A Family Affair

[Rama's lotus feet]“The tongue and its taste are the husband and wife, the teeth are the relatives, and the mouth is the beautiful home. Lord Shiva’s cherished syllables [Ra + ma] are the children, and natural love for them is the wealth, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 24)

daṃpati rasa rasana parijana badana sugeha |
tulasī hara hita barana sisu saṃpati sahaja saneha ||

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Families can drive us crazy, no? Since they know us so well, they don’t keep too much respect for us. While to the outside world we may be considered good, well-behaved, quiet and reliable, to our family we are never good enough. “Why didn’t you do this for me? Why did you forget that? Why are you spending so much time there?” Yet the support of the family is like no other, and so the comfort we feel in their company cannot be matched. Though it may seem otherwise at the outset, in spiritual life you have the support of family as well. You’re never forced to go it alone, for even if the whole world turns against you at least you have the holy name to hold on to for support.

The love of a close family member doesn’t have to be questioned. Even if you don’t speak to such a person every single day, even if they don’t know everything about what’s going on in your life, they are there for the important moments. If you are in trouble, they will arrive on the scene quickly. You don’t have to wonder what they are thinking. You know that they love you and that you love them. In this way the relationship is unique; no other can compare.

[Valmiki writing the Ramayana]One of the best homes for the spiritually conscious mind is the Ramayana, an ancient Sanskrit text that is mistaken for an epic story by the less intelligent. To be conscious of spiritual life means to take an interest in the beyond, what comes after the present life. Spirit transcends everything that we see right now. Prior to our birth life existed on earth. We know this because we see people being born all the time. We know that things happened before they emerged from the womb. And the funeral experience tells us that life continues after someone dies. Everyone moves on, including the individual who has departed.

Where they go, why the leave, and the circumstances of their next life form the subject matter of spirituality. A more scientific term to describe this study is “self-realization.” Who am I? Why am I here? Why am I suffering all the time? Why am I so afraid of death? Why do I have to die? What am I supposed to do with my life? More than just a blind faith reserved for those who don’t know any better, spiritual life is meant to lead to a firm realization, something that you believe in as much as the law of gravity.

There are different ways to get this realization. You can study the difference between matter and spirit, prakriti and purusha. You can look for Brahman, the unqualified spirit that is distinct from the changing material energy. You can read books on Vedanta and try to remain consciously aware of the distinction. Another way to get this realization is to meditate. Find an isolated area, sit in a specific posture, breathe in a certain way, and simply block out the effects of the senses. Another way is to work with detachment. Do your work as you normally would, but sacrifice the results of that work. Instead of buying the latest Mercedes-Benz model, donate your hard-earned money towards a society that promulgates self-realization to those who are interested.

The simplest method for self-realization is hearing. Sacrifice time for hearing about the difference between matter and spirit. As that isn’t so interesting a topic, lend your ears to narration of the glories and activities of the Supreme Lord, the qualified spiritual energy. He is the source of the unqualified, and to Him there are no distinctions. He appears in a visible form from time to time and the wise poets record His activities in a way that so many others may benefit.

[Lord Rama]The Ramayana is one such work of documentation. Composed by the poet Valmiki, it tells of the life of Shri Ramachandra, the Supreme Lord in a special incarnation form. Just from hearing the Ramayana in the right mood, you become aware of your spiritual nature, your true identity. In the Ramayana you find tremendous family support. Sure, there is infighting as well. Momentarily falling prey to jealousy, a wife bans her husband’s favorite son from the kingdom for fourteen years. Rama doesn’t deserve this, but He accepts the punishment regardless.

Rama’s wife Sita refuses to allow Him to leave and wander alone. The same goes for Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana. Thus we see that God is always supported. There is the goddess of fortune and the servitor-god, who is the first expansion from the original Supreme Lord. Then Rama gets so much support while living in the wilderness. The sages happily accept His visits to their homes. Their life of asceticism bears fruit when they get the blessing of Rama’s association. Thus even though they lived alone, they never were. They always had God with them, who then manifest before them in one of His most beautiful forms.

When Rama needs help later on, He gets it from forest-dwelling monkeys. There are thousands of them, and they are led by the king Sugriva. Sugriva’s chief minister is Hanuman, who is today famous for his devotion. Hanuman is part of Rama’s family, even though appearing in a different race of creatures. There is infighting in the kingdom of Lanka, where the younger brother Vibhishana disagrees with the sinful ways of his elder brother Ravana. Sugriva has a mortal feud with his brother Vali. Both Sugriva and Vibhishana take Rama to be their primary family member, and so they are never alone despite being ostracized from their respective communities.

[Celebrating Rama's coronation in Ayodhya]And so one who adopts spiritual life in earnest is never alone. They have Rama for support, along with His large family. The entire family of the seeker of self-realization can accept the same shelter. The same support that existed previously can be used for helping the seeker advance in consciousness. The family can help to maintain the devotional culture, whose backbone is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In the case that the family is not supportive, know that Rama’s name alone suffices for support. As Goswami Tulsidas so nicely states in his Dohavali, the mouth can be considered the home, the tongue and the taste the parents, and the two syllables in Rama’s name the children. This lovely home is protected for lifetime after lifetime by a very large extended family, with Sita and Rama at the head.

In Closing:

If by devotional path inspired,

To go it alone not required.


To seeker same family can support,

Helping in transcendental home transport.


Even without outside help any,

Know that spiritual family members many.


The mouth make your cherished home,

And Rama’s name like children your own.


Categories: dohavali 1-40

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