When Friends Turn To Snakes

[Rama's lotus feet]“Tulsi says that one who has love for Rama should be friendly towards friends, renounce enmity with enemies, and be easy-going, simple in nature, quiet, and equally disposed towards all.“ (Dohavali, 93)

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hita soṃ hita, rati rāma soṃ, ripu soṃ baira bihāu |
udāsīna saba soṃ sarala tulasī sahaja subhāu ||

Fink. Dirt-bag. Jerk. Snake. Someone you called a friend for so long has turned on you. It happened suddenly. You weren’t expecting it. They prioritized a physical object over your association. They told you, “No offense,” as if that means anything. A person tells you that they respect the country and everyone that lives in it, yet they refer to a certain segment of people as racists, without knowing each individual personally. They refuse to honor the flag of the nation in which they live, but when they go overseas they immediately stand up during a similar ceremony.

The changing of the tides is not limited to the oceans. There are ups and downs in a material existence. A friend can become a foe and vice versa. One second there is happiness and the next tremendous sadness. The beginning and end are themselves polar opposite situations: birth and death. The saint Tulsidas says that a person who has love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead remains steady throughout.

He gives specifics on how that disposition manifests. The cause is the most important. There is rati, which means love. This is distinguished from kama, which is lust. We say we love someone that is a paramour, but that affection is known to shift. Otherwise, things like divorce and breakups wouldn’t exist.

[Rama's lotus feet]Genuine rati can only be extended to the Supreme Lord, who in this case is referred to as Rama. This is the manifestation of choice, the ishta-deva, of Tulsidas. It is not that Rama is just a Hindu god. He is the singular Deity manifesting in a specific way, appearing on earth in consideration of time and circumstance. His transcendental features are described in Vedic texts like the Ramayana and Puranas.

Rati for Rama means devotional service. Every good quality emerges as a result; a separate endeavor is not required. In case there is some confusion, some doubt as to what the qualities should be, Tulsidas lists a few.

A devotee of Rama should be friendly towards friends. This only makes sense. They have done some good for me. They have favored me for some reason, and I should respond in kind. Shri Rama Himself behaved this way towards friends like Sugriva and Vibhishana.

A devotee of Rama should renounce enmity towards enemies. Again, Rama is the ideal example. The vile Ravana, the king of Lanka, stole Rama’s wife Sita in secret and tortured her for many months. When Rama won her back, killing Ravana in a fair fight, there was no lasting enmity. Rama did not obsess over the incident afterwards. He even directed Ravana’s brother Vibhishana to perform the funeral rites for the vanquished king.

A devotee of Rama should be easy-going, simple in nature and quiet. Easy-going means that when things aren’t favorable for you, there is no deviation from the path of devotion. Simple in nature means that there are no complicated requirements for living. Rock stars are well-known for making extraordinary requests in the backstage riders they give to venues hosting concerts. Devotees don’t need much, as they are satisfied in simply chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Quiet here does not mean complete silence. A devotee does not speak nonsense. They do not talk simply for the sake of talking. When they speak, it is about Rama, or God. It is about devotional service, the science of self-realization, and the need for breaking free of the cycle of birth and death. Indeed, if Tulsidas were completely silent such instruction from the Dohavali would never have been produced.

[Prahlada Maharaja]One person who meets the qualifications given above is Prahlada Maharaja. His disposition was tested to the extreme. The father, Hiranyakashipu, turned into a violent adversary. The father did not like the devotion to God seen in the child. He decided Prahlada needed to be killed. A snake-like person himself, Hiranyakashipu fed Prahlada to snakes, but there was no effect. Prahlada survived, and eventually Rama appeared on the scene in the amazing form of Narasimhadeva, tearing the king apart from the waist. Despite the atrocities committed, Prahlada did not hold a grudge. This was due to his rati.

In Closing:

Friendly to be towards a friend,

Since in past help to lend.

Their sins only to denounce,

Enmity with enemies to renounce.

Like with Prahlada Maharaja seeing,

Changed not when father like snake being.

Who with different attempts tried to kill,

Steady in mind, son’s heart with rati filled.

Categories: dohavali 81-120

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