“Shri Rama’s holy name is like a desire tree in Kali Yuga and is the root of all auspiciousness. Whoever remembers it gets all perfections in the palm of their hand and supreme bliss at every step.” (Dohavali, 28)
rāma nāma kali kāmatarū sakala sumangala kanda |
sumirata karatala siddhi saba paga paga paramānanda ||
Lord Rama, the jewel of the Raghu dynasty, the prince of Ayodhya, the only worshipable object for Goswami Tulsidas, Agastya Rishi, Sita Devi, Lakshmana, Hanuman, Valmiki Muni and a host of other exalted personalities, is worthy of our exclusive attention not only because of His being non-different from the person most of us refer to as God, for He is the very same person in a unique spiritual form, but also because of the wonderful benefits He provides to His devotees, especially those who chant His name and remember Him constantly. In this wonderful verse from the Dohavali, we see that chanting Rama’s name is like a wish-fulfilling tree, and remembrance of that name brings all perfections to the palm of the hand. These aren’t just lofty words; they are facts attested to by elevated personalities who previously looked for fruits of enjoyment through every activity except devotion to God. When they subsequently turned their eyes towards the smiling face of Shri Rama, an image which can be produced very easily within the mind by regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, they found what they were looking for, and that discovery didn’t take very long to materialize.
Karma is typically translated to mean “fruitive activity”, because the development of a seed into a tree or plant which bears fruit is the best way to describe action undertaken on the material plane. All energies seen can be typically grouped into two categories. One is directly related to God, while the other is considered a separated expansion, a force which operates somewhat on its own and with no relation to the Supreme Person. In reality there is no difference between God and His energies, but based on the purview of the soul deluded by ignorance and doubt as to the existence of the Supreme Person, distinctions are made between this feature and that feature. As an example, the hands and legs are part of our body, and when they act according to the dictates of the mind, they can be considered part of us. Indeed, if an athlete in a particular sport is adroit in using his hands or legs, the commentators and spectators may compliment the player for having “soft hands” or “quick feet”.
But if the hands and legs should start acting on their own, in defiance of the will of the person calling the shots, the spirit soul, which sends its signals for action to the brain, the very same hands and legs will need to be removed. In one sense it is humorous to think about. Let’s say that we go up to a stranger and introduce ourselves. Common protocol calls for a handshake, but if the hand were to operate independently and punch the stranger in the stomach instead of shaking their hand, what would we do? Obviously the hand would have to be renounced at some point if it didn’t start behaving properly again and following the dictates of the mind.
In a similar manner, material nature, the gross and subtle elements of life assumed at the time of birth, are meant to be used in service to their creator, the Supreme Lord. Without knowledge of His presence and His worthiness of worship, however, our hands, feet, legs and other aspects of the body are used to further the interests of the senses which are divorced from God consciousness. As soon as the deviation occurs, which is actually the root cause for the creation of the universe, karma sets in, and the activities are described as fruitive in nature, with rewards sought through hard work.
Understanding the comparison to the growing of a plant should not be very difficult. The farmer tills the soil, plants the seeds, and then regularly tends to the crops as they start to grow. The aggregate expenditure of effort is aimed at enjoying the resulting fruit, whatever the plant has to give. Whether the fruit is enjoyed personally for taste or is sold for profit, the aim is still the same, that of enjoying some benefit. What might get overlooked, though, is that through this process there are cause and effects to every action. Sometimes the work goes for naught, as a drought or natural disaster can wipe out the entire harvest. In addition, if much time is spent tending to the crops, other duties and relationships can be neglected. In this way, every single action undertaken without knowledge of the Supreme Person suffers reactions, with the sum total of effects combining to lead to both favorable and unfavorable conditions.
Tulsidas says that if you chant the name of Rama in Kali Yuga, the process is like having a kamataru, or desire tree. The name of the Lord is also likened to the root of all good fortunes. A desire tree exists in the heavenly realm, a place above the earthly plane but still part of the material world. Ascension to heaven is a wonderful attraction for those disappointed by their fruitive efforts, those desiring lengthy bouts of personal enjoyment. Though the celestial land has residents who remain there for thousands and sometimes even millions of years, its duration of existence must complete at some point. While residing in that sphere, desire trees that grant whatever wishes one wants can be found. The regular planting of a tree that sprouts fruits takes much effort and patience, all done for some paltry level of enjoyment. But the wish-fulfilling tree is so wonderful that it gives the worshiper whatever they want immediately.
Rama’s name is non-different from Him, so anyone who chants it, especially in the dark age of quarrel and hypocrisy, has their desires fulfilled. Yet it should be noted that the nature of those desires bears no resemblance to what is found in the heavenly realm or even on earth. Sakala sumangala references all good fortunes, and since the desire tree that is Rama’s name brings about these wonderful delights, the process of chanting it can be considered the root of all good fortunes. The present age is especially known for the difficulty in securing the essentials in life, as quantities of food, water and milk are abnormally low around the world. Even though these products are found in general abundance in industrialized nations, security is still absent, as there is constant worry over economic misfortunes, job loss and the inability to pay the monthly bills.
Chanting Rama’s name fulfills desires, because it is the purification of activity. In the conditioned state, the living entity prays for temporary rewards and works hard to try to achieve them. Since Rama’s name is completely spiritual, chanting it first brings about a change in consciousness. Say that I start out with the desire to have a high end sports car. Since I can’t afford it myself, I pray to Rama through chanting His name and ask Him to bring it to me. If I am sincere enough in my chanting, if I hold on to the name for dear life, the impetus for my desire, the potential enjoyment that I thought I would receive from the new car, gets addressed. The same enjoyment is acquired but through bhakti instead, as the name of Rama brings about remembrance of His transcendental form, pastimes and qualities. Rama is not only the Supreme Lord, He is also a historical personality who appears on earth in a visible form during every Treta Yuga, or second time period of creation.
Tulsidas next mentions remembrance of Rama’s name and the wonderful benedictions it brings. Indeed, the chanting process first referenced is aimed at causing remembrance. The mind must always contemplate something, as even during sleep thoughts continue to fly through the brain. Tulsidas says that remembering Rama’s name brings every perfection, or siddhi, within the palm of one’s hand. While this point can reference those who perform sacrifices aimed at successfully bringing rewards, it especially applies to mystics, those who are enamored by meditational yoga. When realizing the temporary nature of the material world, there are generally two options one can take. One is to seek out even more enjoyment through forgetting God, and the other is to turn to spiritual life, which aims to tackle the effects of the senses. Mystic yoga is especially meant for those who are overly bothered by the demands of eating, sleeping and sex life. Through sitting postures and breathing exercises, the effects of the senses can be mitigated and the mind can be more at peace.
Through even more rigorous yoga practice, several seemingly miraculous siddhis, or perfections, can be acquired. These include the ability to become very small or very large, travel outside of one’s body, move things with the mind, and be able to decide the time of your own death. These abilities are so wonderful that many yogis have convinced others that they are God through their exhibitions. But to the trained eye, one who knows the amazing abilities of the Supreme Lord and the limits of meditational yoga, these mystic perfections aren’t that big a deal. The issue goes back to interest. When the material elements are used to further one’s own desires, they can be considered separate from God. So when mystic perfections are used to convince others that they have become God or to enjoy some magical ride through ethereal space, the yoga doesn’t have much use.
Remembering Rama’s name actually brings these siddhis very easily, as one doesn’t have to go through the rigorous processes of meditation, which require strict regulations on association, time, place, and eating and sleeping habits. One person who nicely illustrates how remembering Rama can bring all mystic perfections is Hanuman, the Vanara warrior who is considered Rama’s greatest devotee. Roaming the earth in a monkey form at the same time that Rama had appeared many thousands of years ago, Hanuman had no proclivity towards meditational yoga. Indeed, the form of a monkey is considered a very low birth, as the species is prone towards illicit sex life and uncontrolled eating. Hanuman is no ordinary monkey, though; he is a divine figure who loves Rama more than anyone can possibly love another person.
Hanuman is always eager to serve Rama, so the Lord gives him many chances to act out such desires. Since Hanuman is so pure at heart, he has mastery over every yogic siddhi, which he acquires through no extraneous endeavor. Hanuman never claims to be God, nor does he show off his perfections to boost his ego. Rather, he uses his abilities to serve the interests of the Supreme Lord, as he did on many occasions while searching for Rama’s missing wife Sita Devi in the enemy territory of Lanka.
Finally, Tulsidas says that remembering Rama’s name brings paramananda, or supreme bliss, at every step. Who among us isn’t looking for bliss? The Vedas say that the very nature of God is pure bliss, or ananda-chinmaya-rasa. As part and parcel of the Supreme Person, we too are blissful by nature. That’s why we seek out fruits, mystic perfections and other sources of enjoyment during our time on earth. Even in the ignorant state of mind, the tendency towards bliss does not diminish. Aside from the mystic yogis and the fruitive workers governed by the laws of karma, there are those who wish to negate every aspect of material existence. Since they do not have a concrete idea of who God is and what constitutes His nature, the highest platform they can reach is the merging into the light of Brahman.
The Bhagavad-gita, the most concise treatise on Vedanta philosophy so nicely expounded by its founder, Lord Krishna, who is the same Shri Rama but in a different outward appearance, says that whatever state of mind one remembers at the time of death, that state they will attain in the next life without fail. Since the impersonalist philosophers consider material nature to be false, or a separate energy only conducive to misery, their mentality at the time of death will not be focused on material existence. Therefore they get a spiritual nature in the next life, but since they don’t know of the Personality of Godhead and the wonderful bliss that comes with His association, the enjoyment they feel is referred to as brahmananda, or the bliss coming from merging into Brahman.
This merging into Brahman is equally as difficult to acquire as the siddhis of yoga. Those who study impersonalist Vedanta implement strict rules on eating, sleeping and association. The renounced order of life, or sannyasa, is a must, and there cannot be any association with maya, or the false world. Therefore ascending to the brahma-bhutah platform, the state of mind where all forms of life are understood to be Brahman, or pure spirit, is very difficult, as the allures of material life and the bliss-seeking tendency of the soul cause constant urges for some sort of activity. Since in the impersonalist discipline there is no bliss derived from association with the reservoir of all pleasure, Shri Rama, the itching towards seeking material enjoyment further increases.
Lest the impersonalists feel they would be missing out by taking to such a simple a process as the chanting of Rama’s name, Tulsidas correctly asserts that remembering Rama brings the highest bliss, greater than that found through merging into Brahman, at every step of the process. This means that one doesn’t even have to become a perfect yogi, an expert on Vedanta, or the wealthiest individual in the world to realize fruits from the wish-fulfilling tree that is Rama’s name. At every step of the way, the chanting of the holy names, which forms the cornerstone of the transcendental engagement known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, brings everything one could desire.
While this seems too good to be true, those who have practiced bhakti can attest to its validity. Tulsidas himself, through the workings of yogamaya, the energy of the material nature operating directly under the purview of Rama Himself, was attached to his beautiful wife in his younger years. There is certainly nothing wrong with harboring affection for family members and friends, but when the highest bliss, the perfections of life and the fruits of enjoyment are sought out through any material endeavor, the resulting enjoyment is substandard. Indeed, when one first seeks out Rama and chants His name, all the other aspects of life become spiritualized and act as a way to continue remembrance of the Lord.
Tulsidas eventually dedicated his whole life to chanting Rama’s name and glorifying the Lord. Even while living the life of a sannyasi, he had everything available to him; he was in need of nothing. He hung on to the name of the Lord as his life and soul, and instead of becoming poor and downtrodden, he found that everything he required and wanted in life was supplied to him. The same holds true today for Tulsidas’ beloved Shri Hanuman, who continues to remain on earth for as long as the glories of Rama are sung and the details of His life described and talked about. Hanuman’s necessities in life are met through the benedictions offered by Sita Devi, the goddess of fortune and eternal consort of Lord Rama.
If we simply take up bhakti with a little sincerity, we’ll see that the lofty promises made by the devotees are not exaggerated in the least bit. The sweetest fruit in life is to be able to remember the Supreme Lord at every single moment without deviation. With such a reward, the devotee feels like they have the whole world in their hand, with bliss enjoyed during every second in life. Not surprisingly, the time of death goes from being a feared moment to one not worried about, as the state of mind will be guaranteed to be fixed on the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, who is the shelter of the surrendered souls.
Categories: dohavali 1-40
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