Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Demystifying Shri Hanuman



Originally published on http://www.swaveda.com/ Aug 01, 2005; republished courtesy swaveda.com

Abstract: “Lord” knows where in the world the label “Monkey God” came from in describing Shri Hanuman in the Western world. However, it is imperative upon the Hindu Indians to trace its origin. It will help to understand the original intent of Rishi Valmiki, the original redactor of Ramayana, in creating a “divine” entity in the “character” of Shri Hanuman. This article will be in two parts. The first part will explore the common perceptions of the Western as well as the Hindu Indians. It will focus on the mentality leading to the choice of terminology used by the British Indologists in coining the names of the Hindu Deities. Second part will be presented as a philosophical article to expound the nature of Shri Hanuman and the meaning of “Vanara” in the same vein as my previous article on “Demystifying Shri Ganesha.”* * *The word in Sanskrit for a monkey is “Markata.” The Hindi word “Bandar” may be an apabhramsha or a distorted derivative of the Sanskrit word “Vanara” but neither you or I have come across the words “Markata Deva,” “Vanara Deva,” or “Bandar Deva” (and the vernacular equivalents of the same in other Indian languages such as Marathi or Gujrati like “Makad Dev” or “Vandaro Bhagwan” even presuming the word “God” is an equivalent of “Deva” or “Bhagwan.” This raises a serious question regarding the concept of “Monkey God” in the English language which is so foreign to Indian (Hindu) culture that there is no real equivalent for the English “Monkey God” in the Sanskrit derived or other Indian languages. However, we Indians have blindly followed the British rulers and their scholars in choosing the names of our deities in the English language as exemplified in the following description on “Hindunet.”“Hanuman is a “monkey god.” He is a noble hero and great devotee of Lord Rama of the Ramayana. This deity is a provider of courage, hope, knowledge, intellect and devotion. He is pictured as a robust monkey holding a mace (gadaa) which is a sign of bravery and having a picture of Lord Rama tattooed on his chest which is a sign of his devotion to Lord Rama. He is also called Mahaveera (the great hero) or Pavana-suta (son of air) or Bajarangabali.”

Another version of “Who Hanuman is” shows total ignorance of the meaning of the word “Hanuman” but recognizes him as a scholar, an eloquent speaker in Sanskrit language, an intellectual skilled in the Vedas, a linguist, and an accomplished musician who sings classical bhajans of Shri Rama. A unique cultured gentleman and a scholar with a broken jaw! What a funny concept!! See:


“Hanuman, whose name means "broken jaw," is the divine loyal servant of the king of the monkeys. He is the son of Vayu, god of the wind, and the goddess Punjikasthala, a god to the Vanara (intelligent monkeys, as the Nagas are intelligent serpents). He is one of Hinduism’s less well-known deities (to outsiders), best known for his aiding of Rama (an avatar of Vishnu) to recover his wife, Sita, from the Rakshashas, led by Ravana. Hanuman's abilities include growing to 100 times in height, which is still pretty impressive in his reduced state, to change form, as could his mother, and to stretch his prehensile tail indefinitely. He set it on fire and thrashed it around the Rakshasas' city. Hanuman has a tendency to be rather mischievous, but always presents himself as a gentleman, and honors all codes of warfare. He is also a skilled musician, and Vedic texts state that he daily sings of Rama. He is an eloquent speaker, skilled grammarian, learned linguist, and a scholar of Hindu scripture. He is also well known for his great humility.“He is invincible at the hands of all beings, but always reports this fact in a matter-of-fact manner, even to his enemies. His sensitivity and kindness, however, are considered to be his greatest attribute. Hanuman is probably the basis of the trickster-king monkey legend that was recorded as Saiyu-Ki (Journey to the West) in Japan. This monkey, however, does not appear to be divine, and tends to be a bit of a lecher. He was aided by a pig and a flounder.”

A childhood friend of mine visited me a few years ago and wanted to share a “recent” joke he felt was funny. There was usually some ethnic joke that he brought every time he met me. He said, “A new Hanuman temple was built in Mumbai and was inaugurated with great enthusiasm and publicity. Next week the people from the U.S. Embassy came to honor Him and to claim that Hanuman was an authentic American character like “Batman, Spiderman, and Superman,” and declared him as known widely in the American schools as “Hunman.” The American school teachers had found this character of interest for their preschool and early school age children. The following week the staff from the British Embassy came to honor Hanuman and declared that Hanuman was originally a British character as his name was typical British like the “Longman, Spellman, Coleman,” etc. and claimed that he was originally “Hanman.” Then the following week came the Muslims from the nearby mosque to honor Hanuman and said he was originally a Muslim like “Rehmaan, Sulemaan,” etc. Then came members of a particular ethnic group the following week to honor Hanuman and claimed he could be no one else but one of theirs. Their argument was that no one would endanger himself to rescue another man’s wife, and take such pains to set fire to his own tail and try to burn other peoples’ houses in the city of Lanka unless he had the special ability to think and behave like them in which they took pride. They felt no member of any other community could be so foolishly foolhardy.”

The joke aside, I asked my friend, “It is true that every one is confused about who “Hanuman” is, but can you truly tell me more about Hanuman and what the original meaning of the word Hanuman is and more about what He stands for that should make sense for a rational inquirer?” He agreed to bring the answers to my questions during his next visit to the U.S. He visited me after two years again and did not bring the necessary information from India and quietly avoided discussing the topic. A group of Hindi speaking college students from India was given ride by me and the topic of “Bajaranga Bali” came into our conversation. I asked them if they knew the origin of these words having learned Hindi as their mother tongue. One of them said that the name originated from the orange color (ranga) that Hanuman is depicted to have. Another student struggled with the word “Bali” as related to “sacrifice” or the mythical King subdued by Vamanavatara. None of them unfortunately had the background in Sanskrit to come up with the explanation that it was “Vajra Anga” meaning “body as strong as the diamond” and “Bali” standing for “Powerful” or “strong.”

These two experiences led me to raise a question to some of the Vedic scholars about the meaning of “Hanuman and Vaanara.” I was not satisfied with the answers. So, I decided to go to the original Sanskrit Valmiki Ramayana and research it for myself. I have come up with a fair solution for the mystery of Hanuman and would like to share it with the readers of Swaveda in my next article. Before I do that, however, I would like to indulge in exploring the mentality that leads to Western Indologists’ interpretation of the Hindu deities in English language. It is not difficult to understand the phenomenon. Take a toddler and give it a cell phone, a set of drums or a stethoscope. These articles are, say, totally unknown to the toddler in terms of their conventional use, hypothetically, from not being able to observe adults using them. They do not understand the context nor the value of the objects they are now exploring with curiosity. Interpreting any concept requires full comprehension of the context in which it is being used. Disregarding the context leads to translational flaws as well as wrong interpretations.The toddler will discover 1000 uses for each of the objects except the one that most knowledgeable adults will use it for. Replace the word monkey in place of the toddler and imagine what will happen to the objects. The British and all other Western Indologists were in the same situation as the toddler when they started becoming curious about the objects of worship of the Hindus. They did not have any parallel cultural paradigms or contexts to comprehend these images.

Just like the first two lunatics observed by Dr. Rorschach in the late nineteenth century who were arguing about what the spots on the walls of the asylum looked like, each coming up with a definite shape and form as well as meaning therein, these “monkey-brain” Indologists started giving wild explanations for the images that they neither could comprehend nor fathom with the inadequate cultural soft-ware they brought from the West. Dr. Rorschach devised the famous “Ink-Blot” Rorschach test for gaining insight into the mental make up of the human mind (for individuals over the age of 7 years). By reading the interpretations of these Indologists who have been busy with their “monkey business” of interpreting Hindu scriptures, Vedas, Darshanas, Puranas, Hindu deities, Tantras, and Hindu customs, one can gain insight into their unconscious minds and motivations. This will be an interesting subject of study for future students of Hindu culture and its mis-education in the Western and Eastern literature. It will especially lead to interesting speculations about their sexuality, perversions, and their sexual conflicts. Their preoccupation with “oral sex” is particularly intriguing in its pervasiveness in the Western culture to the point of recently becoming a “million dollar sport.” (a la Monica Lewenski) No wonder it fascinates people like Paul Courtright, Wendy Doniger, their readers and their supporters.

I will invite comments from the readers of Swaveda regarding their view of what Hanuman stands for and see whether the Hindus can do any better than their Western counterparts of the interpreters of Hindu culture in terms of a rational and cohesive concept of Shri Hanuman. This is not a challenge and but only a playful game just like the one I had set up with my childhood friend. I hope the readership does not disappoint the editor of Swaveda and me by not posting any comments. After studying your posted comments, I would like to present my view from Rishi Valmiki’s point of view. There is plenty of room for agreement and disagreement. The view is not going to be labeled as “far-fetched” I hope. I sincerely believe that my view of Shri Ganesha based on Sant Jnaneshwar’s description is much less “far-fetched” than that of the Western Indologists’ who have named Him the “Elephant God” with all of their base “projections” on this “Rorschach card” presented to them by the Hindu culture.

The “Monkey God” may very well be the next target of the Western Indologists and academicians in the Departments of Religious Studies who are currently busy studying obsolete “Sati” rather than “wife murders” and “child abuse” in their own countries, “Tantra” and “Devi worship” rather than the “Devil Worship,” “caste” rather than the ubiquitous racial discrimination in their own backyard, ‘human rights violations’ in other countries than what their own people have perpetrated upon the innocent large populations by disenfranchising them of decent land and water by banishing them into reservations, etc. while trying to denigrate a distant Hindu culture by seeking refuge and cushy jobs in the Universities of repute and shielding themselves with ill applied practice of “academic freedom” to continue their monkey business to prepare the ground for proselytization and to raise large amounts of funds for it in this country and other countries of the Western world. (Continued as Part II A and Part II B)

See http://www.swaveda.com/

Read more: Swaveda - Articles - Demystifying Shri Hanuman - Also see Part II A & B(http://www.swaveda.com/articles.php?action=show&id=112#ixzz0DNoFOmDr

Demystifying Shri Hanuman (Part II-A)



Aug 09, 2005

Now on a serene note, with great reverence, we have to turn to Rishi Valmiki to understand Shri Hanuman. Before we do that, there is a need to clarify some basic concepts of Vedic or Sanatana Dharma. The Vedas are the knowledge of the cosmogony or the origin of the Universe. This knowledge was intuitive and a direct revelation for the great observing and meditating minds. The perceptions were so exhilarating that these recipient seers were inspired by a faculty of the mind called “pratibha” that led to their poetic expressions. The poetry is called “Kavya” and the poet “Kavi.” “Ka” stands for an expression of wonder (“what a!” “what kind of” in the sense of wonder) though literally it means “who” or “what kind of” and “Vi” stands for the root signifying “knowing” or a “form of knowledge.” The poet marvels thus when he sees or perceives the world in a different light than that of the ordinary or every day perceptions and world-view of average human beings, and therefore, the learned and insightful poet is elevated to a special status that is even higher than that of the “intellectuals” or “vidvaan.” The “expressions of a Kavi” or “Kavyas” are more enriching than the “expressions of a vidvaan” (“vidvatta”). There is a usual spontaneous appreciation of this unique power of poetry when the listeners applaud repeatedly with “vah, vah,” or “ahaa, ahaa” as in the meetings of the sheeghrakavis, kavisammelanas, and “shayarees” or “maiphils.” That is a pure indescribable joy for those who appreciate poetry. “Ramayana” is acclaimed to be an epic or one of the largest and earliest "kavya" meaning “mahakavya” in the history of mankind. The poet Valmiki himself called it an “aadikavya” meaning the very first kavya. Kavi is known to take poetic liberties and is not bound by the mundane views nor by the usual rules of logic like an author who is writing a history or geography in a factual manner, and worse still, a writer of a scientific treatise. Everything in the epic “Ramayana” needs to be viewed from this perspective. A poet uses symbolism, similes, allegories, metaphors, rhymes, rhythms, meters and many other “alankaras” (akin to figures of speech) or decorative language to enhance the beauty of his Kavya and he becomes a master communicator by directly communicating with the unconscious aspects of the listeners’ minds. This special quality of communication or “joining with the others’ minds” at the deepest levels of emotional experience is called “saahitya” (literally, “togetherness”) which is a term used for high quality “literature” or “letters.” Sahitya always has the capacity to resonate with the deep seated emotional and factual experiences in the conscious and unconscious minds of the readers. The reader or listener is brought in touch with his old memories, love, longing, sadness, fears, dreams, ambitions, likes and dislikes, friendships, devotions, adoration, identifications, sense of fairness and justice, compassion towards oneself and others, and hidden parts of the self that were from the remote past that seemed to have been forgotten buried in the unconscious which sometimes gush into the conscious mind with full force of the old feelings while reading or listening to "kavyas" or "mahakavyas." New identification with the characters depicted in the mahakavya begin to emerge. The hero, heroin and villains come alive in the mental field as if they are real and one enters the drama of the mahakavya either wanting to be like them or empathize with them or abhor them and to avoid identifying with them. This suggestive or hypnotic power of mahakavya which attains historic continuity with cultural continuity of the human race molds the character of the young and old malleable minds, entire cultures, and many nations. The wonder and affects (feelings) as well as the joy it arouses in the reader makes sahitya or poetry most enchanting. A poet can talk about two or more issues simultaneously in one and the same sentence (or even in a single word) and create additional literary figures of speech. The sahitya has shabdartha, vakyartha, garbhitartha, goodhartha, matitartha, etc., signifying many levels of meanings that add different “rasas,” and give a quality of “rahasya” (for lack of better word “mystery”) that makes sahitya so fascinating to the readers. The enlightened reader continues to find ever new meanings and nuances in the literary works of art with each new reading or each new contemplation of the segments of mahakavya. One cannot interpret poetry with a concrete minded approach and cannot fully explain it to those with concrete minds who are lacking in the knowledge and appreciation of the cultural context. Ability for abstraction is necessary to understand the poetical as well as philosophical meanings and messages or morals conveyed by the mahakavya. Children with concrete minds can also enjoy the wonder and magical quality of events and characters of mahakavya though at a different level of comprehension. The poor souls that lack the cultural background and are endowed with only concrete minds or have axes to grind because of their own conflict ridden minds and negative self images that interfere with their ability to appreciate the work of art because of their unconscious “junk” that keeps interfering with appreciation of the beauty, are to be pitied, be they the Westerners or Indians, scholars or politicians. With this preamble, let me remind the readers that “Shri Hanuman” is unquestionably a poetic product of Rishi Valmiki’s “pratibha” and must be viewed only as such. We must respect Rishi Valmiki’s views and descriptions in his own words and then try to fathom what this greatest of great poets is trying to express. Viewing “Shri Hanuman” as a product of “pratibha” does not belittle “Him” as a “figment of imagination” as some Western scholars will be quickly tempted to conclude. Why that is a folly can only be appreciated by becoming aware of another higher faculty of the human mind that Rishi Valmiki fully possessed. Many of the Western and some of the Eastern scholars may not have any inkling of this faculty to adequately comprehend the acuity as well as the accuracy of Rishi Valmiki’s transcendental perceptions and expressions. That faculty of the mind is the sine qua non of Vedic knowledge which is grounded in “para vidya.” (For a brief description and discussion of apara vidya and para vidya please refer to my previous article on “Demystifying Shri Ganesha.” in “Swaveda”). Without prolonging the suspense of the readers let me reveal momentarily what faculty of the mind I am talking about, but let me first make an emphatic statement that the concept of such faculty of the mind is utterly lacking in the Western psychology and in the Western terminology. Therefore, let me warn you not to glibly translate it as “intuition.” I am referring here to the faculty of “prajna” which enabled Rishi Valmiki to comprehend the “tatvas.” “Pra” stands for “forwarding” “ahead of” or “leading to” and “Jna” stands for “Jnana” (Knowledge is a poor equivalent for Jnana and hence the words “Jna” and “jnana” are best left un-translated at least for the purpose of this article.)

“Tatva” literally means “Itness.” “It” stands for a phenomenon that can be distinguished by the faculties of the human mind which can distinguish one phenomenon from the other with a discriminating capacity sometimes requiring a high level of abstraction and/or a convincing direct experience at a deep spiritual level. To accept it this tatva needs to be consensually verifiable by many other seers. For the description of the first entity in the Universe identified by the Vedas and Vendanta which is also termed “IT” please refer to my article, “Hinduness for World Peace and Harmony” in Swaveda. When the “IT” begins to differentiate and dedifferentiate the manifest Universe emerges. One could accuse the Vedic seers as creating a fictional structure or a commonly shared cultural delusion about IT and the origin of the Universe. If so, the other cultures are not exempt in letting human imagination construct structures to explain the nature of God and the Universe. The Jury is not out on this yet. However, it is certainly not just a matter of belief for the Hindus in contrast to other cultures, as Vedic Hindus do not believe in belief or faith when analyzing their own faith and beliefs. Everything is open to debate and verification, including scientific verification, for the Vedic and Vedantic scholars. The basic premise of the Hindu Vedic scholars is: “That which exists is “SAT.” That which does not exist is “ASAT.” Only that which derives from “SAT” (SATYA) prevails. One’s personal pride, firmness of conviction, dogma, racial or national conceit, force of logical argumentation or persuasion, identification with any particular school of thought or a club one belongs to, or “truth” accepted only because it is propounded by an “authority” (prophet) do not stand the test of time. Man-made “ASAT” promulgated by misguided souls is exposed as ASAT in the end though it may rule for centuries or millennia in the mental domain of the human race or societies, Western or Eastern. The TATVAs if they are SAT have in their very nature an eternal permanence. Such permanence is termed “CHIRANJEEVEE.” The Brahman, TAT, SHIVA, SHAKTI, OMKARA (GANESHA) are tatvas that were discovered by the Vedic seers. Kapila described similar tatvas : PURUSHA, PRAKRITI and MAHAD. Narada brought home another set: NARAYANA, NARAYANI, and SHESHA. These are merely TATVAS but the word “merely” does indicate that they are by any means trivial. What is implied is that a “Tatvajnani” may not necessarily attribute divine characteristics to these tatvas. For example, Kapila did not attribute devatva or divinity to the concepts or tatvas he described in Sankhya. One does not, therefore, find temples of “Purusha,” “Prakriti” or “Mahad.” There are no temples of “Mahadhi.” Hardly ever one finds a temple of “Brahma” except in an antique temple of Brahma in Las Vegas, Nevada, and in the geological formation of the Grand Canyons. This observation has some profound implications. First, the concept of “God” is foreign to Vedic philosophy in the manner in which the Western Judeo-Christian God is conceptualized. That does not mean that Hinduism is atheistic. Since the concept of “Theos” is missing, one cannot say that Hinduism is monotheistic, polytheistic, or pantheistic. ( This is not to say that there is no folk-lore similar to the concept of God). We need to take this view in a proper perspective because atheists or non-believers in God are equated as non-spiritual or less than ethical human beings and the good nature is viewed a monopoly of the God fearing people. This view could lead to a total misconception of Hinduism. Hindus are not worshipping “many Gods” and neither are they less spiritual. They are in fact deeply spiritual, ethical, and have strong relationship at a very deep spiritual and personal level with their chosen deity (Ishta devata) while respecting and revering all other Devatas and also “God” of the monotheistic religions. These are all experienced as different aspects of the Brahman or Universal consciousness perceived differently by different human minds. Their right to do so is inviolable and is respected by the Hindus with natural expectation of reciprocity and gentlemanly civility in that Hindus do not appreciate proselytizing religions trying to throw their weight around harvesting souls and disrupting other societies. The words “Suras” “Devas” “Devis” are erroneously translated “Gods” “Deities” and “Goddesses.” One cannot change the course of history and the ubiquitous cultural acceptance of the terminology because of the closeness or a parallel between the Western and Vedic concepts. For all practical purpose one may resign to say “IT” is same as (monotheistic) “GOD” but objectively viewed they are not the same “TATVAS.” In the material sciences each “Padaartha” (Vaisheshika) assumes its different identification with a distinct “name” that indicates a distinct material entity with its characteristic “GUNADHARMAS” (For meaning of three basic gunas please see the article of Shri Ganesha) that are its unique physical and chemical qualities. TATVAS are intangibles like “id,” “ego,” or “superego” or phenomena like “inflation” that everyone capable of abstraction can understand. Tatvas are within the cognitive reach of the human mind. For example “libido,” “Eros,” are accepted as comprehensible entities in the Western culture. So also the tatva and mahatatva are considered comprehensible in the Vedic and Hindu culture. There is absolutely no need to be apologetic in using the terms like “PRANA” or “Kundalini” as these are universally accepted terms in the Vedic and Hindu culture. The Chinese use the term “Chi” without translating it. There is no real need to translate the term “Prana,” or “Kundalini” for that matter. One can live in the Western culture without fully comprehending the meaning of libido, id, or ego, and so also the Westerners or Indians can lead a successful life without the ability to comprehend the terms like “Prana” or “Kundalini.” However, these are as real as their equivalent concepts like “Bio-electric currents.” The meditating mind can perceive these after attaining certain level of sensory isolation and introspective depth because of the presence of interoceptors and proprioceptors which sense the flow of such bio-electric energy within the body. The sensation is comparable to the lightly flowing wind. Hence, Prana is also called Vayu, Vata, or Anila all standing for “wind” (not Vayu the air). Unfortunately the word “prana vayu” used for “oxygen” has an entirely different etymology. Here prana stands for “life” and “vayu” stands for “air.” Oxygen is needed for life and therefore it is called “pranavayu.” Such homonyms have caused much confusion of the semantics in Vedic and Hindu philosophy and especially in the descriptions of Shri Hanuman.

The Western and Indian scholars who did not comprehend these concepts have concrete translation of Vayu as Wind and for them Pavana-suta literally means “Son of the Wind” and to sound like more authentic Theologists, they further clarify the concept as the “son of the Wind God.” This type of translational flaws are partly responsible for the erroneoous depictions of Shri Hanuman. The astute readers are getting my drift by now. In the last part (II-B) of this series of three articles on “Demystifying Shri Hanuman” I will look into the mind of Rishi Valmiki with the direct quotes from his Ramayana. However, before we do that, let us try to understand “Narayana,” “Rama,” and “Narada.” I urge the reader to read the previous two articles namely “Hinduness for World Peace and Harmony” to understand the concept of Brahman, and “Demystifying Shri Ganesha” to understand “Shiva” “Shakti” and “Ganesha” and will give a hint that Rishi Valmiki directly perceived the three tatvas, “Rama”, “Sita,” and “Shri Hanuman” in the microcosm. These are the equivalents in the microcosms of the same three tatvas (shiva, shakti, and ganesha) perceived in the macrocosm by the Vedic seers. I will elaborate on this thesis in the “Part II-B”) of this article, a continuation that will be posted in the next few weeks.

“Nara” stands for the Human species, may be Homo sapien. That aspect of Brahman with infinite compassion and concern for the well-being and welfare of the Human species and its habitat was conceptualized as “Narayana.” Uttarayana, Dakshinayana are familiar words in which “ayana” means “moving towards or closer to.” “Narada” is an intermediary between “Narayana” and “Nara.” “Raama” is that tatva which is present in every human being as a “descended” aspect of Narayana “enjoying (rama, rata) or taking delight.” Narayana and Rama are equivalents of Purusha of Sankhya. Seeta is equivalent of Prakriti of Sankhya or Shakti. Shri Hanuman is an equivalent of Shri Ganesha in the microcosm. Here I will direct the reader to the first nine couplets of Tritiya Sarga (Canto III) of Valmiki Ramayana wherein the poet reveals that he received Ramayana directly from Narada while he was Yogamasthita meaning absorbed in yogic samadhi. He comprehended “tat sarvam tatvato drishtva” (viewing all of Ramayana as tatva or viewing the tatva of Ramayana) wherein he realized that Ramayana was “kamarthagunasamyuktam.” This clearly indicates that the poet is himself a yogi, a “tatva-jnani” who is by his attaining prajna and pratibha is a “mahamati” (A Great Mind). He has the ability to comprehend Rama that is engaged in the sense enjoyment while his life is also concurrently “dharmartha gunavistaram” exemplary for illustrating the meaning of Dharma and spreading virtues. The word “tatvatah” can mean “essentially” but is a clear reference to Rishi Valmiki’s superior knowledge and assimilation of “Dharma” and clear view of the Eternal tatvas that are at play in this Universe. The word Ramayana could also mean “That which takes you closer to Rama.” Shri Hanuman is the principal intermediary that brings Rama to Lanka, Rama’s message to Sita, locates the lost or missing Sita, is an emissary of Rama, and takes us all closer to Rama by demonstrating how an ideal Bhakta conducts himself.. The mystery of Shri Hanuman will be unraveled in the next article. So, please keep tuned in to the www.swaveda.com.


Read more: http://www.swaveda.com/articles.php?action=show&id=114#ixzz0YnY1wVDj

Demystifying Shri Hanuman (Part II-B)


Aug 09, 2005

Congratulations to the readers who have been patiently following this series of articles on Shri Hanuman. It turned out to be more complex than some of you expected. However, how can we undo several millennia or centuries of mis-education without covering the background and without finding our way through the maze of homonyms, synonyms, and sometimes antonyms as well as double, triple, and multiple meanings of the Sanskrit words? How can one understand poetry at different levels of meanings and extract the most applicable meaning possibly implied, though obvious on the surface, yet almost lost because of the age old accretions and mis-translations that are almost culturally accepted by several generations?

Going back to the topic of “Tatva,” for example, the mahavakya (note vakya is sentence -maha-"great"- sentence) “TATTVAM ASI” has caused confusion between Tatvam and Tattvam. The double “t” changes the meaning of “tatvam” from “Itness” to “It is you.” Entirely different concepts, but not paying attention to this slight change or even after recognizing this change in the “spelling,” scholars will argue to show that these are synonyms and not homonyms. Similarly recognizing Ramayana as essentially conceived by Rishi Valmiki many decades prior to the birth of Shri Rama, it is viewed as a supernormal clairvoyant sage’s vision of the future “historical” events which he could weave into a poetry that was even proactively “envisioned” as “sung” by Shri Rama’s twin sons (identical twins) captivating the hero of the story of Ramayana, Shri Rama, himself by the splendor of the Mahakavya and its beauty in the musical composition and melody presented by the “babe” vocal musicians, as yet unidentified by Shri Rama, who was depicted as seated in the audience, as his own sons entertained it. They are then introduced to Shri Rama by no one else but Rishi Valmiki himself from whose “pratibha” they originally originated but were also fostered in “real” life, educated, and trained in every way by the same sage. Such back and forth travel through time is almost a dream like experience but the difference for those who can appreciate the similarity between a dream and a creative writing or poetry, the former (the dream) is tinged with "tamas” while the latter (Mahakavya) is enriched with the “satva” guna. It is important to grasp this difference in quality and appreciate how dreams are analyzed and how the same method may need to be applied in analyzing the mahakavyas which are by nature very complex creations of the genius. Having said that, we can now venture to take a closer picture of Shri Hanuman almost using the same method used in the analysis of a dream without looking for a deep seated wish and dream as a wish fulfillment a la Sigmund Freud. The main thesis of this interpretation rests on the premise that Ramayana is an illustration of yogic insights Rishi Valmiki consciously attained and attempted to communicate to his readers in a creative and somewhat cryptic manner to reach the unconscious minds of his readers. He grasped some of the new “Tatvas” which he illustrated through his poetry. His prajna discovered these tatvas and comprehended them as eternally and ubiquitously applicable existential experiences of the “spiritually” evolving human race. When the mystique of these tatvas is to be simplified for inexperienced audience, special stories that sound like mythology are created by the sage. These are the “divya” kathas because they illustrate the “adhyatmic” meaning of the concepts (tatvas) in simple terms. Sometimes the listener is so fascinated by the stories that he/she gets lost in the concrete meaning of the stories. These are only tentative and indicative attempts to take the minds of the listeners closer to grasping the tatva. However, like the “tail wagging the dog” sometimes these stories become so enchanting and become such strong cultural influences that the tatva behind the stories is forgotten and only the stories are remembered and analyzed as if they are a reflection of the cultural unconscious amenable to psychoanalytic interpretations ( many a time by fly by night psychoanalytic interpreters like Paul Courtright or Wendy Doniger and their ilk who totally lack psychoanalytic training or background). "Gravity" is a tatva that needs to be grasped by the students of physics (bhoutika-shastra) and Purusha and Prakriti are tatvas to be viewed as subject matter of “meta-physics” (aadhibhoutika-shastra), Atma and Paramatma are tatvas to be studied and discussed in the “adhyatma” shastra of the Vedanta. Rishi Valmiki makes it clear that Valmiki Ramayana (V.R.) is his yogic insight into the nature of Man (Nara) or the Man with the highest potential (with qualities of Narayana himself). He poses that very question to Narada and asks, in the same vein as Arjuna asking Shri Krishna, (Sthithadhi kim prabhasheta, kimaseeta vrajeta kim?). See Balakanda Canto I. “Who in this present world is full of good qualities (gunas) or virtues, full of courage, cognizant of Dharma, full of gratitude and humility, whose vak (speech) emanates Satya, whose resolve is unshakable, whose character illustrates that he is engaged in caring for the well-being of all living beings, etc.,etc.” Here the reader is referred to the original V.R. and the section on discussion of this article if one wants to seek the full quote. Rishi Valmiki has raised the bar for defining the ideal “Nara” for Narada who is in constant communication with Narayana. The reader is asked to remember a famous phrase from Mahabharata here : “Naro va, Kunjaro va.” (“Could it be Nara, man or could it be an Elephant?”) The word “va” means “may be” or “could it be?” That is where after defining Rama as “jnatum evamvidham naram,” recognized to have so many splendid fulfilled potentials of mankind in one man, the entire human race in a manner of speaking becomes “Vanara” (doubtfully “Man”). Rishi Valmiki has great empathy and respect for the human race and wants to only tentatively suggest that “in comparison to Shri Rama all other human beings are Vanaras.” Curiously Vanara is also a term used for the species of primates variously described as apes, monkeys, etc. Vanara thus has two different meanings. Here not to insult his audience and readers, he is making a pun on this term Vanara and even attributes the characteristics of the other species to this large class of human beings who leave a doubt about their deserving to be called human beings. It is always palatable if the non-acceptable qualities of one’s self or one’s society are projected on another race or another society. (For example, Rakshasas may be symbolic representations of the undesirable and misguided primitive aggressive qualities, or unconscious cannibalistic or even terroristic tendencies of mankind but viewed as a different race in the same vein as Vanaras in this Mahakavya). In this manner human beings live in comfort with the social evils in their own society or with undesirable qualities in themselves by projecting them on others or other societies and focusing on them on far way objects, far away from themselves. For example, this is the main psychological benefit for the Western societies in funding the anal sadistic Western “Indologists” who are the cultural proctologists of the Hindu culture. In creating “the Vanara,” Sugreeva and Hanumana, Rishi Valmiki shows his creative genius and enormous empathy for the plight of the human race that has a long way to achieve and realize the full human potential although it has evolved to be the wisest and most gentlemanly amongst the species of primates. The human race has yet to evolve above the level of Vanaras and conquer and sublimate its own Rakshasi vrittis without blatantly acting them out in the real world.

This brings us to the Hanumat tatva. Rama is described as “Mahahanuh.” A resolute character with a stout chin. Mat stands for “thought.” One who is recognized (mat) by his Hanu (Chin). “Mana” is an expression to make adjective of “mat.” For example Shreemat and Shreeman. It is also a “measure” and “respect.” Hanumat thus becomes Hanumaan: One who is measured by his Hanu or respected and recognized for his Hanu.

We shall come back to “Hanu” and its esoteric significance but just to raise your curiosity, it would be intriguing to recognize that Shri Rama meets Sugreeva and through him meets Hanumana. Both of these names are referring to anatomical parts of the human body. Sugreeva means beautiful or good neck and Hanu clearly refers to the Chin. Is it purely accidental that Rishi Valmiki names two best friends of Shri Rama with anatomical parts? What is he trying to say? We can read into it? May be the Hindus have forgotten that the manner in which one holds one’s chin and neck reflects “PRIDE” and “HUMILITY.” Nara and Vanara (not monkeys) both need to have these qualities. This is just scratching the surface of the symbolism. The reader has already figured out that “Pavana” is an apabhramsha of “Prana” and Pavana-suta means nothing different than Prana-suta. Here again we see how the homonyms have caused confusion and the usage of the word pavana in Hindi for wind and the synonyms “Vayu” “Maruta” standing for prana have “made” Hanuman the “son of Maruta,” or “Maaruti.” The Hanuman tatva or Maaruti tatva exists and will eternally exist (chiranjeevi) in the make up of the human race. It is not a reflection of another “race” as would be interpreted by those who were influenced by the Aryan Invasion Theory. For them every culture reminded them of the White Christian culture than sends the missionaries first with their Bible followed by the state of the art weaponry and armies that invaded to take control of the land first scouted by the missionaries. For this paradigm the quote from another place that reflects the Christian missionary empire building strategy can be described as “Puratasvedah paschat dhanuh.” Viewing Ramayana in this light Rama is depicted as the “Aryan” prince who follows the Vedic missionaries into the unexplored land to discover the new “races” who are to be enslaved or made into dasas or dasyus. This wild imagination has corrupted the sublime humility or “dasa vritti” of the bhakti yogi into an abominable obsequious servitude or dasyu vritti of another subjugated race. Curiously, Shri Hanuman is deified and worshipped all over India, and therefore, this interpretation is even on the surface seems quite absurd even if glorified as an attitude of a true bhakta (of a different race, or different species, etc.) Such interpretations became very popular amongst the politicians and demagogues who always loved to divide and rule as well as create rifts in societies. No wonder some American “Indologists” with ill-will saw in Ramayana, a Mahakvya that was composed at least one and a half millennium before the birth of Islam, a reflection of the Hindu prince attempting to subjugate Muslims!! This was a total projection of “junk” in the conscious and unconscious minds of the so-called politically motivated Western or American “Indologists” given to denigrating attitude towards another culture and reflecting nothing but cross-cultural intellectual violence or vandalism by teaching this perverted version of Ramayana in the American Public Schools. Such stupidity is not to be condoned as “academic freedom.” The Hindu Americans (tax paying American citizens) need to be alert to such defamation of the Hindus in the American public schools and resort to all available legal channels to ensure that their children as well as all other children are not imparted by such perverted mis-education in the American public schools. The “adhyatmic” Ramayana is not to be reduced into a mundane history of “racial politics” and Shri Hanuman is not to be reduced into a “dasyu” of another implied inferior race nor Rama into an imperialist of a superior race or a chief of Homeland Security protecting the victims of Islamic terrorists. Hanuman is not be viewed as a symbol of the chief of the commando counter-terrorist force invading Ravana’s Sri Lanka. Such interpretations are nothing but projections of the viewers on the Rorschach card of Ramayana. As ridiculous, absurd, and unrealistic as these characterizations of Ramayana sound in this context, one is to remind oneself that there are many such politically motivated interpretations, be they Aryan-Dravidian rift motivated, or Sanskrit-Tamil rift motivated. All are based on “avidya.” The authors of such interpretations have lost sight of the basic cultural context in which the Mahakavya was inspired and composed. Let Hindus recognize that Shri Hanuman was the General of Prince Rama’s army. He was PROUD, BRAVE, FEARLESS, STRONG AS STEEL (DIAMOND), AND NAMRA AT THE SAME TIME. These are all qualities befitting a superior human being, although Shri Hanuman is addressed as Kapeendra or kapi. This poetic description needs to be deciphered and is not to be taken literally and only concretely if one has to understand what Rishi Valmiki saw when he said, “tat sarvam tatvato drishtva.”

Now some bold statements to arouse controversy. First, the translation of Vanara as Monkey misses the poetic meaning of the word Vanara. It is true that Sugreeva and other kapis are given the characteristics of monkeys by the poet including the tail but the very first meeting of Shri Hanuman with Shri Rama in canto iii of Kishkindhakanda very clearly shows that Hanuman appeared in Human form as a Bhikshu. He was well versed in the Vedas, eloquent in Sanskrit and civilized. Nara is afflicted with a basic klesha (drive) to assume an identity or role play (abhinivesha). Such “Human Being” afflicted by abhinivesha is a “va-nara.” Man assumes many such roles in his life time. Hanuman depicts symbolically this plight of mankind. He is an emissary between Sugreeva and Rama who is described as “Sushira.” These terms reflect an alliance between the pranic impulses between the body, “neck down,” with the superior consciousness or supreme consciousness reflected by Rama which rests in the higher cerebral centers. These tatvas have an interplay in rescuing Seeta (microcosmic representation of Prakriti – fully represented as a total product of everything derived from the Earth, and therefore, “Bhumisutaa”). The yogic insight Rishi Valmiki has been attempting to communicate through Ramayana seems to revolve around three principal tatvas, namely Rama, Seeta and Hanuman. It is the Prana-suta whose domain is measurable by the landmark of the Hanu, that is the original representative of the body not fully integrated “neck down” with the domain of Shri Rama. It is Shri Hanumana (Marutatmaja or son of Prana) that can truly connect Seeta (Bhumisuta) with Ramatatva. This is an esoteric concept and may be difficult for some to comprehend and may even sound rather autistic to them. However, all Ramabhaktas have realized the importance of Hanumana tatva. Even though Shri Hanuman is depicted as a supreme bhakta, a true devotee of Rama realizes that there is no access to Rama without the awakening of the Hanumana first. When born He rushes upwards as if to catch the Sun (Savitru) and is struck down (by Indra) and has to serve Rama with sincere devotion before attaining Rama.

There is no better artistic depiction of “internalization” “internalized object representation” of the “loved object” than that of Shri Hanumana splitting his chest open to show the image of Rama, Lakshmana and Seeta in his “heart.” This is an ideal representation of a bhakta (devotee) who has kept the “lord” in his heart (at least as old as 1500 B.C.). It has nothing to do with a tattoo on the chest of Shri Hanuman as is misinterpreted by some Western journalists.

I am sure the arcane nature of this aspect of Ramayana is difficult to fully expound in an article on the Internet, and therefore, some cryptic expressions are deliberately used but the spiritually (aadhyaatmically) astute reader will get the gist of what is said and will now view Shri Hanuman in an entirely different light, and once for all, give up the notion of a “Monkey God.” Hope this discussion of Shri Hanuman’s true swaroopa (Tatva) will inspire the readers to resonate with some new ideas or questions to clarify the intent of Rishi Valmiki and with the richness of his Mahakavya.


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