Hanuman: A god for worshipping god
Today, Dec. 5, is Gita Jayanthi, the day on which Krishna halted time and revealed the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna on the battle field of Kurukshetra. Those of you in New York should be planning to go to the Broome St. Temple for a chanting of this key, central text.
I’ve been thinking about the Gita as I’ve been reading Mataji Devi Vanamali’s book on Hanuman. It had been sitting next to my bed as I read a few other things, but I picked it up because I had been feeling like my practice was all the asana without enough of the inner work, of the devotion. It was starting to seem like gymnastics. If my gymnastic poses were worthy of a gold medal, that might be OK. But my practice without the “yoga” part — if you will — is not something anyone should be doing.
So I dove into Hanuman stories and their meanings for us.
It’s helping. Vanamali may not have Ramesh Menon’s way with re-telling these old Hindu spiritual texts, but a book entirely focused on Hanuman and his ego-less devotion to Rama — with light explanations of their spiritual, yogic and Vedic astrological meanings — is a fine thing with which to end one’s day. (Better than a Kardashian TV show, right?)
What has struck me this time — and I’m pretty familiar with these stories, via readings of different versions of the Ramayana — is that Hanuman so perfectly personifies all the attributes that Krishna describes to Arjuna. Acting without ego or thought of the result? Check. Doing all with god in mind? Double check. Following one’s own dharma as well as possible. Check, indeed.
But Vanamali also points out that unlike Arguna or the other Pandevas — or anyone in the Mahabharata other than Krishna — Hanuman makes the leap, so to speak, to godhood. And in that sense, he’s a god for worshipping god. That’s his function, which is wonderful in both its simplicity and complexity.
Vanamali points out that the worship of Hanuman is relatively new — a few hundred years, really — and is growing. He’s gaining popularity, in other words. And that’s something that, as a Western, is attractive to me. It feels a little less like jumping onto a thousands-of-years-old train; instead, the tracks perhaps were laid down thousands of years ago, but this particular train — or maybe car on this train — isn’t quite as daunting, quite as inscrutable.
Among all the parts of the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence, I may be looking most forward to Stern and Tim Miller talk about the symbolic meaning of Ganesha and Hanuman on Saturday afternoon. It all just doesn’t feel like nearly as much to me without that aspect to the practice.
Posted by Steve