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Wherever the master goes, the devoted disciple is sure to follow. It is fitting then, that immediately on the heels of Rāma Navamī, we find ourselves on this full moon day celebrating Hanumān Jayantī!
It too is an auspicious day, potent with blessings. Śrī Hanumān is another iconic deity of this tradition - the brave monkey-god who is Śrī Rāma's loyal servant. Some regions in India honor him in the winter, but for most traditions today is the day.
Hanumānjī, as he is affectionally called in modern-day Hindī, is many things. He is the son of the wind, and within us represents our prāṇa, our breath and life-force energy. Like our breath, he is wild and restless on his own, but powerful and disciplined only after he meets the divine and surrenders himself to him.
He is an incarnation of the great lord Śiva, yet his greatest attainment is actually in his humility and his devotion. He is often shown kneeling at the feet of Śrī Rāma or Sītā-devī. There are many stories of his incredible loyalty, love, and dedication. This is one of the most famous.
Once, Śrī Rāma caught Hanumānjī biting open and throwing away precious beads from a māla he had given him. Hanumānjī explained that he was breaking them open to see if Rāma was inside them – otherwise, they were useless to him. Lord Rāma playfully challenged him, asking why he hadn't thrown himself away then.
Without hesitation, Hanumānjī silently ripped open his chest, and clearly visible there were Śrī Rāma and Sītā, enshrined and alive in his heart.
Śrī Rāma, touched by this fierce display of love, moved his hand gently over Hanumānjī's chest and healed the wound. But for that brief moment of time, the entire world received a glimpse of the totality of devotion embodied in Śrī Hanumān's heart.
Another essential quality of Śrī Hanumān is his vast and wild power. As mentioned earlier, he himself does not always know how much power he has - for example, he mistakes the sun for delicious fruit and tries to eat it, or, in another famous story, he can't find a particular medicinal herb on a mountain, so he lifts up the entire mountain and brings it back. (You can hear more about these adventures in Lesson 2).
As entertaining as these stories are, what we can learn from this is that to be of service does not always requires knowing everything or behaving like a master. In fact, Hanumānjī teaches us the power of humility and of having the right bhāva - the right inner attitude or inner feeling.
It is his bhāva of selfless devotion and humility that carries him forward. Throughout his mythology, he makes a series of adorable mistakes and otherwise inappropriate behavior. Yet through it all, his heart is in the right place. He is genuine in his deep desire to serve. He has no pride and is very loyal. Perhaps this is why out of all of the Lord's devotees, even his mistakes end up being beneficial.
Incidentally, the traditional prasāda (covered in Lesson 3) for Śrī Hanumān could be considered one of these awkward mistakes. On the one hand, boondi contains just the right ingredients to nourish our bodies in the spring; on the other hand, it is deep-fried, which, though delicious, is not ideal. But, if eaten in moderation, we can savor its healing (and delicious) qualities while remembering that we do not have to be perfect to be perfect.
Hanumānjī is also a powerful protector. He is the instrument of Rāma's love and protection. He is an extremely friendly and accessible form of divine love. Many parents teach their children to call on Śrī Hanumān if they are feeling scared, stuck, or alone - a practice for adults, too.
The divine can not turn away from sincere devotion and humility. These virtues are so powerful that they basically force the divine to protect and guide us. In fact, Hanumān's energy is so great that he is the only one who can directly counteract the power of Śani, who is the law of karma (this relationship is discussed in greater detail in Lesson 4).
Even if we have committed actions that were not in alignment, our devotion and humility can mitigate and uplift our future. You must have experienced this at some point in your life – we have all made mistakes! However, can you think of a time when being humble and genuinely wanting to be of service saved you from much harsher consequences?
This also explains why many people traditionally worship Hanumān on Saturdays (śanivāra, Śani's day). It has become popular in the modern era to spend energy doing rituals to placate Śani as if he is some invisible magical being who controls our fate.
What we actually need to do, however is to surrender ourselves to the sacred and commit to doing courageous acts of service. This is what will transform our fate. If we honor and cultivate Hanumān's state within us, we do not need to be afraid of the future, or of anything, really.
Practices for Hanumān Jayantī:
–Perform pūjā, chant to, or reflect on Śrī Hanumān, and also Lord Rāma. In Lesson 2, you will learn 8 ancient Sanskrit names and mantras for Śrī Hanumān, In Lesson 4, you will learn a little about his form, and in particular why he is depicted as orange and red. Finally, in Lesson 5, you will learn how to chant a traditional prayer to Śrī Hanumān.
Of course, many people nowadays like to sing the Hanumān Cālīsā, a (relatively) newer hymn. However, there are many, many beautiful prayers and chants you can recite to invoke his blessings. If possible, go and have his darśan at a local temple. Like Śiva, Hanumān is a divine power that is very easily pleased. Even a little bit of effort to connect with him will bring you great blessings.
-Make the traditional prasāda for this day (instructions are available in Lesson 3). Sweet boondi is delicious and surprisingly easy to make. It features honey and channa flour, both of which are seasonally appropriate and beneficial. Plus, like Hanumānjī, it is bright orange and beloved by all, especially children!
-Dedicate yourself to following your integrity and dharma (Śrī Rāma) and offer your loving service. If there is anywhere in your life where you know you can give more, but you aren't sure if you are strong or smart enough, invoke Śrī Hanumān. Ask for his blessings and protection. Let your heart be humbled. Trust that the power and energy to move mountains will naturally come out of your love and longing to serve.
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