“Just as within the earth are found every kind of seed and within the sky live all the stars, Tulsidas knows that Shri Rama’s holy name is the reservoir of all dharma.” (Dohavali, 29)
jathā bhūmi saba bījamaya nakhata nivāsa akāsa |
rāmanāma saba dharamamaya jānata tulasīdāsa ||
Shri Rama’s holy name, the most beloved sound vibration of the celebrated Vaishnava poet, Goswami Tulsidas, opens the door to endless possibilities of transcendental exchange and bliss. Through any other process of spirituality, maybe a few transcendental mellows can be enjoyed, or maybe a single type of association is available, but by taking directly to the root of all spiritual merit, the fountainhead of every good thing in life, the possibilities for enjoyment, satisfaction, excitement and joyfulness of spirit are endless. Therefore the wise acharyas, those who lead by example in their daily lives, wrap their arms around the holy name of God and never let go, as the sound vibration representation of the Supreme Absolute Truth is a complete manifestation of the Lord and His greatness. Throughout every creation, there is not a single defect in the holy name, which anyone can call their own; therefore reciting the name ensures that the recessed desires within the heart can come to the forefront and supply an endless amount of love to the most loveable object.
Why is it necessary to chant? Why even take to spirituality in lieu of other activities? There are obviously many reasons given, with the most common one pointing to the nature of activity. The animals and other living entities that aren’t human beings don’t have the intelligence capacity to pose questions about the meaning of life and the purpose behind the creation. In other species, the monotonous cycle of “action and consequence” is not noticed and neither are the patterns of birth and death. The human being, through careful deliberation, can realize these realities and then take the necessary steps to find out their cause and what can be done about them. The famous Vedanta-sutras, a collection of short verses on Vedic philosophy, open with the aphorism, athato brahma jijnasa, which means, “Now is the time for inquiring about Brahman”, which is the impersonal realization of the Absolute Truth. The “now” signals the urgency in the human form of life, the opportunity that must not be squandered, for what the future beholds remains a mystery. We are in the dark about how our life will turn out within a year, let alone after death. Therefore as soon as the inquiry about the Absolute Truth can be made, the opportunity for self-realization should not be passed up.
While there is the urgency attached to the human birth, the main reason for seeking out spiritual life is to find a higher taste. The enjoyment of the end result is what drives every type of activity to begin with, even in the animal kingdom. Therefore spirituality is best adopted when the seeker’s mood is situated in a place similar to where it rests for other ventures, wherein fear is not the predominant guiding emotion. Those who only present their dogmas insisting on surrender to a particular spiritual figure are on the lower rung of understanding, as fear of punishment isn’t the prime factor in influencing the activities of the spiritual spark within the body, the basis of identification. The soul is always complete with the properties of eternality, bliss and knowledge. This first property, of being always in existence, immediately nullifies the need for fear. In the conditioned state, the greatest worry, as is so nicely pointed out by Lord Rama in the Ramayana, is death, for the human being is similar to the mature fruit in this way. Once a fruit finally ripens, it has nothing left to do but fall down, die and get eaten. Similarly, the mature human being, after being educated, starting a family and maintaining a steady job, has nothing left to do but die.
“Just as the ripened fruit has no other fear than falling, the man who has taken birth has no other fear than death.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 105.17)
The soul continues its existence without end; therefore it must have a future occupation, which is determined by the predominant desires of the mind, or consciousness. The human being can have the most developed consciousness, so it can shift its thought processes towards the highest engagement. In this regard, the avenue of spirituality that leads to the city of endless possibilities is the one that should be travelled, for other paths may not be as universally appealing or providing of as many opportunities. The path most recommended by the Vaishnava acharyas, those who experience the endless glory of the Supreme Lord and devotional life to Him, is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. One may argue that these names, Krishna and Rama, are sectarian and thus the champions of chanting are no different than those who scare others into going to church, but actually these two wonderful names are merely apt descriptions for the Supreme Truth. “Krishna” says that God is the most attractive, and “Rama” addresses the Lord’s ability to provide the topmost transcendental pleasure to His devotees. The names found in the maha-mantra, which also includes an address to God’s energy potency, Hara, are not limited in scope or utility. These names are applicable to people from all walks of life, irrespective of their religious affiliation.
What is the benefit to chanting? Goswami Tulsidas compares the power of the holy name to the earth and the sky. We see such wonderful trees, forestry, plants, flowers, crops and bushes around us. There are so many plants that they mostly go unnoticed. While driving in to work in the morning we may pass by thousands of trees and not even remember having seen them. Indeed, when travelling by airplane, during takeoff and landing the vast land mass that is the earth can be appreciated much more, as the many fields and their population of plant life can be seen from a distance through the window.
Yet, what is more amazing than the result is the source. The ridiculously complex and abundant plant life that we see comes from the earth, which held every one of these resultant objects in a seed form at some point in time. Therefore we can understand that the earth is the reservoir of the important objects in life, for trees are necessary for there to be oxygen, which is necessary for human life to continue. It is thus not surprising to see so much attention paid to the earth’s well-being, as she is even considered a goddess, Bhumi Devi, in the Vedic tradition. Earth is a material element, so she works directly under the orders of the higher authorities, who are empowered by the Supreme Lord.
The sky functions similarly to the earth. Man has been enamored by outer space ever since he was first placed onto the wonderful earth. Within the earth are the seeds for continuing existence, and while on top of the earth one can look at the other end of existence, the endless sky. Within this vast open space are millions of planets that are so wonderful to behold. If one were to travel in outer space, they would never run out of places to go and things to see. The sun itself is a great mystery, as it provides an inconceivable amount of heat and light and yet doesn’t require any external source of energy.
Tulsidas references the earth and the sky to form a comparison to the wonderful potency packed into the holy name of Shri Rama. Besides being a Sanskrit word that describes the Absolute Truth’s features, Rama also references Lord Ramachandra, the jewel of the Raghu dynasty, the handsome and powerful warrior prince who appeared on earth many thousands of years ago during the Treta Yuga. There is only one God, but He is never limited to only one form. Just as we are not limited to one body type in a single lifetime – as we change from boyhood to youth to old age and remain the same in identity – the Supreme Lord can appear in multitudes of non-different forms that perform different functions. Rama is especially adored for His beauty, which He exhibits both internally and externally. For the conditioned souls, there is a difference between body and spirit, as the body is ultimately renounced while the spiritual spark remains the same despite its dwelling. For the Lord, however, there is no difference between His outward form and His identity. The fact that we see the incarnation as different from other forms is only due to our lack of understanding. God is antaryami, or the all-pervading witness, so He actually resides within every one of us in a seemingly invisible form.
Chanting the name of Rama brings wonders similar to those kindly bestowed by the earth and the sky. If we have a plot of land, there are many possibilities for fun and excitement. We can plant a row of rose bushes or we can erect a dwelling to reside in. Just from having the land, we can do so much. Similarly, with the name of Rama, our opportunities for spiritual fun are endless. How does this work exactly? From Shri Rama’s time on earth, we got a small taste of how much wonder and variety are present in spiritual life. The monists, those who think Brahman to be the highest feature of the Supreme Truth and thus think that every single person can become God by merging into Brahman, don’t understand the concept of variety in spiritual life. Since they see material existence as false and thus a source of misery, they think that happiness can only occur through the absence of activity. But the soul is vibrant with a potential for energy, therefore in its constitutional position, it also must have variety and activity that results in bliss.
Shri Rama came to earth just to show others a small taste of what is available to them in the liberated state, the one where consciousness becomes fully developed and wholly devoted to association with God in a mood of pure love. During Rama’s time on earth, so many people chanted His name with love and affection. To start, there were His parents, Maharaja Dasharatha and Mother Kausalya. Dasharatha was the ruler of a famous kingdom in Ayodhya which had been passed down to him by previous members of the Ikshvaku dynasty. When Dasharatha reached an advanced age in life, the fourth stage to be more precise, he was still without a son. Shri Rama came to keep the dynasty alive and to please His dear devotee Dasharatha. The king was so attached to Rama from the time of His birth that he regularly recited the Lord’s name and kept the image of his son within his heart at all times. Indeed, as soon as Rama would be forced to leave him for an extended period of time, Dasharatha would leave his body, as he could not live without his beloved eldest son.
Mother Kausalya was similarly enthralled at the sight of her beloved Rama, and she regularly chanted His glories and offered love to Him in the mood of maternal affection. She too would have to face separation from Rama for fourteen years, but she was able to continue living by remembering Rama’s name, which is the source of all good fortune for the devotees.
Sita Devi, Lord Rama’s wife, chanted the Lord’s name all the time when the two were separated; thus she always remained in her husband’s association. Sita is the very Hara addressed in “Hare Krishna”, so she can actually never be separated from God. She is the Lord’s energy, and the Lord is the energetic. Hence the two are always together, though they take on different roles. Sita holds on to the name of her husband because that sound vibration brings her the association of her beloved.
One of Rama’s younger brothers, Bharata, chanted the Lord’s name for fourteen years and was thus able to manage a kingdom with minimal effort. Rama had been banished from the kingdom of Ayodhya for fourteen years on the eve of His coronation, which was subsequently arranged for Bharata. But Bharata refused to take over the kingdom that belonged to Rama, so he instead remained in meditation in a small hut for the duration of Rama’s exile. He kept his vital force within the body by meditating on Shri Rama’s sandals and chanting the Lord’s names.
Then there were the glorious Vanaras, or human/monkey creatures, residing in the forest of Kishkindha. On the power of Rama’s holy name, they took to direct service, infiltrating the enemy territory of Lanka and helping in the eventual overthrow of the king of the city, Ravana. The demon had taken Sita while she was in the forest with her husband. He was holding her captive until she would agree to become his wife. Obviously this would never happen, as Sita can never be betrothed to anyone except Rama. The Vanaras kindly aided Rama in His search for Sita and then in the concluding battle in Lanka.
The most glorious of the Vanaras is Shri Hanuman, who alone went into Lanka to find Sita and return the information of her whereabouts to Rama. Hanuman remains on the earth to this day, and his life is maintained by Rama’s holy name. Though Tulsidas is known as being a devotee of Rama, he is actually a great devotee of Hanuman as well. Through Hanuman’s blessings, Tulsidas was empowered with the ability to write wonderful poetry, with his greatest work being the Ramacharitamanasa, which is a lengthy Hindi poem that wonderfully describes Lord Rama’s life and activities. This work is beyond amazing, and to compare it to any other book would not be fair in the least, for the masterpiece crafted by Tulsidas and his spiritually infused mind defeats every piece of literature ever created, both in this world and others.
There were so many other examples of interactions and wonderful benedictions received by those who chanted Rama’s name. The possibilities for engagement and excitement for the devotees who hold on to the holy name are endless. The name is non-different from the Lord Himself, a fact which takes a lifetime’s worth of chanting to truly realize. While other processes can also be effective at shifting consciousness, the name is the one aspect of the Supreme Lord that automatically evokes remembrance of His other features, namely the forms, pastimes and qualities. In Rama’s name can be found all varieties of dharma and their resultant rewards. Dharma is simply an essential characteristic, so depending on the scope of activity and the characteristic that needs to be adopted and maintained, the set of law codes and regulations prescribed can be considered its own type of dharma. Even in spiritual life there are varieties of rewards aimed at achieving specific characteristics. But as we ascend the processes of spiritual life, we’ll finally come to the end goal, that of loving God. The holy name is so powerful that it automatically carries the results of every other dharma; the sound vibration that is the holy name is replete with supreme love for the Personality of Godhead.
Categories: dohavali 1-40