“Vibhishana obtained Lanka, Sugriva became king, and Hanuman and Jatayu also received wonderful rewards, but the fallen Tulsidas only wants love for Shri Rama’s holy name.” (Dohavali, 34)
lanka bibhīsana rāja kapi pati mārūti khaga mīca |
lahī rāma soṃ nāma rati cāhata tulasī nīca ||
What can’t God give to those who love Him, honor Him, and cherish His very existence during every second of the day? The human being tries to find lasting happiness through so many different pursuits, only to fail every time. With each success in mundane ventures comes a renewal of activity, a further attachment and obligation imposed on the person who has bucked the odds and found their way to a desired end. Yet once the thrill of victory is tasted, future defeats and setbacks become more difficult to swallow, as the memory and happiness of the previous gains quickly erode. With the Supreme Lord, however, there are no defects in the benedictions He grants to those who are sincerely interested in serving Him without motive. Even though God has the whole world in His hands and can bring anything to anyone, for the devotees, the bhaktas swimming in an ocean of transcendental bliss emerging from the very mention of the name that addresses the Supreme Person, there is no other desire except to continue reciting this name, day after day, lifetime after lifetime.
The spirit soul, the essence of individuality, exists forever. Long after the current life is over and long before the present birth from our mother’s womb, the soul holds onto its constitutional makeup. The understanding of the soul’s presence and its qualitative composition is the most elusive information to the conditioned being, even though such knowledge is readily available, provided one is fortunate enough to approach the right person and then have the good sense to accept the instruction presented them without reservation. The knowledge of the soul and its relationship to a higher power is found in many sacred texts, but it is most clearly described in the Bhagavad-gita, a poem sung by Lord Krishna on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra.
God is a universal figure; He is the original Divine Being that everyone is open to worship. While one sect may have allegiance to their version of God, or their version of a son of the Creator, this doesn’t mean that the Supreme Lord is only available to a certain section of mankind. Rather, just as our own bodies can change during our lifetime without our identities being altered, the Supreme Lord can take many non-different forms that are equally as worshipable. Lord Krishna is considered the original form, as He is the most attractive. Just one look at His smiling face is enough to turn the heads of even the most ardent supporters of sense gratification as a way of life. The sound of Krishna’s flute is considered the most mesmerizing and enchanting, as it captures the hearts and minds of the eternally liberated souls residing in the spiritual world.
The soul is described in the Bhagavad-gita as being immutable, unchangeable and primeval. The soul is not slain when the body is slain. This is very powerful information to those who identify solely with the body. Therefore hearing from the Gita in the aftermath of a death of a close friend or family member is beneficial, as it comforts the grieving person, letting them know that the departed lives on. While their existence continues, what determines the next body type, their future destination? Karma, or fruitive activity, along with guna, or material qualities, shapes future fortunes. This doesn’t just take effect at the time of death either. Rather, at every second we are suffering or enjoying the reactions of our work. The qualities we assumed at the time of birth were the direct result of previous desires and actions performed.
God, as the creator of karma, is the only person who can put a stop to its effect. While karma shapes the future fortunes of the soul when it is embodied, the Supreme Lord, through His divine power, can rescue the soul from the ocean of nescience and bring it back to wherever it wants to go, which is preferably its original home, the spiritual sky. Since the soul is eternal, it would make sense that its ideal abode would be an imperishable land, a place where there are no differences between body and spirit. When under the jurisdiction of karma, the body must change at every second, leading to temporary pains and pleasures. Just as the seasons come and go at their own time, happiness and sadness arrive on their own schedule. When one is free from karma, however, there is no change to the dwelling of the soul; hence in the liberated state the body assumes the same spiritual qualities as the individual soul.
While karma pretty much works on its own through the forces of nature instituted by the Supreme Lord, this doesn’t preclude God from personally intervening and offering rewards to those who are intimately associated with Him. Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice and a rise in irreligion, the Supreme Lord descends personally from the spiritual world to the earthly realm. The spiritual form that appears on earth is referred to as an avatara, or “one who descends”. One of God’s most famous avataras is Lord Rama, the warrior prince of Ayodhya who appeared on earth many thousands of years ago during the Treta Yuga. Goswami Tulsidas, the famous Vaishnava poet, is especially fond of Lord Rama, as he doesn’t see God as being anyone else. Even when discussing the pastimes of Lord Krishna or other Vishnu forms, Tulsidas makes no distinctions between them, considering them all to be the same Shri Rama.
Lord Rama performed many glorious deeds during His time on earth, and through His dealings with others He was able to grant many wonderful benedictions. If you own everything to start with, what will stop you from rewarding those who are kind to you and help you out? The gifts given by Rama are too many to count, but Tulsidas mentions a few of the notable ones above. Rama’s wife during His time on earth was Sita Devi, the princess of Videha. Just as Rama is an incarnation of God’s form of Vishnu, Sita is an incarnation of Lakshmi Devi, the eternal consort, or wife, of Lord Vishnu. To eliminate the demoniac element concentrated on the island of Lanka at the time, Rama came to earth in a seemingly human form, for the ruler of the evil ogres in Lanka had immunity in battle against every type of creature except humans. Rama was still dedicated to dharma, or religiosity, so He wasn’t going to just fight Ravana without justification.
The excuse would come in the form of Sita’s rescue. Hearing of her beauty, Ravana decided that he had to have her. Since Rama would utterly route him in battle, Ravana decided to hatch a plot to steal Sita away. When Sita was brought to the island kingdom of Lanka, Rama outwardly didn’t know where she was. This was also part of the Lord’s plan, as it created an opportunity for others to offer their service. God has everything, so under normal circumstances what help can any of us be to Him?
The spirit soul is naturally inclined towards service. In the conditioned state, the loving propensity is directed to friends, family, spouses, pets, and even sports teams. The fan of their favorite team will be elated when they win a championship and greatly saddened when they lose, especially if the loss comes in a heartbreaking manner, such as with a sudden-death overtime loss in a game seven of a playoff series in ice hockey.
When consciousness is purified, love is directed at God. Rama allowed many individuals to exercise pure bhakti, or love for God, when it came time to find Sita. First, Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana made friends with a Vanara king named Sugriva. The monkeys of the Treta Yuga were advanced, so they had many human-like tendencies. Sugriva had been driven out of his kingdom by his brother Vali over an unfortunate misunderstanding. Sugriva could surely help Rama, but he needed his kingdom back first. If someone becomes friends with God, they are never bereft of anything. Therefore Rama vowed to get Sugriva his kingdom back from Vali. This is exactly what would happen, as Rama would shoot Vali in the back, allowing Sugriva to live without fear, giving him reign over the monkey kingdom. Simply because he agreed to help Rama find Sita, Sugriva, the lord of monkeys, became king.
Similarly, Vibhishana, the younger brother of Ravana, attained the crown of Lanka by submitting Himself before Rama. Ravana refused to let Sita go, even after the heartfelt pleas of Vibhishana, who was only looking out for his brother’s interests. Realizing that Ravana would not change his ways, Vibhishana turned tail and asked to join the other side, the opposition led by Rama and Sugriva’s monkey-army. Under the material estimation, Vibhishana was the biggest turncoat, the original “Benedict Arnold” if you will. Many of the members of the monkey party were hesitant to accept a Rakshasa into their ranks, especially one who was so closely tied to Ravana.
“It is My vow that if one only once seriously surrenders unto Me, saying, ‘My dear Lord, from this day I am Yours,’ and prays to Me for courage, I shall immediately award courage to that person, and he will always remain safe from that time on.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kand, 18.33)
Despite the hesitancy from the monkeys, Lord Rama firmly asserted that He grants protection to and removes fears from anyone who surrenders unto Him. Vibhishana had come over in earnest, and his character was vouched for by Hanuman, Sugriva’s chief minister and warrior. As soon as Vibhishana came to Rama’s camp, the Lord crowned him as the new king of Lanka. Ravana was obviously still the acting king, but this ceremony indicated that Rama would dethrone Ravana, rescue Sita, and then install Vibhishana as king of Lanka as a reward for his loyalty. Shri Rama, being the Absolute Truth, would make good on His promise.
Shri Hanuman, the valiant warrior fighting for Sugriva’s side, made his way first into Lanka to find where Sita was. His trek was not easy in the least bit, as he faced many obstacles and had to remain determined in mind. The opulence and massive power of the Rakshasas were enough to suppress the enthusiasm of even the most perseverant fighter, but Hanuman was not deterred. He would find Sita, allay her fears, return to Rama with information of her whereabouts, and then play an important role in the victorious outcome of the final battle with Ravana and the Rakshasas. Due to his bravery and kind efforts, Hanuman was rewarded with eternal fame and devotion to Sita, Rama and Lakshmana.
Jatayu, the wonderful and kind vulture, attained one of the greatest benedictions anyone could ever think of: dying in the arms of the Supreme Lord. When Ravana had taken Sita from the forest, his aerial path was initially obstructed by Jatayu, who saw what was happening and protested. Jatayu was good friends with Rama’s father, Maharaja Dasharatha, the King of Ayodhya. Fighting his hardest to stop Ravana, Jatayu eventually was badly wounded and fell to the ground. Later on, Rama and Lakshmana would find him just before he quit his body. Lord Rama took the vulture in His arms, thus allowing Jatayu to have the divine vision right before quitting his body. In the Bhagavad-gita, it is stated that anyone who thinks of God at the time of death never has to take birth again. In this way Jatayu attained salvation by looking directly at the Lord while dying.
Even knowing that these wonderful benedictions were granted by the Lord to His devotees, Goswami Tulsidas, who considers himself lower than the lowest, still only wants love for Rama’s name. This heartfelt request doesn’t imply that the aforementioned devotees specifically wanted something more from Rama. The references are made solely for comparison purposes, as Vibhishana, Hanuman, Jatayu and Sugriva are considered Rama’s dearest friends, devotees who are celebrated and highly regarded for their wonderful courage, bravery and devotion to the jewel of the Raghu dynasty. Hanuman is the most famous of the group, but even the attention and adoration shown his way were never explicitly sought after. Hanuman only wants to think of Rama and His family and try his best to keep smiles on their faces.
Tulsidas, following in the standard of devotion set by Hanuman, similarly doesn’t want any personal benediction from the Lord, nor does he feel he is worthy of anything. Rather, he only wants to have love and attachment, or rati, for chanting the holy name of Rama. The name of God is everything, as it represents His forms, pastimes and qualities. Though God is formless and nameless according to our estimation, He still has a spiritual body which is full of attributes and thousands of names assigned to Him by those who wish to remember and honor Him. To Tulsidas, Rama is the preferred name, the favorite sound vibration. The poet’s attitude revealed in his request represents the height of devotional practice, the perfection of consciousness. Though he is the most glorious of writers and the kindest of human beings, Tulsidas doesn’t feel he is above anyone else or deserving of wonderful rewards. Rama’s name is his only wealth, for this sound vibration is all that is needed to maintain a link in consciousness to the Supreme Lord. When this bond of love is firmly established, the previously lost individual is said to be in yoga, where he has a direct connection to pure spirit.
Attaining the state of consciousness where the only thing we want is to chant God’s names is very difficult, but it serves as the ideal aim of spiritual practice. Rama can grant anything to anyone, but devotion is rarely found because it is seldom sought after. Kingdoms, material opulence, fame and good standing are available even through activity in karma, so why wouldn’t the Supreme Lord be able to grant these benedictions to His devotees? Affection for Rama and His name through a mood of pure love, however, can only be received from the Supreme Lord and the devotees who chant His glories. Anyone who regularly chants, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, with firm attachment in a loving mood is the wealthiest person, capable of distributing the precious gem that is the holy name to others. Once we figure out that love for God is what we really want, we will never be bereft of it, as Shri Rama will guarantee that our request is not denied.
Shri Rama, of Raghu’s fame,
So glorious is His name.
From the Supreme Lord He is not different,
Yet still in honoring Him we are hesitant.
To many Rama granted wonderful boons in the past,
On serving His lotus feet their efforts were cast.
In material estimation, as turncoat Vibhishana was the biggest,
Renounced his brother Ravana, in favor of Rama the kindest.
Received from the Lord the kingdom of Lanka in an instant,
Ravana’s demise sealed through Rama’s arrows flying constant.
Sugriva, plagued by the fear of Vali his brother,
Through Rama regained his kingdom, no more worry to bother.
Hanuman received fame through Shri Rama’s grace,
Jatayu salvation by looking at the Lord’s face.
As God Himself, what is there that Rama cannot give?
Yet Tulsidas wants only with love for holy name to live.
This gift is granted to anyone, if their heart is pure,
Chant Rama’s name always, His love you’ll have for sure.
Categories: dohavali 1-40