“If you don’t serve Sita and Rama and lack devotion to Gauri and Shankara, then your birth is lost; in vain you approached the doors of others.” (Dohavali, 66)
seye sītā rāma nahiṁ bhaje na saṅkara gauri |
janama gam̐vāyo bādihīṁ parata parā'ī pauri ||
“Isn’t this statement just like the others we see? Isn’t this a threat? If you don’t worship so and so, you’re going to hell. What kind of encouragement is that? It’s rooted in fear. How will you get others to listen to you? Why should they, in fact? Anyone can say that unless you follow such and such you’re condemned.”
Goswami Tulsidas gives his opinion in the verse quoted above, and the same conclusion can be reached using some sober analysis. Let’s begin with the purpose to an existence. Is it to do as we please, all the time? We know that won’t work. If I want to take property that belongs to others, I’ll get in trouble. At least if I try to take it by force, the authorities will come after me. I could go the backdoor route and ask the government to pass a law making my theft legal, but there is still difficulty.
Since I have to respect others and their property, I can’t always do what I want. There has to be some limitations. Therefore what should those limitations be? What is their purpose? There is also the issue of knowledge. I learn so many things throughout life. Some things I acquire through directly observing and others through hearing. If I’m gathering knowledge as I pass through life, what is the purpose? For what end should that knowledge be used?
Desire in Sanskrit is known as kama. One of the other English translations for this word is “lust.” We can think of kama in terms of the things that we want. Those things don’t have to be big or only for the long term. The dream of a better life is a kind of kama and so is wanting to eat pizza for dinner. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that this kama is the all-devouring enemy in the material world.
kāma eṣa krodha eṣa
viddhy enam iha vairiṇam
“The Blessed Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)
We don’t need Krishna to tell us; we already know this from experience. We’ve tried to satisfy so many desires in the past. Did that bring us happiness? In many cases, the desires emerged again almost immediately and their intensity was far greater. This goes back to the stealing example. We can’t always do what we want. Satisfying kama is not the reason for our existence.
In any system of religion, there is restriction on kama. Knowledge is there as well, and it is for the purpose of advancing in consciousness. Strong family traditions and culture are respected, and at the same time the integral role of restriction is overlooked. In the modern day, progress means abolishing traditions that are considered outdated and prohibitive, but at the foundation of all the aspects of the original culture is the restriction on kama.
This brings us to the opinion of Goswami Tulsidas referenced above. He says that one should serve Sita and Rama. These are the goddess of fortune and God respectively. Sita and Rama are not Hindu gods. Perhaps they are worshiped more frequently in specific areas of the world, but they are in their positions for everyone’s benefit. In an intelligent discussion, there is no place for the “your god, my god” thinking. God is one and He is for everyone.
This is not to say that He limits Himself to certain places and cultures. Sita and Rama are famous in India because they appeared in that land many thousands of years ago, but this does not mean that they are to be worshiped only in India. The goddess of fortune gives rewards to anyone who worships her properly. Rama gives His association to anyone who surrenders to Him, even if they are from a vile family.
"It is My vow that if one only once seriously surrenders unto Me saying, 'My dear Lord, from this day I am Yours,' and prays to Me for courage, I shall immediately award courage to that person, and he will always remain safe from that time on." (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kand, 18.33)
Tulsidas says that there should also be devotion to Gauri and Shankara. This divine couple is the energy and the destroyer respectively within the material realm. They work at God’s command and they are entirely devoted to Sita and Rama. One should always respect God’s deputies. Disrespect of Gauri and Shankara only leads to doom, as it displeases the Supreme Lord.
If this combination of service and devotion is lacking, the life is considered a waste. Tulsidas says that in vain people approach the doors of others. The renunciation and knowledge are useless if the vital energy of the living spirit is used for begging from those who are not worthy of it. In kama, the begging is for enjoyment in the form of sex. The poor person begs for food, as does the rich person. The indigent go door to door, while the business owner pleads with the customer base and the shareholders.
Begging there will always be, so why not approach Sita and Rama instead? Why not feel their mercy through surrender? Why not understand their compassionate nature through the instruction of Gauri and Shankara? The warning of a life gone to waste is the wakeup call for fulfilling the true destiny of the human spirit: pure devotion to God.
Not just poet’s words have to take,
Valid assessment yourself can make.
For doing as you please is life meant?
Take others property and jail-time spent.
In any case restriction there to be,
So their purpose from shastra see.
Devoted to Gauri and Shankara then know,
How in serving to make life fruitful so.