Holy Lake of the Acts of Lord Rama, Part 3


The Abduction of Sita Devi
B.L. Picard, Russia, c. 1967

Jan 04, 2012 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of Tulasi das's 'Ramacaritamanasa'.

A Sun reader has called to our attention a letter Srila Prabhupada wrote that refers to the Sri Ramacharitamanasa by Tulasi Das. We intended to cover this topic after the introductory homages were concluded, but the point raised is an important one, so we'll address it immediately.

In his letter of September 6, 1969 to Raktaka prabhu, Srila Prabhupada wrote:

    My Dear Raktaka,

    ...Regarding the two books you have mentioned, Sri Ramacharitamanasa by Goswami Tulasi Das is not very authorized, and Ramayana is authorized.... The author of Ramacharitamanasa, Goswami Tulasi Das, has a tint of Mayavadi philosophy. He belongs to the Ramananda Sampradaya. They are mixed up combination of personalist and impersonalist. Therefore, the author is not considered as pure Vaisnava. Pure Vaisnava is free from all material contamination of fruitive activities and mental speculation. The pure Vaisnava is simply, purely disposed to transcendental loving service to Krishna. The pure Vaisnava rejects anything which has no pure idea of serving the Personality of Godhead.

    I hope this will meet you in good health.

    Your ever well-wisher,

    A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

Although the writings of Tulasi Das have often been mentioned in the writings of many Gaudiya Vaisnavas, there is the proviso that Tulasi Das's writings are from the Ramananda, not the Gaudiya sampradaya. The same holds true for translations other Vedic epics, most notably the Mahabharata, for which a reliable English translation rendered bona fide by Gaudiya Vaisnavas, has long been found wanting. In its absence, the devotees have opted for one or two 'best of a bad bargain' alternatives so that the Mahabharata can still be enjoyed.

Rama takes aim at Ravana
B.L. Picard, Russia, c. 1967 Varnasi, c. 1885

The Mahabharata featured each day in the Sun is such an example. It was translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli and published between 1883 and 1896. Ganguli was not a Gaudiya Vaisnava, and his translation of Mahabharata also contains some Mayavada-tinged statements. On a few occasions, Sun writers have called such statements to the attention of the readers. Nonetheless, the Mahabharata stories are important, and are referred to by many of our own Acaryas. So the non-Gaudiya translation is accepted for the time being, with the understanding that it is not to be considered Absolute.

As Srila Prabhupada says above, while the Ramayana is authorized, Goswami Tulasi Das' Ramacharitamanasa is tinged with Mayavada. Unfortunately, we are aware of no bona fide Gaudiya Vaisnava summary of Ramayana that presents a condensed version of Lord Rama's lila pastimes, therefore we are publishing Ramacharitamanasa in the same mood as Ganguli's Mahabharata is published.

Jatayu and Hanuman
B.L. Picard, Russia, c. 1967 Varnasi, c. 1885

An important reason for our willingness to do so is the fact that the English translator of this Ramacharitamanasa, W. Douglas P. Hill, M.A., made his translation based upon the Sanskrit edition and tika of Hanuman Prasad Poddar of Gita Press in Gorakpur. Although Srila Prabhupada considered Hanuman Prasad Poddar an impersonalist, he nonetheless accepted financial help from him and personally corresponded with him over the years. It was Hanuman Prasad Poddar who funded the printing of the first volume of Srila Prabhupada's Srimad Bhagwatam. In the Preface to that edition, Srila Prabhupada wrote:

    I am obliged to Sri Hanuman Prasad Poddar of the Gita Press and "Kalyan" fame, who has gone through my work and appreciating the endeavour, has helped through the Dalmia Jain Trust to meet part expenditure of this publication.

    My thanks are due also to other friends who have helped me in undertaking this great task. Om Tat Sat.

    A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami.

    Dated at Delhi
    December 15, 1962.

And in letters sent to both Brahmananda and Ksirodayasayi, Srila Prabhupada wrote: "He [Hanuman Prasad] is a sincere worker in Krishna consciousness" and, "Keep good relations with Gita Press because they are good friends and Hanuman Prasad Poddar is very much friendly."

So although Tulasi Das's Ramacharitamanasa contains a tint of Mayavadi philosophy, and Hanuman Prasad Poddar's tika on the Sanskrit, which translator Douglas P. Hill relied upon, may likewise be tinged with Poddar's impersonalism, as with the Mahabharata we present this summarization of Rama-lila as the 'best of a bad bargain'.

As with all literatures not purported by our Sampradaya Acaryas, the material cannot be taken as Absolute, but simply as reference material to be considered through the filter of the relatively sparse bona fide Gaudiya purports on Ramayana. We will do our best to add an Editor's Note, pointing out any mayavadic tinges that come to our attention, and invite the readers to likewise point out such errors.

The Battles of Rama
B.L. Picard, Russia, c. 1967 Varnasi, c. 1885

The Holy Lake of the Acts of Lord Rama

CHILDHOOD (Continued)

[C. 8.] There are eight million four hundred thousand kinds of creatures born by the four modes, that dwell in the water, on dry land and in the air; knowing the whole world to be instinct with Sita and Rama, I do obeisance, with folded hands. O ye in whom all grace abides, look on me as your servant, and in all sincerity grant me, all of you, your loving-kindness! I have no confidence in the power of my own reason, and so I make petition to you all. I wish to tell the story of Raghupati's virtues, but my intellect is slight and his acts profound.

I have no skill at all in any method of poesy; my wit is a beggar, my desire a king. My wit is very mean, my ambition high and noble; I look for nectar and nowhere find even buttermilk. Good men will pardon my audacity and hearken attentively to my childish words, as when a father and mother listen with delight to their child's lisping speech; but those will laugh who are cruel and perverse and whose thoughts are evil, men who wear their neighbours' faults as ornaments. Who does not enjoy his own verses, be they tasteful or very insipid? But those who are pleased when they hear another's poetry are good men, seldom found. There are many in the world, my friend, like ponds or rivers, which overflow their banks in time of rain; but very few are those good men who resemble the ocean that swells when it sees the moon at full. [ ]

I do homage to the lotus feet of Vyasa and the other famous poets who have reverently told of the fair fame of Hari; fulfil ye all my desires! I do obeisance to the poets of this Kaliyuga who have recounted all the perfections of Raghupati. To all those skilled poets of common speech who have told of the acts of Hari in the vulgar tongue, those who have been and are and are yet to be, I pay sincere respect. Show me your favour and grant this boon, that my verses may be honoured where good men are gathered together. If the wise esteem not this poetry, the stupid poet's labour is in vain. Only that renown or poetry or power is of value which, like the Ganga, brings benefit to all. Fair is Rama's renown, but my verses are clumsy; such disparity fills me with anxious doubt. Yet by your grace my task may be made easy; for even canvas is beautiful if embroidered with silk.

[D. 14a.] If poetry be simple and tell of spotless fame, the wise esteem it, and when enemies hear it, they forget their inveterate enmity and praise it. [14b.] Yet such verses need clear intellect and my intellectual power is alight; therefore again and again I make my supplication; be gracious to me that I may sing of Hari's glory! [14c.] Ye poets and learned men, graceful swans on the Holy Lake of the Acts of Raghubar, hear my childlike prayer, regard my earnest zeal, and be gracious! I do homage to the lotus feet of the sage who composed the Ramayana, which, though it tells of the demon Rough, is smooth and charming, and faultless though it tells of the demon Fault.

[14e.] I do homage to the four Vedas, boats to bear the soul across the sea of birth and death, which never weary for a moment while they sing of Raghubar's unsullied fame.

[14f.] I do homage to the dust of the feet of Brahma, who created that ocean whence arose the good, like nectar, the moon and the cow of plenty, and also the bad, like poison and strong drink.

[D. 14g.] With folded hands I do homage to the feet of gods and Brahmans and wise men and planets, and say, 'Be favourable and fulfill all my fair desires!'

[C. 15.] Next, I do homage to Sarasvati and Ganga, both holy and enchanting streams; the latter washes away the sin of him who bathes therein and drinks of its waters; the former destroys the ignorance of him who speaks or hears of it. I do reverence to Mahesa and Bhavani, who are my gurus and my parents, friends to the humble and daily givers of good things, servants, lords and companions of Sita's spouse and in every way true friends of Tulasi; to Hara, too, and Girija, who for the good of the world and with regard to the evil of this age composed a number of spells in a barbarous tongue, incongruous syllables, meaningless mutterings, whose influence is manifest by the power of Mahesa. That same lord of Uma will grant me his favour and make my story a source of joy and blessing; so, thinking on Parvati and Siva and receiving their grace, I tell the story of Rama with loving zeal. By Siva's grace my verse will be made beautiful, as is the night by the moon and her company of stars. Those who hear and repeat this story with love and understanding will be cleansed from the defilement of the Kaliyuga and, loving the feet of Rama, will have their share in perfect bliss.

[D. 15.] If the grace of Hara and Gaura be at all truly with me, then all the influence I claim for my verses, composed in common speech, will be a reality.

[C. 16.] I do homage to the very holy city of Avadh and to the river Sarayu that washes away the stains of Kaliyuga; and again I do reverence to the men and women of that city, whom the Lord loves so dearly; for he counted as nought all the sins of those who slandered Sita, nay, he reassured them and gave them a place in his own realm.

I do homage to Kausalya, renowned throughout the world, in whom Raghupati became manifest, as the fair moon in the eastern quarter of the sky, to bring joy to the world and to blight the wicked, as frost the lotus. I reverence, too, in thought and word and deed king Dasarath and all his queens, esteeming them as patterns of piety and perfect bliss. Be gracious to me as the servant of your son, yet by whose fashioning the Creator became great, as Rama's parents of greatness unsurpassed!

[S. 16.] I do homage to the king of Avadh, who loved the feet of Rama with such true love that when the Lord of compassion left him he abandoned his previous body as though it were a worthless straw. [C. 17.] I do reverence to Videha and his household, whose love for Rama's feet was profound; though he concealed it in the exercise of spiritual and material power, it was revealed at the first sight of Rama.


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