Tail, No Tail in Lotus Lake

Tail, No Tail

A foreigner visiting a Himalayan region for the first time was impressed by the sight of troops of langur monkeys, dropping fearlessly down almost vertical cliff faces by catching on projecting branches of trees. He noticed the use they could make of their prehensile tails, often much longer than their bodies. Some of them would hang by their tails.
He happened to meet an English-speaking yogin, and mentioned it to him. The yogin said, “These monkeys are sacred because of the association with Hanuman, but their physical form itself teaches a lesson. Their name comes from a Sanskrit word meaning ‘tailed one,’ and it is one of their central attributes. If that tail were strapped to the body, so that the monkey could not free it, it would become atrophied, its owner would feel pain and probably soon die. If the monkey does not use the tail, it will sicken, and finally kill him.
“Man, on the other hand, has no external tail. So not using a tail does him no harm at all; he has not got one. But he has got a higher mind, a buddhi, which is one of his central attributes. If he does not use that, he will suffer. It will spiritually atrophy, sicken, and finally kill his awareness.
“The monkey, in whom the buddhi is as yet asleep and not functioning, does not suffer from not using it. For practical purposes, he has not got one.
“But when in the course of time the monkey has become a man, if he neglects to use the buddhi, he is going against something in himself. The result will be intense suffering, and a temporary check to his further progress.
“There is an ancient epic called Ramayana, which depicts an earlier age when the display of maya was not the same as the present one. The monkey Hanuman is shown at the beginning with his higher intelligence clouded. But after meeting the divine incarnation Rama, he becomes not only wise but a prince of devotees. In the story, however (which has a symbolic meaning for the present day), some of his external behaviour remains primitive. Though he is superior in character to any of the humans, he still can use his tail to great effect in the war against the demon Ravana.

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