Prākṛta-rasa Āraṇya Chedinī – Cutting the Jungle of Misconception
Chapter 3 – The Curse of Tulasī Devī
Was Tulasī Devī really cursed by Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī? In this article ‘The Curse of Tulasī Devī’ by Śrīla Narasiṅgha Mahārāja, he answers this question and narrates the history of this incident.
Devotee: It is stated in a book, Our Original Position, Chapter eight, that Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī cursed Her dear maidservant Vṛndā-devī (Tulasī-devī) to fall down from Goloka Vṛndāvana to this material world and that this is factual evidence that the jīva soul falls from the Lords eternal līlā. Is this correct?
Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: There is a reference in Brahma-vaivarta Purāṇa regarding the appearance of Tulasī-devī in this material world due to the curse of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. However, in the writings of the six Gosvāmīs we do not find mention of this pastime. Those sections of the Purāṇas that are important for our advancement in pure devotional service have been selected by the Gosvāmīs and they have included those portions in their writings. But we do not find any mention of this so-called curse by our ācāryas.
In most cases the Purāṇas are written for persons in the lower modes of material nature. The events and stories that we find there are mainly to instruct the fallen souls in a general way or to instill fear and reverence in them for divinity.
Because this narration of the cursing of Tulasī-devī is there in the Brahma-vaivarta Purāṇa some devotees think that it is a very important pramāṇa (evidence) to support the idea of the jīva falling from Vaikuṇṭha. But in fact the narration makes no reference whatsoever to a jīva falling from grace. The narration strictly pertains to activities amongst the pārṣada devotees, eternally liberated souls.
There are certain activities of Kṛṣṇa and the Viṣṇu-avatāras mentioned in the scriptures that may be neglected by the pure devotees due to those activities conflicting with their inner emotions, bhāva. For example, there is the disappearance līlā of Kṛṣṇa in which He is shot in the heel with an arrow. This is even mentioned in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, yet the pure devotees do not take pleasure in discussing this final līlā of the Lord. Rather they neglect it.
There is also a section in the Padma Purāṇa which is called Bhāgavata-māhātmyam wherein the story of Bhakti-devī and her two dying sons Jñāna and Vairāgya, is narrated. In that Māhātmyam the process of hearing the Bhāgavatam in seven days is also recommended (Bhāgavata-saptaḥ). Because these things have been mentioned in Purāṇas some devotees have printed this Bhāgavata-māhātmyam in a small book and they also attempt to hold the Bhāgavatam reading in seven days. But our Guru Mahārāja (A. C. Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Prabhupāda) did not care for this Bhāgavata-māhātmyam because it was not given any mention by the previous ācāryas.
It is a fact that the Purāṇas and many other Vedic literatures present topics other than those of pure devotional service. These topics however, are of no concern to the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas. The ācāryas in our Gauḍīya tradition are concerned exclusively with pure devotional service and we follow their lead. We are not interested in just any kind of pure devotional service, but pure devotional service in the line of rāgānugās, spontaneous love following in the footsteps of the residents of Vṛndāvana. Where such conclusions are found in the Vedas, Purāṇas, etc. the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas whole-heartedly embrace that. Otherwise not.
The Bhāgavata-māhātmyam concerns itself mainly with karma-kāṇḍa and mokṣa-kāṇḍa, material benefit and liberation respectively. Therefore, it has not been given any importance by our ācāryas despite its seemingly being a glorification of the Bhāgavatam. The narration regarding the so-called curse of Tulasī-devī is also in a similar category. It is not given much importance by our ācāryas because the narration does not present the conclusions of pure devotional service. In fact the misconception that Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī could curse Her most affectionate friend to suffer in material existence is indeed disturbing to one who is awake to the loving affairs of vraja-bhakti. It is also a fact that such narrations may even be bewildering and detrimental to the progress of one who lacks the sufficient eligibility or adhikāra to understand them.
However, the incident of the curse of Tulasī-devī is not unintelligible for those devotees who have the grace of Śrī Guru and the Vaiṣṇavas. Our first understanding should be that Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī’s so-called cursing of Her dear-most servant to take birth in this material world was not actually a curse but a benediction. Thus, Tulasī-devī would be married to Kṛṣṇa/Viṣṇu and also the conditioned souls in material existence would get a chance to associate and serve a pure devotee.
Furthermore, it must be understood that the drama was carried out under yogamāyā not mahāmāyā. Yogamāyā is the energy of the Supreme Lord that, understanding the transcendental desires of the Lord and His devotees, makes all the necessary arrangements for their pastimes. In the case of mādhurya-rasa-līlā the yogamāyā potency is represented by Paurṇamāsī. In any case mahāmāyā has no jurisdiction in the realm of divine līlā.
Kṛṣṇa appears in this material world through His many expansions such as the Viṣṇu-avatāras and He even comes Himself as Vrajendra-nandana Kṛṣṇa and as Śrī Caitanyadeva. And to serve the Lord in His many incarnations His eternal associates also descend to the material world. Such is the case of Tulasī-devī. It should not be misunderstood that Tulasī-devī was at anytime under the control of material nature or that she had fallen due to having displeased Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī in Goloka.
According to Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, Tulasī-devī is an expansion of the internal potency of Kṛṣṇa known as ūrjā. The internal potency ūrjā, also known as svarūpa-śakti, never comes under the influence of māyā.
In Goloka Vṛndāvana Tulasī-devī is non-different from the gopī named Vṛndā who has expanded herself as Tulasī. This Vṛndā-devī is herself an expansion of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and she leads the section of sakhīs known as dūtika-sakhīs, or messengers. In the transcendental pastimes of Śrī Śrī Rādhā-Govinda, Vṛndā-devī is as dear to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī as Her own self. Vṛndā-devī is just under Viśākhā-devī in importance and intimacy. The love and intimacy that exists between Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī and Vṛndā-devī is like a vast ocean of sweetness.
Actually the forest of Vṛndāvana is named after Vṛndā-devī and it is a fact that she gave this beautiful forest as a gift to Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī. In the field of vraja-bhakti it is not possible for the aspiring devotee to enter Vṛndāvana without first getting the blessings of Vṛndā-devī. She is so exalted that she is considered one of the principle Deities of Vṛndāvana. The feelings of affection that Rādhārāṇī has for Vṛndā-devī are wonderful. It is so wonderful that Rādhārāṇī once even made an arrangement for Kṛṣṇa and Vṛndā-devī to sit together on the same throne during Their pastimes in the forest. At that time Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī arranged for the wedding ceremony of Kṛṣṇa and Vṛndā-devī to be performed.
Vṛndāvana is the land of the highest divinity and the sweetest reality. There every word is a song, every step is a dance and the flute is the dear-most companion of Kṛṣṇa. Kathā gānaṁ nāṭyaṁ gamanam-api vaṁśi priya-sakhī. Therefore, the so-called ‘curse’ of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, the most exalted Queen of Vṛndāvana, must be a benediction, not a curse. When we think of a curse we naturally think of a hateful exchange between two individuals. However, in the spiritual world no hateful dealings, or envy exists there.
Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes of love with Their pure devotees cannot be understood by non-devotees, or by persons who are offensive to pure devotees. First we must become favorable in accepting the guidance and blessings of pure devotees, then we can have a correct understanding of the position of Tulasī-devī and how she has come here. But if we think that Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī has hatefully cursed Her dear-most servant then we must ourselves be possessed of a hateful mentality.