Crossing the ocean of Nescience
Goswami Tulsidas communicates to us the deeper meanings of life.
The Ramcharita Manas, the Goswami’s great work takes us through this awakening journey.
We should take these lessons and apply them to the larger context of our own lives.
Doing this, we create a safe boat that will easily sail us through.
It will take us to the other shore of the ocean, beyond nescience.
Nescience represents the materialism of this world.
Bhakti is what Goswami Tulsidas talks about in his lyrical magnum opus, The Manas.
Only Bhakti has solutions for Kaliyuga.
Tales such as those of Tirupati Balaji and Maharshi Agastya transmit a certain mood, conducive for Bhakti.
Here, in this article, we talk about the very basis of Bhakti.
Rama and Laxmana enter the Pushpa Vatika
Lord Sri Rama is unattainable without Bhakti.
He represents the very epitome of Satya or Truth and the bridge that connects purified hearts. Bhakti means intense, non-relenting attachment to His divine lotus feet.
But to develop a love for Lord Rama one needs to understand the dynamics of His love.
The Lessons of the Manas transmit the lessons to us through its many characters and situations.
One popular episode within the Manas is the fine morning in Mithila, the land of King Janaka.
The two brothers Rama and Laxmana enter the Pushpa Vatika (Flower Garden) to pluck flowers for their Spiritual Master sage Vishwamitra, for his morning prayers.
Lord Rama first glimpsed His eternal consort Srimati Seeta Devi, on the earthly plane, in this Pushpa Vatika of Mithila.
This small event in the Pushpa Vatika has great significance with respect to the life of a sadhaka, a practitioner of Bhakti.
What does Pushpa Vatika represent?
Unless there is a union of Srimati Seetadevi and Lord Rama in our hearts, we can never wiggle out of the whirligig of material life.
The simple interpretation of this statement is that the Lord is unattainable without Bhakti.
Sri Rama represents the Lord and Srimati Seetadevi represents the devotional mellow of Bhakti.
If we desire to invoke the Lord into our lives, it necessitates us to enter the Pushpa Vatika.
Now, what does Pushpa Vatika represent? Bhakti Devi introduces Herself, only if we enter the flower garden of pure devotees.
Pure devotees have the divine mellows of love for the Lord, in their hearts.
One can receive Bhakti only in the association of sages and seers who have unflinching devotion for Lord Rama in their hearts.
We cannot acquire Bhakti through work, material gains, or through any other means.
We can receive Bhakti Devi through Grace alone.
She flows from the hearts of such pure devotees into the hearts of those who have become an empty vessel in all humility.
A true sadhaka becomes an empty vessel in order to receive Bhakti.
Srimati Seetadevi represents Bhakti.
Hence the marriage of Srimati Seetadevi and Lord Rama happens in the heart of a sadhaka.
It is where the flower garden of sages, seers, and pure devotees of the Lord convene.
Significance of collecting flowers
Sage Vishwamitra asked the Lord and Laxmana to collect Suman, which in Sanskrit has two meanings.
In the current context, both meanings are befitting.
Suman means “flowers”.
It also means “purified intelligence”.
Those beings with purified intelligence can avail the Lord.
People with minds surrendered in the service of the Supreme Lord attain pure intelligence automatically.
Bhakti means, service towards the Lord and Srimati Seetadevi, its personified form.
Srimati Seetadevi represents Siddha Bhakti, perfected Bhakti, not of the nature of sadhana or “Practiced Bhakti”.
We can attain it only through the grace of perfected beings.
We shall see the two aspects of Bhakti namely sadhana bhakti and Siddha bhakti.
Sadhana Bhakti begins in the grip of Maya
The Adhyatma Ramayana covers Bhakti in great detail.
It discusses the underlying abstract aspects of purity and Bhakti.
It discusses the epitome of Sri Rama and Srimati Seeta Devi, applied to everyday life.
When a pure devotee inspires a person, the receiver of such inspiration starts practicing devotional activities for the Lord.
He tries to establish an emotional connection with the Lord.
The devotee begins his journey towards the Lord, from this stage onwards.
Yet, his heart remains largely, in the grip of Maya, sullied to a great extent with materialistic emotions.
By the grace of the pure devotees and faith in the scriptures pertaining to Bhakti, the neophyte devotees take up sadhana Bhakti.
Graduating from Sadhana Bhakti to Siddha Bhakti
Sadhana Bhakti is an immature stage, the mode of a beginner in Bhakti, at the practicing stage.
Yet, this is an imperative stage to surge forward in Bhakti.
Once the practitioner proceeds with sadhana Bhakti, slowly but steadily he gets immersed in the activities related to the Lord.
He starts dedicating all of his actions and results of actions to the Supreme Lord, Sadhana Bhakti starts changing gear to a matured mode.
Sadhana Bhakti only matures in the association of perfected devotees or Siddhas.
The neophyte devotee, through Sadhana Bhakti, transforms all his activities into acts devoted to the Lord alone.
This happens because Sadhana Bhakti purifies him.
His selfish undertakings now transform into acts, for the pleasure of the Lord.
When he attains perfection in this mode, the special Grace of the pure devotees automatically flows towards him.
Perfection in the Siddha Bhakti Stage
By their grace, an expression of the Lord’s direct Grace, the devotee enters the perfected stage.
Bhakti that he performs at this stage is then not out of practice, effort, habit or intention.
The practitioner’s actions become an expression of the Supreme Being’s personal will.
The undiluted love for the Supreme Being expresses itself through the practitioner, unhindered by anything material.
At this stage of Bhakti, the devotee depends only on the Grace of the Supreme Being.
He never expects anything from the Lord, for his existence or service to the Lord.
His life becomes an expression of austerity and pure love.
Srimati Seetadevi and Her friends
The girl-friends of Srimati Seetadevi represent the various devotional moods arising in the heart of the pure devotee.
In the event when Srimati Seetadevi enters the Pushpa Vatika, she takes bath in the water-pond inside the flower garden.
Her 8 girlfriends surround Her.
The number 8 here, represents 8 different moods in Bhakti.
This means that Bhakti, at the root, has 8 flavors or moods.
These moods or divine emotions are parts and parcels of Bhakti.
Bhakti incarnate Seeta Devi takes a bath in the cooling waters of the flower garden.
An individual, eager to attain Bhakti in order to attract the Lord, should first enter the association of holy sages.
Awakening Prema Bhakti
These sages are selfless, adept in mellows of Bhakti.
He has to serve the sages/pure devotees and establish his earnestness in seeking Bhakti.
The pond represents the water body.
This represents the liquefied, cooling, emotional, divine mellows of Bhakti that arise in the hearts of such pure devotees.
Only when the individual seeker establishes a chord with pure devotees, can he attain a place in the hearts of such sages.
If the sages/pure devotees care for such an individual seeker, it means that the individual has taken bath in the cooling waters of Prema, or Divine Love.
When sages remember the individual seeker and have the choicest blessings for him, it washes away the dirt and muck deposited on the spiritual self of the seeker.
Following this, the sleeping spiritual self of the seeker takes shape and becomes automatically awakened by the grace of the pure devotees/ sages.
This qualifies as the Siddha stage, the perfected stage of Bhakti.
We should remember that in this stage of maturity, the sadhana process shall continue not for any goal or purpose.
It shall continue as the very character of the sadhaka.
In the perfected stage both the sadhaka and sadhana become one.