“Tulsi says that those who find worldly pleasures tasteless and love for Rama full of taste are very dear to Rama, whether they live in the forest or in a house.” (Dohavali, 61)
je jana rūkhe bi।saya rasa cikane rāma saneha' |
tulasī te priya rāma ko kānana basahiṃ ki geha' ||
It’s the sign of material advancement. It shows how well the parents brought up the child, how much time and money was invested in their upbringing. It shows how well the person has done in the “dog eat dog” world, where progress is measured by how much of the community has been industrialized. It’s a sign of the level of success in the area of business, where one person looks to outsmart the other, parlaying their skills into huge profits.
The “it” here refers to the house, the place of residence. Indeed, it is only natural for a parent to be proud that their child lives in a large house, one bigger than they had as a child. After all, it is the desire of the parents that their children live better than them. Why should the children suffer? What is the point to the hard work of the parents if the children can’t advance past them?
Here Goswami Tulsidas gives his own opinion on the matter, and it is confirmed through sober analysis of the situation. The creator of everything is not concerned with how large or small the dwelling is. If one lives in a civilized area featuring a luxurious home they are not automatically qualified to be in the Lord’s favor. And the same goes for the other direction, full renunciation.
Actually, we don’t need to bring God into the equation just yet to see the validity to this opinion. Say that you have two children. One lives in a tiny apartment and another in a large estate. Is that the determining factor in how you view them? Is the size of the dwelling the basis for your assessment on their life’s worth? To do so would be quite silly. Instead, the characters of the respective individuals are evaluated. The parent sees the mental outlooks as well. If the child in the large home is struggling to make ends meet, what is the point to their work? If the person in the small apartment is stressed over the lack of space, then they too are unhappy.
And so in spiritual life, the heavenly father looks for the happiness of the children. That happiness can be found in any situation, provided two conditions relating to desire are present. Goswami Tulsidas provides those two conditions. First he mentions the dryness of worldly pleasures. Any wise person will feel this way. Think of it like pushing a rock up a hill. After difficult labor you get the heavy boulder to reach the desired destination. But when you finish, when you let go, the rock rolls back down to the bottom. Material life is like this. Nothing is permanent, and satisfying one desire only gives birth to many more.
samudram āpaḥ praviśanti yadvat
tadvat kāmā yaṁ praviśanti sarve
sa śāntim āpnoti na kāma-kāmī
“A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires - that enter like rivers into the ocean which is ever being filled but is always still - can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.70)
The second condition is the inverse of the first. While worldly pleasures should be tasteless, devotion to God should be full of taste. This only makes sense, as the Supreme Lord is the opposite of illusion and transience. He is permanent. His transcendental body is described as eternal, blissful and knowledgeable [sach-chid-ananda]. Those who associate with that transcendental figure find the same happiness.
Of course the issue is the means of association. How can one find God when they are stuck at home, with worldly pleasures surrounding them? Therefore better it is to go to the forest. Eliminate distractions. Austerity is forced upon the forest-dweller, and so there is more time for contemplation of the Absolute. There is more time to relish His transcendental features.
But Tulsidas gives the proper perspective on this as well. He says that it does not matter whether one lives in a jungle or a civilized home. If the person thinks that worldly pleasures are tasteless and devotion to Rama full of taste, then they are very dear to Rama. Rama is the Supreme Personality worshiped by Tulsidas. Rama shows that God is a person with distinguishable features. As there is Godhead, Rama is not the lone Divine personal manifestation. The same original Lord can expand into other forms that appeal to the variety of moods found in devotees.
The materialist asks “how big is your house”? The spiritualist itching for advancement in consciousness asks “how big is your renunciation”? But the Supreme Lord Rama, whose opinion counts the most, asks “how big is your heart”? How much love and devotion for God is there? That is the question that counts the most. When this question yields the proper answer that is honest at the same time, then the place of dwelling is not so important. God’s creation is vast, after all, so His devotees can be found anywhere.
To have concern why,
Over residence’s size?
Spiritualist in renunciation setting,
Materialist for more things getting.
When tasteless is material gain,
And full taste in chanting Rama’s name.
Then not mattering house or forest bare,
Rama’s devotees to be found anywhere.