“Tulsi says, ‘Listen ojha. You don’t understand the loss in abandoning Rama. Even the pure water that comes from the holy rivers like the Ganga can become impure like wine.’” (Dohavali, 68)
tulasī rāmahiṁ parihareṁ nipaṭa hāni suna ojha |
surasari gata seā'ī salila surā sarisa gaṅgojha ||68||
When someone gives an instruction, what they don’t say often carries as much weight as what they do say. For instance, if they recommend going to a certain person for help, it means that they haven’t recommended so many others. In the Vedic tradition this takes on added value since there are many divine figures to whom one can approach. In this verse from the Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas mentions a specific god and how His association is what gives purity to the brahmana class.
The god mentioned is Shri Rama. He is the Supreme Lord, specifically adorned with a bow and arrow set. He has a complexion that resembles the dark raincloud and a dedication to upholding dharma, or righteousness. This is not the only way that God appears, though this form still represents Him fully. He is not formless. The spiritual energy that is Brahman does not represent Him fully. Brahman is the effulgence that emanates from Rama’s transcendental body.
The brahmana is the person who is Brahman realized. You can see God without ever picking up a book. Not that it is easy; but it is possible. You simply have to notice the undivided spiritual energy that runs throughout the creation. Like an electrical current that goes through all the wires in a neighborhood, the Brahman energy is what gives life to the living. Without Brahman, there would only be dull matter, without life and without animation.
This singular energy is one aspect to God. It indicates that life continues, no matter what happens to the coverings known as bodies. Birth and death are events paired in a specific section of time. They represent the acceptance and rejection respectively of a body. They do not determine existence, since Brahman exists in infinity. Brahman cannot be destroyed. At the individual level, it is known as the soul.
samaṁ sarveṣu bhūteṣu
yaḥ paśyati sa paśyati
“One who sees the Supersoul accompanying the individual soul in all bodies and who understands that neither the soul nor the Supersoul is ever destroyed, actually sees.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.28)
Tulsidas gives a valuable instruction to the ojha brahmanas in this verse from the Dohavali. He says that it is difficult to understand the loss incurred from turning one’s back on Shri Rama. He gives the example of water. When it is from the Ganga, it is pure. Yet water can also be impure, as in the case of wine. It is the association which determines the purity. The Ganga river flows from the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord Vishnu, who is the same Rama but in a different spiritual manifestation.
In the same way, though the brahmana may be Brahman realized, they can become impure in an instant if they remove themselves from devotion to Rama. How is this possible? If you see the spiritual equality of all beings, doesn’t that mean you have purity in vision? The complete understanding of spirituality is Bhagavan. Brahman comes from Bhagavan. It is one thing if a person doesn’t yet know the complete feature of God in His transcendental body. The warning here is for one who turns their back on Rama, who abandons Him.
It’s interesting that the poet didn’t mention other gods of the Vedic tradition. Bhagavan is known as brahmanya-devaya, or the worshipable deity of the brahmana class, which are like priests. Still, it is possible for a brahmana to worship other devas, who are not Bhagavan. The same principle applies, as one is turning their back on Rama. Even the other devas know from where their power comes. They are able to grant benedictions to their worshipers only through the sanction of the Supreme Lord.
sa tayā śraddhayā yuktas
labhate ca tataḥ kāmān
mayaiva vihitān hi tān
“Endowed with such a faith, he seeks favors of a particular demigod and obtains his desires. But in actuality these benefits are bestowed by Me alone.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 7.22)
The devas are in a high position precisely because of their association with Bhagavan. Sometimes they forget, and they lose their power as a result. One time Indra, the king of heaven, challenged Rama in His form of Krishna. Indra sent torrential rainfall intended to devastate the village of Vrindavana. Krishna saved the day and Indra later repented. A similar incident occurred with Lord Brahma, the creator. He thought he could outsmart Krishna, but he too regretted his mistake later on.
The wise brahmana keeps their allegiance with Rama, who holds such brahmanas in high esteem. Teachers are required in society. Without instruction, man grows up to be no different than the animal. If the teacher has abandoned Rama, then there is a limit to what their students can learn. The students miss the chance to meet the true goal of life: love and devotion to God. As a real brahmana, Tulsidas properly explains where the power of the priestly class lies. It is in association with the all-powerful Rama.
Even the powerful demigods know,
That strength coming from Krishna so.
Tulsi to the brahmanas reminding,
That otherwise impurity finding.
Turning back on Rama a fool’s mistake,
Same impurity their students to take.
Teachers in society always required,
Most useful when by devotion inspired.