“When remembering Shri Rama, while fighting in a war, while paying obeisance to the guru’s feet – those who on these occasions do not feel a thrill in the body are essentially lifeless, though living in this world, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 42)
rāmahi sumirata rana bhirata deta parata guru pāya’ |
tulasī jinhahi na pulaka tanu te jaga jīvata jāya’ ||
It all came down to Him. Everyone else had done their part. They were valiant. They were not afraid. They took their strength from Him. They knew that in the worst case He would defend them. He was their back up, though He was their leader too. He had been fighting the whole time, but now at the end He was needed to finish the job. On the occasion of Dussehra we celebrate that hero’s march towards the frontlines, where He fulfilled the destiny that was set into motion many years prior.
Imagine this situation. Your favorite player in a particular sport has reached the semifinals of a tournament. You are happy because they are only two rounds away from victory. Sports is your escape from real life. Playing it is fun, but you seem to get even more enjoyment from watching it. Naturally you have your favorites and those whom you don’t like. You invest total emotion in sports and you only get hurt when your favorites lose. Even then, after a few days you forget about it.
With this particular player, there is a lot to defend. He is the best in the world. He is on pace to be labeled the greatest of all time. There is only one problem. There is another player he can’t seem to beat. Otherwise, this other player isn’t as good. They don’t have as much to defend. This rival player has also made the semifinals. You’re afraid of his winning and meeting your favorite in the final. You don’t want that to happen. You would rather your favorite lose in the semifinals than have to play against their rival in the final.
Yet in interviews your favorite player says that he is not afraid. He is actually looking forward to such a match up, because that would allow him revenge. Indeed, this is the mentality of the warrior. In his Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas says that the warrior is supposed to feel a thrill in their body when they step onto the battlefield. If this thrill is missing, they are essentially lifeless.
The same thrill is there in the disciple who pays obeisance to the guru. The bona fide guru is the guide on spiritual matters. The spiritual is more important than the material. We don’t really need a guide for the material. Sure, we can pay lots of money for people to prepare us for the entrance exam for college or medical school, but in the broader perspective we’re just finding different ways to eat, sleep, mate and defend. Worst case we could grab the fruits that fall from trees and take shelter in a cave. We don’t need a guide to figure out how to do this.
The spiritual is more important because it is who we really are. We are spirit at the core, but we can’t see spirit, at least not with the eyes conditioned by a material existence. Therefore the guru provides instruction of the most value. There is only one price to pay: humility. This involves relinquishing our false ego, acknowledging with sincerity that someone else is superior to us.
Just like the warrior on the battlefield, the disciple who humbly submits before the guru’s feet is not afraid to lose. They are not afraid of missing out on material enjoyment because they know that the human being has a higher purpose. They know that the guru can reveal this purpose, and so they feel a thrill when approaching him. They are going after victory in the human life, and that victory will feel much better than the safety of not trying at all and remaining bound to the cycle of birth and death.
The guru gives information about the spiritual in various ways. He instructs that we are not our body, that we are spirit soul at the foundational level. Then he teaches us about the Supreme Spirit. This personality is like us, but different as well. He has a body too, but it is transcendental. His body also takes to actions, but the results are a little different.
Dussehra is one instance where we can see the difference. The Supreme Lord came to this earth in His incarnation of Shri Rama many thousands of years ago. In this beautiful form He accepts the role of defender of the innocent. You can be a defender but never be called into action. This could have been the case with Rama, but as mentioned before a warrior feels a thrill when rushing onto the battlefield. As God, Rama too sometimes enjoys a good fight. Conflict is not possible in the spiritual realm, so from time to time the Lord descends to this earth and brings His closest associates with Him to play the antagonists.
The associates are like God, but they are not Him completely. The evil Ravana is originally one of the doorkeepers in the Vaikuntha realm, the spiritual land free of anxieties. Ravana was a tremendous fighter. No one could defeat him. Thinking he was invincible, he once stole Rama’s wife Sita from the forest of Dandaka. Rama and an army of forest-dwellers, who were monkey-like, marched towards Ravana’s home in Lanka to rescue Sita.
Rama’s army fought valiantly, but in the end it was up to Rama to defeat Ravana. As God, Rama does not lose. His fighting ability is unlike anyone else’s. Though looking like a mere mortal, a beautiful one at that, He can fight effortlessly and defeat those who are thought to be invincible. The day that Rama finally killed Ravana on the battlefield has since been celebrated annually as the holiday known as Dussehra.
Remembering that incident also brings a thrill to the body. Those who are missing this thrill are essentially lifeless, says Tulsidas. This human life is meant for the ultimate victory of merging into the eternal occupation of devotional service, bhakti-yoga. The warrior is not afraid to lose, and so they feel a thrill on the battlefield. The disciple takes all risk in surrendering before the guru, and so they too feel a thrill. The ultimate thrill comes from remembering Rama in full surrender. That is the real purpose to having a life. Dussehra reminds us of this.
To enter final battle to choose,
Shri Rama never afraid to lose.
On battlefield feeling a thrill,
Victory’s sounds soon the air to fill.
Thrill when remembering should be,
Like when disciple guru’s feet to see.
Dussehra of life’s meaning reminding,
Highest bliss in bhakti-yoga finding.