It can be difficult to explain the appeal of Lord Hanuman to those who have never read the Ramayana or practiced his devotion. Those familiar with the monotheistic religions might recoil at this monkey god, for, in these belief systems, animality represents something to be feared or suppressed. And yet in the tellings of the Ramayana, Hanuman is the picture of devotion and strength, a companion and friend to Lakshmana, Sita, and Rama. He is also a god in his own right with a complex mythology and philosophy. Those interested in a complete account will be interested in the book, Hanuman: The Devotion and Power of the Monkey God, by Vanamali. This post cannot really begin to capture this important deity or even give an adequate reading list, but a few scenes from the Ramayana stand out.
First, the way that Hanuman remembered his divine nature and leaped across the ocean to the island of Lanka serves as a reminder that we all have powers that we keep dormant in the recesses of our minds. By concentrating on this scene, we feel empowered to give our lives everything that we have rather than holding back. Just as the Sun was Hanuman’s guru, we can learn from the Sun that we have the divine light within. Our siddhis, our powers, satisfactions, and perfections, are already there just waiting to be expressed. Only our doubts and fears hold us back from the unlimited perfection of God.
Next, the way that Hanuman comforts Sita in her hour of distress by bringing Shri Ram’s signet ring reminds us that the Lord is never far away. Though we sit weeping in a grove haunted by demons (representing the thoughts that always torment our minds), rays of light pierce the gloom in moments of illumination. Shri Ram is never far away: we only have to call his name in order to find comfort and sure relief from despair. We should not forget that Sita, too, is a goddess and not just a victim. She represents the purity of the soul longing for God, and that should give us a way to think of even our sadness as a path to the divine. If we all had one millionth of her devotion, we would be enlightened instantly.
A third thought about Hanuman is the way that he brought the mountain of herbs to heal Lakshman on the battlefield. Notice how he spared no expense in healing the Lord’s companion, how he did more than necessary to bring about victory. There is something extravagant about this action which inspires us to do more than necessary in the battle against bad thoughts. This action also shows that Shri Hanuman cares about our physical well-being as well as our spiritual well-being. So we can rightly pray to Hanuman for relief from any sort of ill-health or pain, as long as we do so with great faith and devotion. We should remember that Laksman would have gladly died for Ram, so there is no question of his bearing suffering unwillingly or with complaint.
The deeds and greatness of Hanuman are indeed overwhelming, so much so that they are impossible to recount, so fortunately we have a prayer in summary form that reminds us of all of the qualities of this valiant deva. This prayer is the Hanuman Chalisa (the Forty Verses of Hanuman), written by Tulsidas in the Awadhi language. It can best be recited anytime when the emotional or physical state needs reviving. It can also be said daily or on Tuesdays and Saturdays. You can find the full text with audio and video here. Or listen to Janyananda singing the Chalisa:
May Shri Hanuman give you great strength and faith! Jai Hanuman! Jai Shri Ram!