“Tulsi says that having pure love for Sita and Rama, without thinking of self-interest or supreme interest, is a reward superior to the four rewards of life. That is my opinion.” (Dohavali, 60)
svāratha paramāratha rahita sītā rāma saneha' |
tulasī so phala cāri ko phala hamāra mata eha' ||
Brahma-sukha is the joy resulting from true oneness with the entire creation. Threaded through the vast time and space, with its infinite variety in creatures and forms, is a singular energy. That energy is superior to that which it animates; it cannot be destroyed. The different sparks that are part of that energy can realize that oneness; though this realization is very difficult to get. The happiness that results from the union is difficult to obtain. and once getting it one never wants to abandon it. Goswami Tulsidas considers such a happiness, which is seemingly beyond measure, to be inferior to the reward of having pure love and affection for the Supreme Lord and His eternal consort.
You can only get brahma-sukha if you want it. It’s not as if it will automatically come to you or arrive at your doorstep by accident. The parcel delivery service can make a mistake and give you a package intended for someone else, but such a mistake can’t occur with the realization of the Divine energy. Integral to that realization is a change in desire. No more do you look for satisfaction of the body, which is temporary. No more do you worry so much over time, which is infinite in both the backward and forward directions.
According to the Bhagavad-gita, the Brahman realized soul no longer hankers nor laments. What is there to hanker over? Goswami Tulsidas passes on the four primary categories of rewards described in the Vedas, the most ancient scriptural tradition of this and every other world. Every person, no matter which land they call home, no matter what language is native to them, no matter their age, seeks after four basic things: religiosity, economic development, sense gratification and liberation.
Rare it is to attain all four in a single lifetime, yet the pursuit is there nonetheless. Even the non-religious look to follow some principles. Skepticism itself is a kind of rule; one that advises to not believe in anything. Economic development today is the most common focus, with the profit used to satisfy the senses. Liberation is for ending the cycle of birth and death, for being rescued from the ocean of material suffering.
The Brahman-realized soul does not hanker after rewards. They transcend the desire for the four rewards since they understand the spiritual oneness shared by all beings. They see past bodily designations. I should be able to see the sun right now, even though there is a cloud cover. I should be able to hear the conversation of others living thousands of miles away. The only reason I can’t is due to bodily limitations. Brahman is beyond the bodily coverings; hence it is superior to the material nature.
Lamenting comes from frustrated desires. If you no longer hanker after the four primary rewards, then you won’t lament, either. I can’t be sad about losing a game of chess that I never played. The concept is similar, and so the Brahman-realized soul has crossed a major boundary in the evolution of the individual spirit.
na śocati na kāṅkṣati
samaḥ sarveṣu bhūteṣu
mad-bhaktiṁ labhate parām
“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.54)
Yet the Bhagavad-gita does not stop there with the description of the Brahman-realized soul. It is said that in that higher state the individual soul is ready to take up bhakti, which is devotional service. What can be higher than the realization that there is spirit in everything? Is this not the vision of God? Is not brahma-sukha the equivalent of seeing God? This is what transcendentalists desire, and so what can be beyond that?
Goswami Tulsidas helps us to understand. He says that love for Sita and Rama is the highest reward. He does not equate this with brahma-sukha. Indeed, within the four rewards is liberation itself, which occurs through Brahman-realization. He gives a condition for that love. He says that the individual must be free of concern for svartha and paramartha. These relate to interests in the present and future lives.
Another way to describe the condition is to say that the love must be without motivation and without interruption. Brahma-sukha is a kind of interest. If attained in the present life it is svartha. If it comes after death, it is paramartha. Love for Sita and Rama is eternal. When the love is pure, it can never be taken away. It is so strong that Sita and Rama cannot even stop its outpouring. In essence, the devotee makes God the Almighty powerless.
The reason this reward is superior to anything else is because of the enjoyment. The soul meets its constitutional state only when achieving this position of love. Indeed, the love is always there, but in degraded conditions it gets misused. Love for anything except God is derived from the original condition. Hate is nothing more than the inverse of the original loving sentiment.
Brahman realization is a way to see God, but bhakti is a way to serve Him. Serving Him is superior to seeing Him. Sight brings a temporary enjoyment to the individual, while service brings increased happiness to the person who is already sach-chid-ananda, eternally blissful and knowledgeable. Rama is the Supreme Lord in His personal form. In His original form of Shri Krishna, He does such amazing things like teach the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna. As Vishnu, the same Rama creates the universes effortlessly by breathing out.
Sita is Rama’s eternal consort. Together they make for the best worshipable objects. Even if a person is still searching for any or all of the four major rewards, approaching Sita and Rama is the right move. This is because the couple will help in granting the highest reward of pure love for them. Brahman cannot do this since it is not a person. Brahman is more of a concept, a way to realize God. Sita and Rama are personal aspects, and with that personal interaction comes the perfection of living.
In happiness of Brahman to be,
From hankering and lamenting free.
But position not the end quite,
Service to Lord more important than sight.
Love for Sita and Rama keep,
And fruit of existence reap.
Focus on svartha and paramartha shed,
By Tulsidas towards perfection be led.