“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 ||
To those who have been fortunate enough to dedicate some sincere time to the practice of bhakti, it is no secret that the name of the Lord – the sound vibration representation of the Absolute Truth that penetrates the dualities of material existence and the illusions arising from doubt, pain, happiness, gain and loss – can easily bring about any fortune, including a majestic kingdom, to someone who has nothing, a poor and destitute man. Yet the mind, being fickle and ever forgetful of the benevolent nature of the master to whom it is so intimately related, instead takes to rummaging through garbage in search of measly grains, rewards which are readily available even in the absence of such a search. From this wonderful verse provided by the king of poets, Goswami Tulsidas, we see that the key to finding the kingdom of heaven, the secret to unlocking the door to eternal spiritual life, is to remember the glories of the holy name and take it to be the life and soul of every activity, without fail.
Why such stress placed on the holy name? More importantly, how do we know that its purported capabilities are for real, that it can deliver a kingdom to anyone? Two notable examples recorded in the historic and celebrated Ramayana, the most glorious of poems, apprise us of the benefits that come from both remembering the holy name of the Lord and honoring the very person that it addresses. First there was the Vanara-king Sugriva, who fled his home and sought refuge on Mount Rishyamukha, situated in the Kishkindha forest. As a celestial figure taking birth in the guise of a forest dweller, Sugriva had monkey attributes but also many human-like powers. Living peacefully in his kingdom alongside his brother Vali, everything was going well for Sugriva. After all, who wouldn’t be comfortable occupying a top post in a community alongside their family members?
As is quite clear to the sober person, nothing lasts forever, including a life full of every comfort imaginable. In an instant, Sugriva’s fortunes completely changed, as his brother Vali went from loving him to hating him. Lured into a cave while fighting an enemy, Vali gave explicit instructions to Sugriva to not leave the entrance to the cave until he came out. After a long time had passed and hearing what sounded like Vali’s last breath, Sugriva decided to close up the cave to stop the potentially victorious demon from exiting and devouring the rest of the members of the community. As it turned out, Vali indeed had emerged victorious, and seeing that the entrance to the cave was now shut, he became irate at Sugriva. After fighting his way out, Vali considered Sugriva to be his mortal enemy, accusing him of hatching a plot to take over the kingdom. Sugriva, being the weaker of the two brothers in terms of fighting prowess, would have been killed were it not for a curse previously imprecated on Vali prohibiting him from entering the forest area on Mount Rishyamukha. Thus Sugriva and his Vanara associates sought refuge there, knowing that Vali could never harm them.
Living in seclusion certainly isn’t fun. Being separated from family members and forced to remain in a tightly packed area is akin to being sentenced to prison. Despite his troubles, through one quick meeting with the Supreme Lord, Shri Rama, the prince of the Raghu dynasty, Sugriva’s fortunes would change for the better. At the time, Lord Rama was looking for His missing wife, Sita Devi, who had been taken away by a Rakshasa demon. Rama was the epitome of virtue and chivalry. He was wholly dedicated to dharma, being the eldest son of the famous Maharaja Dasharatha, the ruler of Ayodhya. Lord Rama is a celebrated incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who, depending on the specific Vedic tradition, is taken to be Lord Vishnu or Lord Krishna in His original form. Either way, Rama is the very semblance of Truth, the worshipable deity descending to earth in a human guise to give pleasure and protection to the innocent.
Hanuman, Sugriva’s chief minister, brokered a deal between Rama and Sugriva, wherein both parties would help each other get what they wanted. Rama first held up His end of the bargain by shooting Vali in the back while the monkey was engaged in a fight with Sugriva. With Vali killed, Sugriva immediately regained his kingdom and his peaceful lifestyle. Rama never forgets His friends, and whatever they ask Him to do, the Lord kindly obliges. Simply by saying Rama’s name and befriending Him, Sugriva went from being poverty stricken and forced to live in exile to the most exalted ruler of the monkeys. Indeed, after a short time, he would repay the favor given by Rama by ordering his massive monkey army, which included Hanuman, to search for Sita.
Due to his adoration for Rama and the nature of the mission at hand, Hanuman would be the one to find Sita and lead the monkeys and Rama to her location. The Rakshasa demon Ravana lived on the island kingdom of Lanka, which was situated far away from any mainland. Hanuman, jumping across the vast ocean, made his way to the island and found Sita and informed her of Rama’s intention and determination to rescue her. While in Lanka, Hanuman happened to be shot by a weapon empowered by Lord Brahma, the first created living entity. Being ever deferent to the creator, Hanuman allowed the weapon to bind him. Taken back to Ravana’s court, Hanuman’s tail was then set on fire as punishment for his having entered the enemy city. Ravana’s younger brother Vibhishana did not agree with this course of action. Vibhishana’s objection was noted by Hanuman, who would subsequently break free of the shackles and use his fiery tail to set the entire city ablaze. Despite his anger at Ravana and the host of Rakshasas, Hanuman made sure to pass over Vibhishana’s palace in his parade of destruction.
After Hanuman left Lanka, Vibhishana found himself in a difficult situation. Rakshasas are prone to sinful activities such as meat eating and intoxication. Yet Vibhishana was pious from the time of his birth, so he was free of all the defects known to his species. He did not like Ravana’s decision to keep Sita, so he advised his brother to return the princess back to her husband Rama. Because he was raging in a fever of lust and desire, Ravana could not understand that what Vibhishana was telling him was in his self-interest. Seeing the refusal of his brother to change his ways, the kind Vibhishana was left with no other choice but to renounce Lanka and Ravana. Seeking the shelter of Shri Rama, Vibhishana made his way to the monkey army. The kindness of Vibhishana knows no limits, as he gave up a lavish lifestyle in favor of showing deference and honor to the Supreme Absolute Truth. By any material estimation, Vibhishana would be considered the worst kind of turncoat, a disloyal brother who had no good characteristics whatsoever.
Not caring what others thought of him, Vibhishana took his only dharma in life to be God consciousness. Indeed, all other forms of piety are meant to lead to the final purification of consciousness, wherein every thought and desire is dovetailed with the interests of the Supreme Lord in His personal form. When he approached Rama’s camp, Vibhishana wasn’t accepted right away. Rather, many of the monkeys were doubtful of his intentions, considering him to be a Rakshasa and thus someone with a shady character. As Rama polled His inner circle to see what they thought, Hanuman stepped up and vouched for Vibhishana, for, as the gatekeeper to Rama’s kingdom, Hanuman can easily decipher who is a devotee and who isn’t. Per Hanuman’s recommendation, Rama immediately accepted Vibhishana into his camp. Instantly, Vibhishana was crowned the new king of Lanka by Rama Himself, as the Lord knew that Ravana would soon be defeated. Sure enough,with the aid of the monkey-army, Sugriva and Vibhishana, Rama would march to Lanka, defeat and kill its evil king, and rescue Sita.
The accounts of these heartwarming events are documented in the Ramayana, originally composed by Maharishi Valmiki. The glories of Shri Rama and His other incarnations are sung throughout the many Vedic scriptures, the ancient religious books of India. Goswami Tulsidas notes that despite being fully aware of its ability to grant kingdoms to the poor, the holy name of the Lord remains neglected, leaving the mind no choice but to continue its habit of looking for measly rewards amidst piles of garbage. The question of why we are here on earth has been pondered since the beginning of time, but from this one section of poetry we gain a firm understanding of the root cause behind not only creation, but also the continual existence of the phenomenal world. When the spirit soul, the individual autonomous spark within the body, desires to forget the potency and pleasurable aspect of the holy name of the Lord, it is allowed to pursue selfish interests in a land where the personal influence of the Lord is absent. As one who can bestow heavenly delights to those who are suffering, God’s position is that of the ultimate reservoir of pleasure, the object of all affection and effort. But for one who forgets Him, the best they can hope for is measly grains, paltry rewards found amidst a mess of other objects and enjoyments that are put to shame by the delights found in the eternal spiritual kingdom.
Nothing other than forgetfulness of the holy name can explain the fervent desire to satisfy the senses and pray for basic necessities like daily bread and ample sex life. Matter is a temporary manifestation after all, so seeking benedictions from a person who is already supplying every basic need to the innumerable animals roaming the earth is not a resourceful use of time. Sugriva and Vibhishana became kings as a result of their service to Rama, but where they really benefitted was in consciousness. The two figures are forever celebrated as Rama’s devotees, as worshipable personalities who sacrificed their livelihoods to please the Lord. Rama never forgets even the most insignificant service offered to Him in a mood of devotion, and when there is full surrender He forgives every kind of offence committed.
When operating under a mundane system of piety and virtue, one which always has more patrons than pure bhakti, or divine love established through the regular chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, rewards such as atonement and maintenance of the present lifestyle are sought after. With the temporary nature of the world and the dangers lurking around every corner, who wouldn’t be tempted to ask for sustenance and the removal of distress? But as the eternal Truth remaining forever fixed in His position of bliss and knowledge, the Supreme Lord is meant to be our source of pleasure, one whose association is found and maintained through acts of service. The spirit soul, which can be placed into 8,400,000 different body types, will always take up service, as the natural proclivity of spirit is to engage in the pleasure of other entities. But when the beneficiary of service is matter or an ordinary living entity, the fearful mentality remains very strong. Only when the attached object is not Supreme Spirit can the soul view abundantly available rewards as being in scarce supply.
The only scarcity in this world is God consciousness. Those who realize this fact simultaneously understand the temporary nature of material life and the need for permanently shifting consciousness in the proper direction. Those who remain forever fixed in thought, word and deed on the lotus feet of Shri Rama understand that the most unique and coveted reward of vishnu-bhakti can be attained in one second. The people who lack God consciousness are the truly poor and to them the holy name can bring the most valuable fortune in the form of the sublime kingdom of Vaikuntha, a realm free of anxiety. The atmosphere of Vaikuntha can actually be created in any place that the holy name of Rama is regularly recited and honored. Therefore to have the association of the saintly class is the highest benefit in life, as the proper mindset and remembrance of the potency of the holy name results from knowing and learning from such exalted devotees.
Tulsidas, as a humble soul, kindly reminds himself in this verse of the potency of the holy name, but he is actually incapable of forgetting Rama for even a second. Though he lived as a sannyasi begging for food, he understood that grains, water and milk are readily available in this world. These commodities are basic necessities, and their general abundance is due to Rama’s mercy. But bhakti, which manifests through acts of hearing, chanting, remembering and worshiping, is always in short supply. Therefore Tulsidas regularly sings the glories of his beloved Rama to bring the spiritual kingdom to everyone, irrespective of caste, gender or religious affiliation. Those who are fortunate enough to accept this mercy then realize the kindness of the saint who brought them the divine vision of Rama, which subsequently remains within their mind forever. As such, not only is the name of Rama a kingmaker, but so is the dedicated servant who travels from place to place distributing the prasadam of Rama’s name and glories. Considering this, the debt we owe to the saints of the bhakti tradition can never be fully repaid, but their tireless efforts can be honored on a daily basis by remembering the holy name and chanting it as often as possible.
Categories: dohavali 1-40