Who is Hanuman?

As the eternal servant of Lord Ramacandra, Hanuman has been respectfully worshiped since time immemorial. His glories are described throughout the pages of the famous Ramayana of Valmiki Muni, as well as in other Vedic texts, such as the Mahabharata, various Puranas, and the writings of previous acaryas. Once Lord Siva and Goddess Parvati were enjoying conjugal pastimes in the forest, disguised as monkeys so as not to disturb the meditating sages. But when the time for conception was impending, Parvati Devi refused to consummate the act, for she did not want to bear a monkey-child. Thus Siva gave his semen to Vayu, who delivered it to the womb of a female monkey named Anjana, the wife of the monkey Kesari. The monkey-child born from Anjana was known as Anjaneya, “son of Anjana,” and also as Vayu-putra, “son of Lord Vayu.” It so happens that Anjana was not an ordinary monkey. Formerly she had been the maidservant of the great sage Brhaspati. During that time, one day while going to gather flowers in the forest for worship, nearby she heard the sounds of conjugal activity, and consequently, overcome with passion, she immediately returned to the ashram of Brhaspati and shamelessly approached him for union. To teach her a valuable lesson, that self-controlled sage cursed her to be reincarnated as a female monkey. But he simultaneously blessed her to bear a child that had been conceived by Lord Siva himself, and that after the child’s birth she would be freed from the curse. Later, immediately upon giving birth to her monkey-son, Anjana wanted to return to the heavenly planets. So, for the infant’s sustenance, she simply instructed him to eat ripened fruits of red color, and then abandoned him. Shortly thereafter, Anjaneya mistook the red-colored rising sun to be one such edible fruit and jumped high into the sky to devour it. Then Lord Indra, thinking that the sun planet was being attacked, launched his vajra (thunderbolt), which struck and broke Anjaneya’s jaw. Consequently, Anjaneya then became known as Hanuman, “one with a broken jaw.” Greatly disturbed by Indra’s action against Anjaneya, Lord Vayu withdrew the air from the universe, thus putting all living entities into an extremely distressful condition and compelling all the demigods to apologize to and bestow their blessings upon the child. The demigods then assured Lord Vayu that his son, Hanuman, would be invincible, intelligent, capable of changing bodily form at will, resistant to any weapons, and so forth, and would ultimately use all of those blessings in service to Lord Rama, by assisting Him to rescue His beloved Sita from the hands of Ravana. Hanuman indeed performed extraordinary feats in service to his Lord Rama. He jumped eight hundred miles to the city of Lanka, found the captured Sita, and exhibited his wrath by setting ablaze that golden city Lanka. Subsequently, as the leader of Rama’s monkey-army, Hanuman assumed the foremost role in an epic battle against Ravana. He also soared all the way to the Himalayas, tore off a mountain peak full of essential medicinal herbs, and carried it all the way back to the wounded Laksmana (brother of Lord Rama), who lay unconscious on the battlefield. Because Hanuman used all of his qualities and abilities in service to Lord Rama, he became universally famous as the greatest devotee of Lord Rama. Among all of the Supreme Lord’s personal attendants, Hanuman is the most glorious, greater even than Garuda. The exalted Vaisnava Yamunacarya Alabandaru wrote:

dasah sakha vahanam asanam dhvajo   yas te vitananam vyajanam trayi-mayah

upasthitam te purato garutmata   tvad-anghri-sammarda-kinanka-sobhina

“You, Hanuman, are the Lord’s servant, friend, carrier, seat, flag, canopy, and fan. You embody the three Vedas. Even in the presence of Garuda, you are graced with the honor of massaging the Lord’s feet.” (Stotra-ratna 41)

Lord Rama became so pleased with Hanuman’s service that He wanted to give him a boon. However, being a pure devotee of his Lord, Hanuman did not want any material blessing, nor even liberation. He simply prayed:

bhava-bandha-cchide tasyai sprhayami na muktaye

bhavan prabhur aham dasa iti yatra vilupyate

“My dear Lord, if You like, You can give me salvation from this material existence or the privilege of merging into Your existence. But I do not desire any such things. I do not want anything that, even after liberation, might diminish my relationship with You as servant to master.”

yavad rama katheyam te bhavel lokesu satru-han

tavaj jiveyam ity evam tathastv iti ca so ’bravit

From the Ramayana of Valmiki Muni. 

Hanuman said, “O Rama, chastiser of foes! Let me live as long as the history of Your deeds remains extant on earth.” Thereupon Lord Rama replied, “So be it.” (Mahabharata, Vana-parva 148.17) 

From this statement we understand that Hanuman is not an independent god, but the eternal servant of Lord Ramacandra and never separated from Him. As a pure devotee of the Lord, Hanuman should be worshiped alongside his beloved Rama. Unfortunately, although thousands upon thousands of people regularly worship Hanuman, very few understand that his glories and his power to bestow blessings derive from his relationship of servitude to Lord Rama. Being empowered by the Lord, Hanuman was qualified to himself kill Ravana and rescue Sita, but to spread his master’s glories he chose to merely assist Rama in His mission. Hanuman said to Bhima, “O mighty-armed one, O descendant of Bharata, it is indeed as you have said. O Bhimasena, that worst of Raksasas was no match for me. But had I slain Ravana, that thorn of the worlds, the glory of Raghu’s son [Lord Ramacandra] would have been obscured. Therefore I let him be.” (Mahabharata, Vanaparva)

Pure devotees simply want to perpetually serve and glorify the Supreme Personality of Godhead and are always pleased when others also do so. Therefore the best way to please Hanuman is to become a devotee of Lord Rama.

sri-visnoh sravane pariksid abhavad vaiyasakih kirtane

prahladah smarane tad-anghri-bhajane laksmih prthuh püjane

akruras tv abhivandane kapi-patir dasye ’tha sakhye ’rjunah

sarva-svatma-nivedane balir abhut krsnaptir esam para

“Maharaja Pariksit attained the highest perfection—shelter at Lord Krsna’s lotus feet—simply by hearing about Lord Visnu. Sukadeva Gosvami attained perfection simply by reciting Srimad-Bhagavatam. Prahlada Maharaja attained perfection by remembering the Lord. The goddess of fortune attained perfection by massaging the transcendental legs of Maha-visnu. Maharaja Prthu attained perfection by worshiping the Deity, and Akrura attained perfection by offering prayers unto the Lord. Vajrangaji [Hanuman] attained perfection by rendering service to Lord Ramacandra, and Arjuna attained perfection simply by being Krsna’s friend. Bali Maharaja attained perfection by dedicating everything to the lotus feet of Krsna.” (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.265)

Excerpt from “Who Is Supreme?” book by Gokula Candra das 

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