Hanuman Splits - A Leap of Faith
One of the outstanding figures that enters the holy pages of Ramayana, and strides across like a colossus, is the monkey warrior Hanumān.
"Hanumān was a great worshipper of the Lord Rāma. Just as the Christians worship Christ as the incarnation of God, so the Hindus worship many incarnations of God. According to the Hindu tradition, God came nine times in India and will come once more. When he came as Rāma, Hanumān was his great worshipper." (Vivekananda 1900)
The Lord Rāma and his angelic wife Sita, accompanied by his loyal brother Lakshman are travelling having been exiled from their kingdom for 14 years. During this time amongst much confusion, Sita is abducted by the demon King Ravana
Below: Sita and Râma
Below: The demon king Ravana
Hanumān meets the brothers for the first time as they approached the mountain Rishyamukha whilst searching for Sita. When Rāma introduced himself, Hanumān recognising Rāma as an incarnation of God, prostrates before him. Hanumān offers his friendship and makes an oath to help rescue Sita. Rāma, Lakshman and Hanumān are also joined by a group of Vanaras (forest dwelling monkeys). They make an alliance and all commit to rescuing Sita.
In their search for Sita, the Vanaras reach the seashore of Southern India. Across the Ocean is the island of Lanka (modern day Sri Lanka). This is where they believed Sita was being held captive. Upon encountering the vast ocean, every vanara begins to lament his inability to jump across the water. A seemingly impossible strait stands between them and Lanka. Hanumān too is saddened at the possible failure of his mission, until the other vanaras and the wise Jambavantha begin to extol Hanumān's virtues. "O Hanumān, all that you seek is already within you." Hanumān, sitting in meditation, suddenly recollects his own powers, "I am the son of Vayu, and there is nothing I am not capable of doing. I will cross the sea and in a matter of moments, find Rāma's queen, and bring her back." Rāma gave Hanumān his ring to give to Sita if he was to find her.
Climbing to the top of the mountain, he concentrated his mind on Rāma and his duties as a friend and to the whole of mankind. Our hero then took a flying leap into the air, and in front of the astonished gaze of the monkeys, he sailed across the sky like a thundercloud. Hanumān roared like thunder swinging his tail in the air. The force of the jump uprooted trees, scattering their leaves into the sea..
Upon landing in Lanka, it would take several long days for the noble Hanumān to locate Sita. There were many obstacles in his way, but Hanumān had an iron will and his resolve never wavered. Hanumān represents the ideal of service and devotion. He represents leonine courage, striking the whole world with awe. He was not the least bit hesitant in sacrificing his life for the good of Rāma and for the good of the world.
Finally, Hanumān found Sita. She was sat enclosed and imprisoned in the royal gardens of King Ravana's castle. She sat on the bare grounds, bound in a net of grief, the picture of shattered hope. Sita had shed so many tears she had none left, she had reached the end of her endurance and her will to live.
Hanumān approached his queen, avoiding the watch of Ravana's soldiers. Hanumān told Sita he was there to rescue her and take her back to her beloved Rāma. Sita told Hanumān that the King, Ravana, had given her 2 months to succumb to his passion or she would surely be killed. But Sita was adamant she would not leave with Hanumān, "If you rescue me O Hanumān, it would bring no credit to Rāma. It is only fitting that Rāma himself should come and rescue me and restore Dharma (righteousness)." Hanumān gave Sita the ring he had been given by Rāma and then returned back across the sea. He explained all to Rāma who was now full of hope that his beloved Sita was still alive.
Rāma, his brother Lakshman and Hanumān gathered an army of monkeys and bears and attacked Lanka, eventually killing Ravana, and rescuing Sita. After the couple's triumphant return to Ayodhya, Rāma's righteous rule (Ram-raj) inaugurated a golden age for all mankind..
Above: Râma fires his arrow towards the demon king Ravana
Below: Sita and Râma reunite.
So the legend has it that Hanumān took a courageous leap, doing the splits over the ocean to rescue Sita, the beloved of Rāma, to whom Hanumān was entirely devoted. Hanumān took one look at the vast ocean and thought, “there is no way I can overcome this obstacle!” Who hasn’t thought that same thing when faced with a monumental challenge?
As Hanumān was told, and we need constant reminding, all the strength we seek, is already within. Be patient, have faith in yourself and you will be amazed at what your body can achieve. It may not happen right away, but with tireless perseverance, you will get there.
"Throw away all weakness. Tell your body that it is strong, tell your mind that it is strong, and have unbounded faith and hope in yourself".
Relevant posts: The Origins of Surya Namaskar
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