“Both personal interest and supreme interest are met by Sita and Rama. Why then, O Tulsi, do you approach the doors of others to have your desires met?” (Dohavali, 53)
svāratha sītā rāma so paramāratha siya rāma |
tulasī tero dusare dvāra kahā kahu kāma ||
In the journey through life we come upon many advisors. The successful will give us tips on how to make it through the tough times. When others bring us down with their negativity, with their mocking, with their ignorance, the people who have persevered can give us the strength to carry on. They speak from experience, after all. Others too give their advice based on what they have seen and heard. Yet do any of them really know us? Goswami Tulsidas says that Sita and Rama are the ones to approach to have self-interest as well as interest for the afterlife met. One of the reasons this couple is mentioned is that they know us better than anyone else.
Even our best friend doesn’t know everything about us. Their advice to us is targeted, sort of like the recommended purchases section on an ecommerce website. Those recommendations are based on calculations, determined through analyzing past purchasing habits. There is a data mining algorithm which looks to see what other people bought after purchasing the same item. There is also an internal query done to see the customer’s past purchases.
Our well-wishers act in a similar manner, using memory instead of a computer. Our good friends don’t like telling us what to do, but when asked they won’t be shy in speaking up. Most importantly they know our likes and dislikes. If we don’t like eating onions, they will not include them in dishes offered to us. If they know we can’t stand conflict and confrontation, they will not recommend that we enter such situations.
Yet even the best friend in this instance is limited in what they can do. They are not inside of our mind. It is not possible to do this. I am not you and you are not me. Yet both of our experiences through life are real. Someone else views me from the outside. I have no idea what that viewpoint is, and they have no idea how others view them. This uniqueness is due to the soul, which is the essence of identity.
The soul accepts a material covering with certain qualities at the time of birth. These qualities are known as gunas, and they can be in one of three varieties: goodness, passion or ignorance. Those qualities can combine in different proportions, so it’s rare to see a human being who is exclusively in any one of the gunas.
Though inheriting certain material qualities at the time of birth, the desires of the individual are not etched in stone. We see examples of this in gender analysis. Not all women behave the same way. They don’t all enjoy shopping. And not all men prefer to watch sports. There may be similarities, but every person is an individual, free to desire as they wish.
na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato 'yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre
“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)
The material body changes, though the soul inside does not. The body goes from boyhood to youth to old age. This means that desires are guaranteed to change. The adult no longer finds the cartoons viewed during childhood to be appealing. A person who partied hard in college no longer enjoys going out; they’d rather stay in with their family.
Since our desires are bound to change, how can any single person know us completely? Sita and Rama know who we really are, that we are spirit soul. Rama is the Supreme Lord, the definition behind the abstract. In the gross arena He kills the bad guys with the arrows shot from His bow, and in the subtle arena He defeats the doubts borne of ignorance. By arming us with knowledge, He removes the desires that don’t match our spiritual nature.
Sita is His eternal consort, the energy of God, if you will. She distributes rewards to help in serving Rama, which is what makes the soul happiest. This service is the soul’s dharma, the essential characteristic. It is not so only for adults, men, women, or children. This dharma is universal. Therefore we see God worshiped so widely, in a variety of ways.
Tulsidas provides a unique perspective. The typical approach towards God is made in search of self-interest. This is the kind of desire discussed above, the kind that always changes. There is the interest in the afterlife as well, as to where the soul will end up. Sita and Rama can actually meet both interests. There is no reason to approach anyone else. There is no need to beg from anyone of this world or the heavenly realm, which features many gods, or divine figures.
Rama is antaryami, or the witness of everything. He lives inside of every individual through His expansion of the Supersoul. We don’t have to worry about whether He knows us or not. He takes care of personal interest, svartha, by merging it with supreme interest, paramartha. No one else can do this. Sometimes Rama gives things and sometimes He takes them away. Sita brings those gifts through her role as the goddess of fortune. She gives the more important gift of the example of ideal devotion. From studying the divine couple and approaching them only, all interests that ultimately matter to the undying spirit soul are met.
Friends our interests to know,
Thus advise not and where to go.
But since my body to adulthood matured,
Desires changed, boredom in new way cured.
So well-wishers limited in this way,
Not Sita and Rama, who inside me stay.
Svartha and paramartha becoming one,
When in devotion their favor is won.