To begin with, the Hanuman Chalisa is a 40-verse hymn that describes the life, adventures, and wonders of the monkey god, Hanuman.
I first encountered it when I went to the Ram Dass’ retreat in Maui in early of 2018 and literally the only impression I had at the time was… “Gosh this is a long song with two many words I can’t repeat.” Haha! As you’ll see in my video if you’d like to watch it, it is long, and yes there are too many foreign words to count, it feels like. Of course, as these things happen, it is now one of my main practices of devotion – I do it one to 20 times a day now, depending on how much I need to find my way back to home. It’s a song I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of.
If you do feel like watching the video, here’s the words to read along with. Hanuman Chalisa
Once I decided I wanted to learn it, it wasn’t so hard. By that time, I had learned a little bit about how to play the harmonium. And by that time, I had listened to it already several, several times. I started listening to the Hanuman Chalisa way before I knew what it was because I had found a long, and relaxing version of it by Krishna Das and it was lovely to listen to on my drive to work 🙂 I guess that’s where all this magic started, and it’s still happening.
I use the word magic, because to many of us who practice it, it is magic. Jennifer Mazzuco, who drew a Hanuman Chalisa coloring book I was blessed enough to receive as a gift says it like this:
While I often delight in nothing more than talking about the deep history and meaning of this chant… how its magic unfolds in the most mysterious and amazing ways, the beautiful people and places in which it is always echoing, and its ability to soften even the self proclaimed hardened of hearts… like love, some things are better felt than heard. And for some things there really are no words.Jennifer Mazzuco
An awesome graphic made by my bhakti friend, Kim
To me, the Hanuman Chalisa’s magic has shown up in many ways. For one things, I like singing again 🙂 I’ve had an odd relationship with singing beginning with forced singing lessons in my childhood, being part of a competing choir for four years in high school, being a part of a musical theater group in college, and finally to never ever singing even if people asked me to because they loved hearing my voice. To me, it was more than being shy. It had to do with, being afraid to use the full power of my voice, not wanting to draw attention to myself and being afraid of what a powerful voice entailed in my life’s purpose. When I went to the Neem Karoli Baba Ashram in Taos, every time I would sing the Hanuman Chalisa, people would come up to me after to thank me especially for singing and how much they loved it. While it was wonderful to receive compliments, I truly feel like it’s a call to keep singing, and singing loud and here I am trying.
How else has it been magical in my life? Well, it breaks my heart open again and again, rendering me always vulnerable, defenseless and completely honest with myself – and when I need it to, it mends that broken heart again and again like only a motherly god can.
For those spiritual beginners like me, who often feel disconnected and so distracted by the real and man-made heaviness of the world, chanting the names of God and reciting the Chalisa is really the greatest blessing. On bad days, it allows me the chance to give voice to the fear in the safe container of its holy words. On good days, it reminds me that someone’s carrying me through all of it and that this someone loves me more than I can ever imagine, Baba. I don’t even know the half of it.