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Wearing the dog-collar of God  

(Reproduced from The Harmonist, August 2001)

By Sukhvinder

It was monsoon time. As usual the Ashram in Kolkata was humming with activity. As dusk approached, devotees with dripping umbrellas started streaming in. A woman who often provided tulasi plants to the Ashram came with a plastic packet containing tulasi leaves for Baba.

She offered the packet to Baba and paid obeisance. Baba opened the packet, saw the tulasi leaves and a look of pain flashed across his beautiful face.  He took out a branch of tulasi from the packet and said in an anguished voice, “O Ma, this is not how you pluck tulasi leaves from the plant! It causes her great pain. I will teach you how to pluck the leaves.”  We noticed that the woman in question had plucked whole branches off the tulasi plant, which caused Baba such distress.

The tender loving heart of Baba could not bear to think of his beloved Vrinda Devi (tulasi) being caused such pain.  Even when he hands over the tulasi leaves to devotees, He handles the leaves with so much tenderness. 

Once in a while, the tulasi container topples and the leaves fall at his lotus feet. It is well known that Vrinda Devi is happiest when adorning Her beloved’s feet. This is perhaps her clever way of reaching where she yearns to be most.

I have heard the story of how once when Baba was doing a Bhagavat Saptaha, when Baba used to sing, the tulasi plant kept in a pot in front of the dais would sway from side to side, as if dancing in ecstasy.

Devotees often ask Baba for tulasi malas known as Kanthi. Baba has a beautiful collection of tulasi-bead necklaces specially brought from Nawadweep.  All the devotees of Baba proudly wear the tulasi malas, declaring themselves to be members of the flock.

One day Baba told this amusing analogy of the tulasi mala. Till some years ago, the municipality used to go on rounds to pick up stray dogs. The means to dispose of them used to be shoot them. But if they found a dog roaming around with a belt or chain around its neck, they abstained from catching or shooting it. The reason was that the dog had an owner.  It belonged to someone.

In the same way, if a person is wearing a necklace of tulasi beads, the messengers of Yama will not touch him. They know that this person has an owner – he or she longs to Lord Vishnu.  Therefore, they have no jurisdiction over that person, and leave them alone.

This is the dog-collar of God! If you wear a kanthi you are saved from the clutches of Yamaraj for ever.

The analogy though amusing, is true.  Are we not His children and He our eternal protector? Who else but He will take us across this tumultuous ocean of existence? The innocuous looking tulasi beads around our neck will provide all the security against the sharks and other dangers lurking in the ocean.