“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 ||
It is only natural to feel grateful for our benefactors. The vitality in man is due to the animating force within, the spirit soul. That soul is identical with the individual, but through ignorance this knowledge remains far away. Though the soul has great ability, when combined with a material body the individual cannot do everything on their own. They need help. They need cooperation.
Asking for help is a form of begging. “I beg your pardon.” “Pardon me, would you mind giving me a hand?” These words likely don’t come from those who are financially destitute, but there is something being asked for nonetheless. One individual needs help and another provides it; this gives the situation of a beggar and a benefactor.
Goswami Tulsidas says that one should beg from Sita and Rama. That divine couple will provide for both the short term and the afterlife. Svartha is the short-term interest. Any form of begging in the material world is for fulfillment of svartha. We approach someone on the street for money. We sit in a job interview and beg to be hired for the position. We write an essay that accompanies the application to college; this is begging for admittance.
The benefactors in these instances cannot give us paramartha, or the supreme interest. By definition, this has to be true, since the benefactors are beggars themselves. They too require help from others to survive. The person hiring for the position likely was hired once in the past. The person giving food to the poor was once fed by their parents. The person granting admission to college likely had to fill out their own application when they were a prospective student.
As I am a beggar today, I can also become a benefactor at some point in the future. I am a conditioned soul at present, so I cannot grant someone interest that goes beyond the present lifetime. Religion exists for this purpose. Religion also goes by such names as dharma, duty, religiosity and spirituality. The idea is that you approach a higher being to take care of your affairs in the afterlife.
Goswami Tulsidas intentionally mentions Sita and Rama. They are not like ordinary benefactors. Sita is the goddess of fortune. This means that in the realm of svartha, she can grant anything, without limits. She can give more wealth than the greatest philanthropist. She can create circumstances that no benefactor can. Shri Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the husband of Sita. The fortune granted by Sita is meant to be used for Rama’s pleasure. As Rama is God Himself, He can grant anything desired for the afterlife.
Yet these qualifications are not the sole reason for the recommendation made by Tulsidas. The famous Vaishnava saint knows that only Sita and Rama look out for the welfare of the beggar. They assess both svartha and paramartha in terms of the overall wellbeing of the individual.
How does this work exactly? If a criminal approaches a home and begs for the personal interest of temporary shelter, the benefactor is not really helping society by granting the request. The homeowner also isn’t helping the criminal, as punishment will do them good. Hiding from the law and getting away with crimes is not beneficial for the criminals in the long term.
If a religiously inclined person approaches a divine figure and asks for life in heaven after death, they do so without the understanding that even heaven is part of the material world. The eating, drinking and merriment they see right now will be experienced in greater quantities in the heavenly region. But the time of residence there is commensurate with the pious credits accumulated. Consciousness is not a factor. The payment is piety, and once time runs out, the balance needs to be replenished.
Rama knows that the best interest for the living entities, who are His sons and daughters, is to be conscious of Him. Rama is the Supreme Lord in a personal form. He has other forms that are non-different from Him as well, such as Vishnu and Krishna. Devotion to the personal God is in the best interest of every individual. Svartha and paramartha are separate only in terms of time. One deals with the present and the other deals with the future. Yet time does not determine existence. If I am happy today, I can be so tomorrow. What difference does the actual time make?
Devotion to God brings happiness today and also in the future. Sita provides the means of support for the devoted soul to remain in devotion. The husband and wife work in tandem to give the best reward to the beggar who is wise enough to approach them. Goswami Tulsidas approaches them first, and then he begs from door to door merely as a pretense, as a way to shower the divine mercy on those who are only temporarily fulfilling the role of benefactor. It is Sita and Rama who give first, and it is they who empower the saints of the Vaishnava tradition, the devotees of God who no longer consider the dualities of svartha and paramartha. Their desires are merged into one, identical with the Supreme Lord’s.
Though a beggar today,
To be benefactor some day.
Thus a limit to what you can get,
So of afterlife’s interest forget.
Approach Sita and Rama instead,
And into transcendence be led.
Have svartha and paramartha merged,
Provide happiness to soul deserved.