Tulasī as Medicine & Tapah in Devotion
[The following is an excerpt of a bhāva anuvāda of a darśana with Śrīla Bhakti Vijñāna Bhāratī Gosvāmī Mahārāja in 2012 in Kolkata. Editors’ input: Additional text has been included in square brackets to facilitate the flow of content.]
Śrīla Mahārāja: You cannot use tulasī for medicinal purpose. It is not meant for your personal use. Tulasī entirely serves the Supreme Lord Nārāyaṇa and Lord Nārāyaṇa has promised to accept nothing without tulasī. Because you are Their servant, you cannot use tulasī as a medicine for your bodily relief. You serve Her. She is not to be used for your own worldly benefit.
But according to the doctors’ point of view, it is very good for a cough and cold, to boil tulasī [leaves] like a tea along with milk, ginger, clove and bay leaf...
Devotee: After offering to the Lord, can we use tulasī leaf as medicine?
Śrīla Mahārāja: After bhoga is offered, you can honor prasāda, there is no objection in it.
Devotee: As a prasāda, you can accept, not as a medicine.
Śrīla Mahārāja: You serve tulasī. You do not take any service from tulasī because the teachings of Lord Caitanya are entirely based on serving the Lord without taking any benefit from the Lord. You must not take any benefit from the Lord. If you have done so, that is not pure devotion – it is called karma. Lord Kṛṣṇa told His devotee Uddhava:
na sādhayati māṁ yogo
na sāṅkhyaṁ dharma uddhava
na svādhyāyas tapas tyāgo
yathā bhaktir mamorjitā
[My dear Uddhava, the unalloyed devotional service rendered to Me by My devotees brings Me under their control. I cannot be thus controlled by those engaged in mystic yoga, Sāṅkhya philosophy, pious work, Vedic study, austerity or renunciation.] BBT
Devotee: Śrīla Mahārāja, in hari-kathā you were mentioning that when Brahmā was born from the navel, he heard the sound, ‘tapaḥ, tapaḥ’.
Devotee: Why did the Supreme Lord advise him to do ‘tapaḥ’ (austerity), because in this Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam verse it is said, not by tapaḥ, not by jñāna, not by tyāga [can I be achieved], therefore, why he did not advice Brahmā to do bhakti?
Śrīla Mahārāja: He used this word because tapaḥ implies all things. You are also doing tapaḥ. Kṛṣṇa prītye bhoga tyāga [One should be prepared to give up everything for Kṛṣṇa’s satisfaction – Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 22.116].
For the satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa, you left these things. Karmīs are also giving up enjoyment for a better standard of enjoyment [in the future]; they are very much performing tapasya [austerities]. But in the future, they would like to enjoy the result. What kind of enjoyment? Going to heaven to experience [a standard of enjoyment] ten times better than this world. There, the lifespan is a hundred times ours. So, they too are taking trouble here, they bathe three times a day, they perform Kārtika vrata, everything… but for their worldly benefit.
Worldly benefit means from here [the earthly plane] to caturdaśa brahmaṇḍa [the highest limit of the fourteen planetary system till Brahmaloka], that is the world. They want the benefits within that scope. Like that.
They [karmīs] are performing tapaḥ, the yogi is also performing tapaḥ and the bhakta is performing tapaḥ as well.
Is this not tapaḥ? To perform Dāmodara vrata and Puruṣottama vrata and to give up this thing and that thing, you have to control your tongue – that is also tapasya. But that is called, kṛṣṇa prītye bhoga tyāga.
Devotee: The objective is to satisfy Kṛṣṇa. The objective of others is different.
Śrīla Mahārāja: Yes! Satisfaction of the Lord. Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī was sleeping under a tree, taking dry rotī without salt. Is that not tapaḥ? But it is performed for the satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa. So tapaḥ is not negligible. [It is not to be neglected or ignored]
After the disappearance of Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī used to honor only one leaf cup of sour buttermilk, and eventually, he left even that to sustain himself only with water. Then, after the disappearance of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, he left everything so as to only utter the name Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa. Is this not tapaḥ?
Tapaḥ contains everything according to your desire. From the same word ‘da’, the demons derived the meaning ‘damana’ – to control the world; the demigods derived the meaning ‘dāna’ – to perform charity; and the human beings derived the meaning ‘dayā’ – to be compassionate. All the three interpretations came from the same word ‘da’. They understand according to their eligibility, so the understanding is not equal.