11 Apr Hanuman Chalisa – a lesson in Appreciative Inquiry
Today the festival of Hanumat Jayanti – the day of the Monkey-God, Hanuman – is being celebrated all over India. On this occasion I am attempting to chronicle my interpretation, relatedness and understanding of Hanuman Chalisa (chalis = 40) – a forty-versed (excluding the couplets at the beginning and at the end) hymn sung in praise of Lord Hanuman. Composed by the poet-saint Tulsidas sometime in the 16th century, Hanuman Chalisa, like most other mythological literature too has a certain quality about its lyrics that’s immediately endearing and enrapturing. The poetic details in which the Lord is adulated and adored immediately creates a mood of appreciation in the listener / reciter and carries her into a realm of grandeur and magnificence. However, after sometime, the words start seeping in revealing possible deeper meanings, which could build personal relatedness with individuals. And that’s exactly what happened to me.
I was introduced to Hanuman Chalisa sometime in mid 2000 when I heard one of my friends chanting it in a temple. The rhythmic chant rendered by its verses immediately caught my fancy. Thereafter I heard many renditions of the hymn sung by many popular classical and folk singers and each time I listened there was something about the lyrics that got me hooked on to it more and more. The eureka moment came a couple of years back. I was listening to a rare rendition of Hanuman Chalisa by Pandit Rajan & Sajan Misra
the very introduction caught my attention. Devanagari
श्रीगुरु चरन सरोज रज निज मन मुकुर सुधारि।
बरनउँ रघुबर बिमल जसु जो दायकु फल चारि॥
shrīguru charana saroja raja nija mana mukuru sudhāri।baranau raghubara bimala jasu jo dāyaku phala chāri॥
To me, it was clearly an invitation to cleanse the mirror of awareness with devotion to be able to uphold the glory and magnificence of the quintessential Man – the enlightened one – sleeping in each one of us – thus enjoying the fruits of being a blessed mortal – the fruits of piousness, richness, pleasure and liberation.
In the very next verse the listener, in a sense, is prepared to let-go the ego of knowledge, acknowledge with humility the ignorance and in the space so created invokes the strength, wisdom and knowledge that the Lord personifies in subsequent verses, removing all conditioned sense of inadequacy and limitedness.
In the verses that follow there is such generative and empowering description of beauty, courage, strength, wisdom, compassion, commitment, devotion and gratitude that the conscious reader / reciter gets steeped in an intensely appreciative space. A space which, in my experience, spontaneously starts a process of strength-focused self-inquiry leading to discovery of ones own innate abilities and life giving forces.
Such a marvelous method of Appreciative Inquiry! Prevailing in this country for more than 500 years!
All the verses of this hymn are embedded with deeply impactful significance. However there are some key verses the significance of which are so profound that one can hardly fail to notice. Here are some of them:
राम दूत अतुलित बल धामा।
अंजनि पुत्र पवनसुत नामा॥ २ ॥
rāma dūta atulita bala dhāmā।
anjani putra pavanasuta nāmā॥ 2 ॥
Lord Hanuman is a messenger of incomparable strength that the Man embodies in himself which can be remembered by recalling the phenomenal force of the wind element, said to be instrumental in giving birth to Lord Hanuman.
सूक्ष्म रूप धरी सियहिं दिखावा।
बिकट रूप धरि लंक जरावा॥ ९ ॥
sūkshma rūpa dhari siyahi dikhāvā।
bikata rūpa dhari lanka jarāvā॥ 9 ॥
It’s a reminder to the reciters / listener that getting touch with ones power does not necessarily mean becoming egoic and inappropriate with it. In Man’s realization of his true innate power, he learns to be appropriate and adaptable with it: consciously assuming a diminutive form to avoid being seen at one time and a formidable form to vanquish evil, at another.
One of the most wondrous verses, to me, is
जुग सहस्र जोजन पर भानू।
लील्यो ताहि मधुर फल जानू॥ १८ ॥
juga sahasra jojana para bhānū।
līlyo tāhi madhura phala jānū॥ 18 ॥
While there is no mention of how the saint-poet Tulsidas calculated the distance between earth and sun yet the lines do provide a close approximation of distance between the two.
juga sahasra jojana para bhānū : 1 Yug = 12000 years 1 Sahastra = 1000 1 Yojan = 8 Miles Yug x Sahastra x Yojan which makes it 12000 x 1000 x 8 miles = 96000000 miles.
The other notable expression in this verse is the symbolic act of ‘swallowing’ the Sun. To me, it is internalizing the life-force (Sun) ensuring sustained heliotropic growth – a key aspect of Appreciative Inquiry.
The underlying essence of this hymn is about dispelling negativity and negative energies by virtue of constantly focusing on generative aspects of ones life.
No wonder, many who have been chanting Hanuman Chalisa over years have reported feeling safe and secure, possibly even without cognitively relating to the deeper significance of the verses.
I am sure as you are reading this piece, you are also getting curious and may want to experience this unique method of Appreciative Inquiry, first hand. By all means, please. Just ensure that you allow your own understanding and relatedness to emerge, instead of getting influenced by religious interpretations given by some scholars and available on the web.
Wish you all a very Happy Hanumat Jayanti!
This post was first published as a Pulse article in Linked In on April 4, 2015.
In the last two years the inquiries and explorations have taken me deeper. Like all other icons and symbologies in Hindu mythology which pre-dominantly are meant to enable self-growth, Hanuman clearly stands for Intent
A purposeful thought with a specific outcome that galvanizes all energies and garners all support towards fulfillment.
It’s powered and related to one purpose (purushartha) which is symbolized by Rama (Ra = light, Ma = from darkness).
Re-posting as a blog on the occasion of Hanumat Jayanti today, for readers to connect with their innate awesomeness.