Ponder well; and see for yourself 0 minds: ‘This Iron Age is the notch, of all impurities. Except for the Name of the Lord, There is no other means of salvation in this Age.
By the manifold means employed by the mind, The soul cannot be freed from burnings. Let the soul drink the nectar of the Name, And she would at once be freed from burning.
If one is hoping to attain the spiritual goal Without the support of God’s Names, He is vainly trying to rise to the sky By holding onto raindrops falling from a cloud.
Based On The Teachings Of Goswami Tulsidas, The Book Nam Bhakti: Goswami Tulsidas was first published in Hindi by Radha Soami Satsang Beas in 1989 and revised in 1999. This book was widely appreciated by followers and seekers of the path of spirituality. The present book retains the essence of the original book in Hindi. To enrich its contents and to make it more suitable to the English readers who are less familiar with the lores, legends and anecdotes that underpin the works of Goswami Tulsidas, significant changes and additions have been incorporated. Thus, the present English work, The Teachings of Goswami Tulsidas—A Spiritual Perspective, is essentially a new book.
Goswami Tulsidas is held in high esteem among the saint- poets of India, his magnum opus the Rãm-Charit-Manas, being recognized as one of the finest epics ever written. The works of Goswami Tulsidas appeared during a time when, under the influence and patronage of kings and feudal lords, the people considered rituals, animal sacrifices, eating meat and drinking wine as modes of devotion. Witnessing this, Goswami Tulsidas through his writings sought to impart the true teaching of devotion in its pure and sublime form, using the background of the ancient story of Ram.
The present book is an attempt to shed light on the deep and generally hidden mystic aspects of Goswami Tulsidas’ teachings conveyed through the story of Ram. While Ram of the epic story appears as the son of Dasharath, the king of Ayodhya, Goswami Tulsidas has revealed throughout his writings what he truly means by Ram. He is simply God, the all-pervading power, the supreme heavenly Father, who created the entire universe, the Lord of Innumerable inner regions, and the One who is served in utter obedience by countless gods and goddesses. Similarly, by using the words Ram-Nam Goswamj Tulsidas does not mean the literal name of the person Ram, but is referring to that divine power that creates the universe and is the sole means of human salvation.
Like many Saints, Tulsidas employs compelling allegories to reveal otherwise hidden truths to the people of his time. In those days, teachings were normally conveyed through stories to make them easier to understand. During Tulsidas’ lifetime, spiritual teachings were mostly written in Sanskrit and therefore available to a limited and well educated audience. Tulsidas chose to write in the common language of Hindi to make these esoteric teachings more widely available. In many of his works, the use of terms such as Sant (Saint), Satguru, Sant Mat (the philosophy of Saints), satsang, Nam and Ram-Nam are typical of those used in the literature of Saints. This book aims to demonstrate that Goswami Tulsidas has used these terms in precisely the same sense in which they have been used by many other Saints—and to show that all true Saints have the same message to convey. Throughout the book Goswami Tulsidas, Tulsidas and Tulsi are used interchangeably.
As a continuation of the Mystics of the East Series published by the Society, it is hoped that this book will reveal the less understood spiritual dimensions of the teachings of Goswami Tulsidas and be of support to seekers on the path of spirituality It is equally hoped that general readers of mystic literature will find the book both engaging and inspiring.
Goswami Tulsidas Was, Unquestionably, An Eminent Saint, poet and devotee. His famous work, the Rãm-Charit-Mãnas, is conf side red one of the most distinguished works of Indian literature. Its indelible mark is noticeable on the minds of a wide spectrum of the Indian people, from peasant to scholar. The way Tulsidas blended in his work the essence of the Vedas, religious treatises, esoteric literature, poetics, the wit of the world and the wisdom of the Saints; and the sublimity with which he has presented the domestic, social, cultural and political ideals, are difficult to find in any single work. Tulsidas’ natural and tasteful blending of elegant poetry and a lofty philosophy of life, as embodied in the Rãm-Charit-Mãnas, is rarely to be found elsewhere. From all this one can get an idea of his unusual personality, amazing scholarship, comprehensive vision and, above all, his intense love and devotion for God.
Despite being an erudite scholar and a gifted poet, well-versed in the art of poetic composition, Tulsidas in his saintly humility submits:
I possess no poetic skill whatsoever. ’
I am no poet, and have no pretensions to ingenuity
I only sing the glory of Ram
according to my understanding.2
He considered the purpose of his writings fulfilled by his singing the glory of Ram for his own self-satisfaction and self-delight, as he states in the invocation of the Rãm- Charit- Mãnas:
Tulsi recounts the story of Ram
In the pleasing speech of the common vernacular
For the delight of his own inner self.
Many books have been written by scholars to bring out the elegance of Tulsidas’ poetry. Yet he was never interested in simply composing poems which were devoid of love and devotion for God. For him, a person devoid of such devotion is worthless, as this is the sole purpose of human life. Comparing the superficial glamour of such a person with the futile appearance of a waterless cloud, Tulsidas says:
A person lacking in devotion vainly displays his glamour Even as a cloud which merely appears but does not rain.3
Tulsidas, therefore, exhorted people to have love and devotion for Ram. The figure of Ram has permeated religious and spiritual literature of India from a very early time, although there has been some equivocation in the use of the term ‘Ram.”4 ‘The earliest known work presenting Ram as the central figure is the Rdmayana, the great Sanskrit epic by Valmiki.5 Therein Vãlmiki presents Ram as an ideal man upholding dharma,6 a great hero fighting evil and destroying the demon-king, Ravan. Although Vãlmiki speaks of Ram also as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, his emphasis is mainly on Ram’s human rather than divine aspect.
The fascinating figure of Ram drew the attention of many subsequent writers, and in the course of several centuries many other works on Ram, such as Ananda Ramayana, Mangal Ramayana, Adhyatma Rãmãyana, Narada Ramayana, Pulastya Rdmayana, and Vasishtha Rdmdyana were composed, which, while retaining the framework of Valmiki’s story exhibited a rich unfolding of the figure of Ram. Among these, the Adhyatma Ramayana7 deserves special mention inasmuch as it casts Ram in the Vedantic mould, making him the immanent and transcendent Brahman and stressing devotion as the only means to salvation. Tulsidas, without actually borrowing from any source, integrated the insights of all, incorporated the essence of the Vedas and Puranas, and, by assimilating them all within his own saintly wisdom, presented a uniquely appealing work, entitled, the Räm-Charit-Mdnas. Herein Ram is not presented merely as an ideal man, a hero or even an incarnation of Vishnu, but as the Supreme Being. Although this Supreme Being, in his incarnation as a human being, still plays the role of an ideal man, Tulsidas again and again reminded his readers that the manifest form of Ram must not be mistaken for a mere human being. Because from the ultimate point of view, he is the unbounded, unfathomable and imperishable Supreme Lord. He is without beginning or end. He is beyond the gunas of prakriti and the spell of maya. Yet for the sake of saving the souls and fulfilling thereby the mission of the Saints, he assumes human form and plays his magnanimous role. As Tulsidas explains:
The One who is beyond the intellect, speech and senses,
Who is the unborn, beyond the mind, mayas
and the three aftributes,
That very Supreme Being, the culmination
of Pure Existence, Consciousness and Bliss,
Displays the exalted behavior of a human being.8
What Tulsidas meant by Ram is clearly indicated in the very opening invocation of the Rãm-Charit-Mãnas:
I adore the Lord, known by the name, Ram,
Who is the Supreme One, beyond all causes.
Again for Tulsidas, what Ram is in his manifest or unman fest form is not as important as what he wondrously does. It is his action (chant) or the play of his wondrous power, which Tulsidas emphasizes in his Rãm-Charit-Manas. He calls this power Nam (the Name) or Ram-Nam (God’s Name), whereby Ram creates, sustains and pervades the universe, relates to his devotees and enables them to attain salvation.
Explaining the absolute supremacy of this Name, Tulsidas explicitly states that the Name is greater than Brahm in his two aspects, unman fest or unqualified (nirguna) and manifest or qualified (saguna):
There are two aspects of Brahm,
the unman fest and the manifest.
Both these are indescribable, unfathomable,
Beginning less and unparalleled;
But in my view, greater than both of these is the Name,
This has kept them both under its power and control.9
In the Ram-Chanit-Manas, Tulsidas, a fervent lover and an ardent devotee of Ram, tries to show that devotion to the Name is the best way to love him and that Ram is a loving God to be loved by his devotees.
‘This subtle, and yet fascinating picture of Ram is brought out by Tulsidas not by an abstract philosophical presentation, but by means of relating a concrete story in which Ram appears as a life-like figure, and his divine nature is made to full fill his human role as an ideal son, brother, friend, disciple, husband and king. In each role, Ram appears as a model of purity, upholding lofty moral ideals and representing human life as it should be lived.
This is an important reason why the Ram-Charit-Manas commands such a great mass appeal. It is, indeed, through Tulsidas’ Rñm-Charit-Mãnas rather than through Valmiki’s Ramayana or the Adhyatma Ramdyana that Ram has spoken to the hearts of the majority of Indians.
Emphasizing the fact that the Ram-Charit-Mãnas is the book of the common people, F.S. Grows in his Introduction to the English translation of this book, pointed out that “the book is in every one’s hands, from the court to the cottage, and is read or, heard, and appreciated alike by every class of the Hindu cormorant, whether high or low, rich or poor, young or old.”° In the canine vein Edwin Greaves remarked: “It is the Bible of the Hindi speaking Hindus. The Gisarme’s humble and devout spirit is united with an ability to use Hindi in a way which no other writer has equaled. Tulsidas wrote not to display his learning, or to tickle the ears of pedants; he wrote for the people and has had his reward. No poet in England has ever been to the masses what Tulsidas has been to the people of this land:”1
Tulsidas was not interested simply in telling a story. It is, nevertheless, true that he was extremely skilful in telling stories, and perhaps no one has related the story of Ram with as much elegance, liveliness and natural appeal as he has done. But his main purpose was to emphasize, in particular, the supremacy of devotion to the Name (Nam-bhakti) and to impart in an unbiased and objective way the fundamental teachings of the Saints in conformity with the essence of the Vedas, Puranas and other holy scriptures.
Here one may raise the objection that the Vedas do not contain the story of Ram. How could Tulsidas regard Ram-Nam as the essence of the Vedas? This objection is automatically dissolved if one bears in mind, as indicated above, what Tulsidas truly means by Ram. Tulsidas himself points out explicitly that the holy books, such as the Vedas, the Puranas and the Upanishads, by using the expression, note (not this, not this), sing the glory of that Ram or Ram-Nam which defies all descriptions and remains eternally the same.
Tulsidas, by his repeated pronouncements, such as, “This indeed is the view of the Vedas, the Puranas and the Saints”2 and “This is the unanimous view of all, 0 Garud”3 draws our atten— tion,to the same universal truth and spiritual essence that runs like a thread through all the scriptures. Like other Saints, he considers devotion to the Name as the very essence of spirituality.
Tulsidas has undoubtedly played a leading role in promoting devotion to the Name. Expressing this view in an emphatic way, Veni Das, a noted poet and devotee of the medieval period, says:
Researching through the wisdom of the Vedas,
and perusing all the Puranas,
Who else could have shown the distinction
between the Saint and the wicked?
Who else could have preached devotion to the Name
To the vast multitude of deceitful, evil-minded
and ill-directed souls of the Kaliyug?
Take it to be true, take it to be true, declares Veni,
Who else could have generated love
in the stone-like hearts of the people?
And who else could have ferried people across
the vast ocean of the world,
If Tulsi were not to sing this holy song
of the Ramayana?’4
In Rãm-Charit-Manas, Goswami Tulsidas has mainly used a poetry format known as the Chaupai, a beautiful and melodious metered rhythm that cannot adequately be conveyed in the English language. Other poetry formats used by Tulsidas are the Doha, Strata and Chan. While we cannot preserve the exact in this book we have attempted to capture the essence or beginning all poetry lines with a capital letter and all line nominations using lowercase. As the purpose is to present the siding principles and precepts of Goswami Tulsidas as Saint Zeds not as a storyteller or a poet, no attempt has been made to discuses the poetic elegance or the magnificent narrative skill of Goswami Tulsidas.
Descriptions of characters in the stories are included in the Gk’rssary along with explanations of technical or Indian-language terms. Words in [brackets] are explanations or literal translations aided by the translator for clarity.
In view of the limited familiarity of most English language readers with diacritics, their use is confined to only one diacritical mark (‘) for long a, i and u (a, I and u). They have also been used sparingly for transliterating uncommon Sanskrit and Hindi names.
The book is organized in two parts. Part I concentrates on Tulsidas’ teachings, preceded by an account of his life. In addition to Nam-bhakti, devotion to the Name, the major points of his teachings are discussed: God-realization through devotion to the Name; the rare gift of human life which gives us the opportunity for God-realization; the grace of God in finding a Saint or Sat guru from whom we obtain the gift of the Name; sat sang, the company of the Sat guru; and finally, the lifestyle for achieving the ultimate purpose of human life.
Part II presents selections from several works by Tulsidas. Citations throughout the book have been taken from the RamCharit-Mãnas, Vinay-Patrika and KavitavalI as well as Dohdvali, Vairagya Sand ipani and Tulsi Satsai. Translated verses have generally been taken from the Gita Press Publications.
An appendix, The Story of Ram in a Nutshell, contains a brief account of Ram’s story as told by Tulsidas in the Rdm-Charit-Mãnas to help English readers better understand the story that has so profoundly permeated the Indian culture.
It is sincerely hoped that this book will be helpful in unfolding some of the essential and yet largely overlooked saintly dimensions of Goswami Tulsidas’ teachings.
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