“With folded hands Tulsi asks Lord Shiva for the blessing that birth after birth he belong only to Rama, be related to Him, have love for Him and receive love from Him.” (Dohavali, 89)
nāto nāte rāma ke rāma sanehum̐ sanehu |
tulasī mām̐gata jori kara janama janama siva dehu ||89||
Lord Shiva is part of what can be called the holy trinity of Hinduism. Though the Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of the world, make no mention of the word Hindu, the term is what outsiders use to identify and understand the tradition. Shiva is with Brahma and Vishnu. Brahma creates, Vishnu maintains and Shiva destroys. Of course there is much more to it than that. The three are actually guna-avataras, or expansions of the Supreme Lord to preside over the three modes of material nature: goodness, passion and ignorance.
One of Lord Shiva’s many names is Mahadeva. This means “great god.” He is not an ordinary divine personality. A deva is a living entity in the mode of goodness. Possessing any of the three modes means you are conditioned. You have to go through the cycle of birth and death. A deva is godly, but not God Himself.
Mahadeva is in a special category. Though he is in charge of the material mode of ignorance, he is not completely conditioned by nature. He has his own spiritual planet that doesn’t get destroyed at the dissolution of the universe.
A trademark characteristic of a deva is the ability to grant boons. Just as we would approach a powerful person for employment, we can ask a deva for material benedictions. If we want money, we can pray for the grace of Goddess Lakshmi. If we want the obstacles removed from our path to success, we can ask for help from Lord Ganesha, who is Mahadeva’s son.
Lord Shiva is the great god because he can grant extraordinary boons. One of his other names is Ashutosha, which means “easily pleased.” It doesn’t take a lot to get his favor. Pour some water over his murti or offer something simple like a leaf and you can become as powerful as a king. Ancient history documented in the Vedas is full of examples of people doing just that, worshiping Shiva to increase their material wellbeing.
Bearing this in mind, it is interesting to note what Tulsidas prays for. He humbly approaches Mahadeva. Though the great poet is known as a devotee of Shri Rama, he offers the highest respect to Lord Shiva. He understands that generally God cannot be approached directly. If our eyes trick us into mistaking a rope for a snake, how are we to accurately know someone who is beyond the three modes of nature?
The only way to understand God in truth is to approach one of His representatives. Mahadeva is one such authority, and his worshipable form of choice is Shri Rama. Rama is the same Vishnu, the same Krishna, the original God of all universes. Lord Shiva easily gives away material benedictions because he doesn’t want to be distracted from his meditation on Rama.
If Mahadeva worships Rama all the time, then surely he will be pleased if others do the same. Therefore Tulsidas’ prayer is directed in the right place. And what does the poet ask? He wants to be related only to Rama, to belong to the Lord. This seems odd, as the general mentality is to maintain relations with our loved ones from the present lifetime. Wouldn’t it be great to be with your parents forever? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could meet your loved ones again in a future life?
Tulsidas knows that parents come and go in each birth. Relations happen almost randomly, and every relationship in life is based on conditions. Pure love, sneha, can only exist with the Supreme Lord. If you love God, you have everything. You automatically have affection for others, even people not related to you. If you maintain love for Rama in lifetime after lifetime, you will be saved from the greatest danger.
There will be a future life. Just as tomorrow will come, so the spirit soul will travel to a different body at the end of this life. The prayer of Tulsidas is an example of pure devotion. He asks for love for Rama and love received back from Rama. These are things the poet already has, and in the future he wishes to maintain it. Though Shiva is the great destroyer, as a powerful representative of Rama he can easily create and maintain such conditions.
Shiva as the destroyer is known,
But wants worship of Rama alone.
Material benedictions easily to give,
But for himself in meditation to live.
Therefore Tulsi approaching the right one,
For pure devotion’s purpose favor easily won.
Related to Rama, belonging only to Him,
And love back from Him, in bhakti’s ocean to swim.