From Rags to Riches

Lord Krishna welcoming Sudama Vipra“The holy name is such a benefactor of the down-trodden that it grants kingdoms to those who chant it. But the mind, O Tulsi, is so obstinate that it does not abandon its habit of searching for grains amidst rubbish.” (Dohavali, 13)

nāma garībanivāja ko rāja deta jana jāni |

tulasī mana pariharata nahiṃ ghura biniā kī bāni ||

The holy name of the Lord, which automatically brings cognizance of the forms, pastimes and attributes attached to His ever-blissful, knowledgeable and transcendental body, grants everything to those who are poor, either in the financial sense or just in a downtrodden mental state. Though Bhagavan’s ability to provide kingdoms to the weak has been well-documented and glorified, still the mind, because of its aversion to divine love developed over many lifetimes, searches for simple grains amidst rubbish, or garbage. The comparison made here by Tulsidas is quite brilliant because it not only illustrates the ability of the Supreme Lord to fulfill orders of the highest variety, but it also shows the inferior nature of the rewards sought after by the mind lacking God consciousness.

Goswami TulsidasThe issue of saving the poor is perennially at the forefront of most activist movements. It has been this way since the beginning of time. Who is not for helping the little guy? “No one should go hungry, no one should be denied medical treatment, and no one should have to worry about the safety of their family and home.” Bearing similarities to the animals, the human being takes to eating, sleeping, mating and defending without being explicitly taught how to do so. The last aspect, defending, which is driven by fear, comes with constant worry. Objects of the senses are acquired and attachments are formed. From this results a fear that the attached object will be lost, be it through natural disasters, outside forces in the form of other living entities, or disease and the effects of all-devouring death.

Is this fear really warranted? Under the conditioned mindset, where higher concepts pertaining to the differences between body and spirit and the fixed position of the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the best well-wishing friend of every living entity are not understood, the protection of the basic necessities in life is taken to be of paramount importance. If there is a God, then He surely exists to fulfill orders and grant prayer requests, as this is the model of theistic tradition followed around the world since the beginning of time. During the week you spend your time earning a living, taking care of your family and relaxing at night. Then one day each weekend you attend a religious gathering and pray that your life as it is currently constituted continues without interruption. Therefore the prayers offered relate to maintenance and the receiving of gifts to bring satisfaction to the senses.

Is there any other way to worship? Is there any other purpose to religion? Two very simple concepts, which don’t even begin to touch on spiritual topics or dogmatic principles, are overlooked that immediately call into question the mindsets of those who simply want maintenance as their reward from the identified higher power. Animals are similar to human beings in that they too must eat, sleep, and protect their property. We may overlook this obvious similarity because the animal sleeps on the bare ground, eats food we consider to be strange and defends through its animal instincts. Despite the seemingly different way in which they manifest, the activities are more or less the same as what human beings follow. Whether one is sleeping on the floor or on a plush mattress, once the body enters the state of brief hibernation, external influences are eliminated. One man may eat oatmeal in the morning while another feasts on eggs benedict, but the act of eating and satisfying the tongue is present in both circumstances.

tigerIf the animals have the same troubles as human beings relating to the maintenance of their vital force, who looks out for them? Where do they get the food that they need? Do they own farms, go to the supermarket, or even pray to a higher authority to provide their daily meals? Absolutely not, as the animal does not possess the intelligence level necessary for understanding the same concepts that are known to the human being. Instead, Mother Nature, working at the direction of a higher authority, provides even the basest of animals enough food to eat. The tiger won’t eat grass or an elaborate vegetarian preparation. It only wants animal flesh, and since it can’t procure carcasses every single day, it must practice austerity, eating maybe once every two weeks. Nevertheless, the food for the tiger is kindly provided on time.

The other factor overlooked by the individual fearful of losing their stable way of life is that with every action, there must be a reaction. Adoring the initial event of birth without acknowledging its counterpart of death is silly. As soon as there is happiness resulting from birth, there must be distress at the time of death. We can choose to ignore this impending doomful event, and even pretend as if it will never happen, but the ultimate loss of all property will occur nonetheless. Therefore, is it really wise to simply worry about maintenance, when it is understood that no amount of order supplying or protection will prevent the complete loss of property, possessions and relationships?

“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)

Lord KrishnaIf death will happen no matter what, is it useful to look to a higher power to fulfill basic orders that have nothing to do with the extremes of birth and death? The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, being the original doctrine of spirituality for the world, never give too much importance to the body. The soul within, the spiritual spark, is free of any attachments and detachments. We existed within the womb of our mother before we ever owned a car or home or had to put food on the table. The soul will continue to exist long after the body is renounced. Therefore the future fortunes of the soul are what really matter.

When the properties of individual spirit are known, the level of worship can be altered for the better. The deference given to the Supreme Divine Being should be there regardless, as the intelligent person still can observe that he is basically powerless in the grand scheme of things. If man were God, how was he not able to determine the circumstances of his birth? Moreover, why can’t he just live forever and never be forced to suffer total loss? Athato brahma jijnasa, or the Vedic statement relaying the urgency to understand the soul’s constitutional position, is only the beginning of spiritual realization. Real human life starts with the pursuit of higher knowledge, with the first step being the acknowledgement of Brahman, or pure spirit.

Brahman is only one aspect of the Supreme Absolute Truth. There are generally three distinct energies: spiritual, material and marginal. Brahman is of the same quality as the spiritual, but since it is technically part of the marginal energy, it can toggle between the spiritual and material realms. The material nature also emanates from the Supreme Truth, but since it is a separated energy, it is not conducive to any lasting happiness or pleasure. The source of all energies is the Supreme Lord, who is known by names such as Krishna and Rama in the Vedic tradition. Not only is He kindly assigned sweet and fully descriptive names, but His numerous transcendental forms, including the original, are beyond all dualities known to the mind. The spirit soul, the individual sparks of Brahman, are meant to always reside in the company of the Supreme Lord, who as Bhagavan possesses all fortunes imaginable to the fullest degree and at the same time.

“The total material substance, called Brahman, is the source of birth, and it is that Brahman that I impregnate, making possible the births of all living beings, O son of Bharata.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 14.3)

Lord KrishnaIn their present state, the individual living beings represent sparks of Brahman impregnated by the Supreme Lord Himself. But this isn’t to say that the jivas, the living entities, remain in the marginal position all the time, or even that their original position is that of Brahman. There is a simultaneous oneness and difference between individual spirit and Supreme Spirit. This concept is presented clearly in the achintya-bhedabheda-tattva philosophy of Lord Chaitanya. The intricacies of this philosophy needn’t be understood fully, for the relationship that is derived is what really matters. Being one with God and different from Him at the same time means that having a loving relationship with the Supreme Lord is the most ideal position for individual spirit. The rekindling of the tight bond to the Supreme Spirit becomes the rallying cry, the only prayer request that ever need be granted.

Since matter is so insignificant in the larger scheme, God certainly grants whatever anyone kindly wants with respect to bodily maintenance. After all, if the same supplies are there for the animals, why would they be denied to the human beings? Goswami Tulsidas, as a devotee of Lord Rama, the incarnation of Godhead roaming the earth many thousands of years ago in the form of a handsome prince, knows full well the power of the holy name. More powerful than simply meditating on the impersonal sound representation of the Truth known as om, and easier and more effective than visiting dedicated houses of worship, the chanting of the holy names of the Lord, especially those found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, is the most authorized and bliss-evoking method of spiritual practice. When recited in the proper mood, the holy names form the topmost prayer, one that is leaps and bounds above any other type of address or statement of praise.

Lord RamaTulsidas mentions that the holy name has proven to grant kingdoms to the downtrodden. While the monkey-king Sugriva and the Rakshasa Vibhishana immediately come to mind, another notable person who could attest to this fact was Sudama Vipra, who, as a poor brahmana, once went to visit His dear friend Lord Krishna, who was ruling over the kingdom of Dvaraka at the time. Krishna, in His original form, advented on earth some five thousand years ago and enacted wonderful pastimes that are described in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, the crown-jewel of Vedic literature. Sudama Vipra, as a childhood friend of Krishna’s, was asked by his wife to approach the Lord for some benediction. The vipra was poor and living an austere lifestyle. How amazing and unique are the Vedas? They not only bypass the issues of poverty and the fearful nature of material life, but they enthusiastically recommend that those seeking true enlightenment limit their interaction with the senses as much as possible. The celebrated Vaishnava teachers, the most noted spiritual figures in the million year tradition of Vedic civilization, have often been the most renounced. Tulsidas himself was a sannyasi, and thus a beggar. One in the renounced order not only gives up attachment to wife and family, but they also have no steady shelter or supply of food. They must beg for everything in life, for the voluntary dependence on others through this authorized method of austerity actually is most conducive to full and complete surrender unto the Personality of Godhead. Practicing the level of devotion required, which is described as sharanagati, or full and complete surrender, is especially beneficial for one in the latter stages of life, when death is lurking around the corner. He who is purely God conscious at the time of death no longer has to take birth again. Hence he no longer has to worry about bodily maintenance, as association with matter completely ceases.

“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.5)

Sudama Vipra visiting Krishna and RukminiSince Sudama was still a householder, his wife was living with him. She was a little worried about their impoverished condition, so she persuaded her husband to visit Krishna and ask for a benediction. Sudama did not like this idea, but he went anyway, bringing with him a bag of chipped rice to offer to Krishna as a gift. Even in the least civilized societies, the custom of bringing something to the home of the person you are visiting is commonly observed. When the home is actually a palatial mansion occupied by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, surely the quality of the offering must increase. But all Sudama could muster up was a bag of chipped rice, which he embarrassingly hid behind him when he met Krishna. Of course the Lord is antaryami, or the all-pervading witness, so He knew what was going on. Taking the bag of chipped rice from His dear friend, Krishna and His wife Rukmini Devi enjoyed the offering very nicely, taking it to be sumptuous food. The brahmana was too embarrassed to even ask for anything, so he eventually left the palace, thinking of Krishna and His kindness on the way home. Of course the goddess of fortune never forgets a devotee and their kind offerings, so when the brahmana arrived at his house, he saw that his home had been transformed into an elegant palace. Even though he received the greatest material opulence as a gift, the brahmana and his wife still never deviated from their commitment to devotional service.

Tulsidas, in a very humble attitude, says that even though it is known that the name of the Lord brings such opulence to those who chant it, still the mind is hooked on its habit of searching for grains amidst rubbish. This comparison is quite deep, profound and worthy of daily discussion. The dichotomy painted relates not only to the benevolent nature of the Supreme Lord, but also to the second class standing and paltry makeup of the rewards commonly sought after. Reciting the name of the Lord brings heavenly opulence and benedictions of the highest value, while any other type of worship – be it gross animal activity that is wholly dedicated to matter or allegiance to an unmanifest form of a higher power who is not clearly defined – brings ordinary grains. Grains, water and milk are basic necessities of life, and thus they are relatively inexpensive and abundant in quantity in comparison to other commodities. Bhagavan, as the richest person in the world, can grant much more than ordinary grains. But when we neglect the chanting of the holy name, we are essentially looking for happiness in the form of paltry grains amidst rubbish that is pure ignorance, or gross matter.

If we had the opportunity to meet the richest person in the world and get from him whatever we wanted, would we ask for simple grains? A pauper asking a wealthy king for ordinary grains isn’t very wise in his request. Therefore when approaching God, we should ask for a much higher reward. Though He has proven His ability to grant kingdoms to the impoverished, the greatest reward God offers is devotion to His lotus feet. Tulsidas and other celebrated Vaishnavas of the past always remained in meager positions, for they had the most valuable treasure residing within their hearts. Their body of literature and unending dedication to glorifying the holy name and the Person it addresses place them in a league of their own.

Lord RamaWe may repeatedly find grains amidst rubbish and garbage, but by chanting the holy names of Bhagavan, residence in the spiritual kingdom, where association with God and His eternally liberated associates is found, is granted immediately. Therefore more than any other regulative practice, one should chant the maha-mantra as often as possible, understanding that any other pleasure seeking is akin to rummaging through garbage. Just as the garbage pickers are pitied for their fallen condition, those neglecting the recitation of the name of the sweet, transcendental and merciful Supreme Lord should be worried about. The scarcity in this world relates not to grains, food, jobs, or the availability of resources. The only thing in short supply is Krishna consciousness, a deficiency which can be easily remedied by chanting the names of the Lord as often as possible in the company of as many of our brothers and sisters as possible.

Categories: dohavali 1-40

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