“Meditating on Shri Rama, who has Janaki to His left and Lakshmana to His right, brings all auspiciousness and is your wish-fulfilling tree, O Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 1)
राम बाम दिसि जानकी लखन दाहिनी ओर|
ध्यान सकल कल्यानमय सुरतरु तुलसी तोर ||
rāma bāma disi jānakī lakhana dāhinī ora|
dhyāna sakala kalyānamaya surataru tulasī tora ||
“Dear Mr. Saintly Person, I am a woman. This means that I cannot access sacred texts of our parampara. I am not even supposed to hear the Gayatri mantra, which is Divine in every way. I will not be offered the sacred thread, and being always dependent on someone else I feel like a second-class citizen.
“I feel helpless. What can be done? Perhaps I was sinful in a previous birth, but how can I progress forward now? I think the treatment is unfair. We should be considered spirit souls. Please shower your mercy upon us.”
“Dear Mr. Saintly Person, I am considered part of an inferior race. My people basically stay amongst themselves. They are not considered highly civilized or intelligent enough to be invited to a seat at the table of philosophy and esoteric discussion.
“Does this mean I am completely without hope? Is there no chance for advancement? I would like to know more about the Supreme Lord. I would like to study the science of self-realization, but who will teach me?”
“Dear Mr. Saintly Person, in my part of the world, our ethnic group has been brutalized for years. We have started to hide our allegiance. We would not be looked upon favorably if we were to reveal our choice in a specific savior.
“Can you help us? How can we practice the dharma we love when we are so oppressed? What hope is there for us in the future?”
4. Economic class
“Dear Mr. Saintly Person, we are poverty stricken. There is the saying that an empty sack cannot stand up straight. We are the embodiment of empty, in terms of net worth. We rely upon the charity of others in order to eat properly. Our house could topple over any day, with a strong enough wind.
“What can you do for us? Can you help us achieve success in this life? How can we overcome the obstacles in our way?”
“Dear Mr. Saintly Person, I am told that based on my birth I am a low person. I have no hope of attaining anything meaningful in this lifetime. I should stay amongst my people. I should not think of imitating the behavior of the higher castes.
“How will we learn the proper way? Who will teach us, when we are so ostracized? How can we access the timeless wisdom of the Vedic tradition, when we are not allowed to even approach a temple environment?”
A person may question what good a Vaishnava saint has done for society, as a whole. Especially considering the clashes that occur, dating back to the beginning of recorded history, what remedies have been put forward? How has devotional service, bhakti-yoga, benefitted those who need help the most? This is the accusation, at least.
To begin, there is a flaw in the premise. Every person in the conditioned state is suffering. The condition begins with birth itself. Birth causes untold suffering. With birth, there must be death. With a beginning, there is an end. With acceptance, there is rejection. With anticipation and hope, there is sadness and despair.
Within the illusion, there is a struggle for existence. One group tries to outperform the other. One class tries to gain an advantage over another. One political party rises to power and attempts to eliminate any opposition, moving forward.
There are innocent victims caught in the middle. Through no fault of their own, based on the circumstances at birth, they suffer discrimination, bigotry, and suppression of expression and desires.
The Vaishnava saint is the most liberal, in this regard. They offer the opportunity for true escape from the suffering. The cause of distress is birth, and the cause of birth is aversion to serving the Divine, in a selfless spirit.
It may be seen that within a particular community, there is a prohibition on women ascending the various ashramas of life. They might not be recognized in formal renunciation, sannyasa, for instance. Maybe they are taught from birth to avoid reading the Vedas, from consulting Sanskrit works directly.
The Vaishnava saint might put forth songs and literature in the common vernacular of the time. This bypasses the prohibition. A woman can read any of the works of Goswami Tulsidas, for instance. This is direct liberation. The gift is a tool by which a person can liberate themselves.
The same holds true for prohibitions based on caste by birth or societal status based on earning potential. A person can meditate on the Supreme Lord as Shri Rama, who has Lakshmana and Sita Devi on either side of Him.
Such meditation is enough to rescue a person from the cycle of birth and death. There is every kind of auspiciousness, kalyana. The Vaishnava saint worships in such a way on their own. They ask others to follow suit.
If a person cannot meditate, they can sing. They can repeat mantras. If they cannot memorize a specific sequence of words, they can at least repeat the name of Rama. This name has liberated countless souls throughout history.
सबरी गीध सुसेवकनि सुगति दीन्हि रघुनाथ |
नाम उधारे अमित खल बेद बिदित गुन गाथ ||
sabarī gīdha susevakani sugati dīnhi raghunātha |
nāma udhāre amita khala beda bidita guna gātha ||
“Shri Rama personally gave liberation to Shabari, the vulture Jatayu and those who performed wonderful devotional service, whereas the holy name has liberated countless wretches; a fact well-established in the Vedas, which sing of its glories.” (Dohavali, 32)
Under this assessment, no one has done more to liberate the oppressed than the Vaishnava saints. Superior to gaining access to the workforce in karma, to rising to political power, or to being allowed to speak in public is the direct connection with the Supreme Consciousness. This connection is known as yoga, and every individual soul is equally eligible for establishing the link.
Reading shastra to prevent,
Not possible society’s ascent.
Based on gender discrimination,
How possible then liberation?
Vaishnava saint finding a way,
For rescuing countless today.
Through meditating on image one,
Or repeating name for mukti won.
Categories: the five