Hanuman, who is known as the great monkey God in Hinduism, is one of the most influential stories of the human condition known to mankind.
Each of the Gods from the Hindu pantheon represent an archetype of the human condition and that of the enlightened mind. Hanuman is the archetype of our innate animalistic nature—the “monkey mind” that can be transcended by entering into the portal of the heart.
The “monkey mind,” known as “chitta vritti” in Sanskrit, is the human condition in various manifestations that we are constantly trying to diffuse, train, or rid ourselves of. This aspect of ourselves is the reason almost all of us turn to spiritual practice, as it is the root of most suffering.
Chitta vritti, the monkey mind, is the jumping from one thought to the next. The constant reaching for the next moment, the nearest sense pleasure, the next survival need. The cycles and habitual patterns that slowly, without us noticing, begin to dominate our psyche. It is the animal within that is seeking, constantly, ways to survive in this animalistic world. Desperately trying not to suffer by feeding the very aspects of our nature that are causing our suffering, and continuing to do that all over again.
The story of Hanuman is one of courage, devotion, and the purest form of faith. His love and servitude to Lord Rama, from the pivotal Indian epic the Ramayana, is beyond inspirational and is known as one of the most influential stories of Indian culture, due to what we can learn from the story of the great monkey God.
Devotion: What Does it Really Mean?
We often associate the word “devotion” or “faith” with devoting ourselves to an external source, with pure, blind faith and with religious ceremony or ritual. Though all of these can be true and powerful forms of devotion, the story of Hanuman is that of devotion through awareness of self.
Hanuman is the embodiment of the unruly mind that has evolved into a higher state through love and devotion of the higher self, our divine nature, the presence of the Lord within the heart.
In other words, the idea of devotion isn’t about bowing our heads to an external source. When we align the heart with the mind, through focusing our awareness through the heart, we realize that we are the source.
Our devotion becomes that of something that is living within us, as well as all around us, and we bow our heads to every aspect of humanity, divinity, and the union of it all coming together as one.
One of the greatest lines from the story of Hanuman is Ram asking Hanuman, “Who are you, monkey?” And Hanuman responds with, “When I don’t know who I am, I serve you. When I know who I am, I am you.”
Through these words, we understand that our quest to devotion can begin with devoting ourselves to something higher. Sometimes, without quite understanding what that might be and through that continuous faith and discipline of the mind, we transcend the awareness and become one with it. We become one with devotion and faith itself.
True Faith is Experiential
The idea of “faith” is difficult to grasp because it is often associated with blindness. Because faith is often intangible, we expect it to be something we believe in without actually experiencing.
However, Hanuman teaches us that it is through faith that we experience the true reality of existence. Though it may begin from a place of unknowing, the idea of faith is that we believe there is something greater on the other side. We are trusting, in the higher awareness of the heart, that we will experience what we are looking for.
It is through this trust and faith of the heart, in ourselves, that we begin to explore the higher plane of consciousness that an evolved mind is capable of. Without this faith, it wouldn’t be possible to reach, because we would continue cycling through what is comfortable—the monkey going back to its animalistic ways.
How Do We Practice This?
As mystical as an idea such as faith can be, it is not necessarily that difficult to put into practice.
We can translate this idea into something large and complex, such as having faith in a higher being, the divine nature of all things, and the “God” within all of us. This is powerful and helpful in all aspects of our lives, but if we aren’t there yet, there are different ways we can view this concept.
For instance, how often do we find ourselves stuck in the same patterns, the same cycles, the same animalistic nature that seem to govern our existence no matter how much we loathe it? Perhaps we reach for chocolate every time we become stressed, and every time we reach for it, we know how uncomfortable we are going to feel afterward. We know how we are going to make ourselves suffer, but we do it anyway because it is comfortable and what our human condition has come to know as the answer.
What if in these instances of cycles, addictions, or habitual patterns, instead of feeding the cycle that we know causes us pain and suffering, we take a ginormous leap of faith that there is something bigger and more powerful just waiting for us on the other side?
What if we turned to our trust within the heart, within ourselves, and had faith that all the power we are seeking within an external source is actually already within us?
The power is here, the power is now.
The power is living where we have always been afraid to look: deep inside of ourselves.
This is where practices such as yoga, meditation, and various other spiritual practices can help guide us within these faith-based concepts. They provide us with the tools and understanding when the human condition becomes too much to bear. They provide us with guidance of how to use our bodies, minds, and energy as vehicles to better understanding the self and our true nature.
A Short Practice to Open the Heart
When the heart is closed, it is difficult to find our sense of trust and awareness within it.
Here is a short practice to open and focus our awareness within the heart center:
1. Begin sitting in a comfortable position, in a quiet and open space. Perhaps outside in nature or within an open area of your home.
2. Start settling into the body. Release any tension you may be holding in your jaw, forehead, or eyes. Allow the eyes to softly close and your spine to straighten. Create space across the chest without adding any extra tension or discomfort into the body. Sit on some height or add blocks underneath the legs for extra support.
3. As you settle in, begin to contemplate what is happening within your body in this moment. That the only intention your body ever has—to keep you alive. To keep producing cells, to keep your heart beating, to keep protecting you from external forces. How perfect is that? Contemplate the fact that in this moment your body is living just for the purpose of creating a home in which you can thrive.
4. Soften even more, take deep breaths, and smile.
5. Now, take your fingertips and stroke your arm. Feel the sensation of the two pieces of you touching. Trail your fingertips up and down each arm, across the heart, up into the neck, and stroke your cheeks, lips, and eyes. Feel and experience every moment of this miraculous sensation.
6. Once you have settled in completely and felt your body, release your hands and bring them into prayer position at heart center. Bring your hands into Lotus mudra. Keep the bottoms of your palms, thumbs, and pinky fingers connecting and open up your middle three fingers, creating a flower shape in your hands.
7. Once you are here, begin chanting the bija (seed) mantra: “Yam.” Yam is the seed mantra connected to the heart center.
8. Emphasize the syllables and extend each syllable as long as possible, ending with the lips touching to create the “mmmm” vibrational sound. Continue with these rolling mantras for as long as you’d like. If you would like a time, go for at least three minutes.
9. When finished, bring the hands on top of the chest. Left hand on the heart, right hand on the left. Pause. Listen to the sounds of your own heart. Experience your individual piece of the universal hum.