The Birth of Hanuman
The Vedas and Upanishads gave us the path of “jnana” or wisdom which is appealing only to those who have a keen and steady intellect. However, it is said that the Absolute descends into the mortal plane and takes on a human form in order to help the human being to ascend to those lofty heights of the formless and nameless. This is known as the lila or “play” of God.
The Puranic Age came after the Age of the Vedas and there we find that “bhakti” or devotion to a personal deity is forcibly depicted as being even greater than jnana. Many different shapes and forms of God are described in the Puranas. The Hindu is taught from an early age that God lives in everything – plant, flower, animal, human, star, sun and moon so we have no difficulty in picturising God in any form. Ganesha, with an elephant head stands at the very head of the Hindu pantheon of gods! Hanuman also is most beloved by all Hindus but he comes under a different characterisation of gods known as Kimpurushas, who are animals that behave like humans. He is one of the most beloved figures in the Hindu pantheon and is the symbol of utter and selfless devotion to his supreme deity who is Sri Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Hanuman’s strength or “shakti” came only from his “bhakti” or devotion. In fact, his strength came from the repetition of the name of Rama, the greatest mantra for this age of Kali. If it is chanted with devotion it will give liberation from the coils of mortal life.
As we have seen, Sri Rama Navami is celebrated on the 9th day of the Vasanta Navaratri which in 2022 falls on Sunday, 10th April in the month of Chitra. Hanuman was born six days after his master, on the full moon day in the same month, known as Chitra Pournami which is also the birthday of Chitragupta as we have seen. This day has a deep astrological significance as can be noted from the blog on Chitragupta so people pray to Hanuman on this day to take away their bad karmas and help them to control their minds.
Hanuman’s mother was an apsara (celestial dancer) called Anjana who was cursed to be born on earth. She was redeemed from the curse by giving birth to Hanuman. She did intense tapas to Lord Shiva for twelve years and he blessed her with a child who was a partial incarnation of himself. Hanuman is also known as the son of Vayu. The story goes that while Anjana was performing tapas, King Dasaratha of Ayodhya was also performing the “Putrakameshti Yaga” for begetting a son. At the end of the yaga he received some sweet pudding called “payasam” to be shared by his three wives that eventually led to the birth of his four sons, Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrugna. As fortune would have it, a bird snatched a small bit of the payasam. While it was flying over the forest where Anjana was just finishing her tapas, the wind god Vayu took some of it and dropped it into her open hands and she immediately consumed it and was impregnated with the divine nectar. This interestingly makes Hanuman, Rama’s brother. Another story goes that when Anjana and her husband Kesari were praying to Shiva for a child, Shiva instructed the wind god Vayu to transfer his own energy into Anjana’s womb and hence Hanuman is known as Vayuputra or the son of Vayu.
In Hindu symbolism, a monkey signifies the human mind, which is ever restless and never still. This monkey mind happens to be the only thing over which man can have some control. We cannot control the world around us but we can control and tame our mind by strict discipline. We cannot control the way our environment behaves but we can choose the way we respond to it.
Truly Hanuman is symbolic of the perfect mind and embodies the highest potential it can achieve. He is the true prototype of the “sthita prajna,” or the enlightened man of the Bhagavad Gita as he had perfect control over his mind. His name gives a clue to his character. It is composed of the two Sanskrit words, “han” and “man.” “Hanan” means to annihilate and “man” stands for mind, in Sanskrit. It is only to be expected that Hanuman was born on Chitra Pournami day, which as we have seen, has all the astrological aids for controlling the mind and shaking off our negative tendencies and acquiring positive tendencies. According to “yoga,” the body is controlled by the mind.
Consequently, we find that Hanuman who had perfect control over his mind also had a most developed body. Because of this he is known as “Bajarangabali” – one whose body is like the thunderbolt and whose movements are like lightning. He is so strong that he can move mountains and so agile that he can leap across the sea. The twelve postures of yoga, known as “surya namaskar” or salutation to the sun, are supposed to have been composed by Hanuman in honour of his celestial Guru – Surya, the Sun God. His father, Vayu, the god of wind taught him the science of breath control known as “pranayama,” which is essential for controlling the mind.
Hanuman is an example of the perfect shishya or disciple – totally focused, hardworking, determined, brilliant, yet humble. He never flaunted his brilliance and scholarship but always sat at the feet of his Lord – Rama, ever the humble servant. He had no desire for name and fame. Even though he lived in a palace with Rama, he preferred the solitude of the mountains and forests and never indulged his senses but lived like a hermit – the supreme Brahmachari (celibate). He had perfect control of his mind which was achieved by his disciplined lifestyle and by his strict adherence to celibacy and selfless devotion. He controlled his mind through absolute faith in his deity. Every event in his life, whether good or bad, was considered as a gift from his master and was accepted without question. His life is a classic example to all disciples how they should behave in front of their Guru. It is also the perfect example of a true devotee of God.
He was also the ideal karma yogi – one who performed all actions without expectation of personal benefit, dedicating the results to his Lord, Rama. All his feats were for the sake of others, never for himself. He chose not to marry and have a family of his own so that he could devote himself entirely to the service of his master.
The one thing we can ask of him on this day is to uplift our spiritual qualities and give us unswerving devotion to God by which alone we can conquer ourselves as well as remove the bad karmas of our past!
“Son of Wind, banisher of affliction, Embodiment of auspiciousness, Dwell in my heart, O king of gods, Along with Rama, Sita and Lakshmana!”
Sri Hanuman Chalisa by Tulsidas
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