“Tulsi says for one who doesn’t naturally love Rama it is useless to shave their head and leave home.” (Dohavali, 63)
tulasī jau pai rāma soṃ nāhina sahaja saneha |
mū'da mu।dāyo bādihīṃ bhā'da bhayo taji geha ||
An individual learns the true value of discretion as they grow older. This is the result of experience, after all. You try one thing, examine the result, and then decide if the same should be repeated or avoided going forward. One application of discretion is with respect to sharing good news. The issue to contend with is jealousy. Not everyone is going through good times. Therefore not everyone will be happy for you. Also touching on discretion is this verse from the Dohavali by Goswami Tulsidas. It subtly points out that spiritual life is for everyone, since it is a matter of the heart. One person may appear to be further along due to having accepted certain formalities, but the externals don’t always tell the full story.
Let’s say that you’ve just won the lottery. You think to yourself that you never win anything. Up until this point, life has been a game where the odds have been stacked against you. Therefore you can’t believe your good fortune. No more having to worry about paying the bills. No more having to go to work. No more being in want; at least you think.
Friends and family share our experiences. If we watch something good on television, we want to tell others about it. In the instance with the lottery, the news is really big. But the issue is that the reward is not shared by everyone. Life will remain the same for those whom you tell. There are bound to be some who become jealous. They won’t be happy for you. In their minds, what have you done? Why do you deserve to strike it big in a game of chance?
brahmāṇḍa bhramite kona bhāgyavān jīva
guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja
“According to their karma, all living entities are wandering throughout the entire universe. Some of them are being elevated to the upper planetary systems, and some are going down into the lower planetary systems. Out of many millions of wandering living entities, one who is very fortunate gets an opportunity to associate with a bona fide spiritual master by the grace of Krishna. By the mercy of both Krishna and the spiritual master, such a person receives the seed of the creeper of devotional service.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya, 19.151)
The greatest fortune in life is the meeting with the bona fide spiritual master. This seemingly chance encounter is brought about by the combination of sincere desire and the mercy of the Supreme Lord. Birth in the human species is auspicious, but for a specific reason. Only the human being can have jnana and vairagya, knowledge and renunciation. The dog can’t read a book. The cat can’t decide to go on a diet. The human being has the facility for gathering knowledge and using renunciation as a tool to increase their happiness.
Not all knowledge is the same. Neither are all kinds of renunciation beneficial. One person uses knowledge to succeed in business, and that knowledge can cause others to go out of business. One person accepts austerity with ill motives. Vrikasura is a great example. He was austere to the point of sacrificing his own flesh. He took the risk so that he could get the ability to kill other people by simply touching their head.
“When the demon was offered this facility by Lord Shiva, he asked for a very fearful and abominable benediction. The demon was very sinful, and sinful persons do not know what sort of benediction should be asked from the deity. Therefore he asked Lord Shiva to be benedicted with such power that as soon as he would touch anyone's head, it would immediately crack, and the man would die.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 33)
Exiting the womb is considered the first birth, and the second birth is from initiation with a spiritual master, who is known as the guru. The second birth signals the beginning of assimilation of knowledge and the practice of austerities for the sole purpose of becoming further God realized. This is the true boon of the human birth, the ability to understand God and then serve Him voluntarily, with love and attention.
Tulsidas references this initiation by speaking of the shaving of the head. This is typically done prior to the initiation ceremony. The second part refers to advanced ascetics, who abandon home for life in the woods. A person who has done these two things is indeed special. Not everyone can make the sacrifice. The news that someone has been initiated may not make everyone happy, though. Even the well-wishers can become jealous, for not everyone is able to accept every formality of spiritual life.
Being the compassionate devotee of the Lord that he is, from this verse Tulsidas removes any reason for worry on the issue. What matters most is love for Rama, who is the Supreme Lord. That love should be natural; it shouldn’t be forced. It should be practiced spontaneously. In fact, that is the goal of knowledge and renunciation. In knowledge a person understands that God is the source of everything and that He is indeed a person. God never takes birth and He never dies. He is the life of everything that lives, and those living things are constitutionally fit to serve Him. This service is what makes them happiest.
ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo
mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate
iti matvā bhajante māṁ
“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.8)
Renunciation helps to reinforce the dedication to that service, which is known as bhakti-yoga. If after shaving the head and leaving home one does not naturally love God the person, they are simply wasting their time. They could have saved themselves the trouble by staying at home. If a person who lives at home has natural love for Rama, then they have no need to accept any formality. They have bypassed everything.
At the same time, the advanced souls still follow the majority of the traditions. Tulsidas indeed left home and became a fulltime wanderer, a sannyasi. He begged from door to door in order to spread the message of divine love. Through his authored works, so many people got to hear about Shri Rama. Their status, gender, intelligence, and level of renunciation did not matter. The poet made sure that everyone got the chance to develop spontaneous love for God, which is the goal of human life.
Shaved head when guru to accept,
To roam free, comfort of home to reject.
But others not some jealousy to take,
Since same sacrifices they can’t make?
Tulsi saying that no reason to fear,
Key is to Shri Rama to remain dear.
Then whether living in forest or home,
The Lord gladly to call you His own.