“Those who lack worldly assets even in their dreams and are denied entry into the path of attaining spiritual assets can eliminate their torments and pains by remembering Shri Rama’s holy name, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 17)
svāratha sukha sapaneham̐u agama paramāratha na prabesa |
rāma nāma sumirata miṭahiṃ tulasī kaṭhina kalesa ||
Being down on your luck is one thing, but actually being completely hopeless in all respects, both materially and spiritually, is completely different. The truly destitute are those who can’t even find relief from distress in their dreams, when the mind, one of the key elements of the subtle body, carries the individual far, far away to a distant land with different surroundings. “If I could only be king for a day” and “If I could only get away for a few moments” are the refrains of those desperately looking for peace, an escape from the calamitous condition they currently find themselves in. Yet for those who lack hope even in their dreams and have no chance at salvation in the afterlife, the regular cognizance of the Supreme Spirit brought on by recitation of a specific sound vibration can bring relief from every type of discomfort. The torment of the nightmare ends when the dream is over, but if the real life situation is just as unfortunate as the dreamt about condition, there isn’t even relief upon waking up. But the holy name of the sweet Lord, the ocean of mercy and the friend of the distressed, eliminates all pangs, as it brings transcendental enlightenment and undying pleasure at the same time.
There are tradeoffs with any activity we take up. For instance, if we strive for success in running a business, the family life will suffer. The business owner thinks about profit, loss, productivity and maintaining a vibrant work force at all hours of the day. As such, the priority system within the mind places the interests of the business at the top, which means that any other entity, even close family members like the wife and children, will be assigned secondary importance. A lower standing in the priority system automatically carries some type of neglect, which in turn helps to sever even the strongest of bonds.
When activity in the human form of life is studied at an abstract level, it is seen that there are generally two paths that can be taken. One leads to liberation, or eternal spiritual life, and the other leads to further bondage. The spirit soul, the entity of identification within any form of life, exists perpetually, but its outer covering can constantly change. There is immortality in the sense that individual spirit never changes in properties. It can never be destroyed, slain, or altered in any way. When we think of living forever, the concept relates to remaining within a particular life form without change. This can only be facilitated in a spiritual land. The material world is an area existing separately from the imperishable land. Spirit is immutable and matter is ever-changing, but this doesn’t mean that matter is absent in the spiritual land. There is a higher nature, referred to as daivi-prakriti, which remains constantly tied to the liberated spirit soul. In the mundane world there is a difference between body and spirit, or the temporary covering and the identifiable agent residing within. But in the original, imperishable land, the outer covering and the master of the body are both of the same quality.
The path to immortality can be found in the activities following a bona fide spiritual tradition. Association with the blunt senses, which act as the interactive agents of the body assumed at the time of birth, leads to a further attachment to objects of the mundane sphere. Therefore no amount of material activity can bring about liberation. There may be an overall adherence to piety and virtue which can lead to a higher birth in the next life, but as long as the desire to enter the imperishable sky ruled over by the Supreme Person is absent, the resulting body type will not exist perpetually. The concept of demigods is well known to followers of the Vedic tradition. As elevated living entities residing in the heavenly planets, the devas, also known as suras, can live for very long periods of time and display uncharacteristic levels of strength and activity. In other spiritual traditions there are similar heavenly figures, like angels and saints. Yet no matter the magnitude of material dexterity exhibited, either through outward activity or in the area of knowledge, no being can live forever when they are embodied.
Generally the path towards liberation is viewed as being diametrically opposed to the path that leads to further involvement in reincarnation, or the changing of bodies. Therefore one who dedicates their life to following a particular roadmap is automatically denied the benefits of the other path. For instance, those who are overly sinful take to meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. The sin tagged to these behaviors relates to the further separation in consciousness from the Supreme Spirit that results. The thoughts within the mind at the time of death determine the next type of body received. The living entity is known as a jiva, and it has a choice as to which realm to reside in. Being constitutionally spirit, the jiva’s original home is in the spiritual sky, but due to aversion to divine love, and even jealousy of the Supreme Being, the desire to lord over nature in a temporary realm lands the otherwise pure soul in a miserable place.
Not surprisingly, the path that grants liberation requires abstention from sinful activities. On the most basic level, the liberated path calls for practices like adherence to rules and regulations of religious life, studying scriptures, teaching spiritual knowledge to others, performing sacrifices, and teaching others how to worship. The liberated path brings paramartha, or heavenly delights or spiritual profits. Paramartha can be equated to pious credits accumulated through adherence to the basic tenets of religion. If one is desperately seeking paramartha, then the worldly delights, which are known as svartha, are difficult to obtain. On the flip side, those who are wholly dedicated to sinful activity receive worldly pleasure in the form of sumptuous food, ample sex life and great wealth, while remaining shut out of spiritual assets.
Then there are those who are completely destitute, not able to gain worldly or heavenly pleasures. These are the people addressed by Goswami Tulsidas in the very nice verse from the Dohavali quoted above. Indeed, Tulsidas addresses those who don’t even know worldly pleasures in their dreams. It is one thing to be poor and bereft of nice food and the association of beautiful partners of the opposite sex, but it requires descending to an even lower level of destitution to not even be able to imagine material pleasure in your dreams. After all, who can stop us from dreaming about wonderful things? Yet those who are destitute find themselves in so much distress that they can’t even imagine what pleasure is.
The most unfortunate are also denied entry into the path that brings heavenly pleasures, as they haven’t had the time to take to spiritual life. Due to their misfortune they may have never even been taught about the need to seek for benefits in the afterlife. After all, the animalistic mindset follows the demands of the senses at every moment, not even considering future loss or gain. Therefore human society really begins with religion, as the ability to know, understand and love God serves as the prime benefit to the human form of body.
Tulsidas sets the table by describing the most destitute in society and then puts forth the solution to their problems: chanting the holy name of Rama. Even if one is the lowest born in society, engaging in the worst type of behavior and not respected by anyone, the name of Rama is so pure that it automatically brings deliverance and eliminates all difficulties and pains. How does this work exactly? Who is Rama and why is remembering His name capable of such amazing things? The Supreme Personality of Godhead is a singular entity, but due to His causeless mercy He expands into a multitude of forms that make appearances on earth. Rama is the name given to the jewel of the Raghu dynasty who roamed this earth during the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation. Though wholly dedicated to dharma, or religiosity, Rama was still the same original Lord, so His mercy was open to anyone who surrendered unto Him fully in thought, word and deed.
The secret in remembering Rama’s name is that the holy name automatically carries with it information of God’s forms, pastimes and activities. Lest we think this knowledge is unknown to those not familiar with the Vedic history recorded in books like the Ramayana and Shrimad Bhagavatam, one of the properties of the soul is that it is ever-knowledgeable. Indeed, it is considered a torchlight of knowledge which doesn’t require an external energy source. In any form of body, the soul retains its brilliant properties, but due to the influences of material nature, sometimes the intrinsic awareness of the Supreme Spirit and the benefit of worshiping Him gets clouded. The holy name is the sharpest knife capable of slicing apart the thick wall of nescience surrounding the consciousness. As such, anyone who remembers the Lord’s name will slowly but surely reawaken their dormant God consciousness, bringing about memory of the other aspects of the Lord as well.
Is there a difference between remembering Rama’s name and taking to activities aimed at leading to the spiritual world? If the sincere soul seeking spiritual enlightenment and liberation is lacking a loving attachment to the Supreme Lord, the highest destination that can be reached is the brahmajyoti, which is a beam of spiritual light emanating off of the original and inconceivably large transcendental body of the Supreme Lord spanning the entire cosmos. The defect of residence in the light of Brahman is that individuality is not retained. Therefore the bliss of brahmananda, or merging into Brahman, is far inferior to the unending joy felt in the presence of the Personality of Godhead in one of His different forms residing in the Vaikuntha planets, the realm right above the brahmajyoti.
Since Rama is a personal form of the Lord, remembrance of His holy name falls under the category of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Bhakti is not merely a method of self-realization; it is the constitutional position of the spirit soul. All other religious practices descend from the original occupation of bhakti dedicated to Vishnu, or God. Both svartha and paramartha bow down at the feet of loving devotion to God exhibited by the devotees, as no reward can compare to the association of the Supreme Lord within the mind. Consciousness is the key determinant in the mindset of the individual, not their bank balance, the satisfaction level of the stomach, or the number of pious credits they have accumulated. Whether one is abounding in material delights or possessing a large account of spiritual merits, if there is no bhakti, there cannot be any lasting peace. On the other hand, one who is completely destitute, the lowest person in any room they walk into, but remembers Lord Rama, His name, His associates like Lakshmana, Sita and Hanuman, and His glorious devotees like Tulsidas, is to be considered the wealthiest person in the world. Whatever distresses are encountered are quickly removed, as the blissful nature of the Supreme Lord and the potency of His name will quickly dissolve all unpleasant aspects of life.
Our dreams allow for an escape from the tumultuous struggles of life in the mundane world, but the rescue is temporary. With Rama’s name, however, what you see is what you get. His name is the very essence of Truth, so anyone who is fortunate enough to remember it regularly will find themselves living out the most wonderful dream. By regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, that Supreme Destination which is difficult to approach for even the greatest yogis and scholars will be reached within a second.
Categories: dohavali 1-40