“The monkeys were on the branches of the tree and the Lord under the tree, but He still treated them as equal to Himself. Tulsi says that you will not find such a boss as Rama, who is a mine of politeness.” (Dohavali, 50)
prabhu taru tara kapi dāra para te kie āpu samāna |
tulasī kahū' na rāma se sāhiba sīla nidhāna ||
Are we God? In the spiritual science that is Vedanta, we learn that everything that is living is spirit. This truth isn’t limited to just the human species. This doesn’t mean that the creatures that can consult the end of knowledge are the only ones that are spiritual. Everything that has the lifecycle, from birth to death, is spirit at the core.
As everything is the same, does this mean that the concept of God equates to a collection? Is God the sum total of everything spiritual? Do all the fragments merge back together at some point? This would help explain the difficulty right now. Fragmented from the entire whole, each spark is struggling. The ant loses its life in an instant by an accidental step of a larger being. The human seemingly has more control, but even they must eventually quit their body.
In the Bhagavad-gita we learn that the sparks of spirit have a source. The sparks we perceive presently live in a land that is temporary and changing. That land is known as the material nature and the condition for residence is a body made up of similar elements. The spotless spark that is spirit gets covered up by a combination of earth, water, fire, air and ether. There are the subtle elements also: mind, intelligence and false ego.
bhūmir āpo 'nalo vāyuḥkhaṁ mano buddhir eva caahaṅkāra itīyaṁ mebhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā
“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego - altogether these eight comprise My separated material energies.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.4)
The sparks are Brahman and the source is Parabrahman. The source does not have false ego. The source does not have a covering, since there is no distinction between matter and spirit in Him. The source is a singular personality, while the sparks are all separate individuals. The six senses, which include the mind, lead to the trouble in the material existence. It is the false ego which leads to the erroneous conclusion that the individual soul is equal to Parabrahman. This conception is considered the last snare of the material existence, with the first being identification with the temporary body.
Parabrahman equates to the concept of God. Parabrahman is far superior to the Brahman that emanates from Him. He is equal in the sense that the qualities are the same. Spirit lives forever, has inherent knowledge and is by nature blissful. The same goes for God. But spirit can travel to a material existence and have its qualities covered up; God cannot.
Still, since He is the mine of politeness, by default the Supreme Lord does not act as if He is superior to everyone. He has no false ego, so He does not demand worship. He does not insist on it, either.
Why the existence of religion, then? Why so many rules and regulations to follow? Why give man the institution of marriage, which seems to bring so much trouble?
The guidelines are put into place to show the way towards transcendence, which was the situation at some point in the past. So religion is the way to reclaim the spiritual life, free of the burdens of a material existence. Another way to understand religion is to think of it as the pathway that leads to the condition of having the Supreme Lord act like you are His equal.
We can take the above referenced verse from the Dohavali to see how this works. Here Goswami Tulsidas mentions two groups: individual souls and the Supreme Soul. One side consists of the Brahman we mentioned previously and the other Parabrahman. As Brahman is spirit, it can appear in any form. This instance references spirit souls in the bodies of monkeys. They roam from tree branch to tree branch. They are not civilized. They are not considered trustworthy or pious.
Parabrahman is in the form of the incarnation named Shri Rama. He looks like a human, though He is not ordinary. He does not suffer. He does not have defects. He controls the material nature instead of the other way around. Following the behavior of civilized human beings, He rests underneath tree branches. He is not wild like the monkeys.
In this instance He treats the monkeys as His equals. Tulsidas says this is due to Rama’s politeness, of which He has so much. These monkeys are His friends. They will do anything that He asks. They are ready to die for Him. They did not undergo training in a religious path. They did not suffer for a long time in the hopes of gaining the chance to serve Rama. They have spontaneous devotion to Him, and so the Supreme Lord does not put so much weight on their outward behavior related to their body type.
Indeed, every individual accepting a material body has their defects. In the human being there are four general ones: the tendency to cheat, having imperfect senses, the tendency to commit mistakes, and the tendency to be easily illusioned. People cheat to get ahead, not knowing that everything will be destroyed eventually.
yaṁ yam artham upādatteduḥkhena sukha-hetavetaṁ taṁ dhunoti bhagavānpumāñ chocati yat-kṛte
“Whatever is produced by the materialist with great pain and labor for so-called happiness, the Supreme Personality, as the time factor, destroys, and for this reason the conditioned soul laments.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.30.2)
The imperfect senses of man don’t allow him to perceive everything that is going on. They need the help of the sun to see what is around them. They need the testimony of others to be informed of things occurring not within vicinity. Man commits mistakes in judgment, regretting decisions many years after the fact. And in illusion they come to such faulty conclusions as “God is dead” and “man is God.”
Rama knows these defects. He overlooks them when there is sincerity. He is the original boss, or sahiba, but He does not demand that others follow His orders. The sparks of Brahman struggle enough in a material existence. Rama is there to rescue them, and He does not discriminate as to where, when, or who. The Vanaras in Kishkindha are like His equals, which Rama shows vividly when embracing the most courageous among them, Shri Hanuman. This is the result of pure devotion to God, which is the aim of life.
At heartstrings of the devoted tugging,
Vision of Rama and Hanuman hugging.
Though in a monkey body one,
Difference to Him considering none.
Same for all the Vanaras done,
Though roaming from branches in fun.
Only the spiritual quality in each to see,
The mine of virtues, kindest boss is He.