“The path to love for Rama can only be found after one turns their back on worldly pleasures, like how the snake can only concentrate after having shed its skin, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 82)
rāma prēma patha pekhi'ai di'em̐ biṣaya tana pīṭhi |
tulasī ken̄curi parihareṁ hōta sām̐pehū dīṭhi ||82||
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada would often be asked the question, “Can you show me God?” After all, to have evidence for something we insist on sight. When checking the authenticity of pizza, we go off the taste. We know we are listening to Beethoven based on sound. The difference between a polyester shirt and a cotton one is determined by touch. A rose is in our vicinity through smell. Yet for having firm belief in the Divine, we insist on seeing. Prabhupada’s answer lines up with this verse from the Dohavali.
Man is in illusion. In fact, he is easily illusioned. This is one of the four main defects associated with birth in the material world. Man has a tendency to cheat. Just look at the headlines on the back page of the daily newspaper. Athletes cheat all the time. Indeed, to conceal strategy is also a form of cheating, though it is allowed. If there were full honesty by the participants, the game wouldn’t be any fun to play.
Man commits mistakes. We know this from the famous phrase, “To err is human.” People mess up all the time. It is for this reason so much emphasis gets placed on forgiveness. If you are truly religious, you will learn how to forgive.
The fourth defect is imperfect senses. This one is a little more difficult to realize right away. But think about it. Can I see something happening outside of my house? Can I hear the band playing in a city hundreds of miles away? Can I smell the delicious samosas cooking in my mother’s kitchen while I am at the office? These are limitations of the senses. Perfect senses means not being limited.
The combination of imperfect senses and being easily illusioned removes our eligibility to see God. This is the answer Prabhupada would most often give. “Do you have the eyes to see God? How can you expect to see Him when your eyes are tainted?” We can infer from the response that despite the imperfect senses there is still a way to see God. This must be the case; otherwise no spiritual teachers would exist. No one would know who God is, where He lives, or what He looks like.
Tulsidas says the way to see God is to first turn the back on worldly pleasures. This means removing attachment for sense gratification. We have to eat. We couldn’t survive otherwise. The idea is to not be so much attached to the kind of food we eat. We determine attachment by consciousness. We can measure consciousness in this area by the reaction to separation. For instance, if I suddenly don’t get to eat pizza tonight, how upset will I get? If everything isn’t cooked exactly right, am I quick to reprimand the cook? Am I in a frantic chase to find intoxicants?
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)
Lord Krishna confirms the opinion of Tulsidas. He says in the Bhagavad-gita that one only takes up service to God after they have exhausted all sinful reactions. Basically, any material desire is sinful. Sin is anything that leads to rebirth. The first step towards purity is eliminating desires that lead to rebirth.
Turning the back on worldly pleasures clears the eyes to see the path of love and devotion to God. Tulsidas worships Rama, who is the same Krishna. Not all divine figures are the same. There is the one personal God who manifests in different ways. He has deputies as well, who represent Him and carry out His interests. Rama is the personal God who appears in the second age of creation, holding a bow and arrow set and protecting the pious sages living in the forests.
Tulsidas makes the comparison to the snake. The snake sheds its skin on a regular schedule, and part of that shedding involves the eyes. The eyes get cleared after shedding, enabling the snake to again look for food. Material desire is a kind of skin that needs to be shed. It covers the eyes, and until this covering is gone it is difficult to understand the need for service to God in love. Indeed, with blurry eyes man mistakenly thinks that there is no God. Or they equate all divine figures as being equal; thereby making themselves eligible to become the Supreme.
Service in love is the way out of delusion, and that path cannot be found while the eyes are tainted. Therefore the spiritual master, such as Prabhupada, takes it upon himself to teach the people of the time how to fix their senses. In this age especially the most effective method is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This is both the medicine and the path itself. In the beginning it is like a clearing process, and gradually the individual comes to realize that it is their path towards salvation as well.
So again towards food to be led,
The snake its skin and eyes to shed.
Path for illusioned the same,
Purification for vision of God to gain.
Not so easy to see,
But in front of you is He.
The guru’s words the way to show,
Then into the divine shelter to go.