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The glories of Tulasi-devi

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tulsimanjari.jpgShri Shrimad Bhakitvedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja
Los Angeles: June 5, 1998

One of the most important and prominent personalities in the Krishna consciousness movement is Tulasi devi. In the form of a plant in this world, she purifies and nourishes all who come in contact with her - by watering her, circumambulating her, offering her leaves to Krishna, by chanting her glories, by performing her arati, and simply by remembering her. Below are two discourses given by Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, on glories of Tulasi devi.]

Why is Tulasi so beloved to Shri Krishna? She arranges for the birds, peacocks, nikunjas (secluded groves), flowers, fragrances and everything related to nikunja-seva and srngara-rasa, and thus she serves Krishna and Radha. She also makes arrangements for all the gopis to meet with Krishna. She especially serves Shrimati Radhika by making beautiful environments and kunjas (groves) for Radha and Krishna to meet. Radha and Krishna are controlled by Her. Therefore, if She makes a request to Radha and Krishna on anyone's behalf, telling Them, "Please be merciful to that jiva, make him qualified to serve You," Radha-Krishna will at once hear her. Moreover, she herself has power to make that jiva like herself.

We cannot see Vrinda-devi, because she is transcendental, but although transcendental, she has come to this world in the form of Tulasi-devi. You should know that she is the same Tulasi-devi who is in the form of the plant. We see Her in the form of a plant, but She is not a plant. She can take away all our diseases and problems and, being very merciful, she can make us qualified to serve Shri Radha and Shri Krishna. [*See Endnote 1]

Shri Advaita Acharya read this verse in Gautamiya Tantra:

jalasya culukena va
vikrinite svam atmanam
bhaktebhyo bhakta-vatsalah

vrndadevi.jpgShri Krishna, who is very affectionate toward His devotees, sells Himself to a devotee who offers Him merely a tulasi leaf and a palmful of water.]

If you want to perform bhakti, pure devotional service, then try to understand this teaching.

If you want to serve Krishna, first pray to serve Tulasi. If you want a very good, beautiful wife or husband, you can also have that by her mercy. If you want Krishna-prema, then simply pour water on her, not so much water that she will die. Try to serve her.

What did Shri Advaita Acharya do?

[Devotee:] He offered Krishna Tulasi leaves, which were very soft and fragrant.

[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] These leaves were so sweet that they attracted bees to come and hum there. Why did Advaita Acharya do this? For what reason? What did he want?

Shri Advaita Acharya knew that Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would come to this world, but there was no fixed time for Him to come. He thought, "I'm here in this world, so Krishna should come right away." If Advaita Acharya had not prayed, Krishna might have come after millions of years. Advaita Acharya requested, "I don't want to wait. Please come now." Krishna was making a plan to come, but had not fixed a date. He wanted to fix it, but could not. So Adaita Acharya requested Him with folded palms, "If you do not come, I will destroy the entire world. I cannot give the people Krishna-prema, but I can destroy the world, because I am the destroyer (as the manifestation of Maha-Visnu). I cannot give Vraja-prema. I can give the prema that is achieved by vaidhi-bhakti, but I cannot give Vraja-prema." So he requested Krishna to come. He fasted, and wept and prayed to Krishna.

So, if you want Krishna-prema, then serve Tulasi in the same way that Advaita Acharya did, [*See Endnote 2] and then Tulasi may be merciful to you.

Krishna came in the form of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu by taking the golden beauty and intrinsic mood of Shrimati Radhika, which was Her modan-mahabhava. Actually he did not "take" it; He "borrowed" it. Advaita Acharya wanted to give a part of unnatojvalla-rasa to the souls entrapped in this world, but He was unable to do it on his own. Only Krishna can do this, so he requested Krishna to come, and Krishna came in the form of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.


*Endnote 1: "What is the meaning of 'Vrindavan'? It means the forest of Vrnda, or Tulasi. There are many other wonderful trees and plants found there, but the Tulasi tree is primary. It can also mean the forest where the cowherd girl Vrnda-devi is queen. Why is she known as the queen of Vrindavan? Because she arranges amorous meetings between Shri Radha and Krishna. Another meaning of vrnda is 'group,' meaning groups of cows, gopas and gopis, and avana can mean 'one who nourishes and protects.' So Vrindavan can also mean the ones who provide stimuli that nurture and increase feelings of love in Shri Govinda and the cows, gopas and gopis. More meanings have been given, but these three are primary." (Bhakti-rasayana by Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja)

"Vrnda-devi's father is Candrabhanu, her mother is Phullara Gopi and her husband is Mahipala. All of them eternally reside in Vrindavan. Vrnda is the most important among all the dutis, or messengers, like Vrndarika, Maina, and Murali. Her service is to skilfully arrange the meeting of the Divine Couple through various means, and therefore she is the vanadevi (forest-queen) of Vrindavan. Vrnda-devi has dedicated her kingdom of Vrindavan, which she wonderfully serves, protects, and nourishes, at the lotus feet of Vrsabhanu-nandini Shrimati Radhika, who is mahabhava svarupa, the embodiment of mahabhava, the highest love for Krishna. Therefore, Shrimati Radhika is truly Vrndavanesvari, the Queen of Vrindavan.

"The Puranas state that the following personalities are all kaya-vyuha svarupa, bodily expansions, of sarva-saktimayi Shrimati Radhika: Maharaja Kedara's daughter who is described as Vrnda-devi; King Kusadhvaja's daughter, whom the Brahma-vaivarta Purana describes as Tulasi, the wife of Sankhacuda; and Vrnda, or Tulasi, the beloved of Hari who appears in the form of a plant on the Earth planet. They eternally reside in Vrindavan and are the partial manifestations (kala-svarupa) of Vrnda-devi, who is always engaged in the service of the Divine Couple in the nikunjas of Vrindavan. Indeed, Vrindavan is known by the name of this Vrnda-devi." (Shri Vraja-mandala Parikrama by Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja)

*Endnote 2: [Advaita Acharya thought:] "If Shri Krishna were to appear as an incarnation, He Himself could preach devotion by His personal example.

"In this Age of Kali there is no religion other than the chanting of the holy name of the Lord, but how in this age will the Lord appear as an incarnation?

"I shall worship Krishna in a purified state of mind. I shall constantly petition Him in humbleness.
"My name, ‘Advaita,' will be fitting if I am able to induce Krishna to inaugurate the movement of the chanting of the holy name."

While He was thinking about how to propitiate Krishna by worship, the following verse came to His mind.

jalasya culukena va
vikrinite svam atmanam
bhaktebhyo bhakta-vatsalah

"Shri Krishna, who is very affectionate toward His devotees, sells Himself to a devotee who offers Him merely a tulasi leaf and a palmful of water.'

Advaita Acharya considered the meaning of the verse in this way: "Not finding any way to repay the debt He owes to one who offers Him a tulasi leaf and water, Lord Krishna thinks, ‘There is no wealth in My possession that is equal to a tulasi leaf and water.' "Thus the Lord liquidates the debt by offering Himself to the devotee."

Considering in this way, the Acharya began worshiping the Lord. Thinking of the lotus feet of Shri Krishna, He constantly offered Tulasi buds in water from the Ganges. He appealed to Shri Krishna with loud calls and thus made it possible for Krishna to appear.

(Shri Chaitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 3.100-109)]

February 12, 2000: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Because Advaita Acharya called for the appearance of Lord Chaitanya by offering Tulasi and water, Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja gave a discourse on the glories of Tulasi on Shri Advaita Acharya's appearance day. He called on disciples, and he also personally spoke. The following is a transcription of that discourse:]

[Devotee:] We have heard how, seeing the terrible condition of the world, Shri Advaita Acharya's heart was melting, feeling compassion for all the jivas. So He wanted to call Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu into this world. While He was thinking of how to do it, a verse from Shrimad Gautamiya Tantra came into His mind.

jalasya culukena va
vikrinite svam atmanam
bhaktebhya bhakta-vatsalah

[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] We should satisfy Krishna; He gives Himself as a property.

Devotee:] He can be purchased by those jivas who serve Vrnda Devi, and He can give to them the service of Shrimati Radhika. Shrila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has written:

tvad ajnaya pallava-puspa-bhrnga
mrgadibhir madhava-keli-kunjah
madhvadibhir bhanti vibhusyamana
vrnde! numaste caranaravindam

All the pastimes of Krishna in Vraja are arranged by Yogamaya, Paurnamasi. But she has one special department, and her manifestation for that department is Vrnda. Vrnda Devi is a very dear sakhi, and she is in charge of one special department of Krishna's lila -nikunja-lila - the very sweet, amorous and confidential pastimes of Radha and Krishna in the groves of Vrindavan.

Tvad ajnaya pallava-puspa bhrnga: "By the order of Vrnda Devi, Vrindavan looks beautiful, as if decorated with all the qualities of the spring season. By her order the flowers blossom and spread their fragrance everywhere, the wind blows, the bumblebees are maddened and intoxicated by the sweet honey of the lotus flowers, and they are buzzing here and there. The peacocks are dancing, and deer are also dancing here and there. So, by the grace of Vrnda Devi, on her order, Vrindavan becomes so very beautiful, and provides the most wonderful playground and setting for Radha and Krishna's lilas."

[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Krishna always sees Himself indebted to Vrnda. She serves in such a way, with all paraphernalia, that Krishna always thinks that He cannot repay her. So if anyone gives Tulasi to Krishna, He becomes shy; and He thinks that, "This devotee has purchased Me." You can also make an experiment and test whether this is true or false. Give water to Tulasi and offer her leaves at the lotus feet of Krishna. And if you offer anything, put Tulasi leaves on each preparation. Then Krishna surely accepts and is happy, and then He will try and please you. He will say, "What do you want? What do you want?" So all of you, try and worship Tulasi. Daily give water and offer a ghee lamp. Especially ladies should offer a lamp. Circumambulate four times and sing the tulasi arati.

[Devotee:] Krishna is always eager to meet with Shrimati Radhika. Shrila Visvanatha Cakravati Thakura has written:

tvadiya-dutyena nikunja-yunor
atyutkayoh keli-vilasa-siddhih
tvat-saubhagam kena nirucyatam tad
vrnde! numaste caranaravindam

tulsi-devi.jpgWho can enumerate the glories and good fortune of Vrnda Devi? It is by her acting as a messenger that Radha and Krishna are able to meet. Krishna is so indebted to her. Therefore if anyone worships Shrimati Vrnda Devi, Krishna will think, "How can I repay them?" He says to them, "You have purchased Me by your service to Vrnda Devi." So Advaita Acharya has established this siddhanta and this very wonderful rapid progress in bhakti to the service of Shri Radha and Krishna.

[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] If anyone wants to have love for, and service to, Radha-Krishna conjugal, they must worship Tulasi, and very easily they can be benefited. If one does not have prema but he is offering Tulasi, will Krishna accept his offering or not? The answer if that if Tulasi is given, it means that everything has been given - and Krishna must accept.

If Tulasi is given, then Krishna will have to accept, whether one has a guru or not. You will have to reconcile this. Krishna will take the person's sraddha, so it will be beneficial; it will not go in vain. Whether there is a guru or no guru, if you are chanting the holy name, will there be any effect or not? There will be so many results. You can go to Svarga; you can have a very elevated position in this world, or you can go to Vaikuntha; you can attain so many things. If there is no sadhu-sanga and you are chanting, what will be the result?

[Devotee:] From that chanting, sadhu-sanga will come.

[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Yes. It will be beneficial in so many ways. It will not go in vain. If you are offering anything along with Tulasi, even if there is no guru, as long as there is sraddha, then because of that sraddha, Krishna will gradually bring that person in line . You cannot say that if one is offering Tulasi, but there is no prema, Krishna will not accept. Otherwise all sastra will be useless. If anyone is not chanting the holy name with love and affection, will there be any effect or not?

[Devotee:] Yes, he will get sukrti.

[Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Not only sukrti.

jayati jayati namananda-rupam murare-
katham api sakrdattam muktidam praninam yat
paramamrtam ekam jivanam bhusanam me
(Shri Brhad-Bhagavatamrtam 1.9, Sanatana Gosvami)

"All glories, all glories to Krishna-Murari's name, the embodiment of divine bliss! It halts the cycle of birth and death, and relieves one of all painful endeavors in practicing religion, meditation, charity, deity worship, and austerity. It awards liberation to one who utters it even once. Krishna-nama stands alone as the supreme nectar and sole treasure of my life."]

The following personalities are related to Krishna: Tulasi, Yamuna, Ganges, mahaprasadam, the holy name, and so on. If somehow anyone comes in contact with them, even if one is like Jagai and Madhai, he becomes purified.

Shrimati Tulasi devi is so glorious.

-- The Harikatha Team, May 2009

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