“The tongue and its taste are the husband and wife, the teeth are the relatives, and the mouth is the beautiful home. Lord Shiva’s cherished syllables [Ra + ma] are the children, and natural love for them is the wealth, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 24)
daṃpati rasa rasana parijana badana sugeha |
tulasī hara hita barana sisu saṃpati sahaja saneha ||
The key ingredients to a stable and secure existence are herein listed by Tulsidas, with the one exception being that no physical dwelling, outside association, or effort is needed to secure this wonderful lifestyle of peace and prosperity. After working very hard to educate oneself, the stable family life, full of the essential enjoyments, serves as the greatest comfort. Yet this lifestyle isn’t secured without much effort, pain and constant worry. Moreover, at the time of death, we must part company with the attachments and physical possessions. We can’t take our family relationships with us after death, only our consciousness. Therefore if the same ingredients that go into forming the happy home can be erected more easily and lead to a shift in consciousness, the greatest future benefit can be had.
The Bhagavad-gita, the Song of God and arguably the most widely read treatise on spirituality in the history of civilization, reveals information well-known to followers of the Vedic tradition since time immemorial. Religion connotes an element of faith, wherein allegiance to a particular doctrine or spiritual personality is required for gaining a future condition that is deemed better than the one currently experienced. With sanatana-dharma, however, the essence of spirituality is presented in such a way that its properties can never change. Religion can change on a whim based on the belief system subscribed to by the follower, but with dharma, the characteristics of spirit and matter remain constant, though the acknowledgment of these features may not always be present. Gravity will apply on all objects when they are dropped, regardless of whether the person releasing the object is cognizant of the predictable outcome. In a similar manner, the eternality of spirit and its inherent relationship to the spiritual realm are inseparable from every individual spiritual entity. Differences are only present in acknowledgment and action. Therefore sanatana-dharma is the true system of spirituality that should be followed by every person spanning every time period of the earth’s existence.
The Bhagavad-gita provides the most concise review of sanatana-dharma, with topics like material nature, the nature of fruitive work, the properties of matter and spirit, the Supreme Person, and the actions necessary for rekindling the relationship to Him discussed within. “We get what we want”, is the broadest generalization that can be formed off of the teachings presented by Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in the Gita. We are spirit souls identified not by our bodies but by our relationship to the Supreme Soul, who is more commonly referred to as God. At the time of death, depending on the nature of our hankerings and the results of the work we have performed, a new specific body is crafted. The consciousness is developed off of the subtle elements of mind, intelligence and ego, which subsequently accompany the soul to the next dwelling. Since consciousness is the most important factor in determining future fortunes of the macro level, the temporary gains and setbacks of material life become of secondary importance.
But because life in a temporary realm is so fearful and ignorance envelops the soul at the time of birth, karma and the scientific basis for reincarnation go ignored or, worse, completely rejected as being sectarian beliefs or part of a mythological tradition. In lieu of a spiritually situated consciousness, aims shift towards material acquisition. Under this model, the goal is to procure a lifestyle that is never short of enjoyments. For the security of steady enjoyment to be present, key ingredients are needed, all of which are mentioned in the above referenced verse from the Dohavali of Tulsidas.
“Merely a house is not a home, for it is a wife who gives a home its meaning. If one lives at home with his wife, together they can fulfill all the interests of human life.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 15.27)
Lord Chaitanya, the preacher incarnation of Godhead appearing on earth some five hundred years ago, accurately remarked that the wife makes the home. Though some may take this as a sexist statement, if we remove all acquired prejudices, we can see that His assertion is most certainly true. Evidence of this can be seen in the lifestyle of the typical bachelor. Go to an unmarried man’s apartment or home and you will likely find a refrigerator stocked only with beer, soda and bare essentials. The place is also likely a mess, with minimal furniture and almost no attention paid to aesthetic detail. Take that same person after they get married and you’ll notice that their home is much more organized, with plush couches, carefully arranged decorations, and a fridge full of so much food that much of it will go bad because of not being eaten.
The marriage is seen as the source of steady material enjoyment because with it comes security in the form of a life partner. The institution of marriage comes from the varnashrama-dharma system of societal maintenance emanating from sanatana-dharma itself. In the householder stage of life, which is known as the grihastha ashrama, the husband and wife work together towards understanding God and being fully conscious of Him at the time of death. To further this end the couple is also responsible for giving in charity, feeding the Supreme Lord through offering prasadam, and graciously welcoming guests to the home.
But even when spirituality is lacking, the life partner in the form of a husband or wife is considered a great sign of security and wealth. Indeed, parents are the happiest when they can get their adult-aged children married off, for a great burden gets lifted when a partner is there to ensure the well-being of the now grown up child. With a devoted husband or wife, the individual can survive in tough situations. If they need to move, the spouse will come with them and offer support. Even if there is financial distress or sudden hardship, another person is there to help soften the blow.
After securing a life partner, the focus shifts to enjoying the company of relatives and friends. While it’s nice to spend time with your spouse regularly, it’s sometimes more enjoyable to have friends and relatives around, especially other couples who are married. The newly married couple desperately seeks a “go to couple” to hang out with on a weekend or to go on vacations with. Just as the spouse maintains security and gives protection from loneliness, the relatives serve as instant friends that share common interests and concerns.
What good are a spouse and relatives if there is no home to host them in? Thus in addition to getting married and having ample relatives around to spend time with, a nice home is required for the grihasthis. The home is tied to land, so if some nice property can be acquired, a home can be built. Even buying a prebuilt home is not an easy task, as every nuance must be considered at the beginning. The couple needs the proper number of rooms, a safe neighborhood, a strategic geographic location relating to retail stores and distance from work, and also a low cost of ownership. As they say, “home is where the heart is”, so after getting married, the home becomes the central point of focus, the field of activity that hosts the desired enjoyments in life.
Obviously the next step is having children. What is the use of getting married and having a home if you can’t have beautiful children running around bringing you tremendous delight with their childish sports? With the home secured, a spouse to help you in your child rearing, and relatives around to act as friends, the children are the next step to completing the puzzle. To maintain these key ingredients of a happy lifestyle, wealth is required. Therefore a nice job must be found, one that provides enough income to maintain everything at a satisfactory level.
While such possessions and relationships serve as sources of tremendous joy, they are not easy to acquire or maintain. Finding a proper match for a spouse is very difficult, especially in the modern age where most contact between men and women occurs voluntarily and prior to marriage. Therefore the covenant of marriage becomes more of a formality, a relationship where adherence to duty and the necessity to maintain the link at all costs are given secondary importance. Moreover, waking up next to the same person day after day for the rest of your life can be a little daunting. We may get into an argument with our friend and then not talk to them for a while, or we may have an argument at work and then go home to forget about it, but after disagreements with a spouse there is no escape route. Arguments must be resolved in a timely manner, otherwise life at home becomes miserable.
Maintaining relationships with relatives is just as difficult. Since the agrarian lifestyle is almost obsolete today, people must travel far and wide to secure occupations that match their field of interest. Therefore it is not surprising to see family members spread across hundreds of miles. This makes having relatives and close friends living near you a rarity. Moreover, once there is a slight disagreement with relatives – as there is sure to be from time to time – the distance of separation becomes more conducive to having extended feuds, wherein the arguing parties go months, maybe even years, without seeing each other.
The home and children become very difficult to maintain simply because of the fiduciary responsibilities. Wealth is required to keep up with the steep mortgage or rent payments and the monthly bills pertaining to food, clothing, electricity, heat and water. Each new child essentially comes with a price tag now, as concerns over space and bare necessities in life heighten with every new occupant in the house. All of this increases the burden on the donkey-like worker, who must bear every burden and continue to secure a decent enough living through his occupation. But with a donkey, there comes an eventual breaking point, where too much weight gets applied, causing the donkey to simply sit down and not move anymore.
The above referenced verse composed by Tulsidas is meant to alleviate the fears and concerns of those who either have failed to secure such material delights or are having difficulty in maintaining them. Though each of the above mentioned components serves as a source of enjoyment, the same level of delight can be had without ever having to acquire anything. For starters, we are all given a tongue and taste at the time of birth. These two items can be considered the husband-and-wife pair. The teeth can be considered the relatives, as they are many in number and surround the tongue. The mouth can be considered the home, for the tongue, taste and teeth are housed within.
But as we see with the stable and secure family life, the greatest source of enjoyment is the children. Therefore Tulsidas says to make sure to use all of the above mentioned God-given attributes to produce children in the form of the holy name of Rama. The two syllables that make up this name can be considered the two children, even one boy and one girl if that is the dream for the parents. These two syllables are especially preferred by Lord Shiva, who is also known as Mahadeva. In the Vedic tradition, Lord Vishnu is considered the Supreme Lord, the fountainhead of all forms of Godhead, the original source of matter and spirit. Sometimes Rama is taken as the original, or Krishna as well, but in any case there is no difference in the ultimate conclusion, as the Vishnu-forms all represent the same original person.
Lord Shiva is somewhere in between an ordinary living entity and Lord Vishnu. As the destroyer, Shiva annihilates this creation at the proper time, but his spiritual home does not undergo destruction. At the same time, he does not reside in the Vaikuntha planets, of which Krishnaloka, the home of Krishna, is considered the highest and most pleasurable. Lord Shiva’s most endearing quality is his devotion to Vishnu, with Lord Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, being Mahadeva’s most beloved form of the Lord. Lord Shiva spends all his time chanting the name of Rama, for the sound vibration representation of the Supreme Lord is non-different from Him.
We may not have a spouse, home and children, but by chanting Rama’s name, a delight and enjoyment of an even greater variety can be had, as direct audience with the Supreme Lord is acquired. Generally, the onus is put on seeing God, but the other senses of the body, such as hearing and tasting, are just as important. The tongue and taste, the husband and wife in this scenario, can create the children that are the syllables of Rama’s name and harbor a natural love for them to serve as their wealth. The love for the name of Rama means love for the Supreme Lord. Loving God serves as the greatest wealth because it allows for the loving home to remain manifest. We may have tremendous affection for our children with the purest of motives, but if our wealth should run dry, we will have a hard time supporting them. But in the spiritual world, the only requirement for service is spontaneous affection for the Supreme Lord. This serves as the only required wealth, as it guarantees that bhakti, or devotional service, will continue.
Tulsidas, though living the life of a mendicant sannyasi, erected the most wonderful transcendental home by using the above mentioned formula. He treated the syllables in Rama’s name as his beloved children and held onto his love and affection for the name as his most valuable asset. Therefore he was never in misery or poverty, though outwardly he had no possessions whatsoever. Bhakti-yoga is the most sublime engagement and a direct representation of the Supreme Lord because it is universally applicable. Large amounts of money, education, prestige, high parentage, or affiliation with a particular organization are not required for changing consciousness. Just as the Supreme Lord is universally benevolent, so is the topmost process that delivers the highest spiritual salvation, that of eternal association with the Supreme Personality in the spiritual sky. By following the formula laid out by Tulsidas, if we are ever down in the dumps or feeling lost in our journey through life, we can always take shelter of the “home sweet home” that is the mouth that protects and loves the name of the Lord and delights in His pastimes which are continually taking place to give pleasure to the devotees.
Categories: dohavali 1-40
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