Ramana’s Monkey

One fine morning in the more recent past, my dear friend Kallan and I were sitting outside the main hall at the Ramana Maharishi Ashram in the Shaivite town of Tiruvanmmalai in South India. Amid enjoying the bliss and silence in this most sacred and serene space — suddenly we spotted a brown monkey take off with a woman’s plastic bag filled with what looked to be some offerings for the temple.

We did not think anything of it, as this is a regular occurrence in Mother India. But what happened next, we could not have imagined!

It seemed the bag also contained this young local woman’s wallet! She called gently after the monkey, who was now about 20 feet away, and gaining momentum in his getaway. She stood still in all her sacred divine feminine splendour and spoke to this monkey in a most respectful, loving, reverent way that outright astonished us. Because what happened next was the monkey stopped, met her eyes and listened as she continued to speak softly and gracefully to him in the local language of Tamil.

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Although we could not understand Tamil, we could clearly decipher the exchange between this monkey and this woman as a result of tone, body language and energetic expression. She was respectfully asking the monkey to return her wallet in the bag. She was speaking to him as if he were God. And he is. For we are all Divine. Grace is everywhere, always streaming through in all moments. And here it is again, one woman speaking to one monkey. Spirit reflecting spirit. Self mirroring Self.

And so this monkey listened on attentively, and a few moments later he dropped the bag and walked 10 feet away and waited, looking on intently. The woman went over and retrieved her bag gratefully and then pulled out half a brown coconut and offered it to the monkey, who came over and humbly accepted it. (Breaking open a brown coconut as an offering is considered very auspicious in Indian temples and other related sacred sites. The outer shell represents the ahamkara – the breaking of the ego. It is believed that once the ego is shed, the mind will be as pure as the white tenderness inside the coconut (the colour recognized as purity in India). Then the bhakti (Divine love) will stream through just like the sweet water in the coconut that pours out when broken. The three eyes on the top of the coconut symbolize Shiva (Satya/Pure Awareness) and many trios including the three gunas: rajas, tamas, and sattva (the three qualities of action, dullness and harmony respectively); as well as the forms of past, present ad future, etc.

And so the monkey sat nearby eating his prasad (blessing). Just as we go to the temple or any sacred site, to make offering to the Divine, here is this woman too making an offering to the Divine in the form of this reverent monkey. Monkey is the murti (sacred object). Coconut is the offering. Mutual contentment is the graceful blessing. Jai Ma! (Praise to the Great Goddess!)

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Most definitely this monkey is a symbol of Hanuman to this woman – the embodiment of love, devotion, intelligence, dutifulness, compassion, strength, courage, and loyalty. This monkey God that so many Indians bow to. These brown-coloured monkeys that can often be such a nuisance here, looting your food left, right and centre; shaking their fists at you; and/or sometimes showing you all their sharp teeth.

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On the banks of the Ganges ~ Rishikesh, India

This encounter at the ashram reflected to us this woman’s deep devotion to all things here and now. Someone else may have screamed and yelled at the monkey and chased it (which happens often) to get what’s “there’s,” and would’ve probably never retrieved their valuables in the end. Yet this woman was so patient and loving with this monkey, she just sparkled. The grace streaming through her – so very bright it was. It was clear to us that her deep sense of devotion to the Divine and her acknowledgement of her True Nature (Satya/Pure Awareness) is her greatest strength in this existence.

We crossed paths with her and her husband later on at the ashram, and we just smiled at each other, silently respecting and acknowledging the Divinity in one another. There was no need for words. Just the light of Awareness (Satya) radiating in one another.

And this is the very way of life here in this sacred land – where devotion, Divinity and the sacred is the common thread that binds all who are here, always at the centre – intertwined into all actions, interactions and thoughts. In all things, in all Beings.

Om Shiva Shakti Om! Jai Hanuman!


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