54 & 55) he talks about how from jnana yoga one can rise higher in realization and ultimately come to bhakti. So, Krishna talks about progression over here, from karma yoga, to jnana yoga to bhakti yoga. But in Gita (18.56) he says that this is a gradual way to attain me, but there is another way – Whatever work you are doing, do it for me; if you do it for me by my mercy you will attain the supreme destination. So, Krishna recommends the path of bhakti.
Sometimes we think that if I am working in my job that’s karma yoga, if I go to the temple and do some puja that is bhakti yoga. It is not so simple. Karma yoga and bhakti yoga both have one thing in common; that is there action. In Karma yoga the focus is primarily on detachment, and we think, “I should work with selfish intention, I should give up the fruits of my work so tha
t I can develop selflessness.” But what is the purpose of selflessness? Ok, I give up the fruits of my work, but for what do I give up the fruits of my work? That means that there is the material world, and there is the soul over here. Karma yoga focuses, you work here but create detachment from the world. Don’t be attached emotionally and don’t get captivated. Work but cultivate detachment.
Bhakti yoga is the same thing. You are here, the world is here, Krishna is here. So, work
in the world, but work not just with detachment, work with attachment to Krishna. That means that whatever work we are doing we do it in a mood of offering it to Krishna. Yat karosi yat asnasi… whatever you doing it you offer it to me, Krishna says. This is the level of Bhakti. So, generally we all have our dispositions, and if we are on our own going to search for a particular path, we may based on our dispositions gravitate towards a particular path, but bhakti is so inclusive that people of all dispositions can be included in the path of bhakti. So, if we can get the association of the devotees, then in that association we can learn how with our particular disposition and in our particular position can practice bhakti. So, all paths will lead to spiritual growth, but Krishna especially recommends the path of bhakti as being able to elevate us from wherever we are to the supreme destination.
How to connect and practice bhakti at our own level; that is something which we can learn in the association of devotees.
Question: Would you consider the current activities that we are doing is basically cultivating bhakti?
CCP: Yes, whatever activities we are doing now, bhakti is inclusive. So, in Bhakti there are direct devotional activities such as we are discussing Krishna’s message right now, we go to temple and do worship, we do kirtans, these are direct devotional activities, but bhakti is also inclusive where whatever we are doing we include it in the ambit of bhakti, like when we take care of our children we say, “These are not just our children, they are actually God’s children who have been entrusted in my care.” When I am doing my job I don’t say that I am doing my job. This is actually a work which has been ordained for me by a higher arrangement, and let me do this work in a mood of worship. So, if we take due time to directly connect our consciousness with Krishna, then that connection with Krishna which is inside us, we will use that to connect all other aspects of our life with Krishna also, and that’s how bhakti can become inclusive by direct devotional activities and through indirect devotional activities.
We are all called to do different sacrifices at different times. So, there is something which we like to do and something which we have to do. When we can do what we like to do it is joyful but when we have to do something which we don’t like to do, but we have to do it, it can be sometimes painful. But if we can focus that this thing is here, so I am here and I like it or I don’t like it. But if we see beyond that particular activity and our like and dislike to Krishna, that by doing this activity to Krishna I can connect with Krishna and I can go closer to Krishna. We can not either change the activity itself; nor can we immediately change our disposition. There are certain things which we like and certain things we don’t like. That is just the way we are, but if we cultivate a higher vision, that I may or may not like it; Krishna says that, if we put aside our attachments and aversion and do something in a mood of service, then by this we get the mercy of the Lord, and that mercy comes in various ways. One way that mercy can come is that something which we didn’t like to do, we will start liking it. Our own perceptions can change and we can start liking something. The mercy can also come in the form that
Krishna becomes pleased and he later gives the facility to give us what we like to do, and we stay open to Krishna’s mercy. It is not that we have to deny what we like or dislike; it is not that bhakti means that always we have to sacrifice what we like, but we see that we have a higher intention. When I focus on that intention, Krishna will guide me how to deal with my likes and dislikes in pursuing that higher intension.
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