Forgetting Who You Are

Forgetting Who You Are

Today, we’re going to share a story from my favorite character that of Hanuman. We’ve shared a lot of stories of Hanuman so far.

Today’s story is going to be from Hanuman’s youth, but it’s going to offer some unique insights into concepts found in Tantric yoga and yoga as a whole. It’s also going to give us some great insight into our life and how we really integrate the power of our own unique individual message into the world.

The story is a brief one, and of course, it starts once upon a time. Hanuman was still a young monkey. It’s important to understand that Hanuman is an incarnation of Shiva, but his father was also Vayu, the wind god. When Hanuman came into the world as a monkey, he was quite a rascal. He had these god-like powers. He was extremely strong, but he was also a young child in a monkey. He was causing all kinds of havoc, all kinds of problems, being as kids do with all their energy.

In the area of the forest where he lived, there was lots of reishi and there was an ashram, and he was known for terrorizing all the inhabitants of the ashram. When they were meditating, he’d come up and he would tug on the sage’s beards or their dreadlocks. He would steal meditation cushions or offerings to the altars. He was said to rip up trees and fling them around like his toys or even terrorize the animals around just wanting to play with everything.

I know my daughter who’s just about to turn five, she can be sometimes rough with animals. She doesn’t recognize when we have to talk to her like, “Hey, don’t be so rough.” Here we have an example of just a young child, granted a monkey child, so even more energetic. A monkey child that is not only the son of a god, but an incarnation of the god, Shiva.

Hanuman is going around causing all kinds of trouble. He knows that he’s a big deal, which only makes the situation that much worse. He’s like, “Well, what are they going to do? I’m a god, and I’m the son of Vayu. What’s the big deal?”

Finally, the sages, they have enough. They all get together and they devised a plan of how they can get Hanuman more under their control so he’s not causing such a disruption. They decide to curse Hanuman. They curse Hanuman to forget who he is. The only way that Hanuman can remember who he is, is through some sort of circumstance of someone telling him who he is. It’s a reminder. It’s a remembering. This is a really important aspect and we’ll flush it out a little bit more.

Essentially, Hanuman is here and he forgets the he’s divine. He forgets. This is a child growing up in our culture or in any culture and they’re filled with life, they’re filled with energy. They’re filled with potential, but they start that process of indoctrination. Society starts to mold them and break them down and force them into a particular shape to fit that culture. That, in many ways, stifles the spirit of the child. It makes them forget this vast divinity that they are. It makes them think. There’s this limited box and they’ve got this name and they’ve got these rules within their society and they have to follow this and that.

It’s not just putting that down as a blanket like bad thing. We see this also expressed in things like Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. What’s happening here is that the hero, a.k.a., you or Hanuman, but we’re always talking about you, us, is that the hero has to go through this process of indoctrination, because it’s through that process that’s actually going to give you their ultimate message value to the world.

The hero has to become part of the culture before they can leave the culture and ideally come back with the treasure, with the boon, because it would be like walking into another culture and not speaking the language. You’re not going to be able to communicate. If you look at myths all throughout time, what makes myths powerful is that they speak to a very specific group of people or person in a specific time. When myths are no longer speaking to us, they lost their power. If the metaphors don’t speak to us anymore, then the myths themselves don’t really have the power to transform, which is the whole point of myth to begin with.

Here, we have Hanuman forgetting that he is divine. This sets forth this wonderful string of events where now he’s humble. Now, he recognizes like, “Wow.” He thinks he’s just a monkey and he’s got to work for what it is that he does. He becomes a wonderful student. Way down the line, he becomes the student of Surya, the sun. He becomes one of the most devoted students in all of Indian history. He masters the Vedas. He masters all these practices of yoga and pranayama and this and that. It was because of his humility and his willingness then to learn that he is able to become such a great student.

Then eventually, through his journeys, which we hear so much about particularly in the Ramayana but in other folk stores as well. Hanuman goes off and he becomes this wonderful hero in this story. He helps to fight demons and ultimately helped to save Sita by helping Rama ¬†find her again. As we’ve spoken before in previous podcasts, Sita and Rama can represent the aspect of the small self and the big self. The divinity and the … Not the ego, but the individual soul. Those two get separated. They get separated by Ravana, who does represent the ego and Hanuman comes in here to ultimately help reconcile and reunite these two seemingly separated things of divine self and individual soul.

Hanuman here, through his forgetting, he’s constantly reminded. He shows up on the edge of the border of India where it meets the sea. He’s like, “Well, I’ve got to get over to the island of Lanka.” He’s like, “How am I going to do that?” Jambavan, who’s this bear and his friend, he reminds him. He’s like, “You’re the son of Vayu. You can just fly over there.” He’s like, “Oh, yeah, I can fly.” He gets up and leaps up and flies.

All throughout the stories, there are these reminders of him like, “Hey, you’re divine, you’re God. You can do anything.” It just sparks that memory within him to do these great things. That’s really important because that’s a really big part of the Tantric message. The Tantric messages is that you’ve forgotten who you are. You’ve misidentified. You’ve experienced things through your senses and you thought that you are those things, so I experience myself as tall, or short, or as skinny, or as large, or as this, or as that. You’ve identified with those things and that grand thing.

All it takes is a remembering, a reminder. Sometimes it’s from a friend that can just knock you out of your head and ego and say like, “Hey, you’re being a total dingbat right now.” Like, “Get back to reality.” Or maybe it’s a sacred text. I can pick up certain texts that anytime I pick them up they remind me of like, “Oh my gosh, that’s right.” I’m so caught up in my own limited ego self that all it takes is one beautiful powerful line from something to annihilate that and bring me back into an understanding, into an experience of oneness and togetherness. Of remembering who I am.

Again, the important part of this going through the process of education and, in a very true sense, indoctrination. The reishis indoctrinate Hanuman so he doesn’t remember that he’s divine. He’s got to be just like one of us. This being just like one of us is really, really important, because it adds so much of the value back to the message.

In this basic hero archetype, you’ve got the hero that leaves their culture. Goes and slays their dragons, receives the boons and then brings those boons back to the culture. Again, what gives those boons the most value to the culture, not necessarily to the person but as a shared experience, as a collective evolution, is how those boons, how those treasures are communicated back to the people.

If you’re coming from a culture that just doesn’t understand, like if I would walk up to a desert community and start talking about metaphors that talk about deep ocean and sea and all the things that happen if you’re to spend every day in the sea, maybe an island living culture would totally get instantaneously. The people in the desert are going to be like, “What the hell are you talking about? I don’t even understand what you’re saying right now.”

That’s a key characteristic here is that by going through the indoctrination process, you’re learning the vocabulary. You’re learning the language so that when you remember who you are, when you go on your hero’s journey, when you slay your dragons and overcome the things that are in your way, you can bring that journey, that message back to the people and communicate it in a way that they can really hear you.

I remember when I first came back to the United States, I had spent a lot of years on a small island. I didn’t have exposure to a ton of people. Most of the people that I was interacting with were pretty serious and committed to their study of yoga and their wanting to get deeper inside themselves.

I got back to the United States and I was still on that same train. I was like, “Oh, yeah, everybody wants to realize the divine and become enlightened and this is what yoga is for.” The vast majority people were just doing yoga because they wanted to feel better. They want to be a little bit more flexible or they want to have a calmer mind.

To come at them with the language of like, “Hey, this is how you’re going to ultimately perhaps become enlightened.” It didn’t resonate with people. It didn’t connect with people in the same way. It took my willingness to open up into their perspective more and to hear what it was that they wanted that would have been possible or as possible had I not grown up in that culture.

Because I had grown up in the culture, it’s very easy for me to redirect and say, “Okay, these are the needs. This is the language that these people speak.” I change my perspective to meet them where they are at and it completely opened up, not only my capacities of teaching but people’s willingness and receptiveness to learn and to understand and to go deeper inside themselves and learn more about the divine.

It didn’t come by speaking some foreign, lofty language. A big part of my work is to communicate things in a way that’s very down to earth and accessible because that’s what really inspires people to go deeper and maybe they will go in and learn a different language so to speak at some point. That’s great as well, but it all starts from that coming from the language that we already speak.

I want to touch as well on a concept of what’s called grace, of anugraha. A remembering, and this is an important facet of it. You don’t do something to remember something. You might have someone or something trigger your remembering, but it doesn’t give you something because you’ve already had it. That is super key. The remembering, it’s already there.

I’m not doing a yoga practice to get to a certain place to a certain level of cultivation where then I will be enlightened or then I will get something. Rather, it might take a lifetime, it might take a few months, a few years, a particular teacher, a particular text, a particular this or simply just walking down the street one day to trigger that memory. To trigger that thing, but the key is, is did it make that thing. It didn’t build that thing. That thing was already there.

When Hanuman is reminded that he is the son of Vayu, the son of the wind god or that he is an incarnation of Shiva, he didn’t do something to earn that or to get that. That was already there. That’s a central message in Tantric yoga that you already are divine. It’s a realization. It’s a remembering and that’s why they call it anugraha, why they call it grace.

You don’t do something to get grace. You might ask for grace. You might pray for grace, but you don’t actually … It’s not that action that it happens. What makes it grace is precisely because there’s nothing you can do to get it. It’s grace. That’s the same here. The message here is that you already have it. You already are it, so you need to remember it.

Maybe you’re totally locked in your life right now and you’re like, “Man, I’m totally indoctrinating the culture. I’m completely in it and I don’t feel, I don’t remember any of this stuff from my childhood or any time in my life where I feel that.” Well, then that’s the importance of friends, of spiritual community, of sacred texts, of practices. These things that remind us of that, which is already there. Of that which you already are.

That’s really the beautiful message here is it’s not a form of spiritual materialism where we’re going to acquire more things, and once we get enough, then we’ll be at that pinnacle. We’ll be at that place that we want to get. The whole point is to simply remember that we’re already there.

To be grateful for the experience of that indoctrination, of that forgetting because it’s precisely that process that not only allow the experience of revelation, of remembering, but it adds that critical element of collective evolution where we can now share our experience, where we can share our message in a way that other people can understand it. That it can call to them as well and inspire them on their particular journey. It can inspire them to remember who they are.

Listen to me telling this story on the Sivana Podcast: