The inner meaning of Sundara Kanda

The Sundara Kanda is the 5th chapter of the Ramayana. This is the one section where Hanuman, the devotee of Rama is depicted as the hero. This chapter of Ramayana describes Hanuman’s journey to Lanka to find Sita. The beauty of this chapter is the hidden secrets of transformations that one can imbibe in their lives pragmatically.

The story begins with Hanuman jumping off the Mahendra-Giri hill. As he flies towards Lanka, he comes across Mainaka (a hill, who owes Hanuman’s father a debt), Surasa (a Goddess) and Simhika (a demoness). After dealing with each of them, he enters the city of Lanka, not before knocking out Lankini (the guardian of Lanka). After Hanuman searches the entire city of Lanka, he finally meets Sita in Ashok Vatika and conveys the message of assurance that Rama will soon save her. He decides to get Ravan’s attention by destroying a sanctuary and wreaking havoc. Ravan sends his warriors to capture him but fail to do until finally, Hanuman decides it time to meet the king himself. In front of Ravan, Hanuman gives a warning but it falls on deaf ears and Hanuman gets the punishment of death. Interrupted by Ravan’s brother Vibhishan who advised him about treatment towards messengers, Ravan orders Hanuman’s tail to be set on fire. Hanuman burns the city of Lanka in anger. Hanuman flies back to his fellow monkeys not before checking on Sita again and re-assuring her of rescue.  

The inner beauty lies in understanding the significance of the outer story: 

Lanka represents the goal; Mahendra-Giri- Pleasure; Mainaka, Surasa and Simhika the different forms of distractions that occur in one’s path to success. Hanuman dealt with each of them in different ways.

Hanuman demonstrated 4 qualities that essential in any walk of life-

  1. DHRUTI– FIRMNESS. He decided to take the leap towards Lanka and face the dangers come what may.
  2. DHRISHTI– FOCUS. When Mainaka offered Hanuman the comfort of taking rest, he politely refused by keeping his focus on the mission. On several occasions, we also get distracted by elements around us on our path to reach our goal, however by being firm, you must avoid them.
  3. MATHI– INTELLIGENCE. Surasa was a goddess who took tested Hanuman by challenging him to enter her mouth. Hanuman increased his size exponentially and she kept up with this increasing ape. Suddenly, he shrank and went into her mouth and came out before she could realize what happened. Brawns is not always the answer to every problem. One must apply their intellect as well.
  4. DAKSHYA– ABILITY. Simhika was a demoness who could control shadows. When Hanuman’s shadow was in her grip, he used his abilities and destroyed her. Therefore, be what the situation demands of you.

Obstacles can only subdue us when we don’t have a strong focus on what we want to achieve.

A beautiful analogy arises here. 

“Manasevam kritam Lankam”

The mind alone creates Lanka. Lanka is your mind. It is not a physical or a geographical location but a psychological one. The mind is a tricky one. Takes a lot of effort to bring it to one’s control. According to the Ramayan, only 4 can invade Lanka: 

  1. ANGADA- Angada is derived from two root words ‘AM’+’GADA’ meaning God-seeking. Thus, a god seeker can invade the mind and slay the vices.
  2. NEELA- Means yagna (sacrificial fire). One who performs yagnas can enter the mind and kill the desire. It is important to note that Desire seeks mind and not the vice versa. Desire represents Ravan, the mind represents Sita and Rama represents God. Only when the mind is connected with God will there be peace. As soon as the two are separated, the mind becomes distraught trying to satisfy the desire. Unfulfilled desires lead to dissatisfaction only.  
  3. SUGRIVA- means thinker. Stands for intellect. By trying to understand the mind, one can invade the mind.
  4. HANUMAN- Hanuman represents Mantra.

But what is Mantra? 

“Mananat trayate iti mantrah”

meaning, that which penetrates the mind is called mantra. A conditioned mind cannot see things as it is, it perceives but it can’t tell apart from the truth. Out of these four, Hanuman is chosen because he sees things as it is. However, for mantra to enter the mind, it has to deal with body identification. This is represented by Lankini and Hanuman just gives her a single punch before proceeding further ahead. The one-letter word which can turn tables in life is “I“. Remove it and half your problems are gone. One must not live for the sake of the body.

When you seek attention, you become weak. That is why Hanuman traversed Lanka stealthily. When you are silent, that is when you observe. Hanuman’s mission, in short, was to investigate, find Sita and stop the enemy if he has to. 

After searching for a while and Sita not to be found anywhere, Hanuman felt dejected but he did not give up. Duty is more important than undergoing pain in the process of succeeding. Just later he realizes that Sita is below him as he was on a tree. He effectively communicates his soothing message to revive hope in her. After comforting Sita, Hanuman takes her permission and wreaks havoc in the garden. 

The Ramayan also gives us a description of karma. There are 4 types of karma:

  1. Niyata Karma– These are the duties that must be performed. This varies from individual to individual. For a student, it is studying, for a guru, it is to teach and so on.
  2. Kamya Karma– Activities performed out of desire. For example, buying a watch.
  3. Naimitya Karma– These include obligatory duties.
  4. Nishida Karma– Activities that must not be performed.

To capture him, Ravan sends the following in order to capture them on hearing their defeat:

  1. 800 kimkaras (servants),
  2. Jambumali
  3. 7 Mantri Kumaras
  4. 5 Army Commanders
  5. Aksha Kumar (Ravan’s 16-year-old son)
  6. and finally Meghnad (who succeeds in imprisoning him).

Hanuman surrendered to Indrajit’s Brahmastra and allowed it to capture him not because he couldn’t tackle it, but because he respected Brahma. 

One must demonstrate his ability when the time comes. Do not hesitate to show your potential. However, there is no need to demonstrate your power/knowledge/position by letting down others.

As he was taken to the court, he was jeered at by the demons but he held his nerve. It is to be noted here that in the court where any unfavorable eye movement of Ravan was feared by even the gods, Hanuman kept his cool and believed in himself. Therefore, it is important to have faith in one’s ability even during hardships. 

After a brief talk, Ravan ordered that Hanuman’s tail to be set on fire upon Vibhishan’s advice. Even though Vibhishan was living amongst demons, he never behaved like one. He was a pious and gentle person. Therefore, do not let others influence your behavior. 

When you experience an emotion, you become one with it. Hanuman burnt down Lanka by being one with anger (he was angry). Anger is an important emotion. In Sanskrit, anger has many synonyms but in English, they mean the same. For example, some of the synonyms of anger are Cop(कोप), Krodh(क्रोध), Dwesh(द्वेष), etc however the cause of Cop, Krodh and Dwesh are not the same.  The cause of Cop is issue-based. It is temporary. Cop has to be shown at times in the interest of work. It is necessary to survive in this world. Krodh on the other hand is person-based. In other words, it is a grudge. This should not be there. If this exists, slowly this grows into Dwesh (literally translates to Dvi+visha which is double poison). And Dwesh kills you every single day. They say poison kills you once and for all but Dwesh exists till death. 

So here, Hanuman was in cop. The anger is issue related. He burnt down the areas of importance in Lanka to simplify Rama’s work when he comes for war.

Hanuman returns back to his group to share the success and effectively communicates the good news in just two words: “Niyatam Akshatam” meaning “safe and intact”. One can see the importance of communication being shown here. Hanuman did not beat around the bush and blabber. Straight to the point! There is nothing more dangerous than misunderstood information. 

By now, one must have understood a few key elements of transforming your life but the wonderful thing at the end of Sundara Kanda is this- Hanuman did not ask for anything as a reward for his service. In spite of his life being in danger in so many situations, after everything he did not seek reward. One must learn to imbibe this quality! You have control of only what you are doing, the result is not in your hands.

The ocean between Lanka and Mahendra-Giri represents life. In order to succeed, one must be able to invade the mind and destroy the evil tendencies. This is the essence of Sundara Kanda.




I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post. Do leave a comment about your views on this.  

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