“Tulsi says that one who is content with the happiness and material profit they receive in life, who has love for Rama’s lotus feet, and whose mind is like a restrained horse, living in the forest or a house is the same for them.” (Dohavali, 62)
jathā lābha santo।sa sukha raghubara carana saneha |
tulasī jo mana khūm̐da sama kānana basahum̐ ki geha ||62||
The comparison to the horse is very appropriate when describing the mind. In Sanskrit, one word for desire is “manoratha.” This literally means the chariot of the mind. As Shri Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, the mind can be the best friend or the worst enemy. In this verse from the Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas provides one of the benefits of restraining the mind.
ātmaiva hy ātmano bandhur
ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ
“A man must elevate himself by his own mind, not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.5)
If you’re taking an important test, you want to be focused. You don’t want to be distracted by concerns for other things. Not that those other things don’t matter. It’s just that during the period in question, intense focus is required. In this instance there is a benefit to controlling the mind. Indeed, in practically all situations the restless mind becomes an enemy.
But how is the mind controlled? Is it simply through will? “Mind, please stop thinking of so many other things. Stop bothering me. I beg of you.” In the example of the examination, the mind gets controlled through focus on a single thing. Essentially, you think of one thing in order to not think of other things.
In bhakti-yoga, the formula is the same. The idea is to restrain the mind, in the way that the back legs of a horse are tied when it is resting. The horse is powerful enough to pull chariots. It can travel swiftly to a destination provided by the rider. But if the horse is not properly controlled, that same potency can lead to harm.
One way to restrain the mind is to be content with whatever you have. If you live in a palace, accept it. There is no need to sell it and buy a larger one. If you live in an apartment, there is no pressing need to move out and buy your own house at the cost of years of debt. Each person’s situation in life is determined by past work, karma. One can try their best to change their situation, but not everything is in their control.
Even if the unsatisfied individual works to change their material situation, it doesn’t mean that they will automatically be happier as a result. This is the real reason for the recommendation to remain content. The wise seers of the Vedic tradition understand that more sense gratification does not lead to more satisfaction. New desires spring up, leaving the individual stuck in a cycle of dependence on change.
We are to restrain the mind by remaining content with what we have. But how do we do that? There is another piece; love for God. Have deep affection for His lotus feet. In this way you’ll want to serve. If you think that God is simply an energy, you won’t know how to serve Him properly. You’ll want to join that energy through renouncing everything. Or you’ll consider everything that is part of that energy to be God; thereby erroneously making objects of service out of practically anything.
The threefold formula provided by Tulsidas gives the long-term benefit of God’s association. That is the eventual destination of the yogi following bhakti. They get that association immediately through chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. They may not realize this right away, but steady practice while maintaining the three aforementioned conditions eventually leads to enlightenment.
For those not patient enough to wait to see the presence of the personal God, there is an immediate benefit to consider. With a restrained mind and contentment in life, coupled with love for God’s feet, there is the ability to live anywhere. You can reside in a desolate forest or a royal palace. You can live in an apartment or a conventional home with a backyard.
The mind is controlled, which is a great strength. Worry is due to the mind. So is fear. Discontentment is also a product of the mind. These issues are taken care of when there is love for Rama’s lotus feet. Rama is the object of worship for Goswami Tulsidas, and He fulfills the promise of the poet by always remaining in his consciousness. This is the greatest strength to possess; God in your consciousness. This strength can be acquired by rich and poor alike through practicing bhakti-yoga.
Vision of divine through mind’s sight,
Can be acquired by rich and poor alike.
Whether through wilderness scattering,
Or in palace, dwelling not mattering.
Controlled have you made the mind,
Or restless with constant desires to find?
The formula from Tulsidas take,
And benefits now and tomorrow make.