“Devotion to Shri Rama is like the rainy season, the wonderful devotees the paddy fields, and the two syllables in Rama’s name the months of Sawan and Bhadon [rainy season], says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 25)
baraṣā ritu raghupati bhagati tulasī sāli sudāsa |
rāmanāma bara barana juga sāvana bhādava māsa ||
The name of Lord – who is the jewel of the Raghu dynasty, the husband of Sita, the elder brother of Lakshmana, and the object of worship for Hanuman – completes the devotee; it defines their very existence. Without this sacred sound vibration they would be left to die with no savior, for without remembrance of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, of what use is there to advanced intelligence, the ability to speak, and the ability to ponder over the difficult questions in life? The devotees adore their beloved Lord so much that they will never run out of ways to glorify Him and make comparisons using their surroundings to accurately convey the beauty and wonder of devotion to Him. In this way the neti neti statements of the Vedas serve as the most wonderful boon for the poet-like bhakta, as the Supreme Absolute Truth’s indescribability allows for an eternal engagement aimed at glorifying Him in an infinite number of ways, each of which is guaranteed to fall short of perfection but still keeps the mind ever engaged.
What does neti neti mean exactly? The Supreme Absolute Truth, that one entity who is beyond the dualities of heat and cold, gain and loss, and birth and death, remains impossible for the mind to fathom properly. Without expert guidance from one who is intimately acquainted with the true nature of the Truth, the best the mind can reach is a fuzzy conception of a beam of light or a void. Since everything around them is visibly manifest, the inquisitive transcendentalist may conjure up the image of the Lord as invisible, or alakshyam. But without the vision provided by Vedic wisdom heard from an authorized source, the true nature of this “invisible man” will remain unknown. The Vedas therefore describe the Absolute Truth as being neti neti, or “not this, not that”. We can look all around us, leave no stone unturned, but we’ll still never find the Absolute Truth. After studying every aspect of the creation, we can accurately conclude that the Supreme Truth must not be of this world.
According to the Vedas, the system of spirituality so ancient that no one can accurately date its inception, the person we refer to as God is indeed a person, but His potencies and attributes are inconceivable to the mind. The devotees, those who understand that God has a form and a personality, consider this limitation a blessing. Their mindset follows something like this: “Oh, so I can never fully describe the beauty and wonder of my beloved Lord, the owner of my life breath, the reason for my very existence? Wonderful. This means that I can spend the rest of this and many other lifetimes engaged in describing His glories and never reach the end. As such, I can always remain in the devotional mindset and never have to worry about exhausting my efforts.”
The devotional attitude is one where the original Personality is acknowledged and worshiped on a daily basis. Inward worship can at best lead to the understanding of the Supreme Lord as an invisible force, and outward worship can at best bring one to worship within a temple or in the direct audience of the Supreme Person. But in both instances the outpouring of emotion is limited, because the Supreme Lord is actually both within and without. He is invisible while residing within the heart but ever visible through His energies that pervade the existence. Therefore the devotee takes to chanting the name of the Lord more than any other practice. This name is the very sound vibration representation of the Absolute Truth. The immature transcendentalist is eager to always see God, but hearing is just as important a sense as seeing. The sound vibrations found within the sacred mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, allow for God to be heard. This kind of hearing is the most effective at altering consciousness, which in turn keeps the divine vision permanently within the mind.
The impersonalist philosopher and the dedicated servant of the invisible aspect of the Supreme Truth will view the chanting process and the outward worship offered in temples as being reserved for the neophyte level, akin to the training wheels portion of learning to ride a bike. The dedicated servant at the temple, who regularly views the deity, will have a better understanding of the Supreme Lord’s personal features and His grand nature, but they may not understand that the deity also lives outside of the temple, within the hearts of every living being and also within every atom. The holy name, however, is so powerful that it automatically brings about recognition to man’s best ability of the Supreme Lord’s wonderful nature and His supreme power.
For the devotee who has given their life over to chanting the holy name, devotion to God can be likened to a life-giving herb to the dying man, the essence of existence. Without this dedicated service, the humble sage would be left to ponder over what God might be, what He might look like, and whether or not He is even a person. Through these doubts the loving energy of the soul would go untapped. On the flip side, those who do practice bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, can never run out of ways to describe the transcendental features of their beloved.
In the above quoted verse from the Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas compares devotion to Rama – a name for the Supreme Person that describes His ability to provide transcendental pleasure- to be like the rainy season. This comparison shows the acute awareness of his surroundings that Tulsidas, who lived in the medieval period in India, had. In India there is an annual monsoon season that can be taken in different ways depending on your angle of vision. Obviously if it’s raining all the time there will be inconveniences in life, especially relating to travel. As far as food production goes, though, the rainy season is the most important time of the year. Without sufficient water, grains could not grow, and life on earth could not continue. Therefore the rain completes the cycle of life; it is vital for man’s existence.
The two months that make up the rainy season serve as the most auspicious and anticipated time for the crops on the field. Similarly, the two syllables in Rama’s name serve as the greatest boon to the grains that are the devotees. This wonderful comparison is very intricate and can be studied and appreciated on so many levels. The first requirement in bhakti is that one turn their back on material attachment. Under the animalistic mindset inherited at the time of birth, man takes himself to be the enjoyer of activities; therefore life becomes a frantic chase to hoard as many resources and delights as possible. Since every other living entity has an equal right to God’s property and the pursuit of sense gratification, collisions will surely result. Moreover, since man is limited in his capabilities, he will not be able to succeed in every venture, with the guaranteed delivery of death serving as the most obvious indication of his fallibility. Even the strongest person who has every amenity available to him, who has never suffered defeat, must succumb to the forces of nature at the time of death.
The devotee realizes that life is about realizing the Absolute Truth, for the lower potential for intelligence in the animal species doesn’t allow for a proper inquiry into spiritual matters. Indeed, even the mid-life crisis endured by adult aged human beings gives an indication of the flawed nature of sense gratification and the need to find a higher taste. The crisis towards the middle of life relates totally to the lack of enjoyment resulting from activities which have been chewed over and over again. “Is this all there is to life? Why can’t I find any more happiness? Maybe I’ll try to drastically alter my daily routine or find something brand new to break out of the doldrums.”
Fortunately for the bhakta, this disenchantment has already come, where they have abandoned the desire to repeatedly take part in activities that provide only flickering happiness. The bhakta identifies as a servant more than anything else, for there is service in every activity. Even the most independent and honored person, like the leader of a nation or the owner of a successful business, must take to serving someone else in order to feel pleasure. The leader of the country ensures that the citizens are always happy, and the leader of the company takes stock of their profit margin and the health of the company, seeing to it that the customers are satisfied and willing to part with their hard earned money.
The bhakta wants their time spent serving the Supreme Lord, and since God may not be physically present before them, other methods of yoga are implemented. Hearing, remembering, worshiping, offering prayers, carrying out orders and other aspects of devotional life keep the bhakta’s mind fixed on the transcendental world. But more than any other tool, reciting the holy name is what keeps the devotees alive. Lord Rama is the Supreme Person in the form of a warrior prince, one who is kind and sweet in every possible way. Rama is an eternal figure, though according to our time calculations He appeared on this earth many thousands of years ago during the Treta Yuga. Tulsidas is especially fond of Shri Rama, for he doesn’t worship God in any other form. Rama is also Vishnu and He is also Krishna, so there is no difference between one who worships these other two forms and one who takes the delight of Queen Kausalya and Maharaja Dasharatha to be the ultimate reservoir of pleasure and strength.
During most of the year the paddy field just lays there in a dormant state. The crops anticipate that time of the year when they will be fed by the rain. And when the rain does pour down, it is all the more appreciated because of the long gap in between feeding times. Similarly, the bhakta has spent many lifetimes on earth in various species forgetting their beloved Lord. Yet the horrors previously endured, the defeats that left them wondering what the point to life was, get forgotten immediately once the downpour of transcendental nectar in the form of Rama’s name comes raining down.
The rain nourishes the field and ensures that the crops will mature to the point that they can meet their life’s destiny, that of serving as food to the hungry. Similarly, the name of Rama, chanted regularly and with pure love and devotion, allows the bhakta to mature to the point that they become completely enveloped in God consciousness. As is so nicely stated in the Bhagavad-gita, anyone who remembers the Supreme Personality of Godhead at the time of death no longer has to suffer through the miseries of material existence. No longer will they have to ponder over what God looks like and why He put us on earth. No longer will there be temporary gains that bear no relation to the dharma of the soul, or its utmost characteristic. No more will the dried up field that is the devotee have to suffer through many months of the year anticipating the steady rain to come down at the proper time to give life. The God conscious soul is transferred immediately to the spiritual sky after death, a place where time and space have no influence.
Just as Rama’s name acts as the life-giving rain to the dried up field, the personal presence of the Supreme Lord, His wonderful vision, and the display of His tremendously blissful sportive exploits keep the devotees in the spiritual sky always infused with transcendental loving emotions, desires to continue their service without interruption and without motivation. How can there be a lack of motivation when there is a fervent desire to serve? In the transcendental realm, there is no such thing as a personal hankering, for the service mentality takes on its true form when the intended beneficiary is Shri Rama. Hanuman proved through his exploits that the servant of Rama becomes the most exalted person in the world. With Rama’s name also come His wife Sita Devi, His younger brother Lakshmana, and His most exalted servant, the powerful and divine Vanara named Hanuman. With this group always residing in the heart, how could the devotee ever perish from starvation? The holy name irrigates the field of devotion, allowing for grains that sustain the entire world full of devotees to mature and take on their full use. Just as the rain completes the cycle of food production, the name of Rama completes the maturation of the devotees into full blown bhava, or transcendental ecstasy.
Categories: dohavali 1-40