Question: Was Hanuman really a monkey, or was he a member of a tribe of people?

Sri Chinmoy: He was a donkey! Only a donkey can take that kind of load. Sri Ramachandra's whole life fell on him. To save Sri Ramachandra, only a faithful donkey could carry such a weight. The whole of Sri Ramachandra's life he kept on his shoulder. I do not have anybody to keep my life on his shoulder, as Sri Ramachandra had Hanuman.

Hanuman was not a monkey. His was a kind of evolved tribe. It was so evolved that it was almost on the level of human beings. Hanuman had infinite inner strength from his surrender to his Lord Sri Ramachandra's will. He knew Sri Ramachandra was the direct descendant of God Himself, an Avatar, and his bounden duty was to serve his Master sleeplessly and breathlessly. So Hanuman was not just a monkey with a huge body — far from it! Sri Ramachandra's Hanuman had very, very high and lofty previous incarnations. His was a kind of tribe, but in terms of evolution, it was very advanced.

There are some elephants I have seen whose souls are so fully evolved that, when they take human incarnation, they will immediately far surpass many human beings. The height that they will attain in one incarnation, many human beings will take forty or fifty incarnations to reach — especially in the mind, the vital and the body. When those animals take their first human incarnation, they will far, far surpass the human beings who have already visited earth quite a few times.

So, to come back to your question, Hanuman was exceptional.