The Signet Ring
“Really?” I asked, not really sure if we were talking about the extraordinary world or the world of hard science.
“You have those powers too. Everyone was given those powers when Hanuman received that blessing. Every time Hanuman is given that boon, we are given those powers,” he said.
“It happened several times?” I asked.
“It happens.” Hari Puri Baba said cryptically, with emphasis on the present tense. “And remember, the infant monkey Hanuman, sired by the Wind, already so powerful that he almost ate the Sun, now has powers that far exceed even this. And he is naturally mischievous, as most children are. His mother lives on another planet, and his father is blown away, blinded by his pride for his son. Hanuman likes to play with power. He especially likes to tease the rishi-sages living in the jungle close by. He steals and hides their ritual implements for the vedic sacrifices. He holds his belly, barely able to control his laughter as he watches them search for the stolen items.
“One day as he swings in the trees near the ashram of the rishi Trnabindu, Hanuman catches hold of a ferocious tiger and a bull elephant, and ties their tails to the gateposts of the rishi’s ashram. When Trnabindu emerges for his morning constitutional, the shock of the tiger trying to attack him and the elephant trumpeting causes his heart to stop for a moment. His shock turns to righteous anger and the heavens roll with thunder. The last thing one ever wants to experience is the anger of a rishi. Through his yogic powers, he perceives that the culprit is Hanuman and he summons him to face his punishment.
“Because Hanuman so abuses his divine powers, which even a great rishi can’t take away, Trnabindu curses him.” Hari Puri Baba said, his voice becoming grave.
“Now listen carefully, Ram Puri. This is very important: The rishi’s curse makes Hanuman forget his powers until such time as a member of his own species reminds him of them by asking for his help in the great cause! Hanuman would no longer be his true self until the moment arrived to serve the world as only he could do.”
This started to make sense to me but what was this great cause? Saving the world? What was there to save? The world is illusion, injustice, and hypocrisy. That’s what makes it the world. Perhaps the great cause was the path of the hero itself? He who remembers who he is, no longer bound by ideas of past and future, the witness who finds the sacred treasure within himself, brings it back to his tribe, and in so doing saves the world, again and again?
“That’s right!” said Hari Puri Baba. “Time is merely an illusory stage on which the theater of repetition is performed.”
“Now,” the master storyteller continued, “Lord Ram was searching for his kidnapped princess, Sita. Ram had helped Sugriv, the king of the monkeys, recover his kingdom, and in return Sugriv commanded all the monkeys in his kingdom (including Hanuman) to help find Ram’s abducted and beloved Sita. Four search parties were established, one for each direction. Ram knew that Sita would have been taken south, so he asked Hanuman to go with that expedition.
“Before he set off, Ram called Hanuman into the cave where he and his brother Lakshman would be waiting. Ram shocked Hanuman by telling him that he knew who Hanuman really was, even though Hanuman himself didn’t know, and he told Hanuman that he trusted him, and indeed loved him more than any of the other monkeys.
“He presented Hanuman with his signet ring, explaining that there was no difference between him and his ring, and that once he had found Sita, he was to show her the ring and she would know without a doubt that Hanuman was truly Ram’s representative.
“After numerous adventures, Hanuman and his troupe of monkeys reached the Southern Sea, as far south as they could go and a vulture told them that Sita was being held prisoner on the island of Lanka. Jambavan, the bear, one of Hanuman’s gurus, reminded Hanuman of his true but hidden self by calling upon him to serve the great cause. Awakened at last, Hanuman grew to a height of a hundred feet, and clutching Ram’s ring to his heart, he leaped right across the Southern Sea.
“But somehow Hanuman must have relaxed for a moment or was distracted because somehow he dropped the ring into the ocean and it disappeared from view.
Knowing that the fate of the world depended on it, Hanuman dived to the bottom to look for it. He was able to hold his breath for infinite periods of time (after all, he was the son of the Wind), but he couldn’t find the ring. Eventually he came to a cave that led him to an underworld beneath the sea. Here he found a kingdom of palaces and temples. One temple that shone like the rising sun captured his attention and he explored its labyrinthine tunnels until he arrived at a secret chamber, where a baba was chanting the name of Ram. To Hanuman’s surprise, the baba called him by name, inviting him inside for a chat.
“When Hanuman started to explain the purpose of his visit, the baba told him that he knew that he had come for the ring. Amazed and delighted, Hanuman asked for it so that he could continue with his mission. The baba pointed to a pile of rings and said, ‘Take your pick.’
“’I’m afraid you don’t understand,’ said Hanuman, ‘I need Ram’s real signet ring, the one that is Ram himself, the one that Sita will recognize.’
“The baba laughed. ‘They are all the real thing,’ he said, ‘each one is the original!’ Hanuman scratched his chin and raised his eyebrows. ‘Each time the age of Treta, the Third Age, comes around, Ram is an incarnation, an avatar, of Vishnu and you are his greatest devotee. Each time you fly over the Southern Sea with his ring, you drop it! Don’t ask me why because I don’t know why, but you do. So, you see, all these rings are his. Take your pick. When Sita sees the ring, she will rejoice. After all, who but the Mother of the World will recognize Ram’s signet ring?’
“Hanuman selected one of the rings and, touching the feet of the baba, rose to the surface of the sea, and continued his journey,” Hari Puri Baba concluded.