Illustration by Will Hobbs
Long time Buffet readers, with good memories, may recall my affection for the Hindu deity Hanuman. Back in 2006, when The Magical Buffet was still in its monthly e-zine format, I wrote an article about him. Hanuman features greatly in the Hindu epic “Ramayana”, where he plays a major role in helping reunite Rama with his wife Sita, who had been kidnapped by the villain Ravana.
A defining moment for Hanuman, in my opinion, is when confronted by people who question Hanuman’s motives for his selfless devotion to Rama, Hanuman tears open his chest to reveal Rama and Sita enshrined within. Back in 2006 I said, “When I think of Hanuman I ask myself one question, one that I pose to you now. If I tore open my chest, to show the world what was enshrined there, what would everyone see? It’s that question, and more importantly, the answer to that question, that illustrates Hanuman’s importance.” In the past four years I’ve never stopped asking myself that question. (It’s very similar to Lama Willa Miller asking you to consider who you serve in the second week of her book “Everyday Dharma”.)
With that in mind, you’ll understand why I was super excited to get a copy of the book “Hanuman: The Devotion and Power of the Monkey God” by Mataji Devi Vanamali from Inner Traditions. Hinduism is greatly influenced by what regions and countries it’s found in. Also, with texts like the “Ramayana”, there are an infinite number of versions of the tale. As far as I’m aware, there is no bad mojo attached to retelling the “Ramayana”, and in fact, those who do so are blessed. I think encouraging others to read it, also blesses you. So pick up a copy, it’s a great read. I’d recommend this version, it’s very cinematic.
I’d also encourage you to pick up a copy of “Hanuman”. Vanamali does all the heavy lifting for you, by meticulously chronicling all the stories of the Monkey God in all their delightful variants. Being a Hanuman fan myself, who enjoyed reading the “Ramayana”, I thoroughly enjoyed what I’ve been calling “the Hanuman-centric” retelling of the “Ramayana” that occurs in the book. For me, this book is like a wonderfully detailed refresher course that also has some new insights on all things Hanuman. However, I think it would also work well for someone who has always wondered about the Hindu monkey deity, but hasn’t wanted to go through assorted religious texts to learn more.