“For those who have merged in the transcendental mellow of devotion to Shri Rama, being free of all material desires, their minds are like fish that swim in the nectar made of supreme love for the holy name that rests within the heart.” (Dohavali, 30)
sakala kāmanā hīna je rāma bhagati rasa līna |
nāma suprema piyuṣa hada tinhahum̐ kie mana mina ||
The heart is where the individual’s reservoir of love resides. In addition to keeping the blood flowing within the living human being, the heart acts as the resting place for the strongest emotion that can possibly be exhibited. With a higher potential for intelligence, the human being can use their heart to strategically distribute love to a host of different objects. Whenever there is an exhibition of pure love, or prema, the release of the emotions is a thing of beauty, something wonderful to behold.
If this weren’t the case, people would never cry at weddings. A marriage is just the union between a man and a woman after all, so there is nothing incredibly unique about it. Millions of people have been married since the beginning of time, yet once the sacred vow of trust is taken in front of the many onlookers, the unique exhibition of devotion can bring tears to the eyes. “Just see how much they love each other. What a wonderful sight. To only be able to find your one true love in life and dedicate yourself to them fully, without deviation. Never let them go, always honor and cherish them, and love them no matter how they treat you.” Such lofty ideals are surely difficult to live up to.
The parents of newborn children are swelling with affection. Just seeing their beloved child fills their heart with sweet love, which then directs them towards activities that will maintain the happiness and well-being of their new dependent. Along similar lines, the romantically involved lover will feel they need to do whatever it takes to keep their beloved happy. When actively involved in the highest exchange of loving emotions, even being reproached is not enough to stop the lover from pushing forward. “If I love you with conditions, my love is not pure.”
Those devoted to the supreme loveable object, the entity from whom everything in this world emanates, have a difficult time accurately describing their emotions. Rather, the greatest transcendental lovers always doubt their position, taking themselves to be inferior. As an example, when Lord Rama, the Supreme Lord’s incarnation as a warrior prince during the Treta Yuga, was forced to leave the kingdom of Ayodhya because of a series of unfortunate events, the king of the city, Maharaja Dasharatha, couldn’t bear the separation. Rama was the king’s eldest son, the one he had the strongest attachment to.
Rama had previously left Dasharatha’s company, but not for very long. During ancient times the kings were members of the fighting class, so they were trained in the military arts from a young age. Things were no different with Dasharatha and his four sons: Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. That God can come to earth and appear in a royal dynasty is not out of the realm of possibility. Shri Ramachandra, the jewel of the Raghu family line, the maintainer of the dedication to dharma found in the Ikshvaku dynasty, is not a sectarian hero who can only be worshiped by those in India. Rather, during His descents to earth the Supreme Lord is identified by His remarkable possession of divine attributes.
There is no equivalent term for “God” in the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. The word “deva” can mean a god, but it typically refers to a godly entity. “Ishvara” also can mean a god, but it is generally equated with a chief or ruler. The word “Bhagavan”, which means the “most fortunate”, is the best matching term. Whoever has the most wealth, beauty, strength, fame, knowledge and renunciation is the Supreme Lord of all creatures. Rama showed that He had these opulences as well as the association of the most wonderful divine figures.
Rama’s wife was Sita Devi, the princess of Videha. This world has never seen a woman more beautiful than Sita, nor will it in the future. She is the embodiment of dharma, dedication to religious principles, and devotion to God. Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother, was so attached to Rama that he couldn’t eat or sleep without his beloved brother by his side. Lakshmana was also a great bow warrior, and his stature cannot be compared to anyone else’s. Rama’s most dear servant was Hanuman, who also is one of the most respected living entities to have ever appeared on this earth.
Even if we are hesitant to accept Rama as God from the statements of the Vedas and the Lord’s exhibition of different divine qualities, we can take it on the authority of Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman that Rama is the Supreme Lord. The trio is sinless and lacking nothing in knowledge. If they dedicate their lives to bringing pleasure to the most merciful Shri Rama, why shouldn’t we? Rama is the same God that we all either accept, deny, or pretend doesn’t exist.
During His youth, Rama was asked to accompany the venerable Vishvamitra Muni for a brief period of time in the forest. When the sage arrived in the kingdom to take Rama, Dasharatha promised to give him whatever he wanted, but when the king heard that Rama was leaving, he regretted having made that promise. Nevertheless, Rama had to protect the innocent sages residing in the forest, for they were being attacked by Rakshasas, man-eaters looking to stamp out religiosity in its most potent form. Rama returned shortly after travelling with Vishvamitra, thus allowing the king to see the lord of his life breath once again.
But when Rama was later ordered to leave Ayodhya for fourteen years, Dasharatha couldn’t handle the separation. He waited until he knew for sure that Rama was indeed going to carry out the exile sentence, and then he quit his body. Though it seems like a sad death, we know from the Bhagavad-gita that thinking of God while dying represents perfection in life. Whatever state of being one remembers at the end of life, that state they will attain without fail. With God on the mind, the living entity achieves the Lord’s association in the afterlife, company that never has to be renounced.
Rama’s mother, Queen Kausalya, later lamented that her heart must not have been filled with love, for she didn’t die upon Rama’s leaving Ayodhya. Her husband was so attached to Rama that he gave up his life upon separation, while she remained alive. She cursed herself for having a heart made of stone. Though she felt this way, her heart was indeed pure, for she never forgot about her son for even a moment. The avataras, or incarnations, don’t just randomly pick people to act as their parents. Rather, only those who have committed many pious acts in previous lives get the rare opportunity to engage in the transcendental mellow of vatsalya, or parental affection, with God.
For those who try to follow in the standard of devotion set by the residents of Ayodhya, the comparison to the behavior of the fish is often invoked. Just like Dasharatha, the fish is so attached to something that it will renounce its life upon separation. For the fish the attached object is its habitat, the water. The practicing devotee hopes to have the same attachment to God. Therefore in the above referenced verse from the Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas compares being immersed in bhakti-rasa, or devotional service, to having the mind swim in an ocean of nectar.
First, there is the engagement in the transcendental mellow of devotion to Rama, or God, coupled with renunciation of material desires. A way to understand this is to think of the behavior of a good spouse. For a person romantically involved with someone else, the understanding is that the partner will love them no matter what, that they will never try to please another person in a romantic way. The more devoted they are, the more they will abandon outside attachment. Similarly, in bhakti, the aim is to have a loving relationship with God. The joy of the relationship is relished more fully when desire for personal satisfaction, be it through sense gratification or the accumulation of fame and money, is stamped out.
When the devotee is fully merged in the bhakti spirit, the heart begins to swell up with love, similar to how the cow begins to pour forth milk when it hears its newborn calf crying. God is meant to be our eternal loveable object, the corresponding life partner to constantly remain by our side and give us comfort and pleasure. When engaged in acts of devotion, the heart increases its love for God. More specifically, love for the holy name is what fills the heart of the bhakta, for the Lord is not different from His name.
Chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, is the most effective method of spiritual practice, because it can be instantiated anywhere, and by any person. No need to visit a temple or sit down for a formal ritual. These tools may help in the progression towards a purified consciousness, but they are not requirements for merging into the bhakti spirit. Chant spontaneously and without material desires. The more you chant, the stronger your love will be. In full God consciousness, the heart swells with nectar produced of love for the holy name. The mind then swims in it like a fish.
The analogy made by Tulsidas is important because it says that once the mind finds a suitable habitat, it becomes so attached to it that it dies upon separation. The fish swimming in the ocean of transcendental nectar refuses to live without its beloved holy name, the central component to bhakti. It is every lover’s dream to be able to have the same attachment for their beloved object that the fish has to water. Tulsidas gives us the formula to find that level of devotion. Follow Rama-bhakti, eliminate material desires, and have supreme love, or suprema, for the holy name.
Can we practice bhakti towards someone else besides Rama? God is a singular entity, though He has different visible manifestations tailored for different moods of worship. Bhakti is meant for transcendental love, so it can only apply to the one person who is beyond the temporary material existence. Though God can take many forms, this doesn’t mean that His personal presence is everywhere. We can’t just pick up a rock and think that we have found God. Moreover, we can’t just speak gibberish and expect the words to be equivalent to God.
Just as the mother cow understands the calls of its beloved calves, the Supreme Lord hears the cries of His devotees when they chant the holy names. The different names are listed in the Vedic scriptures. Aside from having Sanskrit meanings, the holy names are meant for addressing God in His original form. Only if they harbor material desires are the worshipers advised to worship someone who is not God. Since bhakti does not mix well with kama, or desire, untainted love is meant exclusively for the Supreme Lord, whose original form is described as being all-attractive. Hence one of His primary names is Krishna.
Bask in the sweetness of Shri Rama’s smiling face by holding a profound love for His name. Form the one attachment that will best define you; say that you are Rama’s and that Rama is yours. You will never be the loser. In fact, every beneficial attribute will arrive in the palm of your hand, ready to be used in furthering your service to your beloved. Find a way to love God with all your heart, so that you don’t have to find temporary habitations, places which you can never be fully attached to, anymore. The temporary manifestation will be destroyed eventually, thus leaving even the most dedicated worshipers of matter bereft of their partner. Rama, on the other hand, never abandons the fish swimming in the nectar of divine love. As a reward for their dedication, the pure devotees are transferred to the spiritual realm, which is overflowing with waters of devotion.
Categories: dohavali 1-40