Leap of Faith
Hanuman sat alone, away from the thousands of monkeys further down the beach who were discussing their predicament. He stared at the waves lapping up on the seashore, but he hardly saw them. Instead, all he could see was the face of his Lord Rama the last time Hanuman had seen Him.
Sri Rama had walked with purpose through the ranks of vanara soldiers and straight to Hanuman. Hanuman’s hands were already pressed together in respect. His mace, his constant companion also stood at attention leaning against his legs, ready to be of service at any moment. When the Lord didn’t speak at first, Hanuman finally looked into the face of Sri Rama to see him pulling the ring from his left hand. Hanuman held his cupped hands out and received the signet ring which was still warm from being worn by the Lord. He looked up and into the eyes of Sri Rama, which were shining with unshed tears and months of torment. The monsoon season had taken a toll on Lord Rama. Hanuman who could understand the heart of his master felt the pain radiating off him in waves not unlike the ones he was surrounded by now.
“Somehow, my heart tells me that you will be the one to find my Sita, Hanuman. When you find her, give her this, and she will know that you are mine.” Rama’s voice broke slightly at the mention of the Queen’s name and Hanuman closed his eyes briefly feeling pain tighten around his own heart. He pressed the ring to his eyes and forehead, treasuring the token which spoke of the faith that his master had in him. Hanuman felt very unworthy, but was absolutely sure that he would do whatever it took to take away the look of pain that he saw in the eyes of his beloved Lord.
Now, they had reached the shore of the southern sea. After looking for months, much longer than the allotted time that Sugriva had given them to find Sita Devi, they were ready to end their lives and admit defeat. At least some of the monkeys had been ready to end their lives. Hanuman never wanted to stop searching. He believed that death was not the way out, they had to find her. At that moment, like an answered prayer, they were blessed with Sampati, the brother of the old vulture king Jatayu. Jatayu had given his life trying to protect Sita from Ravana, but in the end, the demon King proved to be too much for the vulture. Sampati had lost contact with Jatayu but hearing about his brother from the vanaras, Sampati was enraged that he had let Ravana cross the ocean to his kingdom on the opposite side of the sea without so much as a passing glance.
That caught the attention of the monkey warriors. Ravana was exactly who they had been looking for, and he had passed right over the vulture unopposed! Their morale was bolstered, now that they finally knew where Sita Devi was being held. But their joy was short lived. They quickly realized that they had no way to cross the ocean to get a message to her. They discussed the options at length. Several of the strongest Vanaras could jump various lengths, but none of them could cross the ocean and make it back. Perhaps Angada could do it, but how could they send him? He was the crown prince of the Vanaras. He was the future of their kingdom. They couldn’t jeopardize him like that, even if it was for this wonderful service to Lord Rama.
Thoughts like those ran in circles in Hanuman’s mind while he sat, feeling the weight of the signet ring that he pressed into his palm. The waves were unchanging, ever surging forward before dipping back to join the vast sea. It was almost worse knowing where Sita Devi was and not being able to reach her. Lord Rama’s face, filled with torment, showed itself again when Hanuman, unable to take the pain, closed his eyes, tightening his fist around the ring.
“Hanuman.” There was a gentle hand on his shoulder, and Hanuman turned to see the kind, compassionate face of Jambavan. Jambavan was an elder. He had been alive since the very dawn of creation. He had seen several incarnations of the supreme Lord Vishnu advent, and he always seemed to have the answer when the vanaras most desperately needed one. Hanuman was more than confused. He had tried thinking of every conceivable scenario in his mind, but he didn’t know how they could accomplish their mission. Hanuman felt like a failure. He could only meet Jambavan's eyes for a moment before he dropped his head, and looked down at the damp sand on the beach.
“Why do you sit alone? Why do I see such despondency in your eyes?”
Hanuman felt too defeated to even respond. How could he speak of the feelings that lacerated his heart? How could he admit that he felt as though he had failed his Lord? Hanuman knew that there was no way that they could find a way across the sea, no matter how much his mind worked or his heart hoped, but he couldn’t give voice to those fears. That might make them officially reality. Unable to find his voice to answer, he simply hung his head in shame.
“Hanuman, you are effulgent like the sun. You have knowledge of all of the vedas. Why don’t you offer some solution to our problem? The vanaras have nearly lost their lives because of anxiety and grief. Don’t you know that you can save them?” Hanuman’s head snapped up to see Jambavan’s rough, weathered face with a bright smile on it.
Him? How could he save them?
“Don’t you remember Hanuman? You are one whose chin is broken. But don’t you remember how you broke your chin? Born as the son of Keshari Raja and Anjana Devi, you were born empowered with the potency of the wind god Vayu himself.” Jambavan was nodding his head knowingly, but what did his birth and parentage had to do with saving his tribe?
“As a child, seeing the brilliant sun in the sky, you mistook it to be a fruit and lept into the air, meaning to swallow it up. You created such a fuss in the entire universe. All of the predominating deities of the various planets were worried. Suryadev himself was worried. All the celestial planets were afraid of this one vanara child.” Jambavan chuckled remembering the incident. Hanuman wanted to find the same amusement in the story but he was still perturbed. But he didn’t interrupt his elder.
“Finally, they ran to Indra, to ask for help. The king of the heavens came, trying to stop you but you would not be deterred. Finally, seeing no other course of action, Indra struck you with his thunderbolt. It hit you on the chin and you fell back to the earth, unconscious.”
Hanuman’s chin tingled a bit as though just the mention of the incident was enough to remind him of that pain. He remembered being hit, but didn’t remember anything after that. It was like trying to find his way through one of the many pitch black caves that the monkeys had all navigated during their search for Sita Devi. As hard as he tried, he simply could not remember anything about what happened next. He listened, wondering if Jambavan could tell him something about the blank spot in his past.
“Once you were hit, your own father, not Keshari Raja, but Vayu, the wind god, was enraged. In retaliation, he withdrew all of the air from the universe.” Jambavan shook his head, thinking back to the havoc that caused. He chuckled again looking at Hanuman’s confused face. “Yes! No one could breathe. No one could move. Everyone was in distress. They finally approached Lord Brahma, grandfather of the universe, sure that he would have some remedy to their current situation. He chastised Indra for treating you so roughly, but then advised all of the Devas to go and appease Vayu.
“Vayu had taken you to a cave so that you could rest until you regained consciousness. The Devas, lead by the TriMurtis Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva arrived at the cave offering prayers to calm and please Vayu. When the god of the winds was finally pleased, sure that the devas were repentant, he returned the wind to the rest of the universe. In gratitude, and as an apology for all that had been done, the celestial demigods showered you with their best benedictions and boons.” Jambavan gave Hanuman a knowing smile. Hanuman felt as though he were just on the verge of knowing something extremely important. He didn’t even dare to breathe as Jambavan continued.
“Indra gave you the blessing that, just as you were hit with his vajra, his thunderbolt, every limb of your body would become stronger than his invincible thunderbolt, and would be invulnerable to any weapon. Surya, who you were so boldly running after granted you with one-one-hundredth of his brilliance, giving your body its celestial glow. He also promised that when you were old enough, he himself would become your teacher and teach you all the vedas.” Jambavan paused as Hanuman brought his clasped palms up to his forehead to pay respects to his dear teacher.
“Varuna, lord of the seas, gave you the blessing that you would never be in any danger from any body of water. Agni blessed you that fire could never harm you and Vishvakarma, the celestial architect, blessed you that you would be immune to even the greatest of celestial weapons. Yamaraja, lord of death, blessed you that you would never see his rod of punishment. He also gave you the benediction that no illness would ever befall you and you would never fall victim to any kind of disease. Lord Shiva, the great destroyer, whose potency you also carry within you, promised that you would never meet death at his hands or at the hands of anyone within this universe.” Jambavan was becoming more lively the more he spoke, and Hanuman could see that the elderly Jambavan wasn’t simply remembering the incident, he was reliving it. His smile grew wider and his confidence was infectious.
Hanuman began to feel differently. Where earlier all he could see was despair like dense monsoon clouds hanging over him, his fears and anxiety began to dissipate, rolling off of his shoulders first, and as the weight of those fears drifted farther and farther away from him, a warmth began to spread throughout his body, starting somewhere deep in his heart and radiating outward. He could actually believe in what Jambavan was saying. It wasn’t simply a matter of hearing him, but it was as though once he heard it his mind, his body, even his soul agreed, and yearned to hear more. He felt as though the most important part was yet to come.
“Lord Vishnu blessed you, decreeing that you would be the greatest devotee. The best servant of His. And Brahmadeva, creator of all the worlds, gave you the benediction that you would only die at a time of your choosing. If you chose you could live even for as long as him. He also gave you the blessing that you would be able to change your form and size at will for the sake of your service. There were a host of celestials there that gave you many other benedictions and good wishes. You also obtained the blessing that in the course of your service no curse would ever be able to hamper you.” Jambavan’s face looked decades younger. It seemed as though just talking about this experience gave him a life and vitality that had been lost to him for some time. Hanuman’s eyes widened. Finally registering all that jambavan said, memories which were previously like flimsy wisps of silk clouding his mind came rushing back to him. Had he not been sitting already, Hanuman might have felt off-balance. Suddenly everything was clear to him, as though it had happened just yesterday.
Where Hanuman had felt defeated before, he now felt more empowered than ever. Suddenly, because of the words of Jambavan, he knew, absolutely, and without doubt, that he could find Sita Devi and deliver Sri Rama’s message. But his ability was spurred by something else as well. He thought of Sri Rama and how he had already proclaimed that Hanuman would be the one to find Sita Devi. He knew that anything that his master said could never prove false. The encouragement of Jambavan and Hanuman’s faith in his Lord Rama made him jump to his feet.
“You’re right! Because of the blessing of Lord Vishnu, I can do anything for Lord Rama. For the sake of his service I could crush the mountains with my bare hands! I could part the oceans with my arms. I could drag Lanka here by force, and I can scatter the stars in the sky! My Rama has unlimited strength, and as his servant, I will have unlimited strength in order to carry out his mission. My dear teacher Jambavan, you are right!” Hanuman was shouting and the other monkeys were beginning to wonder about the commotion, but Hanuman couldn’t hold in his excitement any longer. “I will cross the ocean to deliver Sri Rama’s message to Sita Devi. I will bring my Queen out of her sorrow and return happiness to lord Rama! I will go!” Hanuman smiled broadly, his happiness making his eyes dance. Remembering the blessing of Lord Brahma, Hanuman focused on the best mantra he knew.
“Rama” he murmured. Taking the name of the Lord as a sacred incantation, he began to expand in size. He grew bigger and bigger by the moment until he was looking down on the trees, and he was eye level with the tops of the mountains. The vanaras ran to where Hanuman was, crowding around his feet looking like play figurines. Hanuman smiled broadly, and he could see that Jambavan was smiling back, raising his right hand in a silent blessing.
The other monkeys were so astonished that they immediately forgot their earlier worries and became enthusiastic and full of life. They clapped and cheered. Some leaped in the air with arms raised praising Hanuman, and others chanted the name of Rama. Hanuman roared the name of Sri Rama, and as they listened to him roar the feeling of hope spread through the entire camp until it took on a form that was more than a simple feeling and became an absolute truth. The vanaras were relieved, knowing that their service to Rama would be completed after all.
With a shout and a leap that shook the earth to its core, Hanuman soared into the sky and out over the vast ocean towards Lanka.
There they were again. The feelings that convinced me I wasn’t good enough and paraded a host of debilitating thoughts through my mind until I was sure that all I could do was curl up under my covers and hope for better days. As much as I wanted to give in to the temptation to hide from the fear of my own inadequacy, I resisted, trying to think of ways to distract myself. Instead, I picked up the Bhagavad Gita, and prayed for a loving message, opening the beautiful book at random. Chapter 10 texts 4-5 stared back at me and I began to read.
Intelligence, knowledge, freedom from doubt and delusion, forgiveness, truthfulness, self-control and calmness, pleasure and pain, birth, death, fame and infamy are created by Me alone.
The first thing that Srila Prabhupada states in his commentary is that “The different qualities of living entities, be they good or bad, are all created by Krishna.”
Again, at the very end of the commentary, he sums up his statement again, saying: “Of whatever we find, good or bad, the origin is Krishna. Nothing can manifest in this material world which is not in Krishna. That is knowledge; although we know that things are differently situated, we should realize that everything flows from Krishna.”
I had the realization that all of those thoughts in my head that told me that I was full of bad habits that hindered me from reaching the goals I set for myself, the fears that told me that I wasn’t good enough to make my dreams a reality, anything that was within me, yes even my bad qualities, flowed from Krishna. There was nothing within me that was outside of Krishna. Nothing that He didn’t have experience with. Nothing that would be new for Him. He was privy to everything and was very well experienced in everything. Suddenly, just knowing that fact, acknowledging it made me realize that ultimately, service and even my life as a whole isn’t about me. If my goal is to serve, then it isn’t about me. It is about my beloved. It is about the object of my service. And the key to breaking through all of my obstacles was remembering that My Lord is so much bigger than any of my perceived problems or issues.
The section of Ramayana where Hanuman regains his lost powers has so many lessons within it for me. There are countless times when, strangled by fear and doubt, I forget my own potential. And that potential is great. I say this not because of any inflated sense of self-worth, but because since I was a child I was hearing passages from the Bhagavad Gita and many times Lord Krishna reminds Arjuna, and through him, all of us, that we are splendorous tiny sparks that have their origin in Him. And just as He is so amazing, we all have that amazing potential within each one of us. But we need reminding. In the fifteenth chapter of Bhagavad Gita, text fifteen, my wonderful Krishna says beautifully:
“I am seated within everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known, indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta and the knower of the Vedas.”
My divine, very best friend is once again the solution to all of the problems that I think I have. He is the source of everything in My life. He is even that remembrance that I need to get through the roughest days.
The remembrance of who we really are can come from other sources as well. Just as Jambavan spoke to Hanuman, teachers, sent by the Lord seem to cross our paths when we most need it, and they remind us of who we really are. They remind us of what is truly important in this life. They remind us that the goal is not to simply amass things, but to regain our connection to our very souls and to re-establish our relationship with our long lost friend. Because they have incredible faith in the source of all ability, and therefore in us as parts of that source, they lend us their faith. With that faith, just as Hanuman did, we can go on to achieve incredible things.
After thinking about Hanuman, I found myself smiling, closing my eyes and speaking to my own heart.
“Rise up and realize your potential. You are a tiny spark, but you can develop into a huge flame. Know for sure that all of your abilities come from a supreme inexhaustible source. A divine source. Filled with more love, strength, and magic than you could ever imagine. So rise up. Do those things that make your heart sing. Do those things that you feel you should do, but maybe aren’t sure you can do. Take the name of the lord of your heart and remember who you are. We are servants of a divine master, and are therefore supremely empowered and endowed with gifts that only we can give.”
It was with that faith in his own innate abilities, and faith in the strength of the name of Sri Rama that Hanuman literally took a leap of faith in order to carry a message of love from Rama to Sita in the ultimate definition of service.
I pray that i can develop faith in my own abilities because they come from a divine source. I pray that I can develop faith in the name of my beloved Lord and carry his message of love. I pray to take the leap of faith, to be of service, and through that service, bring the ultimate happiness to the Lord of my heart.
Jai Sri Rama!