Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja
June 24, 1996
madisa nathatve vraja-vipina-candram vraja-vanesvarim
tan nathatve tad atula-sakhitve tu lalitam
visakham siksali-vitarana-gurutve priya-saro
girindrau tat-preksa lalita-rati datve smara manah
O mind, always regard vraja-vipina-candra Sri Krsna to be the life and soul of my worshipful Goddess, Sri Radhika, the Queen of Vrndavana. Meditate on Her as my worshipful Goddess, and consider Sri Lalita to be Her peerless friend. Respect Sri Visakha as my instructor in serving the Divine Couple, and regard Sri Radha-kunda and Giriraja-Govardhana to be those who grant darsana of Sri Radha-Krsna and bestow sublime attachment to Their lotus feet.]
Vraja-vipana candram; Vraja-vipana candra is Krsna who plays in Vrndavana. He never leaves Vrndavana; He is always playing in Vrndavana. Candra—Krsnacandra is the natha of Madisa, Madisvari.
Syamarani dasi: He is the Lord of my worshipable deity.
Srila Gurudeva: Who is like a beloved; natha means a beloved. No pathi, no Lord; there is nothing like this there. And, Vrndavanesvari is my Ista Devi, Madisvari. Who is Lalita? Lalita is the sakhi of my Isvari and Visakha is also like my guru who teaches me how to serve Srimati Radhika because she has all the qualities like Srimati Radhika has. All her qualifications and qualities are like Srimati Radhika’s. Lalita is pragalbha, outspoken. Candravali is not pragalbha. She is of a dakshina mood, a submissive mood. But Radhika is in the middle; dhiradhira. So, Visakha is also like that.
So Raghunatha das Gosvami prays, “She is my siksha-guru; how to serve? And what should my behavior be towards Krsna and the others?”
Who is Candravali?
Syamarani dasi: Kayavyuha?
Srila Gurudeva: Candravali is the kaya-vyuha of Srimati Radhika because rasa cannot come if Srimati Radhika is alone. So, Srimati Radhika has manifested lakhs and lakhs of gopis from Her lakhs and lakhs of moods. So, Candravali is not like Srimati Radhika; she is kaya-vyuha of Srimati Radhika. She enhances this rasa because if there is no rivalry with Srimati Radhika, then rasa cannot be there. Hence, Krsna plays with Candravali and her gopis to increase the rasa and feelings of rivalry in Srimati Radhika. And Krsna tastes all these different moods. Therefore, Srimati Radhika Herself has become Candravali, Saibya, Padma, and all others. So we should do pranama to Candravali also because she is the manifestation of Srimati Radhika and she is creating so much rasa for Radhika by having feelings of rivalry. Hence, Radhika tastes moods like maan and other moods.
So, we should try to develop our relation with them. You should know that Rupa Gosvami knows so many things about bhakti-rasa as Caitanya Mahaprabhu had told him. But how to apply these teachings? How to practice them from our mind, senses, and heart and to make all these things as a rasa? So, Raghunatha das Gosvami has written the answers. So, he is also a siksa guru. If Raghunatha das Gosvami was not there then how could have bhakti been made into bhakti-rasa? It was so difficult. We know that a juice can be made using sugar, water, and lemon. But we don’t know the process. We don’t know the proper proportions; we don’t know how to mix them. We don’t know how much quantity of sugar, water, and lemon should be used. An improper mixture will be called ku-rasa; something that is against rasa.
Syamarani dasi: Rasa-dusta?
Srila Gurudeva: So, Raghunatha das Gosvami has explained everything. He has told us how to make a rasa.
Syaramani dasi: In Stavavali?
Srila Gurudeva: Everywhere: in Vilapa-Kusumanjali, Vraja-vilasa-stava, and in his other books. So, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami has explained everything in the Bengali language. He has explained all the slokas that Caitanya Mahaprabhu used to taste. These are the outlines.
Only thinking, “I am not a Vaisnava,” will not do. You will have to search.
Syamarani dasi: What do you mean by searching?
Srila Gurudeva: To search means you will have to go deep into the books. You will have to hear from Vaisnavas. This is called “searching.”
Syamarani dasi: Last night, you told us to remember slokas and prayers. I try to remember them, but they just disappear.
Srila Gurudeva: If you cannot remember, then you can read and think—no harm. I do like this. I have no remembrance at all. But these slokas automatically come to me. I have not gone to school or college. I have not gone to Sanskrit schools. And all learned persons honor me; I don’t know why they do. And you are following me, here and there. I don’t know why.
Syamarani dasi: For your foot dust. I was trying to learn, “krpa kataksa bhajanam.”
Srila Gurudeva: kada karisyasiha mam krpa-kataksa-bhajanam. Did you read?
Syamarani dasi: Yes.
Srila Gurudeva: Do you know something?
Syamarani dasi: I know a little when you explain.
Srila Gurudeva: I have not explained. It is not to be explained. It is very high. You should tell all the lady devotees to be together like how they were together last night, in the Radha-ramanaji temple.
Syamarani dasi: But would you kindly bless me with the power to keep all the slokas in my heart?
Srila Gurudeva: Krsna can do. He is so powerful. I will pray to Him to bestow His mercy on you because you are qualified.
Break of audio]
In the following section of the audio file, Srila Gurudeva and some devotees discuss the construction of a temple]
Devotee: Krsna has an appeal all over India and all over this country.
Srila Gurudeva: In all our books like the Vedas, Puranas, Upanisads, and everywhere—Lord Krsna’s supremacy is stated.
krsnas tu bhagavan svayam
—Srimad Bhagavatam 1.3.28
mattah parataram nanyat kincid asti dhananjaya
—Bhagavad Gita 7.7
“O Dhananjaya, there is no truth superior to Me.”
sarva dharman parityajya mamekam saranam vraja
—Bhagavad Gita 18.66
“Surrender to Me, giving up all temporary dharmas related to the body and mind.”
My blessing will be that you should serve Radha-Krsna. You should serve Girirajaji also.
Devotee: The dome will give a nice look.
Srila Gurudeva: In South India also, the domes are very high. I have gone almost to all the pilgrimage places and cities of Southern India.
Break of audio]
Srila Gurudeva: You should try to establish Radha-Krsna in the middle. The deities of the demigods can be placed according to what is written in the Vedas and Upanisads. But in the middle, Radha-Krsna should be established.
Devotee: Radha-Krsna will be on the highest platform and then, everyone else can be on a lower platform.
Srila Gurudeva: Ramacandra or any expansion can also be placed. But Sankara is always outside of the temple like…
Srila Gurudeva: Hari-hara eka atma. Sankara is the best Vaisnava. So we should do like this.
Devotee: You will have your lecture here, Maharaja. We can nicely organize.
Devotee 2: Svamiji, we are so fortunate now. The dust of Vraja has mixed with the dust here.
Srila Gurudeva: I desire that this temple become like Vraja. You should make this temple into Vraja, then nobody will face any obstacles. Lord Siva will be there. Ramacandra can also be there. And you can keep the deity of any demigod you desire. But it will be very nice if the main deities are there.
Devotee: This is the East Maharaja.
Srila Gurudeva: Very good, very good.
Devotee: We designed it this way.
Srila Gurudeva: Very good. East is the best direction for deities.
Devotee: According to the sastras, East is a little bit like North-East.
Srila Gurudeva: No harm. But it is East.
Devotee: All the deities will be facing the East.
Srila Gurudeva: It is according to sastra. Do you know all these instructions of the sastras like where to establish the deities and what will be the face and the other details? I have done many installations of the deities.
Devotee: According to the sastras, the deities cannot be lined. They should always be high, low, high, low.
Srila Gurudeva: Radha-Krsna should be on the top. If Radha-Krsna and Ramacandra are there, then there must be some partition.
Break of audio]
Srila Gurudeva: kotisva api maha-muni; among lakhs and lakhs of munis, there may be a very rare, real Krsna-bhakta. But due to Caitanya Mahaprabhu we are seeing and meeting with pure devotees. But after some time they may not be there. So, we are so fortunate.
Devotee: Will Lord Caitanya keep sending great personalities to come and assist, like Prabhupada or yourself?
Srila Gurudeva: Because Kali-yuga is going on he should also be given a chance. You should know how to chant harinama and how to preach. We are seeing so many Vaisnavas now. But after that, it may be that Jagannatha will vanish. He will go away. Ganges will dry. Yamuna is going to be dry. Govardhana hill will also not be there. Half of Govardhana’s form has already entered the earth’s surface. He has entered the surface of the earth for more than a mile. All the groves and kundas are disappearing. The pastimes of Krsna should be cultivated.
Devotee: I feel like I have dwindled down for many lifetimes and now, I have become serious about Krsna consciousness. And now, it is another chance.
Srila Gurudeva: We have turned so many devotees who gave up all practices.
Devotee: Sometime we see new children born. It is going to rise for some time. There is some difficulties but…
Srila Gurudeva: The link will never be broken. Bhaktivinoda Thakura and all are eternal. Similarly, it is sanatana, eternal. So, it may be that the link will become lean and thin. But yet, sometimes the link will grow.
Devotee: Another question is that in the different parts of the universe, in different demigods’ planets, the Lord personally remains there like Vamanadeva is in Sutala. So, do Lord Nrsimha and some of the other incarnations reside personally in some of the planets, or do the demigods worship the deities?
Srila Gurudeva: There are some devotees there. Like, in Patala, Prahlada Maharaja is worshiping; Bali Maharaja is worshiping. Although the post of Indra is changed in heaven, Indra always worships Bhagavan. In Brahmaloka, who will the present Brahma worship? Sahasrasirsa will be worshiped. And in other places, like Kimpurusa, Hanuman will worship Rama.
Devotee: Yes. But is Rama present there?
Srila Gurudeva: Yes. But we are not seeing. Caitanya Mahaprabhu is also in Mayapura. Krsna is also in Vrndavana. The worship is going on. But, a very rare person can see.
[A devotee reads a letter that Srila Gurudeva had dictated earlier.]
Dear Bhakti-vaidurya Madhava Maharaja,
Please accept my most humble obeisances to your lotus feet.
All glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga.
I have received your letter dated June 21st 1996, because I am presently on tour I was delayed in responding to your letter. Please forgive me for this. I have read your letter. In this regard, I want to say that you should not take my response as that of an opponent. Rather, you should take my response as that of a friend. For about fifty-five years, I have had the good fortune to associate with very learned disciples of Srila Sarasvati Thakura Prabhupada who are deeply conversant with all the conclusions of sastra. As a result, I have the opportunity to hear from and serve many of his most prominent disciples such as my Gurudeva, Pujyapada Sri Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja, Pujyapada Srauti Maharaja, Pujyapada Giri Maharaja, Pujyapada Gosvami Maharaja, Pujyapada Vaikhanas Maharaja, Pujyapada Puri Maharaja, Pujyapada Madhava Maharaja, and Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja.
I consider Srila Svami Maharaja as my Siksa Guru. I have had his association and served him since 1946. By virtue of my being his siksa disciple, my faith in him and service to him is no less than any member of ISKCON. He used to show me even greater affection and respect than his own disciples. Kindly take note of all these facts first and then consider what I am about to explain.
Tulasi dasaji was a Vaisnava belonging to the Ramananda sampradaya, a branch of the Sri sampradaya. All the four Vaisnava sampradayas are worthy of our respect. His name, Tulasi dasa, is a Vaisnava name and he wore the vertical (urddha-pundra) Vaisnava tilaka. He also wore tulasi mala around his neck and was initiated into the Sri Rama mantra, which is a mantra for obtaining perfection. His guru was siddha Narahari (Nrsimhadeva) dasa. His worshipful Deities were Sri Sita-Ramacandra who are incarnations of Sri Radha-Krsna. In his numerous books he often glorified Vrajendra-nandana Krsna. He explained the prominent glories of Sri Nama especially for the age of Kali. He translated the Sanskrit slokas of the Vedas, Upanisads, Puranas, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and especially the Ramayana, into Hindi poetical verse. He has written of the importance of “saranagati” and accepted bhagavad-prema as the highest goal and object for the jivas. He accepted the nine forms of bhakti described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. He accepted the jivas to be the separated parts-and-parcels of the Lord, as has been explained in the Gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. He also accepted the doctrine of acintya bheda-abheda or, in other words, the simultaneous oneness and difference that exists between the omnipotent Lord and His potency (sakti-saktiman). He completely disregarded sayujya mukti and the other forms of liberation.
Throughout his writings he refuted the theory of mayavada. Therefore, he has not expressed mayavada conclusions in any of his writings. It is incorrect to think that Sriman Madhvacarya has accepted only the Valmiki Ramayana as authoritative. In his commentary on a statement from the Skanda Purana he has written as follows (quoted in Gaudiya Kanthahara):
rg yajuh samatharvacca bharatam pancaratrakam
mula-ramayanan caiva sastram ityabhidiyate
yac canukulam etasya tac ca sastram prakirttitam
ato ‘nya grantha vistaro naiva sastram kuvartma tat
"The four Vedas -- Rg, Yajur, Sama and Atharva -- the Mahabharata, the original Ramayana and the Pancaratra are all authoritative and bona fide scriptures. Any scriptures which follow in support of them are all accepted as authoritative. All other scriptures apart from these are not accepted as authoritative."]
Svami Maharaja supports the very same conclusion as seen in the following quotes:
"According to Srila Rupa Gosvami, any book which gives enlightenment in the matter of advancing in devotional service is considered to be revealed scripture. Srila Madhvacarya has also defined revealed scriptures as referring to books such as the Ramayan, Mahabharata, Puranas, Upanisads, Vedanta—and
any other literature written in pursuance of such revealed scriptures."] (Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 12)
“Therefore we have to gather knowledge from the right source. Indeed, in reality we can get knowledge only from the Vedic sources. The four Vedas, with their supplementary Puranas, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and their corollaries, which are known as srutis, are all authorized sources of knowledge. If we are at all to gather knowledge, we must gather it from these sources without hesitation.” (Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi 5.14—Purport)
“The Rg Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, Atharva Veda, Mahabharata, Pancaratra and the original Valmiki Ramayana are all Vedic literature. Any literature following the conclusive statements of this Vedic literature is also to be considered Vedic literature. That literature which does not conform to Vedic literature is simply misleading.” (Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya 6.147 — Purport)
The conclusion is that all scriptures that give favorable support to these literatures are also accepted as bona fide and authoritative. Otherwise, all the books of Sri Ramanuja, Sri Rupa Gosvami, Srila Jiva Gosvami and Srila Kaviraja Gosvami could not be accepted as authoritative. There are no learned scholars or acaryas of other sampradayas who wrote commentaries on any of the books of Srila Rupa Gosvami, Jiva Gosvami or Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami. Yet these books certainly cannot be said to be inauthentic. It is irrelevant to say that Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami did not accept evidence from the Ramayana of Tulasi dasa, because at that time it had not yet been published, for Tulasi dasa was a contemporary of Sri Rupa Gosvami.
I would like to point out to you that you have also cited the verse of Sri Madhvacarya twice in your letter to me. The first reference you give is from Svami Maharaja’s Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 147, although you neglected to mention what chapter of Madhya-lila it was from. I have also cited Svami Maharaja’s translation of this verse above. For some reason when you quoted this statement, you omitted the sentence which would have refuted your argument and which, coincidentally, appears precisely in the middle of Svami Maharaja’s translation: “Any literature following the conclusive statements of this Vedic literature is also to be considered Vedic literature.”
Although we are substantiating the authority of Tulasi Ramayana the question may be asked why we don’t regard it on the same level as the Gaudiya Vaisnava literature? The reason for this is that although,
according to Vaisnava siddhanta, it is accepted as bhakti scripture in a routine sense, it does not present a complete description of raganuga (or rupanuga) rasamayi bhakti. In a similar fashion, the Visnu Purana and other sastras do not propound Krsna-bhakti-rasa, although they are “certainly bhakti scriptures”. Therefore we accept Srimad-Bhagavatam and the books of Sri Rupa, Sanatana and other Gosvamis as being the most authoritative and efficacious for us.
If the fact that Tulasi das wrote in Hindi is a disqualification, then must we conclude that the Caitanya-caritamrta of Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami, and the Gita and Bhagavatam translations and purports of param-pujyapada Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja due to being written in Bengali and English respectively, are also inauthentic?
The book Prema-sagara is a Hindi translation of Srimad-Bhagavatam done by the well-known mayavadi Sri Santanu Dvivedi. The Tulasi Ramayana, however, is a book translated by a highly reputed, perfected soul of deep spiritual realization. If Srila Tulasi das was indeed a mayavadi, then kindly present some concrete evidence to support your conclusion. Blind following will simply not do. It is the duty of the disciple to correctly understand and explain the teachings of his Gurudeva. You are all learned research scholars. You can examine the writings of Tulasi dasa for yourself. If you detect any mayavada conclusions in his writings then you should give evidence directly from his statements.
I have personally read and studied the Rama Carita Manasa in Hindi in its entirety at least ten times. May I ask how many times have you read Tulasi’s original Ramayana with scrutiny? I am well acquainted with the conclusions of Vaisnava sastra and have been associating with pure Vaisnavas for a long time. My own conclusions, and the conclusions of other respected Vaishnavas in our line, is that there is not a trace of mayavada anywhere in the original work of the Tulasi Ramayana. As I am travelling now, I do not have access to that book; but upon consulting it, I can surely provide you with concrete evidence from the direct statements of the book to support my position.
There are numerous statements in Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Vaisnava scriptures which may seem to support mayavada conclusions. In these sastras the Absolute Truth is sometimes referred to as advaya-jnana, and kaivalya is sometimes spoken of as the ultimate destination. I quote here a verse and translation from Srila Svami Maharaja’s Bhagavatam translation (4.22.27) which superficially seems to support the mayavada theory:
naivatmano bahir antar vicaste
paratmanor yad-vyavadhanam purastat
svapne yatha purusas tad-vinase
"When a person becomes devoid of all material desires and liberated from all material qualities, he transcends distinctions between actions executed externally and internally. At that time the difference between the soul and the Supersoul, which was existing before self-realisation, is annihilated. When a dream is over, there is no longer a distinction between the dream and the dreamer."]
Although this verse and others may be misinterpreted to support the mayavada theory, Srila Svami Maharaja has clearly explained its true Vaisnava conception in his commentary. For a correct understanding, individual verses must be understood in relationship to the overall presentation.
Sridhara Svami, the original Bhagavatam commentator, was sometimes accused of having mayavada leanings; yet Caitanya Mahaprabhu accepted him as being most authoritative. He said that anyone who disregarded the commentary of Sridhara Svami should be rejected as a prostitute, or one who does not follow his Svami. Similarly, there may be some statements of Tulasi dasa which could be misinterpreted as supporting mayavada conclusions, but these then must be reconciled in relationship to his overall presentation of siddhanta.
Similarly, your letter has presented certain quotes by Svami Maharaja, but I have here several quotes from him which present a different picture. The first one in fact pre-dates any you have given. In this quote Svami Maharaja seems to suggest a very different conclusion about Tulasi dasa:
“So he became a great devotee of Rama, Tulasi das. His book, Rama-carita-manasa, ‘Thinking always of Rama’, that is his book. It is very famous book, and that is the only important literature in the Hindi language, Rama-carita-manasa.” (Room conversation with Brahmananda, April 12, 1969)
And again, in another conversation, this is affirmed:
Devotee: Tulasi dasa said that he wanted to see Rama.
Prabhupada: Yes. That is devotee’s inclination. That we must have.”
(Room Conversation SB 6.1.14 Nov 10, 1970 Bombay, India)
In two other instances Svami Maharaja describes the conclusions of Rama-carita-manasa as being consistent with Vedic conclusions and based on sastras such as the Gita and Bhagavatam:
“And Tulasi dasa, he has also said… Tulasi dasa is big poet in Hindi language. He has written the Rama-carita-manas. His opinion… Not only his opinion, that is the Vedic opinion, that… He says, dhol gamar stri sudra, pasu sudra nari, ei ei sab sasaa ke adhikari (?). So this statement will not be very palatable to the Western girls.” (Lecture SB 5.6.4 Nov 26, 1976 Vrindavana, India)
“The Tulasi dasa’s Ramayana means Rama-carita. It is not Ramayana. Rama-carita Manas. He was devotee of Lord Ramacandra. So as he was thinking of Lord Ramacandra, he has written. So he was a learned scholar, brahmana, he must have read Bhagavad-gita, Bhagavatam. So all his translation is there on the basis of the sastra, especially Bhagavata and Bhagavad-gita. You’ll find many parallel passages. But Gita is the summary of all Vedic literature, and it is spoken by the Personality of Godhead.” (Evening Darsana July 8, 1976 Washington DC)
Apart from the above quotes, I have also noted at least thirteen times when Svami Maharaja has quoted Tulasi dasa’s writings as positive authority in his books or lectures in order to substantiate a preaching point he was making. For brevity I have simply noted the references here and you may consult them at your own leisure. If Svami Maharaja truly considered Tulasi dasa and his writing to be unauthorised, it appears odd that he would quote him so often in his preaching. The following are the references:
SB 6.11.4 Purport
BG 2.15 August 21, 1973 London Lecture
SB 1.16.19 July 19, 1974 Los Angeles, CA
SB 2.3.19 July 9, 1974 Los Angeles
SB 2.9.7 April 24, 1972
SB 6.1.33 July 18, 1975 San Francisco, CA
SB 6.1.39 July 20, 1975 San Francisco, CA
SB 6.3.12-15 Lecture Feb 9, 1971 Gorakhpur, India
Morning Walk through BBT Warehouse – Feb 10, 1975 Los Angeles, CA
Morning Walk – May 25, 1976 Honolulu, HW
Arrival Room Conversation – July 2, 1976 Washington, DC
Morning Walk – Feb 2, 1977 Bhubaneshwar
Room Conversation – April 19, 1977 Bombay, India
In addition to all the above quotes, I feel it necessary to respond to some of the quotes you have given as evidence against Tulasi dasa. On close inspection it is apparent that almost none of them really have anything negative to say about him or his Rama Carita Manasa. Furthermore, in many of the quotes you have omitted portions which validate him. Please excuse me for pointing this out, but I think it is necessary to arrive at a proper understanding of the issue.
During a lecture in Montreal on Radhastami August 30 in 1968 your Svami Maharaja quoted Tulasi dasa and referred to him as a great devotee: “am aprameyam anagham nirvana-santi-pradam brahma-sambhu-phanindras tebhyo ‘nisam vedanta-vedyam vibhum sura-gurum aya-manusya-harim vande ‘ham karunakaram raghu-varam bhu-pala-cudamanim: This is a verse composed by a great devotee, Tulasi dasa. He was a devotee of Lord Ramacandra.”
You have also quoted a latter portion of the above quote, however, you did not quote it in full: “Our, this respectable Indian lady, she will begin Ramayana… This Tulasi, actually it is not Ramayana. It is called Rama-carita-manasa. Ramayana means Valmiki Ramayana, but people have taken it as Ramayana. Actually, Tulasi dasa has expressed his own feelings about his devotion to Lord Rama, and therefore he has named it Rama-carita-manasa, his mind full with service attitude for Lord Rama. That is the real meaning of this book. But people have misinterpreted; they are going on just it is Ramayana. And Ramayana, of course, anywhere where Rama’s activities are described, that is called Ramayana. That is another sense. But real Ramayana means the Ramayana composed by Valmiki Ramayana. Ramayana composed by Maharsi Valmiki. And this is… It is a popular notion that this is Ramayana, but actually this book is called Rama-carita-manasa. So some of the description of Rama are there, but not all the
description. Rather there are many differences from the original Valmiki Ramayana. Anyway this is song of a devotee for his Lord Rama. In that sense, you can call it Ramayana, but this book is actually Rama-carita-manasa.”
This quote does not actually say anything negative about Tulasi dasa or his Rama-carita-manasa. It simply points out that there is a difference between the Valmiki Ramayana and the Rama-carita-manasa. It should be noted, however, that this work was an expression of his mind “full with service attitude for Lord Rama”. The part of the quote which you omitted was the last two sentences: This is a song of a devotee for his Lord Rama and so it may, in that sense, be called Ramayana.
In the next quote given by you the only point made was that Tulasi dasa’s Ramayana is but a partial representative of Srimad-Bhagavatam. The significant point which you left out was that Tulasi das was a devotee of Lord Rama and he gave his thoughts in his book Ramayana:
“From your book Soviet Studies of India I understand that academician Mr. A. P. Baranrikov completed a great translation, working the matter of Tulsidas’s Ramayana into Russian. Srimad-Bhagavatam is the ripe, mature fruit of the Vedic knowledge, and Tulsidas’s Ramayana (Ramacharitmanasa) is but a partial representative of Srimad-Bhagavatam. The real Ramayana is Valmiki’s Ramayana. Tulsidas was a devotee of Lord Rama and he has given his thoughts in his book Ramayana. But the real original thoughts and idea are in Srimad-Bhagavatam.”
In the next quote given by you (which I have replicated in the next paragraph) there is no mention whatsoever of Tulasi dasa or his Rama Carita Manasa. When Svami Maharaja states that there are many unauthorised Ramayanas the reader is supposed to infer that he is referring to Tulasi dasa’s version. Yet Svami Maharaja goes on to say that five thousand years ago there were many Ramayanas. This part of the quote was not mentioned by you. Since Tulasi dasa’s Rama Carita Manasa is a medieval work and was not published five thousand years ago Svami Maharaja certainly could not be referring to his book as one of the unauthorised versions. Most of the quotes which you give subsequently are in the same vein. There is no mention of Tulasi dasa, but the reader by this time automatically assumes that his Rama Carita Manasa is being referred to as unauthorised. (Letter to Prof. Kotovsky, June 24, 1971)
“Unless one is tattva-darsi, in complete knowledge of the Absolute Truth, one cannot describe the activities of the Personality of Godhead. Therefore although there are many so-called Ramayanas, or histories of Lord Ramacandra’s activities, some of them are not actually authoritative. Sometimes Lord Ramacandra’s activities are described in terms of one’s own imaginations, speculations or material sentiments. But the characteristics of Lord Ramacandra should not be handled as something imaginary. While describing the history of Lord Ramacandra, Sukadeva Gosvami told Maharaja Pariksit, “You have already heard about the activities of Lord Ramacandra.” Apparently, therefore, five thousand years ago there were many Ramayanas, or histories of Lord Ramacandra’s activities, and there are many still. But we must select only those books written by tattva-darsis (jnaninas tattva-darsinah), not the books of so-called scholars who claim knowledge only on the basis of a doctorate. This is a warning by Sukadeva Gosvami.” (BG 9.10.3)
There is one quote remaining which offers a strong criticism of Tulasi dasa and his book. Yet this must be weighed against all of the positive statements. Without seeing the broader siddhantic view, how are we then to reconcile these apparently opposite opinions? How is it that Svami Maharaja has seen fit to give such an appreciation of Tulasi das as a bona fide Vaisnava?
The letter of 1969 which you quoted in your letter to me also needs to be put in its proper historical perspective:
“Regarding the two books you have mentioned, Sri Ramacharitamanasa by Gosvami Tulasi das is not very authorized, and Ramayana is authorized. One thing is though, you have got enough other books to study. Did you appear in the examination held on Janmastami Day? Why should you go to Ramayana when you have got Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam and Teachings of Lord Caitanya? Don’t divert your attention in that way. The author of Ramacharitamanasa, Gosvami 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 Krsna. The pure Vaisnava rejects anything which has no pure idea of serving the Personality of Godhead.” (Letter to: Raktaka, Hamburg, 6 September, 1969)
Of all the quotes you have presented as evidence against Tulasi dasa or his Rama Carita Manasa the only one that really stands as a substantial criticism is the one which I have reproduced in its entirety above.
Consistent with your approach to discussing this topic you have selected only a portion of the quote. It may be noted also that this quote was made by Svami Maharaja only five months after the conversation in which he stated that Tulasi dasa was a great devotee of Rama and that his book is the only important literature in the Hindi language. Furthermore, this statement was made in 1969 when his disciples were very immature in their spiritual development without even having read Bhagavad-Gita. The part of the letter which you omitted was that Svami Maharaja did not want his disciples’ attention diverted when they had so many other books to read. It may also be questioned how authentic the English translations were that they were reading. When we examine all of the positive statements that Svami Maharaja made about Tulasi dasa and the Rama Carita Manasa, it appears that he simply wanted his disciples to focus on the books he was translating and not questionable translations of other books. This is the real crux of the matter, and not the authenticity of Tulsi dasa’s work.
There is a misconception that the title of Tulasi dasa’s book, Rama Carita Manasa, suggests that it was inspired from the manasa, or mind, of Tulasi dasa, and thus it is not a work of divine revelation. Yet in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.7.4) we find the exact same word (manasi) used to describe the vision which inspired Srila Vyasadeva to write Srimad-Bhagavatam:
samyak pranihite ‘male
apasyat purusam purnam
mayam ca tad apasrayam
"By the power of bhakti-yoga, Srila Vyasadeva, being firmly concentrated in meditation with a purified mind, saw Sri Krsna fully endowed with spiritual effulgence, with His plenary portions, and with His internal potency of svarupa sakti. His external potency maya, being of an inferior nature, was seen in the background under His control."]
It is said in this verse “manasi apasyat”, that he saw the complete Absolute Truth with the mind. Yet Srimad-Bhagavatam is not to be taken as manasi-grantha, but rather as samadhi-grantha, for Vyasadeva’s mind was fully absorbed in samadhi and his perception was by the power of bhakti-yoga. Similarly the Ramayana of Tulasi dasa should not be taken as manasi-grantha for it sprung from his purified mind which was absorbed in complete samadhi by the power of bhakti-yoga.
Please forgive me if this letter has caused you any discomfort.
B. V. Narayana
*Transcribed and edited by the Govardhana dasa.