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Diaries by Sacinandana Swami

The Secret of the Monkey

By Sacinandana Swami

(Second part to the article “Only on the Banks of Mother Ganga)

I saw behind that terrifying monkey many more “Hanuman” monkeys. Fortunately, the others were minding their own business, eating leaves and berries off the trees. I knew I had to make a choice: run or chant. The huge monkey – I assume the leader or one of the monkey sentinels – was now only six arm-lengths away. He continued to flash his teeth at me. I took it that he too understood my choices: “Surrender to the Lord in sound or run.” I opted for surrender and began to chant.

I still can’t believe what came next. As I intoned my first aum, this aggressive monkey sat down opposite to me and joined in; that is, he made a vocalization that sounded like aum. I could see he was trying to chant but that it was difficult, and he needed to work at getting the right sound out.

After a few more attempts, his voice seemed to clear and he joined me in a perfectly pronounced aum, complete with a long inhale and the mantra on the exhale. Clear, perfect circles of aum, ending with that same resounding nasal sound that vibrates through the body when you chant this syllable.

He chanted like an accomplished yogi for about twenty minutes. Like me, he sat facing the Ganga. When another monkey sat next to him, though, he immediately left, almost as if he wished to keep his chanting a secret. But before departing he looked into my eyes again – and again I was surprised. His eyes were clear and humanlike. This was not an animal looking at me but a human intelligence. Perhaps to confirm my assumptions he stood on his hind legs and walked majestically away. I never saw him again.

Later in the afternoon I told my host what had happened. He was not surprised. “It is well known that many of the yogis who live on the banks of the Ganga can change their forms at will. One yogi, who lived here eighty years ago, wanted to make sure he would not be disturbed, so he took the form of a tiger. People put milk in front of his cave – he was a vegetarian.”

Such experiences convince us that we are walking in the land of the sacred, where the residents are not always what they seem. Those who live in holy places are special souls and should be respected and sometimes even worshiped. Here, the following well-known phrase takes on new meaning:

“Real things can only be seen with the eyes of the heart.”

Let me end with a prayer from the Ganga-stotram.

“O Ganga, it is better to be a turtle or fish in your waters, a tiny lizard on your banks, or even a wretched dog-eater living within two square miles from you, than to be a king of noble birth who lives far from you.”

In the West we tend to measure success in one way, but spiritual India opens one’s eyes to an entirely different perspective – a perspective where only spiritual reality counts and everything else is maya (illusion) doomed to disappear with the passage of time.

Inspiring Articles by Sacinandana Swami
Poems by Sacinandana Swami
Wisdom Stories
Chanting the Holy Names
Diaries by Sacinandana Swami
Nectar Prayers
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