“During the rainy season, all living entities, in the land, sky and water, become very refreshed, exactly like one who engages in the transcendental loving service of the Lord.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 20)
To feel fatigue after intense work is only natural; thus the living being requires constant replenishment from food and drink. When someone is in desperate need of nutrients, the fresh feeling that comes after eating is unique; it is unlike any other feeling. If one is not so hungry or thirsty, partaking of food and drink as a routine effort may not be so noteworthy, but when someone has expended a lot of effort, the nourishment is appreciated more. And so to the devoted soul who has become reacquainted with their lost engagement, the holy names of the Lord found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, are like the desperately needed rainy season.
In India, there is a specific portion of the year marked by rain. Aside from its practical significance to the crops on the earth, this period of time serves as a wonderful literary comparison tool. The reason for this is quite obvious: since the crops are only fed during one particular two-month stretch, they have a sole reliance on those two months. To them the months of the rainy season are like no other, so there is an automatic attachment and also a sense of loyalty to that period of time. For someone to properly describe a loving attachment, one where there is full vulnerability and reliance, the rainy season and its affected crops serve as a wonderful comparison.
“Devotion to Shri Rama is like the rainy season, the wonderful devotees the paddy fields, and the two syllables in Rama’s name the months of Sawan and Bhadon [rainy season], says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 25)
Goswami Tulsidas often references the rainy season because of its sparkling effect on crops. Just when the plants are about to die, they are suddenly invigorated again. Without that rain coming at the right time, life would not continue in that manner. And so for the devoted soul, the sounds of the holy name are like the rainy season. The devotees are like the parched fields. For Tulsidas, the holy name of preference is Rama, which represents Shri Ramachandra, the jewel of the Raghu dynasty. The name Rama can also represent Lord Krishna’s elder brother Balarama. Rama is also a description for the Supreme Lord that says that He is a provider of transcendental pleasure to His devotees.
God is one. There is not one God for a particular section of society and a different God for another. The less intelligent think in these terms; like “my religion” and “your God”. Are there such distinctions in other areas of life? With the sun’s energy, there is not preference based on the recipient’s temporary features. The same holds true with the rain and the electricity coursing through the house. They don’t play favorites. In the same way someone who is above both matter and spirit, who is unborn, undecaying, and with full knowledge cannot possibly be bound by sectarian designations.
To break this tendency in the human being, to give him a faint glimmer of understanding of the true nature of Supreme Spirit, there are thousands of names assigned to the Supreme Lord. In the Vedic literatures, the thousand names of Vishnu are often referenced, as they specifically address the personal aspect to God. There is the impersonal aspect that is marked by the presence of spirit within all creatures, and there is also a plenary expansion residing within each living entity as the Supersoul, but beyond these realizations there is Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Vishnu-worship specifically touches on the personal aspect, and the many names are recited to honor and respect specific functions that Vishnu performs.
It is said that chanting Shri Rama’s holy name is more beneficial than the thousand names of Vishnu, and that chanting Krishna’s name is more beneficial than Rama’s name. Regardless of the specific name of choice, in worship in devotion, the holy name is the life-giving source. The devoted souls are considered the parched fields because they are in desperate need of the holy name. In one sense they are responsible for the condition, where there is full reliance. Other sources of energy are available, but for the devoted soul they don’t provide the ingredients necessary for spiritual growth. For instance, there is fruitive activity, mysticism, and study of general philosophy. Every human being follows one of these three paths by default, but without full worship of Bhagavan, true spiritual life is missing.
And why would we want spiritual life? The crops are in the best condition when they are alive and vibrant. In the same way, the living entity never flourishes more than when they are fully connected to Krishna in consciousness. Any other condition is considered diseased, or not constitutional. With fruitive activity, there are two possible outcomes. One is success and the other is failure. Both conditions are identical because neither is permanent. The successful person can lose all that they have at any moment. And the distressed person, who doesn’t purposefully seek out pain and misery, will eventually feel relief, though it may arrive in a future life.
Mysticism and study of philosophy have similar defects. The mystic is above loss and gain, but the fruit of their mysticism is an amazing ability. But with an ability one must have an ideal use. Whatever valuable object I have, I must be able to use it for something in order for it to be worth having. If I can fly through the sky, hold my breath for hours on end, or bend my body in a certain way, I need a tangible goal to fulfill. The yogi and the philosopher can merge into the impersonal energy of the Absolute Truth, but the spirit soul is not meant to be frozen in this way. If this were the case, there would be no purpose to living, to having an existence.
The devoted soul replenished by the rainy season known as the holy name lives to serve their beloved Krishna, who is with them at all times through His sound vibrations, His pastimes described in ancient texts, and His teachings presented through the mouths of other devoted souls, who are elevated in their consciousness. Devotional service also provides temporary rewards, but the effect on consciousness is permanent. And from that consciousness fixed in transcendence, there is full knowledge on how to make proper use of the body. And though that body may change, and even be replaced in the future, the knowledge of how to use it for Krishna’s service does not vanish, thus making the devotee a versatile living entity capable of feeling transcendental pleasure in any situation.
What is so great about devotional service? Why is there such a drastic difference between the time prior to the arrival of the holy name and the time following it?
The bhakta finally knows what to do with their life. As the saying goes, “he who hesitates is lost”, with so much time on the hands of the living entity the vital question is, “what should I do with my life?” Is working at the office five days a week for upwards of forty years the purpose to our existence? Should we just have fun all the time, wherein fun is defined as meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex? Should we just sit quietly and meditate, and thus be free of anger, vice and greed?
In bhakti-yoga, these doubts are dispelled because the jewel of knowledge that devotion to God can take place at any second is uncovered. While arising early in the morning, the wide awake individual can chant the holy names, listen to discourses about Krishna and His kindness, and worship the deity manifestation, which is the gift to the eyes that are susceptible to illusion. The stated prohibition on carving statues and making pictures of God by spiritual leaders is quite illogical, regardless of where they claim the prohibition comes from. If there is a God and we are to worship Him, what is the harm in making a statue representation of His features and honoring it every day? If God is the Supreme Lord, He must be everywhere, so He must be in the deity as well.
Those who vehemently protest the practice of deity worship already honor so many statues of famous personalities and celebrities. They keep pictures of their friends and family around as well. Thus there is already worship of idols, as to contemplate in a specific mood is to worship. Men bow down to girlfriends when proposing marriage and owners reach down to pick up the waste deposits of their pets. And yet while all this is going on, it is somehow sacrilegious to make a beautiful statue of Shri Krishna’s features and bow down in front of Him.
Whether worshiping the deity, reading a sacred text, or travelling to a place of pilgrimage, the key ingredient is the holy name, which pours forth the spiritual shower of nourishment to the souls who have full reliance on it. Just as the rainy season replenishes, the holy name gives life back to the devoted soul, who was previously lost in the cycle of birth and death, accepting one form after another, just waiting for their reunion with the precious Krishna, who is standing by just waiting to associate with His children once again.
Life to crops rainy season gives,
Makes sure that on they can live.
In vulnerability enhanced is pleasure,
Arriving sustenance then fully treasured.
Devotee has a similar reliance,
Against maya they are in defiance.
Life-giver is the holy name,
Its sound gives vibrancy again.
Make devotion to God your only desire,
And through holy name remain inspired.