14-16 February Focus: Hanuman
In Indian mythology, Hanuman appears in the form of a monkey and he was a semi-god, son of Vayu, God of Winds, and a very beautiful woman, Anjana. The “King of Monkeys”, Hanuman, was the ultimate combination of strength and heroism, and at the same time, of love and absolute devotion to his God, Rama.
Young Hanuman and the first great leap
As a kid, Hanuman was very strong and had a soft spot for good food, especially for fruit. So, one day, he woke up really hungry, and as he gazed at the sun, he thought that the sun was a huge mango fruit! So, he took a great leap, the first one of his many famous leaps, in order to reach for it and eat it. The Gods, impressed by his strength, but also afraid that he might get burned, begged God Indra to stop him by throwing him a thunder. But the great force of the thunder broke Hanuman’s jaw, who fell back down to earth with great force. As soon as Vayu saw him, he took him and they holed up in a cave, for protection until he heals. But, while the God of winds and his son were in the cave, all winds on earth stopped blowing! The world was alarmed and the Gods visited Vayu, begging him to come out of the cave, and in exchange, they would grant his son great powers. And that’s what happened And both sides held their promises and some of the Hanuman’s newly acquired powers were that he became immortal, he was healing quickly, he could change sizes and forms etc. And so, he was named Hanuman (until then, his name was Anjaneya) which means “broken jaw”.
The great leap to Sri Lanka
The most famous leap of Hanuman unfolds in the great saga of Ramayana, which recounts the adventures of King Rama (an incarnation of God Vishnu) in his quest for his wife Sita, who was abducted by the daemon Ramana.At the time, Hanuman was the leader of Rama’s army – a powerful warrior and very famous for his great devotion and faith to his king. When they received news of Ramana having hidden Sita in Lanka, Hanuman offered to take a great leap from South India to Lanka, and confirm that Sita was there. He knew that his love and devotion to Rama would eradicate any self-doubt regarding his ability to carry out this seemingly impossible mission. So, he made himself very large in size, he headed south, he prayed and he leaped across. The entire nature mustered all her strength to help him take this leap. Tall trees sprung high up and started flowering in order to transport him, winds started blowing towards Sri Lanka and the sea raised its waves, so he could rest when he got tired…
The three daemons
But, like all great leaps of faith that we take in life, Hanuman encountered 3 daemons on his way. The first one appeared looking like a mountain that surfaced from the sea and said “Come rest on me for a while. I will offer you tasty meals and sweet nectar”. Nevertheless, Hanuman kept going. The second daemon appeared in the form of a snake and told him “I am the Snake King and I am hungry. I order you to enter my mouth”. And so Hanuman, in order to avoid him, he started increasing his size so that he wouldn’t fit in the snake’s mouth. But while he was growing bigger and bigger, the opening of the mouth was growing bigger as well; until suddenly, Hanuman became very small and he went in and out of the snake’s mouth very quickly. “I kept my promise and I went into your mouth. Now, let me go” he said. And that’s what happened. The third daemon appeared in the end. Just before he arrived in Sri Lanka, Hanuman suddenly felt something holding him back. He turned around, and in the sea, he saw a daemon that looked like a woman pulling down on his shadow, so that he couldn’t move. So, he became really small, he dived into the daemon’s body and ripped his heart. And thus, Hanuman arrives as a winner in Lanka and he does find Sita.
The daemons that Hanuman encountered during his “great leap” inspire us to ask ourselves the following questions:
The mountain appeared and offered a familiar resting refuge. What are the things in our lives on which we rely, because they are easy and comfortable – even though we know they don’t lead us anywhere or they are even delaying us from reaching our destination?
In order to escape the snake, Hanuman changed his size. How much would our perception of things, problems, habits, relationships, our own self would change, if we would change our perspective?
What are the shadows inside us that keep us down? How do we face up to them? Do we try to run away from them in vain or do we dive inside them with courage and we defeat them?
The beauty of these texts is the inexhaustible, timeless symbolisms on life and death. Hanuman is a strong warrior, often ignorant about his great inner powers. So, in complete surrender and devotion, he turns to something superior (God Rama) and through his faith, he manages to erase all doubts about himself. Whatever that may signify for each one of us, Hanuman is there to remind us that often, our connection to something superior can give us power to take great, courageous leaps of faith.
By Anastasia Biliri
οf the Neda Yoga Shala Team