A Vedic Journey To Meet Natures Hidden Teachers - Tulsi
Tulasi - Ocimum tenuiflorum/sanctum
My favorite tree personality Srimati Tulasi devi!
Many devotees around the world sing her glories and dance around her as part of their morning oblations. In India she is planted and worshiped outside peoples homes. Many devotees in colder climates go to great lengths and troubles to grow and care for her outside of her natural climate.
There are several species and strains of Tulsi, two of the most prominent being Rama Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) and Krishna Tulasi (Ocimum sanctum). Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil, has many amazing health benefits and is widely used within Ayurveda, but for the purpose of this blog post it is her amazing personality that we shall focus on.
Vrinda Devi (Tulasi) is the mother of devotion and the organizer of the eternal lillas taking place in Goloka Vrindavan. These are high topics indeed and ones that I’m not able to comment on but, needless to say, she is a very important person.
We pray to Tulasi to grant us a place in Vrindavan and to increase our devotional feelings toward the divine couple Radha Krishna.
Whenever we make delicious preparations of food and drink for Nimai or Lord Krishna we are sure to include a Tulasi leaf as part of the offering. We wear Tulasi beads around our necks to keep us always in touch with her and shelter from material woe. We chant the lords names on beads made from her wood with the knowledge that in doing so our bhakti is ever increasing!
With some limited experience growing Tulasi plants over the years, I've realized that aside from the regular watering and daily care the well being and happiness of Vrindarani, is to a large extent depending on how much devotion and the chanting of Krishna’s name one is approaching her with. In other words; she is responding to bhakti.
If I am not feeling so devotional or spiritually inclined, there is a relative drooping and dropping of her leaves. If my bhajana is empowered and flowing then she is responding with plush and vibrant growth.
Unfortunately, growing her in the northern hemisphere means she tends to be short lived, but being the embodiment of a pure devotee she is giving freely the remnants of her wood and leaves to help us in our devotional practice.
Here is an amusing story by Gurudeva illustrating the importance of being attached to Tulasi devi...
By Chandrasekhara Kavi
namo namah tulasi maharani,
vrnde maharani namo namah
namo re namo re meiya namo narayani
jako darase, parase agha-nasa-i
mahima beda-purane bakhani
jako patra, manjari komala
dhanya tulasi meiya, purana tapa kiye,
dhupa, dipa, naivedya, arati,
phulana kiye varakha varakhani
chapanna bhoga, chatrisa byanjana,
bina tulasi prabhu eka nahi mani
siva-suka-narada, aura brahmadiko,
dhurata phirata maha-muni jnani
candrasekhara meiya, tera jasa gaowe
bhakati-dane dijiye maharani
(1) O Tulasi Maharani! O Vrnda! O mother of devotion! O Narayani, I offer my obeisances to you again and again.
(2) By seeing you or even by touching you, all sins are destroyed. Your glories are described in the Vedas and Puranas.
(3) Your leaves and soft manjaris are entwined at the lotus feet of Narayana, the Lord of Laksmi. O blessed mother Tulasi, you performed successful austerities and have thus become the chief consort and queen of Sri Shalagrama-sila.
(4) You engladden and shower your rain of mercy upon one who offers you some incense, a ghee lamp, naivedya, and arati. The Lord does not care for even one of fifty-six varieties of cooked food or thirty-six different curries offered without tulasi leaves.
(5) Lord Siva, Sukadeva Gosvami, Devarsi Narada, and all the jnanis and great munis, headed by Lord Brahma, are circumambulating you. O mother! O Maharani, Candrasekhara thus sings your glories. Please bestow upon him the gift of pure devotion.
This song is practically describing everything the aspiring devotee needs to know to glorify Vrindadevi, the reasons why we worship her, and the importance of developing attachment to her. Very beneficial for someone trying to cultivate spiritual life.
Fortunately, Tulasi worship came very naturally to me. I was already in awe of the many wonderful trees and different personalities they exhibit. In seeing the love and high regard the devotees held this special plant it confirmed to me that I was home and these were the people I want to share my life with. As my relationship to Tulasi grows, changes, and develops, I hope those relationships to her devotees deepen, grow, and develop as well.
Tulasi maharani ki Jai!