“The many past births you spoiled can be rectified right now, today, if you start chanting Shri Rama’s holy name and renounce bad association, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 22)
बिगरी जनम अनेक की सुधरै अबहीं आजु |
होहि राम को नाम जपु तुलसी तजि कुसमाजु ||
bigarī janama aneka kī sudharai abahīṃ āju |
hohi rāma ko nāma japu tulasī taji kusamāju ||
Friend1: Alright, I have some contradictory teachings for you.
Friend2: They contradict who, me?
Friend1: Two different teachings and it looks like they go against one another.
Friend2: Oh, okay.
Friend1: One says that you can’t get back time, no matter how much money you have. I think it’s from Chanakya Pandit, but something similar has been said by countless people.
“You only get one life. Don’t spoil your days, since you will never be able to relive them. It is unfortunate that youth is wasted on the young.”
Friend2: Right. Is there any doubt on the matter? Can you become a kid again? The same size, with the kind of body that doesn’t get affected by eating sugar, pizza, soda and the like. Can you have the same level of energy? Can you have the same lack of concern over the future?
Friend1: Nope. No way to get it back. It doesn’t matter how much money I have.
Friend2: There you have it. The idea is to make the most of your days. Try not to look back in regret later on.
Friend1: We have that point established. Here is the other side. Goswami Tulsidas says that the many past births you spoiled can be fixed today. Forget the standard line of “wait for the afterlife.” No dying and going to heaven here. Remedy the situation through chanting the name of Rama and giving up the association of people who are asat.
Friend2: Which means attached to the temporary. You could actually tie the two teachings together.
Friend1: How so?
Friend2: The people that end up regretting their past days, who spent the time in ways that didn’t bring a desired fruit – try to avoid their association.
Friend1: That’s kind of mean, isn’t it? What if I am one of those people? Stop hanging out with myself?
Friend2: The idea is to get good association. Be with those who are similarly interested in chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Friend1: Okay, that’s fine. Fair enough. Do you not see the contradiction, though?
Friend2: What’s that?
Friend1: If I can’t get time back, no matter how much I try, how is it possible to remedy the many past births that I spoiled? Isn’t that like going back in time?
Friend2: Ah ha! You have just further praised the bhakti path and the saints who follow it. Perhaps you did so without knowing.
Friend1: I don’t understand. The contradiction remains.
Friend2: You can’t go back and relive those experiences. That is true. Yet there is the ability to fix mistakes.
Friend1: How is that? Suppose I have this memory from this life that haunts me. I always think about it. It is a traumatic experience that I can’t let go of. Is chanting the holy names, engaging in the bhakti-life, going to send me back in time to act differently?
Friend2: No, but everything will be connected. Devotion to God is equivalent with Him. Chanting His names is being in His association. The truth is difficult to realize, even for someone who has been with the routine for many years. Yet the end result is guaranteed, since the Supreme Lord helps such a person.
ददामि बुद्धि-योगं तं
येन माम् उपयान्ति ते
dadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ taṁ
yena mām upayānti te
“To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.10)
Friend1: That’s great, but what about that past trauma?
Friend2: Don’t you see? Everything is connected. The supposed mistake becomes part of your larger life story. The bad helped to bring you to the good. Hence the bad becomes good. The past spoiled births were responsible for setting your straight.
Friend1: That is an interesting way to look at it.
Friend2: Consider the story of Nalakuvara and Manigriva described in the Bhagavata Purana. Those brothers were living in the heavenly realm and they committed an embarrassing mistake while in the presence of Narada Muni. They received a curse to remain as trees in Vrindavana for a long time.
Friend1: That certainly is a bad experience one will not soon forget.
Friend2: They were liberated from the curse after Shri Krishna, in the form of Damodara, knocked the trees down using a mortar. This means that the original mistake was actually the greatest blessing. That is what Goswami Tulsidas is saying. You can’t purchase expired time, but you can change the nature of past experiences. The reason is that Shri Krishna is the beginning, middle and end.
Many past mistakes made,
Through consequences dearly paid.
No use further dwelling upon,
Since expired that time gone.
But to change the nature a way,
Secret through holy names to say.
Then part of larger story’s victory,
Resolving teachings contradictory.