“Tulsi wonders how someone who can see what happens on the inside and out can ever oppose the One who gave mercy to the boatman by allowing him to wash His feet.” (Dohavali, 49)
tulasī jāke hoyagī aṃtara bāhira dī।thi |
so ki k।rpāluhi deigo keva।tapālahi pī।thi ||
It’s not difficult to see how someone whose intelligence is not yet sharpened can take to religion. It’s not difficult to understand why they would worship a higher power, with whichever name they choose to ascribe to Him. In the immature state of consciousness, the first inclination is to ask for things from God. He is like the best online retailer, with the greatest selection. It doesn’t cost much to get what you want; just pray. In this verse from the Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas mentions those with a little more intelligence, and how and why they should also worship God.
What is a sign of that maturity? How is such a person different from the one who looks to God to get things? Intelligence relates to vision. It is seeing things which are not obvious in the immediate vicinity. It is seeing the past and the future in addition to the present. What stands before us is easy to see. I see a person and I notice the color of their skin. I see a plate of food and decide what I like and what I don’t. I feel the enjoyment I have right now and focus on how to maintain it.
If I have some intelligence, based on these perceptions I can go out a little further. The color of the skin I see on the person standing before me indicates that they are of a certain race. Yet I’ve met so many people who had a different skin color. They behave similarly. They speak similarly. Therefore the color of the skin can’t be that important.
From seeing the plate of food in front of me, I think back to how it got there. The meat dish is from the flesh of an animal. That animal was killed, and most likely it was innocent. Therefore simply to satisfy the tongue an innocent life was taken.
From taking a peek into the future, I see that the enjoyment I feel right now will vanish. I see a living, enjoying body right now, but eventually the individual within that body will vanish. The egress is known as death, and it occurs for everything that is living in the present.
With the highest intelligence, there is the vision of the spirit soul. This soul lies within all creatures. It lives on eternally; nothing can kill it. You can only know of this soul’s properties through consulting authorized information. In simpler terms, someone has to teach you about the soul.
avināśi tu tad viddhiyena sarvam idaṁ tatamvināśam avyayasyāsyana kaścit kartum arhati
“Know that which pervades the entire body is indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.17)
The soul is on the inside and matter on the outside. Matter constantly shifts. Spirit instigates the shifts; without spirit matter cannot do anything. That which occurs on the outside yields results that are temporary. As the creation goes through cycles of manifestation and dissolution, so everything in it must follow the same course.
The person who sees spirit and matter, purusha and prakriti, sees everything in the same way. They do not discriminate based on race. They look to see the goodness of a person on the inside, and then they act accordingly.
Such a person should also worship God. Rather than take his word for it, Tulsidas points to a specific incident as proof. One time the Supreme Lord gave special mercy to a boatman. The Lord was on earth at the time in His incarnation of Shri Rama, the son of Maharaja Dasharatha. Rama was in the royal order, so He was well respected. He easily could have chosen to not associate with lower class people.
One time He was travelling through the forest with His wife Sita Devi. Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana was with them too. The trio needed to cross from one side to another and there was a boatman there to help. The group was ready to go, but the boatman had one stipulation. He insisted on washing Rama’s feet. Rama politely declined, but the boatman insisted.
The people living in the forest were considered less civilized. They were a lower class, both by birth and in general behavior. Yet Rama saw the love in the boatman’s heart. He did not care for the matter on the outside. Just as the wise person understands spirit and matter, Rama understood the innermost desires of the kind boatman, looking past his bodily features. Rama then gave special mercy by allowing the boatman to wash His feet.
If you visit a large temple featuring a deity of Rama or one of His non-different forms like Krishna or Vishnu, you will see a similar bathing ceremony. The feet of the deity are washed, and there is likely restricted access for this process. Not just anyone is allowed to do this. The restriction makes sense, as someone who doesn’t know Rama very well will not approach the process with the proper respect required. It is therefore considered a special mercy to be able to wash the Lord’s lotus feet.
Rama gave that mercy to a tribal boatman. From this we can understand that Rama should be dear to those who can see within and without. The least intelligent should approach God with their requests, because by going to Him they will gradually become purified. The most intelligent should similarly approach the Lord, since He is like them in understanding both the inside and out. He is the most favorable as well, not discriminating between intelligent and unintelligent, small or large, old or young. He looks simply for devotion, which the boatman had.
Less intelligent’s worship easy to understand,
For with rewards looking for helping hand.
But the wise folks what about,
Who can see both within and without?
Tulsi says they should worship too,
For Rama observing with the vision true.
Like with the boatman’s love in the heart,
Allowed feet to be washed before to depart.
Categories: dohavali 41-80