Tulsi

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Indians have cherished the tulsi plant since time immemorial. Tulsi is a very sensitive plant. The green and black tulsi are the most prominent varieties. Indians consider tulsi to be the killer of all pains and diseases and to be the most important of all plants and herbs.

Remedy

People use various preparations of tulsi when they suffer from a cold, catarrh, influenza, malaria or other regular sicknesses.

Many years ago the great Victoria Memorial was being built in Calcutta. The labourers working on the memorial began to suffer from malaria. The authorities planted tulsi in an area of four to five miles in radius. After that the Victoria Memorial progressed quite satisfactorily.

There are many volumes of research on tulsi and its chemical properties. Near Rishikesh, one of the biggest factories in India produces medicines. They grow over one hundred and fifty miles of tulsi in the forests. They extract the volatile oil from the tulsi plant to make camphor and drugs for respiratory, malarial and hormonal problems.

Tulsi is widely used for hormonal imbalance. A few days before the menstruation cycle women in India often take tulsi because it regulates ovulation problems. During their menstrual period, women do not even cast their shadow on tulsi. If they do so, the plant dies within a few minutes.

Out of all the malas, tulsi has the greatest effect on one’s spiritual life. It is the most powerful and beneficial for controlling subtle forces in the body which control the hormones, the glands, the sympathetic nervous system, circulation, respiration, metabolism and other bodily functions. The tulsi mala has an overall effect on all systems from top to toe.

Becoming tulsi

Most Indians have a tulsi plant in front of their house. Usually traditional Indian houses have an inner courtyard, rooms are all around and the centre is open where a little altar of mud brick stone is built. On top a tulsi is planted. In the evening at dusk, Indian ladies or unmarried girls light a tiny earthen lamp, place it in a small cavity in the altar and sit down just for a few minutes. This is done with utmost regularity and discipline.

If there is any great difficulty in the family, if the mind is not able to give precise answers, if the external situations have failed, then in the evening they don’t sit but stand. They fold their hands, place them near the anahata chakra and touch their foreheads with their fingers. They stay in this posture for a long time. During this period they get a shot of, what I would say, shaktipat, a sort of awakening. It is not a higher awakening, but a slight awakening. When the lady begins to shake her head, the family members come towards her.

For that time the girl becomes the replica of tulsi. For the time being, she is not the daughter or the wife, she is tulsi. The family members stand before her and ask questions, not many questions but the most urgent one. It is answered. The answer is precise, accurate, and straightforward: it is for this purpose and reason that this tantric system and practice continues in every Hindu home.

—Chamarande, France, 1981

Tulsi in Rikhiapeeth

Mother Tulsi is the presiding deity of this akhara which is a special place of sadhana. Every akhara has its own special deity. The name of this akhara is Paramahamsa Akhara.

On 23rd September 1989, I was standing at a particular spot along with a few swamis, when a geru-coloured snake, not less than twelve feet in length and about twelve inches thick, came and perambulated around the property, then disappeared. At that moment I realized that the spot where this snake had just vanished before our eyes would be the place for my dhuni, my sadhana fire.

I ignited my dhuni over there and it is smoldering even now. Then I made a small shrine near the well for Mother who is the presiding deity of the spiritual and vedic darshan.

I worship Tulsi regularly and like it very much. Such worship does not require a good intellect, but it requires a good heart. One who has neither a good intellect nor a good heart, know him to be a poor, deprived person. One who has a good intellect but no heart is like a fancy sweet shop where the sweets lack sweetness. What can you really do with a high intellect? Do you love your wife with your intellect or your heart? Is hate for your enemy intellectual or emotional? Love, hate, mercy and lust are all manifestations of the heart, not the intellect. Spiritual life, sadhana, bhakti or God are matters of the heart, not the intellect. You can approach them easily with feeling and faith.

Tulsi is worshipped not only in India but in many places around the world. She is worshipped in Thailand, Indonesia and Greece. In many places she is planted in the front courtyard of the house and worshipped. I chose Tulsi to be the presiding deity for the Akhara because Sri Baidyanath is the civil surgeon and Tulsi is the queen of all medicinal plants. She is the head of all the departments of pharmaceutical flora.

I asked Tulsi for only one blessing, that of perfect health, so that my self-imposed vow or anushthana would not be interrupted or broken even for a moment. There was only one prayer I submitted to her: “Keep me healthy as long as I practise spiritual life. The moment you see there is something wrong and that I have moved away from spiritual life, take this body away.”

Tulsi listened and granted my prayer. Everything worked out perfectly, my mantra fructified and I have remained in perfect health.

—Rikhiapeeth, 1994