Tulasi Devi

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By Sadhaki dasi

I’m serving Tulasi Devi in my local temple and have noticed that someone (I have not yet discovered the culprit…) has been snapping off her “dead” branches.

This has happened on several occasions over a few months. On speaking to one devotee about this, he mentioned that one sannyasi who had recently visited condoned this practice in situations where Tulasi’s branches are old and woody, as apparently it conserves her energy. Although I have served Tulasi for many years this is something I have never heard of (except perhaps in a life-threatening emergency), although it may be conducive in mundane gardening.

Personally I find it distressing that Krsna’s pure devotee is being treated like this, and was hoping that perhaps some other readers may be able to present their experiences or contribute some advice about whether such an action is ever permissable. According to the Tulasi handbook this type of action is described as extremely offensive, and I can also imagine that it would be very displeasing to Srila Prabhupada. Please does anyone have any feedback on this?

Does anyone know if “trimming” Tulasi Devi’s branches is permissable if done with a motive for her health and wellbeing? I’m hoping that whoever is responsible will read this and think carefully about whether or not its appropriate to continue.

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1 Unregistered

Just a short response to this inquiry.

The Lord appears in different types of deity forms. Each form requires different types of care according to the manifestation. We polish brass deities but not marble deities. We bathe small deities but not large deities. We avoid bathing wood deities. In the same way, Tulasi appears in a plant form. Anyone familiar with horticultural care will know that removing dead, dried branches is best for the overall health of the plant. As is removing manjaris before they seed. This prevents excess new plants and does not cause a drain on the growth energy of the plant.

Srila Prabhupada once indicated that we should use common sense and if we didn’t have any ask someone who does. This is not meant to be condescending but to indicate we should act practically.

Comment posted by chaturatma dasa on February 22nd, 2008
2 Unregistered

Well, to be honest I feel shocked that anyone may ask whether it is good to do something to improve Tulasi`s health and wellbeing. She`s a pure devotee! And our service to her is not to make “puja” while she is suffering but to help her first. I know about statements from sastras that don`t allow to cut Tulasi`s branches but we should use common sense while interpreting them. It`s obvious (for me at least) that sastras say not to treat her as “decoration”. But if cutting is done as a service (anyone who takes care of plants knows that dead branches are home for many worms and fungus) then it is most welcome. She wants to serve Krishna by offering her leaves and manjaris- and we want to assist her in that service.
This is my understanding of the topic.
Your humble servant
Braja Sundari dasi

Comment posted by brajasundari on February 22nd, 2008
3 Unregistered

Hare Krishna,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

It is my understanding that snapping off or cutting off Tulasi devi’s branches is most offensive and is not to be done under any circumstances at all.

I was taught that Lord Krishna feels the pain that Tulsi feels when Her branches are broken off.

your humble servant,
Hari Bhakta dasa

Comment posted by HariBhakta_dasa on February 22nd, 2008
4 bhakta piyush

Vedabase Quotes.

Letter No. 36 To Jagamohini Dasi
…whether we may prune the leaves of Tulasi, no, there is no question of pruning. But you can take for worshiping Krsna leaves from the Tulasi. First utilize the dead leaves or leaves which have fallen down, and if more leaves are required for worshiping Krsna, you may take them from Tulasi plant in this way: First approach Tulasi Devi and offer your obeisances, requesting her that for worshiping Krsna you want to take some leaves. Then if she allows you may take. There is no question of pruning in the manner of gardeners just to make nice beautiful plant for ornamental purposes. And if there are any dead branches, these may be made into beads, like neck beads, and if they are large branches you can make japa beads. There is no need to keep candle burning all night, but you can burn candle in the evening for one hour for Tulasi Devi, that will be nice.

30. Tulasi may never be pruned, to shape her, as is done with ordinary plants, except when doing so will save her life. According to the Padma Purana, it is offensive to cut a living Tulasi branch, and Lord Krishna feels this as a pain in His heart.

The following questions were asked by VidyƤ Dasi in her September 27, 1976 letter to Srila Prabhupada and answered by him as follows:-
1. VidyƤ dasi: Is each Tulasi plant a separate jiva soul or an expansion of one pure devotee?
Prabhupada: Tulasi is one devotee who appears wherever there is devotion to Krishna.
2. VidyƤ dasi: Where does her spirit soul go when she leaves this body?
Prabhupada: Tulasi’s body is spiritual.
3. VidyƤ dasi: May we place jewelry in her soil or just moon stones?
Prabhupada: Yes, jewelry is all right.
4. VidyƤ dasi: When Tulasi is being cared for by householders in their home, must two arotikas still be offered?
Prabhupada: If possible.
5. VidyƤ dasi: When Tulasi is being cared for by householders in their home may they use her leaves and maƬjarƩs on their home offerings or should they take them to the temple?
Prabhupada: Tulasi leaves should be offered to the Deity.
6. VidyƤ dasi: When Tulasi is being offered arotika by the householders must she have a ghee lamp?
Prabhupada: If possible.
7. VidyƤ dasi: Is it offensive to turn the baby Tulasis back into soil when they appear?
Prabhupada: Yes.
8. VidyƤ dasi: There have been questions concerning Tulasi’s arotikas. We have always offered her incense, ghee lamp and flower. Is this correct?
Prabhupada: Yes.
Cont in next comment…

Comment posted by bhakta piyush on February 23rd, 2008
5 bhakta piyush

9. VidyƤ dasi: In the manual, it states that Tulasi should not be pruned. Does this also mean trimming the branches which no longer have leaves or life fluids flowing through them?
Prabhupada: You may cut the dead branches but what is the necessity?
10. VidyƤ dasi: We were told you once spoke the “4 regulative principles of Tulasi care” which will keep her from getting sick: a) keep her moist; b) keep her clean; c) give her morning sunlight (at least); d) give her two arotikas a day. Is this bona fide?
Prabhupada: I never said that.
11. VidyƤ dasi: May Tulasi be made into a tea after she has been offered?
Prabhupada: No.
12. VidyƤ dasi: May devotees carve Tulasi wood for Deity paraphernalia?
Prabhupada: Yes.
13. VidyƤ dasi: When Tulasi leaves her body and the body is too soft for carving beads, how should she be used? Should a small fire sacrifice be performed?
Prabhupada: Use the wood for beads as far as possible, the balance may be placed within the earth.
14. VidyƤ dasi: We have a letter from you requesting that no sprays be used on Tulasi DevƩ. May we use a spray of buttermilk, whole wheat flour dissolved in water which coats her leaves to keep spider mites from causing Tulasi to leave her body?
Prabhupada: I said no chemical sprays.
15. VidyƤ dasi: Does Tulasi sleep? Should she be left undisturbed after nightfall?
Prabhupada: Undisturbed means what?
16. VidyƤ dasi: Is it permissible to use scissors to cut her manjaris, and when transplanting, to use knives to loosen her from her pot?
Prabhupada: Use common sense, and if you have none, then consult with others.
17. VidyƤ dasi: Is it an offense to step on or across her shadow (or the shadow of any pure devotee)?
Prabhupada: Yes. [originally, Srila Prabhupada had answered “No”, however, in a subsequent letter he corrected himself and replied Yes.]

Comment posted by bhakta piyush on February 23rd, 2008
6 Unregistered

Krsna’s devotees are karma free. Therefore, they do not become ‘diseased’. Still, their bodies may be diagnosed with certain ‘diseases’ or ‘dead branches’. One devotee, being diagnosed with terminal cancer will take to a particular treatment and remove the ‘dead branch’. Another devotee, diagnosed with the same symptoms, will seemingly do NOT anything to remove the symptoms. In both cases these devotees ‘actions’ or ‘inactions’ may be just, and there will always be some people who are (seemingly) shocked and others who will remain (seemingly) indifferent. In both cases there will be glorification and criticism, that’s the nature of this world.

Therefore, we should always use common sense with devotion and also inquire from senior devotees (in the form of prayer, in case they are physically absent) before taking to ‘action’ or ‘non action’.

Your servant
Mukunda datta das (Belgium)

Comment posted by Mukundatta on February 24th, 2008
7 Kulapavana

Looking at these two quotes:

“There is no question of pruning in the manner of gardeners just to make nice beautiful plant for ornamental purposes. And if there are any dead branches, these may be made into beads, like neck beads, and if they are large branches you can make japa beads.” Letter No. 36 To Jagamohini Dasi

Prabhupada: You may cut the dead branches but what is the necessity? September 27, 1976

it is obvious that dead Tulasi branches CAN be removed by pruning. We just need to make sure these branches are truly dead as Tulasi will sometimes sprout new growth on seemingly dead branches. Branches which are really dead are dry, stiff, and make a snapping sound when bent. Removing them is advisable because they harbor pests and disease, as well as reduce sunlight to the leaves. Just be very, very careful determining which branches are dead.

in service of Srimati Tulasi Devi

Comment posted by Kulapavana on February 26th, 2008

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