Los Angeles: June 5, 1998
Please accept our humble obeisances.
One of the most important and prominent personalities in the Krsna 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 Krsna, by chanting her glories, by performing her arati, and simply by remembering her. Therefore, to assist our respected readers in their relation with her, we have collected the two discourses below, given by Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja, on her glories.
Your aspiring servants, the Harikatha Team]
Why is Tulasi so beloved to Sri Krsna? She arranges for the birds, peacocks, nikunjas (secluded groves), flowers, fragrances and everything related to nikunja-seva and srngara-rasa, and thus she serves Krsna and Radha. She also makes arrangements for all the gopis to meet with Krsna. She especially serves Srimati Radhika by making beautiful environments and kunjas (groves) for Radha and Krsna to meet. Radha and Krsna are controlled by Her. Therefore, if She makes a request to Radha and Krsna on anyone's behalf, telling Them, "Please be merciful to that jiva, make him qualified to serve You," Radha-Krsna will at once hear her. Moreover, she herself has power to make that jiva like herself.
Sri-Vrnda-devi in Sri Rupa-Sanatana Gaudiya Matha, Vrndavana
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 Sri Radha and Sri Krsna. [*See Endnote 1]
Sri Advaita Acarya read this verse in Gautamiya Tantra:
jalasya culukena va
vikrinite svam atmanam
[Sri 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 Krsna, 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 Krsna-prema, then simply pour water on her, not so much water that she will die. Try to serve her.
What did Sri Advaita Acarya do?
[Devotee:] He offered Krsna Tulasi leaves, which were very soft and fragrant.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] These leaves were so sweet that they attracted bees to come and hum there. Why did Advaita Acarya do this? For what reason? What did he want?
Sri Advaita Acarya knew that Sri Caitanya 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 Krsna should come right away." If Advaita Acarya had not prayed, Krsna might have come after millions of years. Advaita Acarya requested, "I don't want to wait. Please come now." Krsna was making a plan to come, but had not fixed a date. He wanted to fix it, but could not. So Adaita Acarya requested Him with folded palms, "If you do not come, I will destroy the entire world. I cannot give the people Krsna-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 Krsna to come. He fasted, and wept and prayed to Krsna.
So, if you want Krsna-prema, then serve Tulasi in the same way that Advaita Acarya did, [*See Endnote 2] and then Tulasi may be merciful to you.
Krsna came in the form of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu by taking the golden beauty and intrinsic mood of Srimati Radhika, which was Her modan-mahabhava. Actually he did not "take" it; He "borrowed" it. Advaita Acarya 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 Krsna can do this, so he requested Krsna to come, and Krsna came in the form of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
*Endnote 1: "What is the meaning of 'Vrndavana'? 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 Vrndavana? Because she arranges amorous meetings between Sri Radha and Krsna. Another meaning of vrnda is 'group,' meaning groups of cows, gopas and gopis, and avana can mean 'one who nourishes and protects.' So Vrndavana can also mean the ones who provide stimuli that nurture and increase feelings of love in Sri Govinda and the cows, gopas and gopis. More meanings have been given, but these three are primary." (Bhakti-rasayana by Srila 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 Vrndavana. 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 Vrndavana. Vrnda-devi has dedicated her kingdom of Vrndavana, which she wonderfully serves, protects, and nourishes, at the lotus feet of Vrsabhanu-nandini Srimati Radhika, who is mahabhava svarupa, the embodiment of mahabhava, the highest love for Krsna. Therefore, Srimati Radhika is truly Vrndavanesvari, the Queen of Vrndavana.
"The Puranas state that the following personalities are all kaya-vyuha svarupa, bodily expansions, of sarva-saktimayi Srimati 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 Vrndavana 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 Vrndavana. Indeed, Vrndavana is known by the name of this Vrnda-devi." (Sri Vraja-mandala Parikrama by Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja)
*Endnote 2: [Advaita Acarya thought:] "If Sri Krsna 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 Krsna 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 Krsna to inaugurate the movement of the chanting of the holy name."
While He was thinking about how to propitiate Krsna by worship, the following verse came to His mind.
jalasya culukena va
vikrinite svam atmanam
"Sri Krsna, 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 Acarya 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 Krsna 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 Acarya began worshiping the Lord. Thinking of the lotus feet of Sri Krsna, He constantly offered Tulasi buds in water from the Ganges. He appealed to Sri Krsna with loud calls and thus made it possible for Krsna to appear.
(Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 3.100-109)]
February 12, 2000: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
[Because Advaita Acarya called for the appearance of Lord Caitanya by offering Tulasi and water, Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja gave a discourse on the glories of Tulasi on Sri Advaita Acarya'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, Sri Advaita Acarya's heart was melting, feeling compassion for all the jivas. So He wanted to call Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu into this world. While He was thinking of how to do it, a verse from Srimad Gautamiya Tantra came into His mind.
jalasya culukena va
vikrinite svam atmanam
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] We should satisfy Krsna; 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 Srimati Radhika. Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has written:
tvad ajnaya pallava-puspa-bhrnga
madhvadibhir bhanti vibhusyamana
vrnde! numaste caranaravindam
All the pastimes of Krsna 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 Krsna's lila -nikunja-lila - the very sweet, amorous and confidential pastimes of Radha and Krsna in the groves of Vrndavana.
Tvad ajnaya pallava-puspa bhrnga: "By the order of Vrnda Devi, Vrndavana 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, Vrndavana becomes so very beautiful, and provides the most wonderful playground and setting for Radha and Krsna's lilas."
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Krsna always sees Himself indebted to Vrnda. She serves in such a way, with all paraphernalia, that Krsna always thinks that He cannot repay her. So if anyone gives Tulasi to Krsna, 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 Krsna. And if you offer anything, put Tulasi leaves on each preparation. Then Krsna 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:] Krsna is always eager to meet with Srimati Radhika. Srila Visvanatha Cakravati Thakura has written:
tvat-saubhagam kena nirucyatam tad
vrnde! numaste caranaravindam
Who can enumerate the glories and good fortune of Vrnda Devi? It is by her acting as a messenger that Radha and Krsna are able to meet. Krsna is so indebted to her. Therefore if anyone worships Srimati Vrnda Devi, Krsna will think, "How can I repay them?" He says to them, "You have purchased Me by your service to Vrnda Devi." So Advaita Acarya has established this siddhanta and this very wonderful rapid progress in bhakti to the service of Sri Radha and Krsna.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] If anyone wants to have love for, and service to, Radha-Krsna conjugal, they must worship Tulasi, and very easily they can be benefited. If one does not have prema but he is offering Tulasi, will Krsna accept his offering or not? The answer if that if Tulasi is given, it means that everything has been given - and Krsna must accept.
If Tulasi is given, then Krsna will have to accept, whether one has a guru or not. You will have to reconcile this. Krsna 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.
[Srila 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, Krsna will gradually bring that person in line . You cannot say that if one is offering Tulasi, but there is no prema, Krsna 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.
[Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja:] Not only sukrti.
jayati jayati namananda-rupam murare-
katham api sakrdattam muktidam praninam yat
paramamrtam ekam jivanam bhusanam me
(Sri Brhad-Bhagavatamrtam 1.9, Sanatana Gosvami)
["All glories, all glories to Krsna-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. Krsna-nama stands alone as the supreme nectar and sole treasure of my life."]
The following personalities are related to Krsna: 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.
Srimati Tulasi devi is so glorious.
-- The Harikatha Team, May 2009