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Hanuman Jayanti and Space Flight Day

Here, at Loka Hatha Yoga, we combine Hanuman Jayanti with Space Flight Day, commemorating humanity's first spaceflight.  As easily Hanuman leapt up to seize the sun (thinking it was a fruit), Colonel Yuri Gagarin touched the heavens - both came by similar paths to understand, truly for the first time, that all people and all beings of Earth share one planet, one life, one existence with each other and every world.

Hanuman's Logic: "Generalization" "Incrementalization"

Hanuman also demonstrated an application of Rama's logic.  Logic continues to evolve and improve through the eons: at this time, it came to be understood that some things are true, others false - and some things were partially true and partially false.  Though later, it would be understood some other things are neither true nor false, and the achievement of negatory logic was far from being imagined, this logic permits a practice called "generalization."

"Generalization" is the practice by which, under uncertainty of what is true or false, a statement may be made to become true or false.  For example, if it is unknown the year that the first human flew to space (April 12, 1961), it is nevertheless true to say that the first human flew to space in the 1960's, or the mid-20th Century, or in the 20th Century - or further generalizations may be made.  Just as it is wrong to generalize that "all such people are bad" through "prejudice."

In the Ramayana, we see many acts of this Generalization.  One of the most famous examples is when Hanuman was asked by Rama to bring an herb to save the life of Rama's brother, He did not know the herb, and could not tell if he had the true herb - or a false one.  He did know where the herb grew - on a mountain, in the Himalayas.  So he took back the entire mountain to Rama.

There are many other lessons to learn from Hanuman's logic.

Incrementalization is a technique of generalization: if A=B, and B=C, A=C.  Hanuman could not leap across the ocean all at once, but used the challenges he faced to spring forward and close the gap.  When his tail was on fire, he burnt down Lanka with it. Hanuman tore open his chest to show when we are separate and individual, we can serve - but when we are connected by friendship, we merge into one.

As the "Son of the Wind," he was the "Breath of Rama."  But he was not the voice of Rama: A=B does not mean B=C.  He did not rescue Sita, but did produce the conditions by which Rama might easily perform his duty: just as in the Udgitha, breath is understood to be one of the conditions of Om.

When humanity ventured to space, it was not done all at once.  We learn to crawl, then to walk, then to run, then to fly.  Then to soar.  Like Hanuman, by merely flexing, we can touch every star.  What then can we do with this strength when we let friendship and our work guide us?

About Hanuman

Hanuman Jayanti is the celebration of the birth of Hanuman.  Hanuman is a character in the Ramayana, based upon a real person who manifested the 11th Avatar of Shiva.  Like Vishnu, Shiva may be manifested in both major and minor forms.  As many of the other non-beings may, such as Brahma, Shakti, etc.  On Hanuman Jayanti, we celebrate both the person and the manifestation.

One of the most striking features of Hanuman is his description as a "monkey."  There are several reasons for this:

"Monkey" is not only modern American pejorative racial slang for a technologically inferior aboriginal human, it also is a term used by other cultures to describe technologically inferior aboriginal races.  But one important difference is the pejorative context in American slang: in the culture responsible for the Ramayana, technological inferiority carries none of the negativity: difference in ways of life, technology, even form is celebrated - rather than condemned.  That a society is less technologically advanced is neither respected nor despised.  However, "Monkey" references the technologically inferior tribes Rama relied upon for help.

"Monkey" also has biological implications: the Ramayana contains geographical, astronomical, biological and geological descriptions which permit a dating of the events to the ice-age, before the invention of written language: ice-age animals which at the time of the story were not yet extinct, places which were radically transformed in the global warming, and other similar references imply the age of the story.  But geographical and astronomical references are made as well - not only in the Ramayana, but in oldest Vedas that date to the same time.  For example, star descriptions may astronomically be dated to that distant time (summer solstice occurring in Ares, for example - stars "migrate" as the earth rotates on its axis, and this has not occurred since the end of the ice age).  The Puranas describe the number of years since the story, and this matches these estimates.

It was at this distant time that human civilization began to rise in prominence above those civilizations of protohuman species - and "Monkey" may be understood in this context to not only imply a technologically inferior culture, but a protohuman species.  Just as we would call a person a "Neanderthal" who is technologically inferior, or is actually biologically a Neanderthal, it is in this way "Monkey" may be read.  It is, perhaps, fruitful to speculate that this interaction with protohuman species which permitted the development of interspecies respect that still defines a Hindu perspective on the relationship between humans and non-humans, and an understanding of the evolutionary nature of our biology.  As our species evolves, so do our individuals over their lives.

But "Monkey" also has third, metaphorical implication as well: a "monkey mind" is slang for a mind that is easily distracted and governed by instinct.  Vishnu, too, manifested as monkeys on the path to enlightenment, and some of the adventures of Hanuman's monkey tribe may be seen to relate in this regard with Vishnu's own adventures.  Those who are more familiar with yoga will doubtlessly recognize other ways that "Monkey" is used to describe the "brute" strength, resourcefulness and logic which the character of Hanuman is renowned.

Shiva's full manifestations present the perfection or embodiment of various Yogas.  Hanuman embodies Bhakti Yoga through Niyuddha Yoga - Hanuman is the embodiment of the perfected warrior.  In this story, devoted to Rama, the manifestation of Vishnu.  Hanuman is humble, and does not command his tribe, but loyally serves the King of the Monkeys, Sugriva.  Hanuman's service to Sugriva solidifies the alliance and love between Sugriva and Rama.  Hanuman inspires the love and friendship which he embodies in everyone.

Practices on Hanuman Jayanti

Hanuman's tribe of monkeys had red hair, and their flag was red.  On Hanuman Jayanti, it is customary to fly these red flags, and other red color, even putting on colorful face-paint of that color.  At the moment of Hanuman's birth (dawn), stop all practice of Yoga and study of Dharma. Serve a meal and develop friendship and love.  Then work.  Artha, Kama - Hanuman did not achieve his manifestation of Shiva by duty, but by friendship, and work.  His friendship and work resulted in the accomplishment of his duty.

Colonel Gagarin's spacecraft was called Vostok, the East: this was the direction of Hanuman, as well. His flag, too, by coincidence was red: he was a Soviet soldier.  When he was a child, he saw his home taken by the Nazis, and his family enslaved.  He was trained as a mechanic, and worked the docks, but by chance developed a casual interest in flying - but his piloting skills were noticed by the Air Force.  He was drafted into the Air Force, and learned science, engineering, and to fly a MIG-15.  Proving himself as one of the six best pilots of the Soviet Union, he was chosen among his peers as their best: he excelled not only in the skills of piloting, but as a scientist and engineer.

 Vishnu instructed that it is to the east we must look when considering our parents and past: just as the sun rises in the east - watching the sun rise and set, we may contemplate we, too, must become parents and come to understand the continuity of time and space that exists in our own lives.  We have been brought to this time and place by no accident, and just as our parents created the conditions of our present, we may create the conditions of our children's future.  Our destiny is what we shape it to be.

It is customary, too, today to read the story of Hanuman's life, in the Ramayana - and reflect on the human nature.  Just as birth does not make a human a superior or noble person, so too our species does not endow us with special power.  Any being may bring an end to their distress, achieve enlightenment, perfect their wisdom and become content.  Our nature is toward self-improvement, not only biologically, but mentally, spiritually and physically.  We share one world, and as any of us achieves greater heights, we all share in that victory.