What some may think to be archaic tales of a foreign religion, the great Indian epics of Gods and demons are in fact the most sublime psychology of the higher Self. With the key to their true meaning these ancient blockbusters will reveal to us the great perennial wisdom taught by the highest sages.
Each God in the Hindu pantheon represents an aspect of our enlightened mind. This is how the dynamics of soul and ego, of devotion and higher intelligence, of faith and ignorance have come into form so we can understand ourselves.
Hanuman, the great monkey God of the Ramayana is a symbol of the mind that has become disciplined and filled with devotion. Hanuman is the evolved state of our unruly monkey mind that constantly jumps from thought to thought. This mind is fully focused on the presence of the Divine Self, the Lord of Life within the heart.
When Rama asks Hanuman, “How do you look upon me?” the great monkey gives a three-part answer, “When I believe I am the body, then I am your faithful servant. When I know I am the soul, I know myself to be a spark of your eternal Light. And when I have the vision of truth, you and I, my Lord, are one and the same.”
With this answer, he shows us three states we flow through in our spiritual quest. Many times we identify with the person, the body-mind –ego we think we are. At those times we can realize that we are here to do God’s work, to serve that higher Self in us and in everything. This is the foundation of Karma Yoga, the yoga of service.
One level up and we realize we are not as separate from divine intelligence as we thought, that there is a higher knowing and presence working through us. We sense we are not separate from other beings and that our existence is an expression of the indescribable presence of God in us. This is where Bhakti and Raja Yoga open us further.
The most dramatic shift in our perception occurs when all veils lift and we have the vision of truth. Then we know that we are all that exists. We are the Source; we are One. Jnana Yoga aims at this direct perception.
What allows Hanuman to have this complete vision? It is faith (Shraddha). This faith is the origin of five essential levels of spiritual practice. Hanuman is, therefore, the manifestation of faith that gives us strength, which transforms our memory and leads us through samadhi to perfect wisdom. Let me explain.
True faith is not belief. Faith is not what we think or have been told, nor is it belief in someone else’s belief. It is much more real than that. It is based on the direct experience of Truth and therefore more solid than a rock.
For those on the devotional path faith is born out of love and love grows our faith. We know we are onto something most real, most important. Although we often forget, we have an intuitive sense of the preciousness of the inner Source of our faith and sense that we are no other than emanations of the infinite grace of that Source. And we have a deep love and respect for the means, the knowledge and the practices that remove the obstacles to the full blossoming of our true nature.
This faith gives us strength (Virya) and allows us to remain increasingly unshaken in the ups and downs of life. We begin to receive nourishment from within. We discover the inner Source of the nectar of contentment and joy. It brings us fulfillment and the power, stamina and agility necessary to pursue our path.
As our strength grows, it evolves our memory (Smriti). Realizing the crucial importance of our spiritual practice, our commitment becomes increasingly stable and we approach a state of continuous remembrance of our Source. When powerful memories of past injuries, desires or distractions arise, this higher memory heals, protects and focuses our mind in the guiding grace of the Divine.
Rather than falling for our stressful thoughts, we witness the mind and become less vulnerable to its distractions. Instead, we are able to surrender to the Divine at our core again and again. With that, we come to taste states of meditative absorption in the Divine presence within (samadhi) and our mind becomes settled and unperturbed.
The sage Vyasa tells us that the awareness that we are constantly loved by the Divine, is the greatest force that allows us to surrender spontaneously to the inner Source. We realize what we have been seeking is what we are. The joy of that realization frees us from temptations and distractions and we embrace the fullness of our true nature. Our attachment to a God outside us melts away and, held in the embrace of our spiritual family (Satsang), we discover the true inner presence of guru and Self.
Focused on the Divine presence within we realize we are the giver and receiver of love – the lover and the beloved – in one. This is the blossoming of perfect wisdom (prajna), the clear perception of the enlightened state. We discover we are all that exists. We are one appearing as many and able to give ourselves fully to love because we realize there is no possibility to be hurt in this inner union.
As we are filled from inside, we shed the need for love, for attention and acknowledgment from outside and therefore we are able to share ourselves with great abundance. We have become infinitely rich. Happiness is not something we seek. It is what we are. It is our timeless and indestructible essence.
This inner wealth of love wants to share itself because that is its nature. It is the nature of Hanuman, the faith that moves mountains, that heals and serves God in all things. The mind fully focused on the Divine knows itself and is free of all fear.
Ramgiri Braun, Ph.D.
Annapurna Institute, Inc.
Photo by Randy Adams via Flickr. Used under the creative commons license.