“Like when the cow dung mixes with the rain, when you turn your back on worship of Rama you will experience that no one likes you and no one has love for you, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 73)
barasā ko gobara bhayoṁ kēā cahai ko karai prīti |
tulasī tū anubhavahi aba rāma bimukha kī rīti ||73||
“Prabhu has done so much for us. He has lifted us out of the ditch of despair and brought us into the field of light. No more are we shrouded in the darkness of ignorance. We have received the transcendental vision through their mercy. There is no more doubt over the mission of life. There is no more chasing after a temporary reward, only to remain unsatisfied in the end. Now we feel renewed pleasure, day after day. It is all due to their grace. There is no end to their glories. We are so fortunate to have them in our lives.”
It is not uncommon for this type of praise to be offered to a saintly figure. After all, the world we live in is known as “dog eat dog.” Each person is the same on the inside, but we draw distinctions immediately off of external features. We feel the need to be better than others, to not be left behind. We have affection for our own friends and family, while forgetting that others are friends and family as well.
The saint is above these designations. They see the goodness in all people, and they also know how to lift people up. The saint knows how to bring happiness that lasts. It is easy to give someone food, but it is more difficult to teach them a way to honestly procure food for themselves. It is easy to make someone smile through pleasing words, but it is more difficult to teach the same person to smile day after day, regardless of the circumstance.
From the saint’s perspective, keeping a level head is difficult when all this praise is constantly heaped upon them. They deserve it for sure. At the bare minimum, being godly requires compassion, cleanliness, austerity and honesty. Irrespective of religious tradition or sectarian boundaries, these qualities are what elevate the human being above other species.
The saint of the Vaishnava tradition is intimately associated with God the person. Thus they automatically acquire all the qualities we typically consider to be good. With duality sometimes what is good is bad. For instance, telling the truth to a murderer looking to kill is bad. Telling the truth is good in most circumstances, such as in court. The Vaishnava saint brings good qualities out in others as part of their mission.
In this verse from the Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas reminds us that the praise the saint earns is not completely of their own doing. They deserve credit for their work, but without worship of God the person they would not be noteworthy. There are many philanthropists. There are many humanitarians. They do good work in educating, feeding and training people.
Yet the person who worships God the person is far superior, for they know the origin of everything. They teach others about this origin as well. This is the most valuable lesson because the material is temporary. The good citizen who focuses on only the temporary is not the wisest. They can go a step above, but they need a certain type of behavior.
Tulsidas uses cow dung as an example. In India especially cow dung is very useful, even to this day. It is an easily obtained source for fuel and building material. It has antiseptic properties, though there is the obvious contradiction due to the nature of its origin. But as soon as the cow dung mixes with rainwater, it loses its usefulness.
The person who turns their back on worship of Rama is compared to the wet cow dung. When there is worship of Rama, the person becomes the most useful to others. Rama is the personal God, the worshipable deity of choice for Tulsidas and millions of others since time immemorial. Rama is also Krishna and Vishnu. He is the source of the impersonal Brahman. He is the origin of the Supersoul residing within the heart of every creature.
It is easy to be misled by effusive praise. If I start to think that everything is due to my efforts only, I will gradually turn away from the source of my power. Devotional service, bhakti-yoga, benefits me and everyone I contact. If I turn my back on devotion to God, then others won’t like me. Even if I win their favor temporarily, in the end they will curse me. This was the case with the infamous Ravana. He was liked when he protected the city of Lanka. Yet when he turned against Rama, he lost everything. The same citizens then lamented their plight, knowing that their misfortune was due to their wicked leader.
From this one verse we see that there is great value in meeting a saint of the Vaishnava tradition. Since they worship Rama they can give us so much. They earn the love and respect offered to them. Those who offer in such a way are benefitted far more than those who simply get material benedictions handed to them. The eternal engagement of bhakti-yoga is the true gem to be found in this world, and the person who worships Rama can tell us where to find it.
Since showing goodness in many ways,
Heaped upon the saint effusive praise.
But source of power shouldn’t forget,
Because only through Lord’s mercy met.
Tulsidas to the cow dung comparing,
When wet people no longer caring.
Worshiper of Rama considered the best,
By them whole society to be blessed.