Om, Rama bhaktan, Rama mandiram
1. The significance of Om in Hinduism
Om, sometimes spelt AUM, is considered a sacred sound in vedic Hinduism. It consists of three sounds—Ah, O and Ma—and one silent syllable. Together with the right posture and harmonious synchronous breath, it is a long vibrant exhalation with the merging of all the three sounds as Om.
The sound ‘A’ helps relax the body hip downwards, ‘O’ for the middle body, and ‘M’ for the neck upwards. In that form, it is used in a variety of modes. It is used in worship in short verses called slokas. These slokas are also used in yoga. Om and its constituent syllables are used individually and together in yogic practice and chanting.
2. The sound as a symbol
This multiple usage has made Om itself to be venerated as the ‘perfect sound’ and thus the symbol of the supreme power, or god, itself. The nameless, ‘not-this not-that’ Supreme Being is captured in this divine sound.
3. The symbol of whom?
The symbol of Om in devanagiri script is like a ‘3’ with a tail, and a dot on top. With a little bit of imagination, one can see a sitting Hanuman bowing and paying obeisance, with this hands folded. It even has a tail, and what could be Hanuman carrying a mountain. The tail figures in two of the most prominent stories regarding Hanuman, and the mountain in the third. In addition, the ‘3’ part of Om is often how the mouth of Hanuman is pictured.
Om thus becomes in a microcosm almost the auto-biography of Hanuman himself.
4. The perfect sound for the perfect messenger
In the Tamil interpretation of the Ramayanam, when Hanuman returns from Sri Lanka after meeting Sita, his words were ‘Saw Sita’. This economy and precision in the use of words surely ranks him as the perfect messenger. This accurate, brief and clear message leaves no room for any ambiguity. He dispels any fear in Raman’s mind by conveying the core message first, saving Raman from even an excess fraction of time of anxiety.
The perfect sound thus is the appropriate motif for this perfect messenger. It can hardly be such a perfect fit for anyone else.
5. The tale of the matter: Making a monkey of god
There are two stories of Hanuman which involve the tail. In one he becomes a monkey for god, and in the next he makes a monkey of god.
In the first, he burnt down Lanka when he went there to look for Sita. In the second, the story goes that once the righteous King Yayati enraged Vishwamitran the quick to anger guru of Raman. Vishwamitran demanded that Raman bring the head of that king and place it before his feet. Being the demand of his guru, Raman had to agree.
On learning that Vishwamitran had approached Rama, the king rushed to Anjana Devi. She called her son Hanuman, and told him to protect the king. Hanuman made his tail grow, and protected the king in its coils.
Raman looked high and low, and finally located the king. The king remained safe within the tail of Hanuman. Raman was perplexed because the arrows he shot left the king untouched. Then he saw Hanuman. He asked Hanuman why the arrows were not harming him (Hanuman) let alone reaching the king. Hanuman opened his chest inside which Raman saw both Raman and Sita. It is with both Raman and Sita in his heart that Hanuman could make a monkey of Raman. It is only one who is so intimate and so integral to another who can make a monkey of them—and make them like it, just like the grandparents, no matter how strict with their children, would like their grandchild to be.
Of course, Raman did get the king to prostrate before his guru Vishwamitran, ensuring literally that the head of the king was at the feet of his guru as promised. In this episode Hanuman helps Raman not to commit a sin similar to the killing of Vali. The devotee ironically, actually helps god!
6. Secularism according to Bajrang Bali
The story narrated above shows a much stronger commitment to secularism—and protecting the life of a person, doing one’s duty. Protecting those in need is the overriding duty. The incident takes the concept of secularism one step higher. The Christian concept, as elaborated by Christ, is to close the doors and windows and pray so that only god knows our spiritual inclination. The Bajrang concept is to be spiritual so that even god doesn’t know it!
7. The temple of the perfect Rama Bhaktan
This story is very relevant to solve one of contemporary India’s most vexing issues—the demolition of Babri Mosque.
The communal climate of the country has been vitiated, perhaps for a long time, due to the sanghi lust for power, communal politics and polarisation for the creation of a vote bank. The mode followed was to start a cross country mobilisation campaign on the emotive issue of building a temple for Raman on the site of a mosque in Ayodhya. It is common knowledge that none of the leaders of the mobilisation to build the Rama temple were devotees of Raman or Rama temple pilgrims before the start of their political campaign. Where then was the Raman in their hearts?
What did the ultimate Rama Bhaktan do? Where did he build the Rama Mandiram? This story provides us a direction. The temple he built was in his heart, not on this earth. True Rama Bhaktans do the same.
(Thoughts during ‘OM meditation’ at Prashanti Kutiram, SVAYSA, Jigini, Bangalore. The guru was good, but the mind wandered… and this is where it went. There are many versions of these stories quoted above. The richness is in the diversity and non-standardisation.)