“You should either love Rama with all your heart or act in ways that you become dear to the Lord. Tulsi says that whichever route is preferred and is easier, you should choose.” (Dohavali, 78)
kai tohi lāgahiṁ rāma priya kai tū prabhu priya hohi |
du’i meṁ rūcai jo sugama so kībe tulasī tohi ||78||
In this verse Goswami Tulsidas addresses those who are not yet on the highest platform of understanding that comes from pure devotional service, bhakti-yoga. This is the difficulty the teacher faces, as the students are where they are because of their lack of knowledge in comparison to the teacher. If the students knew everything, there would be no reason to sit in the classroom. The good teacher evaluates their students to see exactly which piece of information should next be revealed to them, that vital knowledge necessary for their continued advancement.
Tulsidas presents two options. Either is fine according to him, though the two sides don’t seem to be the same. The poet obviously favors one over the other. That side is love and devotion to God the person, here addressed as Rama. From the life of Tulsidas, we know that this was his choice. He cannot be mistaken for an impersonalist since all he did was glorify the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as a person. As the impersonalist is known to do, they take statements here and there from a devotee and twist them to serve their own purpose, but any wise and honest person would admit that the author of the famed Ramacharitamanasa had only one desire: continued devotion to Rama. Tulsidas even specifically reveals as much in many verses from his writings.
The other side is to act in ways that one becomes dear to Prabhu, which is another name for Rama. In British government speak we come across the title of “lord.” This basically means having dominion over an area. Rama is obviously Prabhu since His jurisdiction spans the entire cosmos. Even for the universes we can’t see, Rama has complete control. He hears everything happening in every place, even those lacking a human presence. He does this through His expansion of the Supersoul, which resides in the heart.
adhibhūtaṁ kṣaro bhāvaḥ
adhiyajño ‘ham evātra
dehe deha-bhṛtāṁ vara
“Physical nature is known to be endlessly mutable. The universe is the cosmic form of the Supreme Lord, and I am that Lord represented as the Supersoul, dwelling in the heart of every embodied being.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.4)
For those practicing bhakti-yoga the two options presented here seem identical. If you love Rama, you will naturally act in ways that make you dear to Him. If you are dear to Rama, it means that you must love Him, no? Tulsidas here references the principles of religious practice, wherein one exhibits certain qualities and traits that are generally considered good. There is no need to speculate in this area, as Shri Rama elaborates on the good qualities in the Bhagavad-gita. Shri Krishna, the speaker of the Gita, is the same Rama, just appearing slightly differently. Krishna is not a prophet and neither is Rama. Krishna refers to Himself many times in the Bhagavad-gita, even showing the universal form, which is the vision of entirety, the complete whole packed into a single image, one so desperately desired by the faithless.
maitraḥ karuṇa eva ca
santuṣṭaḥ satataṁ yogī
yo mad-bhaktaḥ sa me priyaḥ
“One who is not envious but who is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor, who is free from false ego and equal both in happiness and distress, who is always satisfied and engaged in devotional service with determination and whose mind and intelligence are in agreement with Me – he is very dear to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.13-14)
If a person is free of envy, they are dear to Rama. To become free of envy, one should be kind to all living entities. Only due to the bitter feud from competition to enjoy more would a person envy another. That envy is a sign of ignorance. The person doesn’t know the inherent equality shared by all beings, who are spiritual at their core.
Another way to be dear to Rama is if a person does not think themselves a proprietor. The concepts of “I” and “Mine” rule our lives, but in fact we don’t really own anything. The material elements were here before we came and they will stay after we leave. We don’t even know what “I” means, as we falsely identify with the body from the time of birth.
If a person can stay equal in happiness and distress, that also makes them a candidate to be dear to Rama. The material world is one of duality. The extremes are birth and death, and in between there is fluctuation between opposites. The wise person knows the effect of time, how it erases both the good and the bad. Therefore they avoid getting overly excited when good things happen and they remain positive even during the bad times.
The most important thing mentioned by Krishna is to remain steady in the path of yoga. This is the first option given by Tulsidas. Therefore the Supreme Lord Himself subtly reveals that both paths eventually merge into one. The person who becomes dear to Rama is very wise, and through their wisdom they realize that loving God is the true boon to an existence. The person who loves Rama already acts in ways that make them dear to Him. Whichever path is easier to follow at the outset should be taken up, as any sincere effort made in devotional service gets rewarded by the supreme and original benefactor.
Paths of perfection there are two,
Pick whichever preferred by you.
Love and devotion to Prabhu one,
Other with sinful behavior none.
Since dear to Rama through qualities good,
Both paths eventually merging understood.
Whichever choice, at least one just take,
For most of this human birth to make.
Categories: dohavali 41-80