“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 ||
You have to get up out of bed. Otherwise the day will be wasted. You have to eat something. Otherwise you’ll be extremely hungry throughout the day. You have to go to either school or work. Otherwise how will you pay for the things that you need? How will you have the knowledge necessary to maintain yourself and your family? You have to do so many things throughout an entire lifetime, but why is that lifetime there in the first place? Why are you here on this earth? Goswami Tulsidas gives a nice answer.
His opinion is supported by Vedic philosophy, which is known as Vedanta. Veda means “knowledge” and anta means “the end.” Vedanta is the final conclusion, the end point that comes after stacking together every other truth discovered in life. All individuals are struggling through the same life. There is no difference between the rich person and the poor person. The dark-skinned individual is fundamentally no different than the light-skinned one. You should be nice to people, because this is how you would want them to act towards you. All of these teachings are included in Vedanta, which goes way beyond the temporary.
Indeed, this existence is temporary. I was somewhere five minutes ago. That moment is gone forever. In a few years’ time, it will be the distant past. It will be a faded memory. Though the original experience wasn’t all that noteworthy, simply through the passage of time the classification shifts. The best indicator is the photograph. Moments after taking it, the image doesn’t look so strange. But years later, the exact same image, viewed by the exact same eyes, elicits a different reaction.
Things constantly change and there is nothing we can do about it. Why do they change? Why don’t they stay the same? Vedanta philosophy says the reason is the nature of the realm. The place in which we reside is temporary and miserable. The same description applies for all places of residence that we know of. The constant factor cannot be described in the same way. That constant is what allows us to analyze different phases of time. It allows us to see into the future, predicting the reliable event known as time’s winding, which brings eventual death.
An indication of the constant factor is consciousness. The difference between something alive and something dead is consciousness. The part that is alive is known as spirit. The inanimate is matter. Spirit always has consciousness and matter always lacks it. We identify objects that move based on the presence of the consciousness coming from the spirit within. Vedanta ultimately deals with spirit, which is superior to matter.
Consciousness exists for bringing pleasure. This is the meaning to an existence. One doesn’t have to study Vedanta to know this. Each person is trying to find pleasure in some form or another. Even those who look to punish themselves take some enjoyment out of the process. There is the expression “misery loves company.” From this we see that when happiness is apparently lacking, there is still a way to find pleasure.
Consciousness brings sustained happiness when there is service. The best person to serve is God. He has an eternal consort who always serves Him already. As there is always service in this regard, time does not play a role in God’s existence. There is no past, present and future for Him since His body does not change. It is described as sach-chid-ananda, or eternally knowledgeable and blissful.
To whom should our service go? Where do we find this God and His eternal consort? Sita and Rama are the ones to serve, according to Goswami Tulsidas. Not that Sita and Rama are the only manifestations of the divine pair. And it is not that they are figments of the imagination, either. The Supreme Lord is so kind that He gives many outlets for the consciousness to find lasting happiness. Sita and Rama are the worshipable divine pair of choice for Tulsidas.
The poet says that there should be devotion to Gauri and Shankara at the same time. This is another divine pair, who are noted for their devotion to Sita and Rama. Shankara narrates the glories of Sita and Rama to his wife, who is also known as Parvati. She underwent great austerities to get Shankara as her husband, and that effort paid off since Shankara is a pure devotee of God.
If service to Sita and Rama is lacking and there is no devotion to Gauri and Shankara, it is like the life has gone to waste. The reason is that someone else must be approached. Everyone is a beggar of some kind, even if they don’t realize it. We are at the mercy of others. We can’t completely protect ourselves; it is not possible. We can’t fully sustain ourselves, even if we live in a remote cave with a banana tree nearby. The bananas give us nourishment and the cave shelter, but the higher force known as nature must provide both of these things first. Therefore at the most basic level we beg from nature.
Sita and Rama are also Lakshmi and Narayana. They are Radha and Krishna as well. Gauri and Shankara teach service to God to the fallen souls in this world. The idea is that there must be someone who teaches us about God the person. We can only know of Sita and Rama through someone who teaches us. We can only know about Gauri and Shankara in the same way. So the representative of the Supreme Lord is just as, if not more, important than the Supreme Lord. One who meets the bona fide representative and follows their instruction automatically respects Parvati and Shiva as they carry out their devotional service to the Supreme Lord and His eternal consort. Thus the guru all by himself can make this birth successful. Otherwise through time’s attack, the life slowly goes to waste.
Why on morning train feet to set,
Why up from comfortable bed to get?
Existence for pleasure seeing,
Service to God misery freeing.
The path coming from guru alone,
Supreme Lord can’t make up on our own.
Then to Gauri and Shankara devotion showing,
And with love to Sita and Rama going.