You’ve Got The Touchstone

[Lord Shiva]“With folded hands Tulsi asks Lord Shiva for the blessing that birth after birth he belong only to Rama, be related to Him, have love for Him and receive love from Him.” (Dohavali, 89)

nāto nāte rāma ke rāma sanehum̐ sanehu |
tulasī mām̐gata jori kara janama janama siva dehu ||89||

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If you worship Lord Shiva, can you get devotion? The highest reward according to the followers of the bhakti tradition is bhakti itself. Everything else will eventually fade. You can’t bring fame with you to a future life. In this lifetime you can transfer your bank balance from one institution to another, but at the time of death the money doesn’t carry forward. It doesn’t roll over into the next life.

Bhakti is for lifetime after lifetime. The object of devotional practices protects the investment of the devotee. The benediction can come from any devotee, regardless of their temporary position. Lord Shiva is in a high position of power. He rules over the material mode of darkness, or ignorance. His worshipers are thus usually in that mode; they are given the chance to advance in consciousness through Mahadeva’s association. Lord Shiva also destroys the universe at the appropriate time.

He can also grant devotion. This was shown one time when a brahmana approached the great god to receive the best benediction. There wasn’t anything specific mentioned. In the case of those in the modes of passion and ignorance, Lord Shiva grants specific things that they ask for. As an example, one time an asura name Vrika asked for the benediction to be able to kill anyone simply by touching their head. Lord Shiva granted this boon, not caring about how it would be used.

This particular brahmana simply asked for whatever would be considered the best benediction. Lord Shiva advised him to seek out Sanatana Gosvami, who is a famous saint of the Vaishnava tradition. Sanatana Gosvami was living like a true sannyasi at the time, with little in his possession. When the brahmana approached him, Sanatana advised him to take a touchstone. This would magically turn iron into gold. It wasn’t a single use item, either. In fact, there is nothing so magical about it, as the transformation is simply a shifting of the material elements. Those elements represent the inferior energy of God.

“The brahmana said, ‘Yes, sir. Lord Shiva has sent me to you for the best benediction.’ Then Sanatana Gosvami asked him to throw the touchstone in the water nearby and then come back. The poor brahmana did so, and when he returned, Sanatana Gosvami initiated him with the Hare Krishna mantra.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.7.6 Purport)

[Sanatana Gosvami]On the way towards retrieving the touchstone, the brahmana had a thought. “If this chintamani is so important, why isn’t Sanatana keeping it for himself? There must be something of greater value in his possession.” Returning to the sannyasi, the brahmana was then given the true highest benediction, initiation into the bhakti tradition. Thus through Lord Shiva the brahmana got the real touchstone, which turned his materialistic ways into purity in consciousness.

In the above referenced verse from the Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas approaches the same Mahadeva. He doesn’t ask for anything material. He asks that in birth after birth he have pure devotion to Rama, who is the object of bhakti. That pure devotion is defined as belonging only to Rama, having relations only with Him, giving love to Him and receiving love from Him. The poet already had these things in his life, as he renounced everything and spent every moment in bhakti. He kindly asked Lord Shiva to ensure that the same existed in the future. This request is not necessary, but it shows that Lord Shiva has the power and the touch to grant the highest reward of an existence.

[Lord Shiva]Despite the majority of his worshipers seeking material rewards, when a person is wise enough to seek out the husband of Uma for something better, they get it. Lord Shiva does not lie to them. He has nothing to gain from hiding the path of devotion that he himself is firmly fixed in. Despite dutifully carrying out the role assigned to him by Rama, Lord Shiva is untouched. He is not tainted by material desires, and for this reason he is eligible to lead one of the four principal bhakti sampradayas, or disciplic successions, in the modern age. The prayer of Tulsidas gives evidence as to why Mahadeva is known as the greatest Vaishnava.

In Closing:

On Rama’s feet in meditative state,

Of all Vaishnavas, Shiva the most great.

When once asking for benediction the best,

Sent to Sanatana, passing touchstone’s test.

Through his grace, inner devotion to arise,

Follows it himself, to others nothing to hide.

Tulsi asking for pure love, no material gain,

Approaching Uma’s husband, sure to maintain.

Categories: dohavali 81-120

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