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Chapter Two: TULASI PERFORMS AUSTERITIES

Chapter Two TULASI PERFORMS AUSTERITIES As soon as she was born, Tulasi resolved to go to the mountainous region of Badarinatha to pr...

Chapter Two
TULASI PERFORMS AUSTERITIES

As soon as she was born, Tulasi resolved to go to the mountainous region of Badarinatha to practice severe austerities. Though many persons tried to dissuade her, no one was able to; for she was determined to stay and pray in the forest till Lord Krsna appeared and agreed to become her husband. During a period of one hundred thousand celestial years, she endured the following:

In the summer, she exposed herself to four fires around her and the sun above; in the winter, she submerged herself in the icy waters; and in the rainy season, she subjected herself to heavy downpours at the funeral grounds. For 20,000 years, she subsisted on fruits and water; for 30,000 years, she chewed dry leaves; for 40,000 years she lived only on air; and for 10,000 years she ate nothing and just stood on one leg.

Finally, she saw Lord Brahma in the sky, riding on his swan carrier and sweeping down towards her. Believing that he had come to grant her a boon, she bowed down low to him.

Lord Brahma said, "O Tulasi, ask me for a boon. Whether it be devotion to Lord Hari or servitorship to Him or freedom from old age or freedom from death--I will grant it."

"Yes, O Lord, I will ask. Please listen. I will not hide my desires out of fear or shame, since you are all-knowing. My name is Tulasi. Formally I was a cowherd girl in Goloka, and there I served Radharani, the beloved of Sri Krsna. I am a partial expansion of Radharani and was her favourite companion. But one day in the place where the rasa dance had occurred, Krsna became intimate with me and I fainted from excessive joy. While I was lying there, Radharani suddenly appeared and saw me in that condition. She was not at all pleased. Blinded with fury, she first reproached Krsna and then cursed me. She said, `O vile one! Go! And take birth as a human being!'

"Then Krsna said to me, `When you take birth in India, if you practice austerities, Lord Brahma will grant you a blessing. He will arrange for you to marry the four-armed Narayana, who is an expansion of Myself.' Then Krsna disappeared. And out of fear of Radharani, I left Goloka and was born in this world...So please grant me that boon. I want to have that handsome and peaceful Narayana as my husband."

Lord Brahma replied, "O Tulasi, Sudama was a partial expansion of Krsna and was one of Krsna's cowherd boyfriends in Goloka. As a result of a curse by Radharani, he is presently living on earth among the Danavas (demons). His name is Sankhacuda. He is very energetic and no one can compare with him in strength. While living in Goloka, he was very attracted to you and wanted to marry you. But because he feared Radharani, he did not make any overtures.

"Just as you are a jatismara--that is, one who knows her previous births--Sankhacuda also is. Remembering his past desire to be close to you, he has performed severe austerities to obtain you as his wife. I now wish to grant his desire. Therefore, O beautiful one, please agree to wed him. However, later on, by the special arrangement of Providence, you will get the beautiful Narayana as your husband. But after that, He will curse you and you will be transformed into the world-purifying Tulasi plant (holy basil Ocillium Basildum Sanctum). You will be the best of flowers and dearer to Narayana than His own life. No one's worship will be complete without your leaves. You will remain as a tree in Vrndavana and will be widely known as Vrndavani. The cowherd men and women will worship Lord Hari with your leaves. As the presiding deity of the Tulasi plant, you will always enjoy the company of Krsna, the best of cowherd boys."

Tulasi Devi smiled and gladly said to Lord Brahma, "O Father, I will be honest with you. I am not as devoted to the four-armed Narayana as I am to the two-armed Krsna. For in Goloka, my close encounter with Krsna was suddenly interrupted, leaving me still longing for Him. Thus, it was only because Krsna had asked me that I have been praying to get Narayana for my husband. But now it appears certain that by your grace I will again get Krsna, who is very difficult to attain. However, O lord, please grant me the following boon: that I lose my fear of Radharani."

Lord Brahma replied, "O child, I shall now give you the sixteen-lettered Radha mantra. By this boon you will be as dear to Radharani as Her life, and She will approve of Your intimate dealings with Krsna."

Lord Brahma initiated Tulasi Devi into to the sixteen-lettered mantra, the hymn, and the mode of worship of Sri Radha. Then, blessing her, he disappeared.

As directed, Tulasi engaged herself in worshiping Srimati Radharani and, after twelve years, attained success. Obtaining the desired boon, she reaped the fruits that were unattainable by others. As the pangs of her austerities ended, she became cheerful. When one gets the fruits of one's labour and then considers the difficulties experienced in attaining them, the difficulties then seem pleasurable.

Tulasi was in the prime of her youth and she longed for the company of Sri Krsna. Finishing her food and drink, she lay down on a beautiful bed decorated with flowers and perfumed with sandal paste. She went to sleep with a happy heart. But while she slept, Kamadeva, the god of love, shot five arrows at her--arrows that were meant to enchant her. Consequently, though she was anointed with cooling sandal paste and slept on a bed strewn with flowers, her body began to feel as though it were on fire. Out of joy, the hairs on her body stood on end, her eyes reddened and her body began to tremble. One moment she looked thin and at another moment she grew restless or drowsy. Sometimes she became agitated or warm with desire, at other times she fainted, then recovered, then sorrowed. Sometimes she got up from the bed, walked this way and that way, sat down or lay down.

This abnormal condition of her body and mind increased daily; so much so that her soft bed felt like a bed of thorns; delicious fruits and water tasted like poison; her house seemed like a desert; her soft delicate cloth felt hot like fire; and the vermilion mark on her forehead pained like a boil.

In her dreams she saw a nicely dressed, smiling, jolly youth. He was adorned with jewels, besmeared with sandal paste and garlanded with flowers. Gazing at her face, he spoke to her affectionately, and embraced and kissed her repeatedly. One moment he went away; the next moment he returned; then she cried out, "O Lord of my heart, where are you going? Please don't go!" When she awakened, she wept again and again. In this way Tulasi Devi passed her days at Badarikashrama.

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