What is the Nature of Bhakti?

How to become a Devotee of Lord Rama

Tulsidas Goswami on Ram Bhakti

Who in the world, which sane person in the world will desire for lust; unending lust? Who shall desire intensely for Avarice; unending intense-insatiable Avarice? There is one being in this universe who is demanding both these vices with all sincerity and intensity. It is this sage who is known in the world by the name Goswami Tulsidas. He demands these vices to appear in him. These are repulsive, reprehensible desires, any sane man shall retort back. But then Goswami Tulsidas is adamant, he only wants these desires to be satisfied. Nothing more, nothing less. We shall slowly remove the peels around these statements in the upcoming discussion.

Work without desire

Many people believe it is impossible to begin any kind of work without expectation of the result. However the Bhagavad Bhagavad Gita totally contradicts this view. Our Sanatana Dharma scriptures profess that unless work is done with total selflessness, it cannot be considered genuine. Such work cannot be of the highest quality.

So now the question is, what should be the motive behind work? Should there be any motive at all, is the question. Desire and Desirelessness are the two banks that separate the river of work or action. Lord Rama is the bridge, who connects these two banks with effortless ease.

Lord Rama was born to King Dasharatha because of his intense longing to have the Supreme Being as his son. So from one perspective Lord Rama is an epitome of intense desire. Desire represents the fulfillment of all the longings of our heart.

Connection between Bhakti and Desires

Desires gain momentum when all our heart’s desires start getting fulfilled one by one. When there is such fulfillment, there is also an increase in our desires because now the heart yearns for more. It is now not enough for the heart to settle down with less. In some way this increase in earnestness is also the way Bhakti or devotion operates.

Goswami Tulsidas’ love for Rama

After writing the scripture known as Ramcharita Manas, Goswami Tulsidas prayed to Lord Rama. He desired pure devotion unto Sri Rama’s Lotus feet.

To this the Lord enquired “What type of Bhakti do you desire? Do you want Bhakti similar to that of my brother Bharath or similar to the one Laxmana has; or do you desire Bhakti as Hanuman has for me?”

This made Goswami Tulsidas bow down humbly before the Lord. In a tone filled with humility and servility, Goswami Tulsidas said, “I do not deserve this type of elevated Bhakti. You have taken the names of elevated beings and I belong to the category of worms. How can I ever ask for such elevated form of Bhakti, that which I do not deserve?”

The Lord then probed; “Tell me Tulsi, then what type of Bhakti do you desire?” To this Goswamiji replied, “Oh Lord give me that Bhakti similar to the attachment that a lusty man has towards the female clan.”

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How to love lord Rama?

A lusty man worships beauty and has undying thirst to satisfy his senses by associating with women. Having associated with women, his thirst only picks up the next time round. Trying to satisfy the desire of a lusty man is like pouring clarified butter into fire in order to extinguish it. This is the nature of lust.

Goswami Tulsidas argues that when you lust for a desirable object, such lust is always auspicious. How can the lust for the Supreme Being be inauspicious? Goswami Tulsidas enquires, Can’t the thirst for beauty be the thirst for the beautiful Lord? Lust that has its destination in the attainment of the Supreme Being can never be a wasteful desire. It is the highest desire that one can aspire for.

A man who is behind desires can never be happy. This is what the scriptures proclaim. They also proclaim that such a man can never be contented. Similarly a lusty man’s lust goes to the next limit.

Greed to please Lord Rama

It is also possible that lust may have an upper limit beyond which he cannot lust further. He does not have energy. Then what else could stretch the mirage of satisfaction to a much higher limit? Well, there is avarice which is even more stretched. Perhaps this is boundless, thinks the lusty man, who wishes to crave more.

An avaricious man is never happy. He is like the blind, deep and dark well. You pour the entire wealth of the world inside this dark well of avarice, it is gobbled up without a trace, and the mouth of the well is open, gaping for more. According to Goswami Tulsidas, this is a good situation to be in; never contented, never satisfied. He prays to Lord Rama thus.

Goswami Tulsidas says, “I wish to be avaricious, the most avaricious man having unending avarice for the Supreme Being Rama. Having lust for Rama and if lust is satisfied, then having greed for Lord Rama which is unending. When the negative traits of lust and avarice are applied to the Lord, it the most auspicious state of being. Discontented, longing for that insatiable happiness, longing for Sri Rama. This is the highest state of being as per the scriptures that are dedicated to Bhakti Dharma.

Teachings of Tulsidas Goswami

Man should learn to positively apply attachment, greed, lust and selfishness in the direction of the Lord. The relieves one from the binding frailties of the world. When one yearns for the Supreme Lord, one develops deep bonds with Him. As we desire for Him, as a direct reflection, the Lord too yearns and desires for us. A love-affair, if at all, has to be in relation with the Lord. There cannot be a better way to extend and express the love of our heart. Unless we direct this love towards the Supreme Personality, there can be no meaning to life. 

The heart of a materialistic man is sullied by the six vices that forms the dross of the mind. But when this dross is directed or aligned towards the Lord, it is immediately turned into nectar. Goswami Tulsidas wants to communicate this main teaching although he uses negative qualities to highlight the greatness of Bhakti process. This is a new way of branding Bhakti for generation next.

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