Hanuman the Monkey God and Caregiving

In the pantheon of Hindu gods, Hanuman is the deity with a monkey body.  He is the devoted servant of Ram (Rama), an incarnation of Vishnu.  Vishnu (if you’re following this) is one of the main deities of Hinduism. As part of the Hindu trinity (Trimurti), Vishnu is the Preserver, Brahma being the Creator, and Shiva, the Destroyer.  Rama, as Ramachandra, is the seventh incarnation of Vishnu, the embodiment of chivalry and virtue.  And Hanuman is Rama’s servant.

Why am I writing about Hanuman?  In the legends that recount Rama’s heroic adventures, Hanuman plays a significant role.  His devotion and service to his lord is unwavering.  In a peculiar way, Hanuman serves as a model for me in my daily struggles to care for one man with dementia, my husband of almost eighteen years.

Perhaps Hanuman’s most famous heroics appear in the Ramayana, an epic tale of good versus evil.  The demon Ravana kidnaps Sita, Rama’s wife.  Hanuman discovers where Ravana has hidden Sita and tells Rama.  In the ensuing battle between Rama and Ravana, Hanuman destroys several demons and then brings Rama’s brother back to life. Hanuman is the ultimate devotee, willing to risk everything to serve Rama.

I am no Hanuman.  Surely the monkey god never gripes about his situation.  We never hear him say, “This is not the life I would have chosen,” or “When do I get some me time?” or “I need a break!” Unlike me, Hanuman never complains. He probably never has a bad day.

He is, however, someone to emulate.

In the morning, while I do yoga, I like to listen to Krishna Das’s album Flow of Grace.  This is a collection of six versions of the Hanuman Chalisa, a devotional chant to Hanuman.  Here’s one to listen to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJGV9h2AZ0s

Though I am far from embodying a model caregiver, I look to Hanuman as a reminder that service to others is a virtue.

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