“There are an infinite number of living beings, both moving and nonmoving, who have many different abodes, with some residing on the earth, some in the sky, and some in the water. But O helpless Tulsi, for you Shri Rama’s holy name is your only home.” (Dohavali, 37)
jala thala nabha gati amita ati aga jaga jīva aneka |
tulasī to se dīna kaham̐ rāma nāma gati eka ||
Due to the false ego’s influence, the inclination is to think that life revolves around the individual, a tendency which makes it more difficult to understand the full breadth and scope of the universe. But the sober person, one who sees with a proper vision acquired through training and discipline, understands that there are countless living entities populating the earth. Even in the strangest of places, where no human being would ever dare think of calling home, can be found millions of creatures, who are so comfortable in their environment that they couldn’t survive anywhere else. The many dwellings are due to karma, the results of fruitive activity. “You get what you give”, as they say, so whatever action, time and effort are put in, the results manifest in the body type assumed and the living arrangements provided by nature. For the purest of the pure, however, regardless of their body type and the work they perform, there still only remains one home. Whether in the sky, water or earth, this home remains forever the shelter of the surrendered souls. Thus it serves as the greatest source of comfort and solace.
Why are there so many different homes? Why can’t everyone just live in one place with the same body type? What is the need for variety? The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, provide as much details as can be possibly consumed by the human brain on this subject. We say there is a limitation because fallibility accompanies the living entity, a pure spirit soul separated from the graces of the transcendental realm. There is always a singular superior entity. Most of the time He is referred to as God, but the Vedas provide thousands of names for Him to allow for pleasure to be aroused within the worshiper. We can refer to the Supreme Person as God, but this doesn’t necessarily speak to any of His attributes or features. If even a material realm can have variety, how can it be absent in the person who created it?
“This material nature is working under My direction, O son of Kunti, and it is producing all moving and unmoving beings. By its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.10)
God is full of spiritual form and attributes whose magnitude can never be properly measured. From one came many, so from the original person come countless tiny fragments, spiritual sparks that are autonomous in their desires and exercise of freedom. The results of their actions cannot be controlled fully as it can with God, but there is nevertheless full independence in consciousness. The sparks cannot be forced to remain associated with the source of energy, the original spiritual fire. And unlike an ordinary fire, which loses intensity when too many of its sparks fly away, the Supreme Source of Energy retains His vibrancy and potency even when countless sparks release from Him.
The perishable land – the place where worship of God is instituted as a higher discipline, a way out of a painful existence – comes into being when the tiny sparks decide to separate from their original life partner, the ultimate reservoir of pleasure. In the Vedas, the original person is called Krishna, which means all-attractive. Since He is not lacking anything in terms of features, He is naturally suited to serve as the pleasure-giver to anyone seeking it. Since He is also described as Rama, His capability of providing transcendental happiness to those who connect with Him is unmatched.
For free will to be valid, for the granted independence to mean something, there must be an exercise of every choice. If every spark were to always choose to be in God’s company, freedom as it is defined would lose its strength. Therefore there must be some souls who choose in favor of life away from Krishna. To facilitate their desire, a temporary playing field is created, a land where Rama’s personal presence is not active. Nothing can occur without God’s intervention, but in the temporary land the direct supervision and personal oversight from the Lord are absent. If everyone wants to spend their time forgetting God, there is no inhibiting action taken by the person who was forgotten, nor does He benefit by personal intervention or cajoled worship.
To enhance the experience of forgetting Krishna, activities and engagements must be created. Since every soul is unique in their constitution, not all the desires will be the same. Therefore different bodies, or uniforms, need to be crafted along with corresponding playing fields. If one wants to play ice hockey, they need a frozen rink on which to skate. A baseball player requires a field shaped like a diamond, and a tennis player needs a court made up of cement, grass or clay. On the largest scale of abstraction, the countless body types awarded to the souls separating from Krishna have their own suitable habitations, or homes.
The Vedas top the list of different body types off at 8,400,000. This high number is the result of the varying combinations of the three modes of material nature [goodness, passion and ignorance] that can go into each body type. Some forms have the mode of goodness in higher proportions, while others have more ignorance. Since the combinations are seemingly infinite, there are so many species that result. Though there is such a wide variety in body types, the homes are not so varied. Generally, there are three kinds of destinations for a resident of the material world: earth, water and sky. The birds and insects fly through the air, while the human beings and animals remain on land. The water is reserved for the aquatics. In each area, there are countless species, so many that scientists keep discovering new ones. It is not that the species evolve or that new ones come into being. Rather, the individual soul can transmigrate through different body types based on the laws of karma. There is evolution with respect to the body type assumed by the soul, but the bodies themselves do not undergo any constitutional shifts.
Spiritual evolution through karma can flow in different directions. First, there is the ascendency from the lower species to the higher ones. One can start off as the vilest of creatures, such as a snake or worm that makes its abode in the dirt and low ground. Even when a body is laid to rest in the earth, there are so many creatures that reside around it. Though the cemetery is the last place the human being wants to go, for certain species it is their most comfortable abode. The lowest creatures are those who reside in such areas. Through evolution, higher species are attained, such as fish and mammals. Even plants and trees are living entities. Therefore there can be both moving as well as nonmoving living entities. This is all due to desire and karma.
While there is evolution through the upward chain, there can also be demotion to a lower species. The human being is considered the most beneficial body type because only the human can take the steps necessary to transcend karma. Separation from Krishna does not have to continue perpetually. As soon as there is a sincere desire to return to the good graces of the spiritual land, a place where karma does not exist, release from the cycle of birth and death is granted. Needless to say, harboring this desire in earnest is very difficult to do. It can take many lifetimes in a human body just to realize the need for spiritual awakening. Then actually believing in what is passed down through the Vedas and following through on the prescriptions is another story.
“Those situated in the mode of goodness gradually go upward to the higher planets; those in the mode of passion live on the earthly planets; and those in the mode of ignorance go down to the hellish worlds.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 14.18)
If in the human form of body the rules and regulations leading to spiritual advancement are not adhered to, punishment in a future life can occur through demotion to a lower species. A tree can stand naked for thousands of years. Thus one who follows a similar behavior during their human life can very likely become a tree in the next birth. Karma is driven by desire, so whatever the soul wants, it gets. The consciousness of the individual at the time of death determines their future body type. These facts of spiritual science are very nicely covered in the Bhagavad-gita, which is the Song of God sung by Krishna Himself.
To add further complexity to the equation, life doesn’t exist just on the earth. Rather, through the workings of karma, one can take birth in a heavenly planet or even a hellish one. The heavenly realm is attained through strict adherence to piety and virtue that is devoid of love and affection for God. If we follow all the rules of spiritual life, but still fail to harbor the desire to return to Krishna’s land, ascension to a heavenly realm, a place where material enjoyments are enhanced, is granted. Residence on these planets is not fixed, and when the merits from our good deeds expire, we return to earth. Those who live in the mode of goodness ascend to the higher planets, those in the mode of passion remain on earth, and those in the mode of ignorance get demoted to lower species and lower planets.
Goswami Tulsidas, a devotee of Lord Rama, touches on these issues in the above quoted verse. He accurately notes that there are countless living entities who call so many different places home. These destinations are the result of karma, or past fruitive activity driven by material desire. But for Tulsidas, who considers himself very poverty stricken, there is only one home: the name of Shri Rama. This wonderful verse nicely reveals Tulsidas’ devotion to Rama and his fervent desire to always remain in the Lord’s company, if not personally then at least in consciousness.
The different homes are the result of different work. In the human society, we see that some people live in palaces and mansions, while others can barely keep a roof over their head. The discrepancies relate to incomes, which are secured through work performed. Based on the results of action, a different abode is found, but the commonality in all the different homes is that the occupants nevertheless take rest. One person may sleep on a comfortable mattress that has different firmness levels that can be set electronically, while another person makes the bare ground their bed, but the activity of sleeping is still the same.
For Tulsidas, there is no concern paid to a higher or lower abode, to a better or worse resting cushion. His only desire is to be with Rama, who, as the Supreme Lord, is the best friend of every living entity. Whether he ascends to the heavenly realm or takes birth in the hellish region is of no concern to Tulsidas. Rather, if he is able to regularly chant the holy names of the Lord, such as those found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, he will call any place home.
This is not just blind sentiment or an over-exaggeration of affectionate feelings on the part of the poet. This verse reveals a technique that can be utilized by any person. The name of the Lord fully represents His forms, pastimes and qualities. By regularly reciting the name of Rama, we get consciousness of God’s divine activities performed on this earth many thousands of years ago. Sita Devi, Rama’s wife, immediately comes to mind, and her level of devotion and dedication to Rama are simultaneously appreciated. With Rama’s name comes Lakshmana, the faithful younger brother of the Lord who is always burning with a desire to protect his brother and see to His happiness. With Rama’s name comes Shri Hanuman, the powerful Vanara warrior whose only business in life is to think about the Lord and please Him with acts of devotion.
To make the holy name of Rama your only home is therefore a very good practice. Unlike the earth, sky, water and the different planets, the holy name does not ever go away. Nothing can dissolve the sound vibration representation of the Supreme Lord, especially when it plays constantly within the mind of the devotee. Bhakti-yoga, which is the ultimate system of spirituality, immediately burns up the results of karma, thus paving the way back to the spiritual land for the devotee. Just as Rama’s name is the abode for the wonderful Tulsidas, the poet’s beautiful writings and unmatched level of devotion and dedication to praising Rama forever remains our safe home, a place where the mind can always rest comfortably and enjoy the security that is devotion to God.
Living creatures in this world many there are,
Homes in earth, water and sky, in places near and far.
The abodes are results of past work performed,
From modes of nature are the body types formed.
Soul can travel from species low to high,
Can even descend from the heavenly sky.
From following karma there are many a destination,
Only one home for those choosing path of devotion.
With Shri Rama’s holy name does Tulsidas want to reside,
Is poor in life, but all is well with Rama by his side,
With Rama’s name comes Sita Devi His wife,
And Lakshmana, who makes protecting Rama his life.
Vanara hero also accompanies the holy name,
Shri Hanuman, devotion to Rama source of his fame.
Just as Rama’s name insulates one from grief,
Find shelter in Vaishnava’s words, from pains get relief.
Categories: dohavali 1-40