“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’ ||
A human being feels emotion. This is one of the effects of being alive. It would be great sometimes to shut off the outside world. If you’re an athlete visiting an opponent’s city, you will likely get jeered. The crowd will shout obscenities towards you; they will not want you to succeed. Blocking out those sounds will help you to be successful. It is difficult, of course, as the human being has emotions. It reacts to what is around them. Here Tulsidas says that certain emotional responses are only natural, and if they are missing it’s as if the person is not even living.
Goswami Tulsidas is known to be a spiritual person. His title means that he is in control of his senses. This is difficult to do; by default the senses control us. We know that if we eat too much we will gain weight, yet we continue to eat so much anyway. We know that if we don’t get to sleep on time, we will be tired the next day. Yet we still stay awake late into the night watching television.
“Goswami” means one who has mastered the senses. They keep the senses in check in order to better serve God. And how does that service take place? With Tulsidas, his given name means “servant of tulasi.” Tulasi is the goddess of devotion appearing before us in the form of a plant. So the personality mentioned here has mastered their senses and used their controlled behavior to constantly worship a plant. Seems a little silly to the outsider, but in fact this is all it takes to achieve perfection in life.
What is the result of that perfection? A thrill. The thrill is in happiness; it gives renewed excitement. How can we understand what that thrill is like? Tulsidas helps us. He says to think of the warrior on the battlefield. There has to be a thrill within the body. The reason is that death can come at any moment for the soldier. There is heightened awareness because they are fighting for their life. They have to attack the enemy and defeat them before they are defeated. If you don’t feel a thrill during this time, it means that you’re not really a soldier.
Tulsidas says the same thrill should come when offering obeisance to the feet of the guru. There is so much instruction from this one comparison. The thrill is not from sitting with the guru at an equal level. It is not from looking at the guru and trying to win a staring contest. It is not from arguing with the spiritual master in the hopes of defeating their logic. The thrill comes from paying full respect to the guru’s feet. The thrill comes when the gesture is genuine. The guru has the power to lift us from darkness, and this humble submission is the first step in attaining that elevation.
tad viddhi praṇipātenaparipraśnena sevayāupadekṣyanti te jñānaṁjñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ
“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)
The same thrill should come from remembering Rama. He is God, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The thrill is actually greater when remembering Him, but there is no way for us to compare the interaction to anything we’ve experienced. The thrill is great because Rama is great. He is kind, sweet, gentle, always available, and incredibly merciful. He is also strong, brave, perseverant, and fully capable. He is a fighter Himself, assuming the role when the time calls for it. He is God with qualities. In our ignorance we speculate what God may or may not be. We wonder what He looks like and what He wants from us. The incarnation of Rama on earth removes those doubts. Though Rama also comes as Krishna, Vishnu and other avataras, the qualities do not change. God is sach-chid-ananda, eternally blissful and knowledgeable.
So what if we don’t feel that thrill right now when remembering Rama? Does it mean we are dead inside? Does it mean we are lacking emotion? It means that our life’s purpose isn’t yet fulfilled. Thankfully the guru can show us the way. They can instill in us the discipline necessary to always chant Rama’s names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. They can help us to get rid of our bad habits, to start controlling our senses. Through the routine established in bhakti-yoga, we can know how, when and what to remember with respect to Rama. Therefore the guru can perform the greatest miracle, bringing life to the lifeless.
When mind with thoughts of Rama to fill,
Naturally, without effort, should feel a thrill.
Like soldier when on battlefield rushing,
Or disciple the guru’s feet touching.
Though reaction right now there is not,
Still, without hope we are not.
Servant of Shri Rama find,
And learn how to keep Lord in mind.
Through passing on instructions timeless,
Guru to give life to the lifeless.
Categories: dohavali 41-80