Visiting the Balinese Monkey Forest of Ubud, and the accompanying temples there, is an activity that some 10,000 visitors per month enjoy. But, particularly to the Western mind, the mere existence of a sacred forest, much less the temples, is an enigma. Why build a temple to monkeys, of all things? Do they actually worship monkeys as gods there?

Well, no, they don’t worship monkeys per se. But the explanation requires us to dive deep into the Balinese traditions of Hinduism, which is a pretty complicated subject. Balinese Hinduism differs from other forms of Hinduism in that the Balinese mix in some animism, Buddhism, and ancestor worship. They believe in reincarnation and have a caste system. And they believe that how you live in your present life determines what caste and form you take in the next one. Furthermore, they believe that all life forms, animals, insects, and all, participate in this great universal scheme of reincarnation.

Briefly speaking, this means that some of the monkeys, being close in form to humans, just could be reincarnated humans who are very close to either entering or just exiting the human caste ranks. So just in case, the monkey temples are there to keep a spiritual presence among these creatures. Visitors are advised to treat these grounds respectfully and not openly criticize Balinese beliefs. After all, we all might believe some peculiar things in our own way!