The Charitra Mala

[Shri Rama with family]“The loveable son of the king of Koshala, Dasharatha, in the beautiful royal courtyard is crawling on His hands in the childhood form, moving in such a way with His activities are like a garland of every good quality and auspiciousness.” (Dohavali, 119)

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rāja ajira rājata rucira kosalapālaka bāla |
jānu pāni cara carita bara saguna sumagaṃla māla ||

People practicing bhakti-yoga in this age of Kali take one particular routine very seriously. The chanting of the holy names on a japa mala: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

The mala is a string of beads, one hundred and eight in total. There is a head bead, on which the mantra is not chanted. Otherwise, the practice is to say the specific mantra one time per bead, moving around in a circle. This is considered one round of chanting japa. With further progression, more rounds are chanted.

[japa mala]The mantra is the important factor, as it is not an ordinary sound. The words contained within directly represent the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The indirect representation is everything material. That is to say the sky, the earth, the trees, the many living creatures – when viewed they externally give an idea of God’s existence, but not direct interaction.

Indirect association brings inferior results. Namely, there is continued residence in the material world, where the Almighty continues to be known only indirectly. The holy names are for a superior way of living. In fact, through such interaction there is a higher taste, one that is so superior that previous attachments are left behind without much difficulty.

“The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.59)

Each name in the mantra is important, especially to hear. Even if a person does not know much about God or is not so interested at the moment in escaping material life, the potency from the sound can do wonders. If chanted accidentally, with ill intent, or without much faith and attention, the holy names are still so powerful that they can deliver the mind; hence the word “mantra.”

In the Dohavali of Goswami Tulsidas there is reference to a garland of auspiciousness. Something physical, like a collection of plucked flowers, turning into something beyond the temporary nature of the world. Mangala, auspiciousness, is for the benefit of the individual, both in the short and long terms.

Here the mangala is with respect to Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord in an incarnation form. The garland of auspiciousness consists of the childhood play of Rama, while in the royal courtyard. He has appeared as the son of the king, Dasharatha, who rules over the area known as Koshala.

Though Divine, Rama crawls on all fours, with His limbs becoming dirty. As first-time parents can spend hours just staring at their newborn child, so the devotees can contemplate the movements of the child Rama. The difference is that they can remember these activities for an entire lifetime and into future ones, as well.

The character and activities, charitra, form a sort of mala. As one chants the holy names as part of their daily routine, they can remember such deeds on each bead. There is no offense, as the entire aim of bhakti-yoga is to increase consciousness of the Almighty. The more one is conscious of Him, the better off they will be going forward.

[Shri Rama with family]Bhakti is beyond this world, so there is no limit to the bliss that can be experienced. Watching Rama in the royal courtyard and remembering His play afterwards are activities for the liberated souls, as well; those who have already escaped the cycle of birth and death. From beginning to end Rama’s direct association is auspicious.

In Closing:

Material world only indirect,

Experience from holy names direct.

Daily routing chanting a round,

Mind delivered through sacred sound.

Charitra of Rama in similar way,

In royal courtyard His play.

Of childhood form, auspiciousness creating,

From young to old, to all relating.

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Categories: dohavali 81-120

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