Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Benefits of Controlling the Mind

[Rama's lotus feet]“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||

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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.

uddhared ātmanātmānaṁ
nātmānam avasādayet
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)

[exam]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.

[Rama's lotus feet]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.

In Closing:

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.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Accepting Destiny

[Rama's lotus feet]“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||

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When is it enough? How much money should a person earn? How many titles should a champion accept before they retire? Is it possible to have a limit? Goswami Tulsidas says that a person should be content with whatever happiness and material profit they get. This is not only his opinion; it is supported by Vedic philosophy, which teaches the science of self-realization. That science also shows the way to reaching the point where the mind is fully content, where it is restrained and yet powerful at the same time.

The example used here is the horse. It can veer off course at any time. The expert rider knows how to control the horse, but this doesn’t mean that the horse no longer has value. When its rear legs are tied, the potential for action remains, but there is control. When needed the horse can be let loose, but it will still be controlled by the rider.

[odometer]We can look to the automobile for a modern-day example. The odometer on the dashboard can reach over 100 miles per hour, but this is not really a safe driving speed, nor is it allowed by the law in most circumstances. Barring the odd, empty road, there is always a speed limit posted that is much below the maximum marker on the odometer. The car is thus very powerful, but it needs to be controlled. Otherwise there could be danger.

One should be happy with what they get in life. This is because the results are due to past actions. No effort needs to be made to find happiness. Both happiness and its counterpart, sadness, arrive in due course, like the summer and winter seasons. In the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna says that happiness and sadness arise due to sense perception only. They are more mental than anything. The wise person should not be disturbed by them.

mātrā-sparśās tu kaunteya
āgamāpāyino 'nityās
tāṁs titikṣasva bhārata

“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)

[four seasons]One person takes birth in a rich family. The palace-type house is the only one they’ve experienced. Another person grows up in a moderate size home. Both people should remain content. Material profit means there is potential for changing the circumstances. The rich person can opt for a meager lifestyle and the poor person can work their way up towards a larger home.

The Vedic recommendation is to remain satisfied. That is difficult to do on your own. Tulsidas gives the necessary accompanying factor. He says there should be love for Rama’s lotus feet. This love is not expensive. It doesn’t require enrollment in a four year college and the accompanying student loan debt. It doesn’t require strenuous effort. It can be practiced anywhere, in fact.

That love can exist in the remote forest, where there are little distractions. The sannyasi is a professional wanderer. This institution is the last of the four mentioned in the varnashrama system. A sannyasi doesn’t have to worry about how, where and what to eat. They don’t have to concern themselves with maintaining a home. They roam constantly and accept the mercy of others. This frees up time for loving the lotus feet of Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord. The fact that Rama has feet means that God is a person. His feet are amazing in that they can accept love from many people simultaneously. His feet have the ability to deliver supreme satisfaction and contentment to the worshiper.

[Rama's lotus feet]Since love is the goal, maintaining a home doesn’t disqualify a person from receiving Rama’s mercy. Coupled with the contentment is control of the mind. If you are living in the wilderness and your mind is not controlled, the meager surroundings have no effect on you. If you’re living in a house but not stressed by the pressure to maintain, then you are well-situated. Just because a person travels all the time it doesn’t mean that they are any happier than the person who doesn’t. And just because someone has everything in the home it doesn’t mean that they are automatically content.

Destiny in terms of material rewards should be accepted without objection. Spiritual destiny should be eagerly sought out, as it brings the real form of happiness. That destiny can be created through work done in this valuable human form of life. Love for God is both the means and the objective, and in this age it is easily practiced through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Not more or less should expect,

The destiny from past karma accept.


Like horses with legs restrained,

Keep mind’s desires contained.


Then no matter living where,

Can practice bhakti there.


Have love for Rama’s lotus feet,

And your spiritual destiny meet.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Understanding The Four Orders

[Rama's lotus feet]“Tulsi says that those who find worldly pleasures tasteless and love for Rama full of taste are very dear to Rama, whether they live in the forest or in a house.” (Dohavali, 61)

je jana rūkhe bi।saya rasa cikane rāma saneha' |
tulasī te priya rāma ko kānana basahiṃ ki geha' ||

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What is more important, following rules and regulations or achieving a specific state of mind? In more general terms, is the path more important than the goal? Obviously the goal would be superior, as the path exists to lead to the goal. As long as the path does not involve violating laws of nature meant to help others reach the same goal, then its exact nature isn’t so important. This can only be true with one goal, which is the only one that every person can share. Fortunately, this goal is every individual’s birthright.

That goal is love and devotion for God. This is what counts most in an existence. In ignorance we put stock in other factors, which are all temporary. Even if a situation lasts for thousands of years, it is not the most important thing. For instance, if a living being takes on the form of a tree, it may remain stationary for a very long period of time. The human being struggles hard just to live for a fraction of that time, and yet no one would consider the human to be less evolved than the tree. Therefore longevity in a world that is destined for destruction is not so important. By itself, it is not the sign of advancement.

Love for God is eternal. The practice of it is known as bhakti-yoga, which can translate to “uniting with the Supreme Spirit through the means of love and devotion.” You practice love in order to get it. If this sounds confusing, know that the practice of bhakti at the beginning can go by other names, such as jnana, karma, dhyana and sankhya. When the desire for the rewards specific to each discipline gets cast aside in favor of the pleasure of the supreme object of worship, then the effort turns into bhakti.

“Ramanujacharya has explained the word sanatana as ‘that which has neither beginning nor end,’ so when we speak of sanatana-dharma, we must take it for granted on the authority of Shri Ramanujacharya that it has neither beginning nor end.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, Introduction)

[Ramanujacharya]Bhakti-yoga is synonymous with sanatana-dharma. Sanatana translates to “that which has no beginning and no end.” Dharma is the essential characteristic of something. When you work towards either regaining or maintaining that essential characteristic, the work also classifies as dharma. Sanatana-dharma therefore means the eternal occupation. It is synonymous with bhakti-yoga since the soul’s essential characteristic is to love God. This love is meant to be given without motivation; thereby making it pure. It also should continue without interruption.

In the original state, the pure spirit soul is fixed in sanatana-dharma. Thus there is no question of order, class, gender, age, or occupation. In the world in which we presently live, we have such designations because sanatana-dharma seems so far away. To help regain the eternal occupation, the Supreme Lord, through His Vedas, gives man the four divisions of occupation and the four orders of life. The four divisions are brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya and shudra. These are the priests, the administrators, the merchants and the laborers respectively.

There are also the four orders of life: brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha, and sannyasa. In the above referenced verse from the Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas mentions conditions specific to grihastha and sannyasa. Grihastha is householder life, and so the person in this order lives in a home, i.e. a regular house. Sannyasa is the renounced order, and so the person in it lives in the wilderness, i.e. they don’t have a conventional home. The third order, vanaprastha, also lives in the forest.

Tulsidas says that in the eyes of the Lord, the dwelling doesn’t matter so much. This is provided that two conditions exist: distaste for worldly things and taste in the practice of love and devotion to Rama, who is God. There is an apparent contradiction here. The opinion of the author supports the idea that the eternal occupation is not dependent on temporary factors. If love for God is within the soul’s core, then why should the type of residence matter?

cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ
tasya kartāram api māṁ
viddhy akartāram avyayam

“According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.13)

[four divisions of occupation]At the same time, the four orders are given by God Himself; He says so in the Bhagavad-gita. So why is the system there if the goal is to rise above designations and be devoted to God purely? The answer comes from the existence of the goal itself. The four orders are a means, but they are not the end. Just as the conditioned soul needs an education in order to read books to help expand their knowledge, the system of the four orders helps to bring one to the platform of pure love and devotion.

The situations themselves are never the ultimate determining factor. The Supreme Lord measures the size of the heart and not the square footage of the dwelling. The materially conscious person is focused on the size of the home, and on the reverse side the spiritualist is just as strict. One side looks for more space, while the other looks for less. The Supreme Lord looks to see if there is love and devotion to Him. The renunciate is typically favored since they have a better chance for becoming attached to the Supreme Lord’s lotus feet, but their style of living doesn’t automatically qualify them. Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that if material desires still exist, the person in renunciation is kidding themselves.

karmendriyāṇi saṁyamya
ya āste manasā smaran
indriyārthān vimūḍhātmā
mithyācāraḥ sa ucyate

“One who restrains the senses and organs of action, but whose mind dwells on sense objects, certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.6)

[Tulsidas writing about Rama]The saints of the Vedic tradition are so kind that they give even those who don’t have the four orders available to them a chance at reaching the ultimate goal of life. Tulsidas composes verses for all men and women to read. Lest they get discriminated against, considered less intelligent by society, they can win the favor of the Supreme Lord by hearing about His true nature, as displayed during His famous descent to earth as Shri Rama. Actions speak louder than words, and Rama showed that He cares most about what is in the heart.

In Closing:

Not concerned with footage square,

Rama with what’s in the heart to care.


Is there love and devotion to Him,

Or merely strong desire to sin?


Giving to society divisions and orders four,

Reaching stage of pure bhakti for.


Whether in large house or forest to stay,

Towards Rama any can make their way.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Withstanding Scrutiny Of The External

[Rama's lotus feet]“Tulsi says that those who find worldly pleasures tasteless and love for Rama full of taste are very dear to Rama, whether they live in the forest or in a house.” (Dohavali, 61)

je jana rūkhe bi।saya rasa cikane rāma saneha' |
tulasī te priya rāma ko kānana basahiṃ ki geha' ||

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There is the saying that you can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Vedic literature gives examples to support the same truth, that no matter how much you value your honor, you can’t protect it completely. Whichever road you choose in life, there will be detractors, people to criticize your decision. Here Goswami Tulsidas references the two extremes, materialism and renunciation. He puts them both in the proper place by saying that to the Supreme Lord the only thing that matters is the desire found within.

A common object of scrutiny by the materialist is the dwelling. Your place of residence speaks a lot about your fortunes in life. If you live in a big house, it means that you are well off. If you live in a tiny apartment, it means that you don’t earn as much money as others. You’re forced to live so close to others in a similar financial condition. You have to tolerate the sound of footsteps coming from upstairs. You have to accept the parking situation. When you have parties, you have to pare down the guest list so that everyone can fit inside.

The house is just the symbol representing the drive for bhoga, or material enjoyment. The forest is the symbol of the pursuit of the opposite: renunciation. Anyone who is trying to understand the Supreme Spirit in earnest is fundamentally trying to detach themselves from the material consciousness. Therefore a similar kind of scrutiny comes, but the direction is reversed. Instead of evaluating how big the home is, the focus is on how many things have been renounced.

“How close are you to moksha? What is your diet like? I’ve heard that you can’t be a perfect spiritual being if you are still married. Great sages don’t have children because they’re completely free of sex life. I don’t know how you’re going to do that while living amongst the worldly minded. You’re going to have to find a secluded place.”

Both the materialist and the renunciant face scrutiny. There are always questions of how much one has advanced, and the external is used as a way to measure. But Goswami Tulsidas says that the person who created everything, in whom full enjoyment and renunciation exist simultaneously, does not care so much about where you live. He is interested more with what is in the heart. Real renunciation is finding worldly pleasures to be tasteless. That alone doesn’t suffice for getting the mercy of God, however. Simultaneously, there must be something full of taste.

[Lord Rama]That higher taste is love for God, known as bhakti-yoga. That love can only blossom to the fullest when there is knowledge that the Supreme is a person; hence the mention of Shri Rama, the worshipable object of Goswami Tulsidas. Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is not a Hindu god, a blue god, or a god of a famous book only. He is the origin of everything in a transcendental form, full of sweetness. As the Supreme is described as Godhead, it means that He doesn’t limit Himself to only a single spiritual manifestation. There are other forms of the original Lord, but they represent the same singular identity. Indeed, this means that love for God is never restricted to anyone.

A person can have these conditions provided by Tulsidas irrespective of their place of dwelling. It makes sense if we think about it. How many times have we felt completely alone when in the company of so many others? How many times have we felt elated when spending a night to ourselves? The mind is what makes the difference, and in bhakti the mind is always contemplating the features of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

The person owning the large estate may have succeeded in the material estimation. The spiritualist who renounced everything to live in a cave may similarly have done something remarkable. But unless they have love for God, they won’t be dear to Him. And He is the person most worth pleasing; His scrutiny is what matters the most.

The opinion of Tulsidas is validated by events from history. Shri Rama befriended monkey-like creatures in the forest. They were not like renounced human beings; the forest was their natural home. They were not advanced materially, but in heart they had room only for love for God. Vibhishana was also very dear to Rama. He was part of a ruling family in Lanka. He lived in a large palace, but Rama did not mind.

[Rama with the Vanaras]There are so many more examples from history to support the claim. Scrutiny will always be there, no matter which path you take. The wise try to look good in the eyes of the person who can see everything. The one who is truly antaryami witnesses everything happening past, present and future. He sees within all bodies, and only He can accurately measure what’s in the heart. In the devotee’s He sees pure love and so He gives every opportunity for them to continue to relish the taste of devotion, bhakti-rasa.

In Closing:

Your place of dwelling where,

Supreme Lord Rama not to care.


Friends with forest-dwellers made,

Accepted Vibhishana when obeisance paid.


Material tasteless and devotion when,

To become dear to Shri Rama then.


He with eyes everywhere sees,

The best person whom to please.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How Big Is Your House

[Rama's lotus feet]“Tulsi says that those who find worldly pleasures tasteless and love for Rama full of taste are very dear to Rama, whether they live in the forest or in a house.” (Dohavali, 61)

je jana rūkhe bi।saya rasa cikane rāma saneha' |
tulasī te priya rāma ko kānana basahiṃ ki geha' ||

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It’s the sign of material advancement. It shows how well the parents brought up the child, how much time and money was invested in their upbringing. It shows how well the person has done in the “dog eat dog” world, where progress is measured by how much of the community has been industrialized. It’s a sign of the level of success in the area of business, where one person looks to outsmart the other, parlaying their skills into huge profits.

The “it” here refers to the house, the place of residence. Indeed, it is only natural for a parent to be proud that their child lives in a large house, one bigger than they had as a child. After all, it is the desire of the parents that their children live better than them. Why should the children suffer? What is the point to the hard work of the parents if the children can’t advance past them?

Here Goswami Tulsidas gives his own opinion on the matter, and it is confirmed through sober analysis of the situation. The creator of everything is not concerned with how large or small the dwelling is. If one lives in a civilized area featuring a luxurious home they are not automatically qualified to be in the Lord’s favor. And the same goes for the other direction, full renunciation.

[large estate]Actually, we don’t need to bring God into the equation just yet to see the validity to this opinion. Say that you have two children. One lives in a tiny apartment and another in a large estate. Is that the determining factor in how you view them? Is the size of the dwelling the basis for your assessment on their life’s worth? To do so would be quite silly. Instead, the characters of the respective individuals are evaluated. The parent sees the mental outlooks as well. If the child in the large home is struggling to make ends meet, what is the point to their work? If the person in the small apartment is stressed over the lack of space, then they too are unhappy.

And so in spiritual life, the heavenly father looks for the happiness of the children. That happiness can be found in any situation, provided two conditions relating to desire are present. Goswami Tulsidas provides those two conditions. First he mentions the dryness of worldly pleasures. Any wise person will feel this way. Think of it like pushing a rock up a hill. After difficult labor you get the heavy boulder to reach the desired destination. But when you finish, when you let go, the rock rolls back down to the bottom. Material life is like this. Nothing is permanent, and satisfying one desire only gives birth to many more.

āpūryamāṇam acala-pratiṣṭhaṁ
samudram āpaḥ praviśanti yadvat
tadvat kāmā yaṁ praviśanti sarve
sa śāntim āpnoti na kāma-kāmī

“A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires - that enter like rivers into the ocean which is ever being filled but is always still - can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.70)

The second condition is the inverse of the first. While worldly pleasures should be tasteless, devotion to God should be full of taste. This only makes sense, as the Supreme Lord is the opposite of illusion and transience. He is permanent. His transcendental body is described as eternal, blissful and knowledgeable [sach-chid-ananda]. Those who associate with that transcendental figure find the same happiness.

Of course the issue is the means of association. How can one find God when they are stuck at home, with worldly pleasures surrounding them? Therefore better it is to go to the forest. Eliminate distractions. Austerity is forced upon the forest-dweller, and so there is more time for contemplation of the Absolute. There is more time to relish His transcendental features.

[Lord Rama]But Tulsidas gives the proper perspective on this as well. He says that it does not matter whether one lives in a jungle or a civilized home. If the person thinks that worldly pleasures are tasteless and devotion to Rama full of taste, then they are very dear to Rama. Rama is the Supreme Personality worshiped by Tulsidas. Rama shows that God is a person with distinguishable features. As there is Godhead, Rama is not the lone Divine personal manifestation. The same original Lord can expand into other forms that appeal to the variety of moods found in devotees.

The materialist asks “how big is your house”? The spiritualist itching for advancement in consciousness asks “how big is your renunciation”? But the Supreme Lord Rama, whose opinion counts the most, asks “how big is your heart”? How much love and devotion for God is there? That is the question that counts the most. When this question yields the proper answer that is honest at the same time, then the place of dwelling is not so important. God’s creation is vast, after all, so His devotees can be found anywhere.

In Closing:

To have concern why,

Over residence’s size?


Spiritualist in renunciation setting,

Materialist for more things getting.


When tasteless is material gain,

And full taste in chanting Rama’s name.


Then not mattering house or forest bare,

Rama’s devotees to be found anywhere.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Better Than Seeing God

[Sita and Rama]“Tulsi says that having pure love for Sita and Rama, without thinking of self-interest or supreme interest, is a reward superior to the four rewards of life. That is my opinion.” (Dohavali, 60)

svāratha paramāratha rahita sītā rāma saneha' |
tulasī so phala cāri ko phala hamāra mata eha' ||

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Brahma-sukha is the joy resulting from true oneness with the entire creation. Threaded through the vast time and space, with its infinite variety in creatures and forms, is a singular energy. That energy is superior to that which it animates; it cannot be destroyed. The different sparks that are part of that energy can realize that oneness; though this realization is very difficult to get. The happiness that results from the union is difficult to obtain. and once getting it one never wants to abandon it. Goswami Tulsidas considers such a happiness, which is seemingly beyond measure, to be inferior to the reward of having pure love and affection for the Supreme Lord and His eternal consort.

[parcel delivery]You can only get brahma-sukha if you want it. It’s not as if it will automatically come to you or arrive at your doorstep by accident. The parcel delivery service can make a mistake and give you a package intended for someone else, but such a mistake can’t occur with the realization of the Divine energy. Integral to that realization is a change in desire. No more do you look for satisfaction of the body, which is temporary. No more do you worry so much over time, which is infinite in both the backward and forward directions.

According to the Bhagavad-gita, the Brahman realized soul no longer hankers nor laments. What is there to hanker over? Goswami Tulsidas passes on the four primary categories of rewards described in the Vedas, the most ancient scriptural tradition of this and every other world. Every person, no matter which land they call home, no matter what language is native to them, no matter their age, seeks after four basic things: religiosity, economic development, sense gratification and liberation.

Rare it is to attain all four in a single lifetime, yet the pursuit is there nonetheless. Even the non-religious look to follow some principles. Skepticism itself is a kind of rule; one that advises to not believe in anything. Economic development today is the most common focus, with the profit used to satisfy the senses. Liberation is for ending the cycle of birth and death, for being rescued from the ocean of material suffering.

The Brahman-realized soul does not hanker after rewards. They transcend the desire for the four rewards since they understand the spiritual oneness shared by all beings. They see past bodily designations. I should be able to see the sun right now, even though there is a cloud cover. I should be able to hear the conversation of others living thousands of miles away. The only reason I can’t is due to bodily limitations. Brahman is beyond the bodily coverings; hence it is superior to the material nature.

Lamenting comes from frustrated desires. If you no longer hanker after the four primary rewards, then you won’t lament, either. I can’t be sad about losing a game of chess that I never played. The concept is similar, and so the Brahman-realized soul has crossed a major boundary in the evolution of the individual spirit.

brahma-bhūtaḥ prasannātmā
na śocati na kāṅkṣati
samaḥ sarveṣu bhūteṣu
mad-bhaktiṁ labhate parām

“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.54)

Yet the Bhagavad-gita does not stop there with the description of the Brahman-realized soul. It is said that in that higher state the individual soul is ready to take up bhakti, which is devotional service. What can be higher than the realization that there is spirit in everything? Is this not the vision of God? Is not brahma-sukha the equivalent of seeing God? This is what transcendentalists desire, and so what can be beyond that?

Goswami Tulsidas helps us to understand. He says that love for Sita and Rama is the highest reward. He does not equate this with brahma-sukha. Indeed, within the four rewards is liberation itself, which occurs through Brahman-realization. He gives a condition for that love. He says that the individual must be free of concern for svartha and paramartha. These relate to interests in the present and future lives.

[Sita and Rama]Another way to describe the condition is to say that the love must be without motivation and without interruption. Brahma-sukha is a kind of interest. If attained in the present life it is svartha. If it comes after death, it is paramartha. Love for Sita and Rama is eternal. When the love is pure, it can never be taken away. It is so strong that Sita and Rama cannot even stop its outpouring. In essence, the devotee makes God the Almighty powerless.

The reason this reward is superior to anything else is because of the enjoyment. The soul meets its constitutional state only when achieving this position of love. Indeed, the love is always there, but in degraded conditions it gets misused. Love for anything except God is derived from the original condition. Hate is nothing more than the inverse of the original loving sentiment.

Brahman realization is a way to see God, but bhakti is a way to serve Him. Serving Him is superior to seeing Him. Sight brings a temporary enjoyment to the individual, while service brings increased happiness to the person who is already sach-chid-ananda, eternally blissful and knowledgeable. Rama is the Supreme Lord in His personal form. In His original form of Shri Krishna, He does such amazing things like teach the Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna. As Vishnu, the same Rama creates the universes effortlessly by breathing out.

Sita is Rama’s eternal consort. Together they make for the best worshipable objects. Even if a person is still searching for any or all of the four major rewards, approaching Sita and Rama is the right move. This is because the couple will help in granting the highest reward of pure love for them. Brahman cannot do this since it is not a person. Brahman is more of a concept, a way to realize God. Sita and Rama are personal aspects, and with that personal interaction comes the perfection of living.

In Closing:

In happiness of Brahman to be,

From hankering and lamenting free.


But position not the end quite,

Service to Lord more important than sight.


Love for Sita and Rama keep,

And fruit of existence reap.


Focus on svartha and paramartha shed,

By Tulsidas towards perfection be led.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Analyzing The Best Reward

[Sita and Rama]“Tulsi says that having pure love for Sita and Rama, without thinking of self-interest or supreme interest, is a reward superior to the four rewards of life. That is my opinion.” (Dohavali, 60)

svāratha paramāratha rahita sītā rāma saneha' |
tulasī so phala cāri ko phala hamāra mata eha' ||

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If you want to be successful at something, approach someone who has succeeded. The failures will give you many excuses for not trying. They will tell you that the effort is not worth it to begin with. From their own experience, they can only tell you what not to do. The successful have the gift of insight, and if they are kind enough to share it others become fortunate. Here Goswami Tulsidas gives his opinion of what the most valuable reward in life is. Since he lived very happily, he can be considered a successful person; therefore his opinion is worth listening to.

Though he says that this is his opinion, he doesn’t give his view blindly. A child thinks that playing video games is the best way to spend the days. This is in ignorance because they have yet to experience the rest of the world. There is a lot of stuff going on outside of the living room. If they saw everything first and then concluded the same about video games, their opinion would be more meaningful.

Tulsidas mentions the standard rewards. By standard, we refer to covering all bases, from the religious to the non-religious, from the poor to the wealthy, from the man to the woman, and from the child to the adult. Fortunately, the Vedas already group the standard rewards into four categories; further speculation is not required.

[legislature]The first reward is dharma. This is religiosity or virtue. If you have a small group of people that you want protected, you can form a governing body. These bodies exist on so many levels, from the nation all the way down to the sports league. For the governing body to function properly, there must be virtue. Otherwise, what is the point to making laws? If every person could determine the law for themselves, you would have rampant conflict. There would never be any justice, as every person would consider their self-interest to be paramount. Indeed, this is the major flaw in the democratic style of government. Something openly wrong like stealing can become legal if it gets enough votes.

Virtue is a nice thing to have, and so is artha, which is profit. Artha can also be translated to “economic development.” “It’s difficult for an empty sack to stand upright.” How can you be expected to be virtuous if you’re always in want? You need some type of return on your work; otherwise you won’t work in the first place.

You exchange the profits from your ventures for things to enjoy. This enjoyment is known as kama in Sanskrit. Playing video games, buying a fancy car, tinkering with electronic gadgets, going on dates - these are all forms of sense gratification. If any of these things are taken away, it’s thought that life has been made more miserable.

The final reward is moksha, which is liberation. So you’ve lived virtuously, been successful in your work, and enjoyed objects of the senses. Now you want to make sure you don’t go through the cycle again. You don’t want to take birth again. You’d rather get release from everything. Moksha too brings a kind of enjoyment, something to be enjoyed personally. It’s like freedom for the soul.

Dharma, artha, kama and moksha are the four rewards of life. They are called fruits in Sanskrit, phala. Tulsidas says that another phala is superior. That reward is love for Sita and Rama, who are the energy of God and God respectively. He does not say love for Brahman, which is the impersonal aspect to God. He does not say love for a concept. He mentions specific personalities because real love can only be offered to people.

[Sita and Rama]Tulsidas mentions a condition, however. Accompanying that love must be a lack of desire for svartha and paramartha. This distinction is important because both belong within the standard four rewards. Svartha is an interest that appears in the present life and paramartha in the afterlife. Love is a higher reward because there is no personal interest involved. This reward is very difficult to achieve. As rare as it is to find the four rewards of life in a single person, pure love and devotion to God is even rarer.

But the poet speaks from experience. He gives his opinion not just because someone has told him. And the people who have told him are already of the highest caliber. Their authority alone is enough to believe. But Tulsidas experienced this truth himself. He succeeded in getting the highest reward in life. He knows the secret to it precisely because he has experienced that the four rewards don’t bring any lasting happiness. He knows that attention to svartha and paramartha is not the best use of the valuable human life. Indeed, both merge into one when the individual takes up bhakti-yoga, which is the regulated way to reach the elusive highest reward.

In Closing:

Better than standard rewards four,

In devotion Sita and Rama adore.


Svartha for the right now,

Paramartha in afterlife enjoyment how.


Both of them cast aside,

And in bliss of bhakti reside.


Other than this nothing worth seeking,

Tulsidas from experience speaking.