“Shri Rama’s holy name eliminates all misfortunes and sins and brings all auspiciousness in every way. This is why Lord Shiva always chants it and the Vedas and Puranas sing of its glories.” (Dohavali, 35)
harana amangala agha akhila karana sakala kalyāna |
rāmanāma nita kahata hara gāvata beda purāna ||
“Take my word for it. Trust me; I know what I’m doing. I won’t disappoint you; just follow what I’m saying.” No matter how sincere these recommendations may be, the human being will be hesitant to trust someone simply on their word, their opinions and sentiments relating to a particular subject. Someone who has helped us in the past and proven their ability to deliver worthy recommendations may be more trusted than others, but when speaking about important topics like the meaning to life, what actions should be taken and which ones should be avoided, and the potency of a particular formula, the truths are presented to a wide audience, as the more important the subject matter the larger scope of applicability the statements will have. When presented with personal dealings and problems, the one-on-one advice applies to a specific situation, but when a piece of information will be universally beneficial, it is distributed to as many people as possible. Since the human being will naturally be skeptical of advice coming from foreign sources, the givers of information, despite their full assuredness and confidence in their own views, will nevertheless point to authority figures to substantiate their claims. A similar tact is followed by Goswami Tulsidas in the above quoted verse from his Dohavali.
Tulsidas recommends that one chant the holy name of Lord Rama and be delivered from all sinful reactions and distresses. The name of Rama removes or eliminates all amangala, or misfortunes, and agha, or sins. Favorable and unfavorable fortunes are the result of past work. This isn’t very difficult to understand, for if we do something the wrong way a negative reaction follows. For instance, if we fill up the gasoline tank in the car with water instead of the proper grade of gasoline, there will be problems. If the human being ingests too much alcohol in a short period of time, health problems, the most obvious of which is inebriation, subsequently follow.
The holy name of the Lord is so powerful that it removes all misfortunes, especially as they relate to the reactions of karma. It is to be understood that one who chants the holy name with firm faith and love starts with a clean slate in karma. At every second we are reaping the rewards and punishments of past work, even if we are unaware of it. Though the results are sometimes unseen and indefinite in their manifestation, it is true that no result can occur without some initial action. That action may have been taken in this lifetime or in a previous one, but nevertheless some impetus was there. This also explains why the Supreme Lord is described as sarva-karana-karanam, or the cause of all causes. At the root of all action and reaction is God, who started everything off with the creation and its population of creatures.
It would make sense then that if we chant a sound vibration that addresses the cause of all causes, the negative reactions coming our way will immediately be removed. This isn’t a promise of some magical or imaginary benediction. We can’t chant the name of Rama and expect that negative reactions won’t occur with other activities. While chanting the name of Rama if we prick our skin with a pin, it will most certainly hurt. When the promise is made for all misfortunes being removed, it applies to past work and the future fortunes of the soul, for karma does not affect the devotee whose mind has been turned over to the spiritual world, the land where matter in its inhibiting form does not exist.
Rama is more than just an eliminator, someone to remove negative aspects from life. If there is an incessant beeping sound that is bothering us, simply turning it off will not provide any tangible benefit. Once the botheration leaves, the mind is still left to contemplate over what it wants and lament over what it doesn’t have. The name of Rama is two-sided; in addition to removing sins and misfortunes it also brings all good fortune and auspiciousness. The name of Rama represents the Supreme Lord’s incarnation, or avatara, of Lord Ramachandra, who appeared on this earth many thousands of years ago during the Treta Yuga. Rama is non-different from Bhagavan, so He possesses the qualities of beauty, wealth, strength, fame, renunciation and wisdom simultaneously and to the fullest degree. The name connects with Rama, so by chanting it one is in the association of the most fortunate living entity. Therefore how could any condition besides universal auspiciousness be received by those who regularly think of the Lord?
The blind sentimentalist and neophyte spiritualist following a different spiritual tradition will claim that Rama is simply a man-made god, a worshipable figure concocted by those who are destined for hell. These accusations are certainly humorous to encounter, because they come from those who know nothing about the position of the soul, the workings of matter, the influence of time and nature, the need for changing consciousness, the presence of spirit within forms other than human beings, and a host of other basic concepts understood by even the least knowledgeable student of the Vedas. The central argument of the ardent sectarian is that anyone who doesn’t acknowledge their particular worshipable figure will be doomed in the afterlife.
The prescriptions accompanying these sentiments logically don’t make sense. Rather, through their fear mongering and threats, the radicals put forth a proposition that would certainly attract anyone who wasn’t thinking properly. “Wait a second, so if I acknowledge the supremacy of this one person, I can go on committing as many sins as I want and not suffer in the afterlife? Such and such person will absolve me of all my sins if I simply acknowledge His supremacy and His position as being God? I can go on killing as many animals as I want, engaging in debauchery, lying, cheating, stealing, etc. and I won’t have to suffer simply because I professed an allegiance of faith? Sign me up!”
A declaration of allegiance is certainly nice, and as Tulsidas says the Supreme Lord is capable of removing all negative reactions, but if there is to be real love and devotion to God, should not behavior be altered? This is why the chanting of the holy name is the central aspect of any bona fide religion. Chanting alters consciousness to the point where the devotee is always thinking of their beloved. If there are constant thoughts flowing to the spiritual world, desires will shift to the point where the pleasure of the Supreme Lord is sought out without fail. With our friends and family, the primary benediction they want from us is our association. Since God has everything, there is nothing we can really give Him in terms of a gift. What He wants more than anything else is our time; and this is precisely what chanting the holy names of the Lord, especially those found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, accomplishes.
It shouldn’t surprise us at all then that when we spend time with God, we gain insulation from bad fortune and receive everything favorable in life. If we want to spend time with God, He, as the cause of all causes, will ensure that circumstances are favorable for the continuation of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. There have been countless incidents in history where the obstructions placed in the path of the lovers of God have been removed by the Lord Himself. The most auspicious condition, kalyana, is one where chanting can continue, as recitation of the name brings remembrance, which is the key ingredient in shaping consciousness for the better. Experiences and enjoyments pass by very quickly, but consciousness remains for a much longer time. Through a properly situated consciousness even the time when one is falling asleep can become the most thrilling and bliss-evoking.
The assertion about Rama’s name made by Tulsidas is validated through logic and understanding, but nevertheless, there will be doubters and skeptics. To add further support to his claim, to ensure that people really believe in the power of the holy name - as that will bring them everything beneficial in life, and who isn’t looking for benefits? - Tulsidas points to authority figures who not only agree with his position but actually act upon the prescription. The first reference is to Lord Shiva, who is also known as Mahadeva. Lord Vishnu is considered the original form of Godhead, the Supreme Lord for every single person, regardless of their spiritual tradition. Vishnu is beyond duality, karma, and the changing nature of the material world. Some spiritual traditions refer to the Almighty as “God” or by some other name, but in any case they are referring to Vishnu. Vishnu has many different forms and expansions that are worshiped as well. Even the form of Lord Krishna, which is considered the original form of Godhead by many followers of the Vedic tradition, is non-different from Vishnu. Whether one accepts Vishnu or Krishna as the original, there is virtually no difference in the benefit. One side gets a certain kind of liberation while another gets an even more enhanced version of freedom from the cycle of birth and death.
Hara, or Lord Shiva, is somewhere in between a living entity and Vishnu Himself. The living entities are jivas, so they are in the marginal position with respect to the material and spiritual energies. The jiva is spiritual by constitution, but he has a choice as to whether to remain in the spiritual world or go to the material world. When descending from the purified realm, the jiva must suffer through birth, old age, disease and death in repeating cycles until consciousness is altered. Lord Shiva remains far above the perishable material realm, but still underneath the eternal realm of Vaikuntha, where Vishnu resides. Lord Shiva, though he is very powerful and capable of granting boons to anyone who pleases him, is best known for being the greatest Vaishnava, or devotee of Vishnu. His Vishnu form of choice is Lord Rama; hence the strong attachment Tulsidas feels towards Mahadeva. Lord Shiva is an authority figure for Tulsidas and many other Vaishnavas because he spends all his time reciting the holy name of Rama. Indeed, in the Adhyatma Ramayana, which served as the primary reference for the wonderful poem authored by Tulsidas known as the Ramacharitamanasa, Mahadeva is the narrator of the life and pastimes of Lord Rama. He speaks about Rama and His glories to his wife Parvati, who is also known as Goddess Durga; thus showing the ideal example of how a husband should behave. The husband’s main business is to protect the wife and give her tremendous pleasure through discussing Vishnu and His pastimes. The aim of human life is to become God conscious, so even married life is meant to fulfill this purpose. If the husband can discuss spiritual topics with his wife, or vice versa, then both parties are benefitted immensely.
Just the fact that Lord Shiva chants Rama’s name is enough to support the claims made by Tulsidas pertaining to the name’s ability to remove all misfortunes and grant everything auspicious. This reference also reminds the followers of Lord Shiva, of which there are many, of just exactly what the nature of their worshipable object is. The true benefit of honoring and worshiping Mahadeva is to hopefully one day have just an ounce of the devotion and love that he harbors for his beloved Rama. No one is dearer to Rama than Shiva and no one transcendental sound vibration is more recited and contemplated on in Shiva’s mind than Rama’s holy name.
But what if people don’t want to take Lord Shiva as an authority figure? What if they are deferent to the Vedas and Puranas, two central aspects of the Vedic tradition which touch on many subject matters and topics? Lest we think there is a contradiction, these two authority figures, which are in the form of written texts, also support Tulsidas’ claim about the potency of the name of Rama. Even the seemingly cryptic Vedanta-sutras are all about devotion to God and chanting His name. The Puranas are descriptions of historical events that are meant to bring one to the bhakti platform. Indeed, Rama’s life and pastimes are described in many Puranas in different levels of detail. The Adhyatma Ramayana itself is part of the Brahmanda Purana, which was compiled by Vyasadeva, the literary incarnation of Vishnu. So if one claims to follow the Vedas, or if one ever cites the Vedas to support any claim, they must immediately accept Rama as the Supreme Lord and the chanting of His glorious name as the most important practice in life, the essence of the bhakti process, which itself represents the pinnacle of yoga practice. If this acknowledgment is absent, it is to be understood that the person referencing the Vedas and Puranas has no understanding of the texts.
The Vedas are non-different from Vishnu, as their predominant message is devotion to God in His personal forms. All the supporting information found, such as the various descriptions of yoga and the workings of the three modes of material nature found in the Bhagavad-gita - the song of God sung by Lord Krishna, who is the very same Shri Rama but in a different form - are meant to bring one to the bhakti platform, that of total surrender, or sharanagati, to God. Without the final conclusion being reached, the information absorbed never gets properly utilized. The Vedas and Puranas sing the glories of Shri Rama, and since the Vedas bring auspiciousness to those who read and understand them, it is to be understood that the source of this benefit is the name itself. In the absence of the holy name, the Vedas and Puranas would be meaningless; they would be equivalent to the countless books that are published about topics not relating to God.
Even if one is still doubtful about the glories of the holy name, they should chant it nonetheless. The true authority of a preacher is substantiated through the results that come from following their prescriptions. By regularly chanting the holy name of the Lord through love and devotion, following the tradition set forth by Lord Shiva, the Vedas and the Puranas, one will see that their consciousness will change for the better, thus eliminating all misfortunes and bringing all auspiciousness. When this position is reached, we can better appreciate the preaching efforts and the benevolent work so kindly offered by the exalted Vaishnavas, the nicest and most inclusive welfare workers the world has ever known.
To accept instructions of others we hesitate,
For why on holy name should we meditate?
Their authority and audacity to teach come from where?
Tell me what to do, whom to worship, how do they dare?
Tulsidas says that name of Rama removes all sin,
Gives all auspiciousness at the same time, a win win.
That God could do this for His devotees makes sense,
Accept these words with your mind, no need for defense.
From skepticism in power of the holy name we doubt,
Therefore take authority of Shiva, who has the greatest clout.
Trust the Vedas if him you don’t want to believe,
The Puranas too, on their pages Rama’s name to retrieve.
Tulsidas makes claims that are true in their own right,
Yet cites authority to give his words more might.
Follow the prescription and constantly name do chant,
Happiness and freedom from sin to you God will grant.