“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' ||
There is the saying that you can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Vedic literature gives examples to support the same truth, that no matter how much you value your honor, you can’t protect it completely. Whichever road you choose in life, there will be detractors, people to criticize your decision. Here Goswami Tulsidas references the two extremes, materialism and renunciation. He puts them both in the proper place by saying that to the Supreme Lord the only thing that matters is the desire found within.
A common object of scrutiny by the materialist is the dwelling. Your place of residence speaks a lot about your fortunes in life. If you live in a big house, it means that you are well off. If you live in a tiny apartment, it means that you don’t earn as much money as others. You’re forced to live so close to others in a similar financial condition. You have to tolerate the sound of footsteps coming from upstairs. You have to accept the parking situation. When you have parties, you have to pare down the guest list so that everyone can fit inside.
The house is just the symbol representing the drive for bhoga, or material enjoyment. The forest is the symbol of the pursuit of the opposite: renunciation. Anyone who is trying to understand the Supreme Spirit in earnest is fundamentally trying to detach themselves from the material consciousness. Therefore a similar kind of scrutiny comes, but the direction is reversed. Instead of evaluating how big the home is, the focus is on how many things have been renounced.
“How close are you to moksha? What is your diet like? I’ve heard that you can’t be a perfect spiritual being if you are still married. Great sages don’t have children because they’re completely free of sex life. I don’t know how you’re going to do that while living amongst the worldly minded. You’re going to have to find a secluded place.”
Both the materialist and the renunciant face scrutiny. There are always questions of how much one has advanced, and the external is used as a way to measure. But Goswami Tulsidas says that the person who created everything, in whom full enjoyment and renunciation exist simultaneously, does not care so much about where you live. He is interested more with what is in the heart. Real renunciation is finding worldly pleasures to be tasteless. That alone doesn’t suffice for getting the mercy of God, however. Simultaneously, there must be something full of taste.
That higher taste is love for God, known as bhakti-yoga. That love can only blossom to the fullest when there is knowledge that the Supreme is a person; hence the mention of Shri Rama, the worshipable object of Goswami Tulsidas. Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is not a Hindu god, a blue god, or a god of a famous book only. He is the origin of everything in a transcendental form, full of sweetness. As the Supreme is described as Godhead, it means that He doesn’t limit Himself to only a single spiritual manifestation. There are other forms of the original Lord, but they represent the same singular identity. Indeed, this means that love for God is never restricted to anyone.
A person can have these conditions provided by Tulsidas irrespective of their place of dwelling. It makes sense if we think about it. How many times have we felt completely alone when in the company of so many others? How many times have we felt elated when spending a night to ourselves? The mind is what makes the difference, and in bhakti the mind is always contemplating the features of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The person owning the large estate may have succeeded in the material estimation. The spiritualist who renounced everything to live in a cave may similarly have done something remarkable. But unless they have love for God, they won’t be dear to Him. And He is the person most worth pleasing; His scrutiny is what matters the most.
The opinion of Tulsidas is validated by events from history. Shri Rama befriended monkey-like creatures in the forest. They were not like renounced human beings; the forest was their natural home. They were not advanced materially, but in heart they had room only for love for God. Vibhishana was also very dear to Rama. He was part of a ruling family in Lanka. He lived in a large palace, but Rama did not mind.
There are so many more examples from history to support the claim. Scrutiny will always be there, no matter which path you take. The wise try to look good in the eyes of the person who can see everything. The one who is truly antaryami witnesses everything happening past, present and future. He sees within all bodies, and only He can accurately measure what’s in the heart. In the devotee’s He sees pure love and so He gives every opportunity for them to continue to relish the taste of devotion, bhakti-rasa.
Your place of dwelling where,
Supreme Lord Rama not to care.
Friends with forest-dwellers made,
Accepted Vibhishana when obeisance paid.
Material tasteless and devotion when,
To become dear to Shri Rama then.
He with eyes everywhere sees,
The best person whom to please.