“When you give up Shri Rama, the Lord of Koshala, and put your hopes in others, then you’ll get distress wherever you look, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 71)
karihauṁ kosalanātha taji jabahiṁ dūsarī āsa |
jahām̐ tahām̐ dukha pā'ihauṁ tabahīṁ tulasīdāsa ||71||
It’s rare for someone to approach the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Just knowing that He exists and that He is the original proprietor of everything makes one very fortunate. To reach the pinnacle of an existence and then abandon it by putting hopes in others is not a very wise decision. According to Goswami Tulsidas, it results in pain being found everywhere. Here and there, wherever you turn, you will stay unhappy.
In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that only after having exhausted all sins does a person take up devotion to Him in earnest. How many sins are there? How long can a person keep doing the wrong things? As time is infinite in both the forwards and backwards directions, during that time all options for action are available. I ate pizza for dinner ten years ago and tonight I can make the same choice. In the larger scheme, I could keep choosing in favor of material life for as long as I want.
yeṣāṁ tv anta-gataṁ pāpaṁ
bhajante māṁ dṛḍha-vratāḥ
“Persons who have acted piously in previous lives and in this life, whose sinful actions are completely eradicated and who are freed from the duality of delusion, engage themselves in My service with determination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.28)
The original sin, if you will, is choosing against God. The correction is straightforward - choose in favor of Him. This choice is what signals that sinful life has been exhausted, that it is no longer the preferred route. This choice brings happiness because in the Supreme Lord is found all pleasure; hence His name of Rama.
Tulsidas references the personality named Rama in this verse from the Dohavali. He mentions the Lord of Koshala, which is the land in which God appeared as Rama. To be the controller of a large area of land is to have power. With power comes the ability to protect. Therefore in looking for protection alone, one can approach Rama and put their full trust in Him.
After sins are exhausted and one is fortunate enough to approach God the person, they shouldn’t abandon Him. It is something like spending days cleaning your car, inside and out, only to make it dirty again. It’s like taking a shower and then putting on the same clothes you were wearing previously. The choice is not very wise, as the benefits get erased.
These choices are made anyway, and they are done so in ignorance. One who abandons Rama after having found Him puts their hopes in others. There is a limit to what others can do for us. They are just like us; struggling in this material world. They suffer from the same four defects: imperfect senses, being easily illusioned, being prone to cheating, and the tendency to commit mistakes.
The idea is not to put hope only in Rama and then abandon everyone else. The practice is something like watering the roots of the tree. If you neglect the roots, no other action you take will maintain the tree. You can take care of the branches all you want, but eventually they will wilt. In a similar manner, if you abandon the root of the entire existence and put your faith in fallible living beings, you won’t win in the end.
There will be distress wherever you turn. What kinds of distress? There will be pain from the body and the mind. Other living entities will make you miserable, and you’ll have to deal with acts of nature. The devotees face these miseries also, but the effect is different. Rama protects the devotion of the devotees. In His form of Krishna He tells Arjuna to boldly declare that the servants of the Lord never perish.
kṣipraṁ bhavati dharmātmā
na me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati
“He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace. O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.31)
One example of abandoning Rama and putting hopes elsewhere is the feverish pursuit of money. Wealth is temporary; it does not last. Making it the sole focus is sinful; it goes against the nature of the soul. Only after having abandoned the pursuit for money, wealth, power and fame does one genuinely approach God the person. After such struggle, if one falls back into the same tendencies it is a shame.
There will be misery during the pursuit, and afterwards as well. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Shri Krishna says that the miser lives a hellish existence, both in the present and the future. In the present they are always worried about their money and maintaining it. Since they become so miserly, they suffer in the afterlife. Therefore what good did their pursuit do for them?
na sukhāya kadācana
mṛtasya narakāya ca
“Generally, the wealth of misers never allows them any happiness. In this life it causes their self-torment, and when they die it sends them to hell.” (Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.23.15)
When there is all hope in Rama, one can have little money or a lot and still not be affected. Vibhishana gained a kingdom through Rama’s favor, as did the Vanara Sugriva. Rama’s younger brother Bharata renounced a kingdom and lived like an ascetic for fourteen years. Each party was happy due to their devotion. Meanwhile, the evil king of Lanka had all the opulence in the world, and he only found distress wherever he turned.
The wise hold on to the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord once they find them. Bhagavan is so compassionate and kind that even if one abandons Him after having found Him, He leaves the door open to return. He never erases any progress made along the devotional path. When the person decides to abandon sinful life in favor of the light of devotion, they get to start again from where they left off. The pain found everywhere you turn can be easily flipped around to happiness and joy in every moment of the day through knowing that Rama will always protect.
When leaving Rama not aware,
That pain to be found here and there.
Wherever to be turning,
The same misery returning.
Even wealth to bring you down,
Making a miser leading to hell underground.
Just some love for Rama maintain,
Progress on that path forever to remain.