Musings of a Hanuman Bhakta
Updated: Mar 1, 2020
By Dr. Ravita Singh
Dr Ravita Singh is a medical family practitioner. Both she and her husband, Rishi Balroop, conduct a popular, weekly radio program "Datta Arpana" as a seva to the national community on the teachings and inspirational music of their Sadguru Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji. Here she tells us how she came onto the path of Hanumanji and her interaction with her beloved Sadguru. Its about the stuff that inspires!
Jaya Guru Datta.
If I had to list 5 thoughts that come to mind when I think of Lord Hanuman, they would be
1. Appaji and the 85’ Lord Hanuman murti in Trinidad,
3. Rama Nama,
5. And Sri Sri Sri Datta Vijayananda Teertha Swamiji.
Perhaps this is as good place as any to start this article.
There are many ways to worship God, including worshiping him with form and without form. It was the year 2008 before I met the 85’ Lord Hanuman Murti in Carapichaima, Trinidad. Yes I was born in Trinidad, but I spent some thirteen and a half years living abroad. It was during those 13.5 years, in the year 2003, that the 85’ murti of Lord Hanuman was consecrated. When I’d come home on holidays, those holidays would always be about spending time with family.
Hanuman's Feet feel like home.
It was only a year after returning to live on this beautiful island that I visited the 85’ Lord Hanuman murti for the first time. It was a visit that, as long as my memory continues to serve me, I’ll never forget. I stood in front of the inner sanctum under the 85’ murti, and even though I’d never been to this Ashrama, even though I’d been back “home” in Trinidad for a year, as I stood there, with no specific prayer in mind, with hands clasped before Him, I felt at home.
I could not understand the wave of emotion that overtook me on that day. My “tour-guide” on that day, now my husband, decided to then take me to the temple in the sea, another popular religious site in central Trinidad. As I drove behind his car, having said goodbye to the 85’ Lord Hanuman murti, I cried all the way to the next temple. I didn’t know why I was crying. I look back now and feel it was a purge of sorts, as well as a relief of sorts. For years, I had stumbled upon some difficult situations, challenging situations, healing opportunities, wonderful souls who seemed to only play fleeting roles in my life, and others who seemed to be here to stay. All of it seemed to be leading me to the feet of that Lord Hanuman murti, the feet I would subsequently follow on the way to the Divine Feet of Sadgurudeva Sri Sri Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji.
In the list at the start of this article, both the Lord Hanuman murti and Sri Sri Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji are mentioned as one point, and this is because it is my firm belief, that being the One who consecrated this murti, Sri Swamiji is also the One who brought me to this murti, in what was the stepping stone to bringing me to Him in this lifetime. In “Hanuman land,” as He has referred to Trinidad, what better way was there to reach a devotee than through Lord Hanuman?
Hanuman Chalisa, my favourite
You see, even as a child, Sri Hanuman Chalisa was my favourite prayer and so, it feels like Appaji knew the quickest way to get me in in gear was through Lord Hanuman. Of course, He is the only One who knows the full picture. My limited intellect can only allow me to wonder.
Going back to my childhood, I feel badly about saying this now, but it’s the truth... I never liked hearing Sri Hanuman Ashtakam. As an adult, when I realized just how beautiful the Sri Hanuman Ashtakam was, I started thinking back... trying to figure out why I disliked it as a child. The answer hit me like a thunderbolt. It was because on the Lord Hanuman album I used to play as a child, Sri Hanuman Ashtakam came right after Sri Hanuman Chalisa. In my kiddie brain, the Ashtakam therefore signalled the end of the Chalisa! Funny how the mind forms associations, but funny too, how many years later, that same mind formed a different association with a different outcome, as Sri Swamiji’s association with Lord Hanuman paved a road of easy acceptance that quickly blossomed into a highway of love towards Sadgurudeva Sri Swamiji.
Hanuman gives strength to face challenges
Perhaps this is where strength comes in. I was a teenager when I left Trinidad to head to college abroad. As a parting gift, my aunt gifted me an album with Lord Hanuman bhajans and prayers. It started with, you guessed it, Sri Hanuman Chalisa. That was more than 25 years ago, but to this day, I remember her words, “This always helped me when I was facing any challenges.” Sure enough, when student life became challenging, Sri Hanuman Chalisa came to the rescue. Nowadays, thanks to the teachings of Pujya Sri Swamiji, the value of challenges is better understood, and this, in itself, has gifted His devotees with strength many never knew they possessed. Despite this, the chanting of Sri Hanuman Chalisa remains a daily practice in the home of many of Appaji’s devotees. Through Him, we gain strength.
When Pujya Appaji has conducted Sri Hanuman Chalisa Parayana in the past, we learnt, through His example, to chant Rama Nama before starting each round of the Chalisa. And why is this? It is because, as Appaji’s second in command, Sri Bala Swamiji, has taught us, to please Lord Hanuman, we must first sing the praises of Lord Rama. What was it that first made Lord Hanuman take notice of Vibhisana? It was the sound of Rama nama coming from Vibhisana’s home. Just as Lord Hanuman sat outside the home of Vibhisana, enjoying the sound of His Lord being worshipped, so too, fellow devotees feel a connection when they hear the praises of Sri Swamiji being sung, when they hear the bhajans of Sri Swamiji, when they see the signature orange raksha on the wrist of a fellow devotee. Just like Rama nama created a bond between Vibhisana and Lord Hanuman, who were, at the time, two strangers, so too, Pujya Sri Swamiji’s music, bhajans, even rakshas, and the site of a Datta vastram, bring about unity of people of all different backgrounds, all in the name of Sadguru.
That brings me on to “protection.”
The word raksha was mentioned earlier. This word means, “protection.” Pujya Sri Swamiji has said, “If you have to travel into the darkness, I am coming with you and bringing My light,” a statement which leads me straight into the next story.
It was the week before Christmas 2019. Bhagavad Gita camp was going on for batch 5 of the Bhagavad Gita Mahayagna students. This meant exams, known as “sign offs,” were being conducted daily. To clear my head of all unnecessary clutter, I took to arriving at DYC Carapichaima, where the camp was being held, but also the home of the 85’ Lord Hanuman murti, earlier than the other students. Doing pradaksina around Lord Hanuman, and paying visits to the adjacent Rama Parivara and Lord Vishnu shrines were my morning exercise, but also my ritual for clearing my mind before starting the long, sometimes fairly challenging days.
Power of Hanuman's tail
On this particular morning, I stopped behind Lord Hanuman, and as I looked up at Him from behind, Appaji sent two thoughts my way. The first was of the power of Lord Hanuman’s tail. That tail which burnt the demon-kingdom of Lanka, could, similarly, in one fell swoop, burn away, or destroy, any negative forces in one’s life. This was the blessing of Lord Hanuman.
The mere thought of Hanuman---- a shield
This led to the next thought making its way to the forefront of my mind. Standing there, in the shadow of Lord Hanuman, I did not feel like I was standing in the shadow of a murti, but I was actually standing in the shadow of Lord Hanuman! As He blocked the heat of the, now-risen, sun from having direct access to my skin, I felt protected. If He could protect me from the all-powerful sun, He could protect me from anything. Suddenly, I did not want to move. I wanted to stay in His protective shadow, perhaps forever. But, life does not stand still. I had to keep moving and face the day that was ahead of me, exams and all. The second I stepped out of Lord Hanuman’s shadow, a huge cloud, out of seemingly nowhere, emerged and positioned itself between the sun’s direct rays and me. The realization then dawned on me - Lord Hanuman protects us all the time. We are ALWAYS in His shadow. He is everywhere, not just in murtis and pictures. The mere thought of Him acts as a shield, just like Rama nama acted as a shield which was strong enough to protect Lord Hanuman from the arrows of Lord Rama Himself!
In His message to Trinidadian devotees on Rama Navami 2019, Pujya Sri Swamiji said that He was in the face and in the feet of that 85’ tall Lord Hanuman murti. Is it any wonder then that one feels equally protected when in the presence of that magnificent murti and in the presence of Pujya Appaji?
“Only one exists.”
These words from Appaji’s 'Life History' bring me the utmost peace, for just as Lord Hanuman seemed to play “tag” with that cloud on that morning of camp, so too, every aspect of creation, living and non-living, every ounce of it, every atom, including the ones occupying this body, everything is a manifestation of that one supreme divinity, and how can that thought not bring bliss? The chair I sit on now, the air I breathe, the clock ticking in the background, the frogs croaking their familiar tunes as I type, the keyboard on which these words are being typed... all of it is Appaji. “Only one exists.”
Pujya Sri Bala Swamiji, the modern Hanuman
Once again, through Appaji’s grace, the links make themselves apparent. On the list above the name Sri Sri Sri Datta Vijayananda Teertha Swamiji, also known as Sri Bala Swamiji and formerly known as Harsha Sharma, also appears. Born on 14/01/1977, Makara Sankranti day, to Subramanya and the younger sister of Pujya Appaji, Saraswati, Sri Bala Swamiji is, in my humble opinion, the modern day version of Lord Hanuman. To love Parama Pujya Sri Sri Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji is to love Pujya Sri Bala Swamiji. “Only One exists.” Yet, never will you see Pujya Sri Bala Swamiji walking ahead of Appaji. Never will you see Him in front of Appaji at all unless He is offering worship to His Sadgurudeva. Never will you hear Him speak of His own scholarship, title or position at Avadhoota Datta Peetham. Yet, He always appears to, with each breath, be eager to praise and spread the teachings of Sadgurudeva Sri Swamiji. When Appaji walks on the red carpet, Sri Bala Swamiji is often seen walking, barefooted, next to the red carpet, leaving that glorified walkway only for the One He considers worthy. His humility always reminds me of Lord Hanuman, but just as Lord Hanuman forgets His own strength unless reminded, I often wonder if Sri Bala Swamiji, too, shares that quality. He carries Himself with such dignified humility, but, He is a great soul. Appaji Himself told this to a devotee, by the name of Meera Datta, who gave permission to share that story here.
Great and humble soul
“It was a wonderful day when Appaji and the Parivaram spent a long time in our home. As Appaji finished His biksha, He called us into the room. There was one little boy sitting in the corner, quietly having His lunch. I was laughing that he was facing a corner and was not joining the other boys. I went up and talked to the child but his head was bent low and he was not responding. Laughingly I asked Appaji “why doesn’t he talk?” Appaji reprimanded me and said, “Don’t laugh. Instead prostrate to Him. He is a great mahatma!” I prostrated to the child as He turned His back. That little 9-year-old child is no one else but our respected and much loved Pujya Bala Swamiji!”
Even at the tender age of 9 years, Pujya Bala Swamiji showed humility and restraint. When He speaks of Appaji, his words exude love. When Appaji first told Sri Bala Swamiji to come to Trinidad, Sri Bala Swamiji did not even know where this country was. Yet, He followed the instruction of His Lord. Is He Lord Hanuman? Does that question even warrant an answer? After all, “Only One exists.” You are Lord Hanuman. The person beside you is Lord Hanuman. The person you passed on the street on your way home or on your way to work today, he or she is Lord Hanuman. The device on which you are reading this, that too is Lord Hanuman. Separation is only a figment of the imagination and ego.
Go deeper to find peace
As a child, the question played on Satyanarana’s (Sri Swamiji’s) mind, “Who am I?”
So, I ask you now. Who are you? Who am I? Am I Ravita? This is just a name given for the practicalities of day-to-day living. To know who I am, to know who you are, we must go deeper. When we truly understand that lesson discovered by young Satyam, “Only One exists,” that is when true peace starts to set in. May such peace be with each of you.
Sri Guru Datta.