Saturday, April 16th is Hanuman’s Birthday! In honor of everyone’s favorite monkey, Tara Taylor Donlan wrote the following article for LA Yoga Magazine – enjoy!
A Divine Monkey Practice | Celebrating Hanuman: The Embodiment of Service
Many of us have heard the term the “monkey mind” – the mind that hops from one thing to another, never at peace, wanting, worried, curious, with all kinds of random thoughts racing around in our head allowing us no peace.
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Our modern culture has turned nurturing and feeding that monkey into big business. Our TV, media, Internet, video games, perennially advertising culture with its ever more rapidly changing sound-bytes has come to perfectly reflect our monkey minds.
Hanuman, the divine Indian monkey-man famous for his many heroic deeds, was and is livingproof that the monkey-mind can not only be tamed but can be channeled to surrender to and serve the heart. And when the mind’s energy is harnessed to serve the heart there is no stopping the good it can do…
Once a year, during the first full moon of spring, considered to be the time of his birth, there is a practice conducted here in Los Angeles designed to honor Hanuman where we can experience that transformation in ourselves.
A palpable aura of peace pervades the Vedanta Temple tucked into the foot of the Hollywood Hills. Since it was built in the 1930s, this little white Indian temple has been cherished as a place to meditate on the divine and silently repeat mantras; a place where many a monkey mind has been quieted.
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On one day in the spring, the Ramak-rishna order of monastics who established this island of serenity allows an all-day practice of sacred sound to fill their pristine place of silence.
The sound is a forty-verse ancient Indian prayer chanted to Hanuman called the Hanuman Chalisa. In this ritual it is repeated 108 times. There are thousands of melodies and methods of singing or chanting this prayer that is a daily mantra to millions of Indians and increasing numbers of Westerners. Many varieties of Hanuman Chalisas are sung during this practice to honor the birth of Hanuman; some are simply chanted to the ringing of the little Indian hand bells. Besides the harmonium, some people bring in accordion, guitar, or tampura (or tamboura) to accompany their offerings. All ways are welcome.
This yearly practice of chanting 108 Hanuman Chalisas at the Vedanta temple begins at that ultimately quiet hour of 4:00 A.M., the time that is considered by many spiritual traditions to be a portal or transition time, when the veil between the world of spirit and form is thinnest. The few who come at that auspicious hour steep in the mystical quality of the atmosphere charged with decades of meditation and spiritual focus.
A spotlight in the dark temple reveals an image of Hanuman standing in a flower and fruit be-decked altar humbly greeting his visitors, his eyes full of compassionate love and wisdom.
The first Hanuman Chalisas are sung quietly, without drums, gently greeting Hanuman and the living presence of silence. Hanuman fought a great battle and performed many dangerous feats, many of which are depicted in the epic tale The Ramayana. In the midst of all of it, the twentieth-century Indian saint Neem Karoli Baba said that Hanuman was always at peace. These early hours are an excellent opportunity to experience that place of Hanuman’s peace and powerful devotion in ourselves, to immerse ourselves in it.
Since the Ramakrishna monastics honor the Indian tradition of morning worship, the chanting of the Hanuman Chalisa stops for their daily morning meditation. After singing for two-and-a-half hours, the silence now resonates with Hanuman’s insights for us to dwell upon in our meditative practice. After an hour, the singing begins again, renewed by our meditation, the bright morning light – and Hanuman’s treats and chai.
This year Hanuman’s birthday will be honored at the Vedanta Temple on Saturday, April 16, beginning at 4:00 A.M. For further information visit: vedanta.org.