Why We Love Hanuman

Hanuman is really the quintessential superhero, at least according to our western conception of the superhero.  He looks relatively normal. Yeah, okay, he has the head of a monkey on the body of a man…but unlike everyone else we have studied, he only has two arms, two legs, two eyes, and one head, making him downright run-of-the-mill in the world of the Hindu pantheon.  Despite his accessible appearance, however, he is capable of amazing feats.  He’s well-known for his giant leap from India to Sri Lanka (described beautifully here by Bernadette Birney in Yoga Journal), his ability to carry an entire mountain across great distances, and his uncanny knack for growing and shrinking as circumstances require. But, at the same time, you feel like you could hang out and chat with him.  He’s a regular monkey-guy, kinda like Clark Kent, or Peter Parker.

For me, it’s this accessibility that makes Hanuman such a powerful role model for us.  Not many people are going to look at Durga and say, “yeah, 8 arms?  kicking the butt of the most terrifying demon in the universe in 6 rounds of battle? I’m SO her.” Not likely.  “I have her qualities,”…absolutely. But, let’s be honest, she’s a little far away from most of us.  Hanuman?  He’s a little more humble.  He needs training.  He becomes the student of the sun because he knows he needs to learn.  He seeks out a great spirit – Rama – to be devoted to.  He’s playful.  He’s athletic.  He’s fun!  And most of all, he questions his skills and powers.  He forgets he’s divine.  After all, he wasn’t so sure about this whole great leap thing.  One of his monkey buddies had to remind him that he was so powerful and so committed to Rama that he could absolutely do what was required of him in the moment.  He had to be reminded of who he was inside – just as we need to be reminded of our inherent worthiness every time we come to the mat.

This is actually a movie poster from the 2005 animated movie "Hanuman: The Mighty Warrior." Classic, huh? A link to a site hosting the movie is at the bottom of this post.


Furthermore, I get the feeling that Hanuman has to work a little to be as great as he is.  I may be wrong on this one…but I sense that Hanuman has a practice. That he could do that leap and carry that mountain because he put in the time with blood, sweat, and tears on the mat – maybe even in the gym? – to get to know his own capabilities and stretch them day after day in familiar poses to meet his boundaries and surpass them.  After all, he gets to be the namesake of a pose – Hanumanasana, the splits – which we all know requires day after day after day (after year, after decade!) of devotion.  His pose might be more about “showing up” than any other one we do.  And that makes sense, since all of the stories we have about Hanuman describe his unwavering service to Rama, an offering which keeps him showing up day after day for whatever errand he is asked to do.

We know we need to do the work too, and I think that’s a big source of our connection to this loveable character.  If he can show up for training day after day to do great things when called upon, then so can we.  His motivation comes from Rama and Sita, who we can see in his heart when he opens his chest to expose what’s most important. In doing this, he invites us to decide what’s so important in our chests that we get up at 6:30am on a snowy morning to drive to the studio to practice (our great leap).  When we remember who’s in there, that epic morning journey is nothing.  We do what needs to be done.  We need more superheroes in our communities like that.  And I like to think that we’re transforming ourselves into them every day…

Click here for a previous blogpost on Hanuman, with links to stories about him.

And click here to go to the 2005 animated movie called “Hanuman: the Mighty Warrior.”


~ by bridgetannlyons on January 11, 2012.

5 Responses to “Why We Love Hanuman”

  1. “I may be wrong but I sense Hanuman has a practice” How lovely is that? He probably has a practice but doesn´t remember.

    Beautiful post Bridge. Thank you.

  2. love it. I like the idea of Hanuman showing up. Such a great quality to admire and cultivate.

  3. THis is absolutely beautiful..

  4. Nice Post Bridget!
    You may like this website dedicated to Lord Hanuman which is on development stage but soon will be completed.

    Sudeep Acharya

  5. I love HANUMAN

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