Life after life you have acquired a new material body automatically
and naturally. Acquiring a spiritual body takes practice.
na tv evaham jatu nasam
na tvam neme janadhipah
na caiva na bhavisyamah
sarve vayam atah param
"Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings: nor in the future shall any of us cease to be." (Bhagavad-gita 2.12)
From this verse it is to be concluded that we are not going to die. Krsna says here that not only He, but also Arjuna and all others who were present on the battlefield will continue to exist. How shall we exist? As spirit souls, we are existing now we've accepted a certain type of material body and are existing and similarly, after finishing this body we'll accept another body and continue to exist.
Now, the question is, "What kind of body shall I exist in after finishing this body?" That is explained elsewhere in the Bhagavad-gita. If we like, Krsna says, we can exist in the higher planetary system, where the duration of life is very, very long and sense enjoyment is much better than in this world. This we can have if we like. We can also exist in lower-grade species like cats, dogs, insects, trees, or aquatics. We can also exist in the same way as we are existing now. Or we can exist exactly as God does, enjoying an eternal life of bliss and knowledge.
Attaining an eternal life of bliss and knowledge means attaining a spiritual body. The body we possess now a material body is neither eternal nor blissful nor full of knowledge. Every one of us knows that one day this material body will be finished. And it is full of ignorance. For instance. we cannot know anything about what is beyond this world. We have senses, but they're all limited, imperfect. Sometimes we are very proud and challenge, "Can you show me God'?" But we forget how weak our power of seeing is. As soon as the light is gone, our power of seeing is gone. So, the material body is imperfect and full of ignorance.
But a spiritual body is full of knowledge just the opposite. We can get a spiritual body in our next life, but we have to develop the proper consciousness. We can develop our consciousness so that our next body will be in the higher planetary system, or so that our body will be a cat's or dog's body, or so that our body will be eternal; blissful, and full of knowledge.
The most intelligent person will try to get an eternal body full of bliss and knowledge. Then he will not have to return to this material world: yad gatva na nivartante tad dhama paramam mama [Bg. 15.6]. Even if you are promoted to Brahmaloka, the highest planet in the material world, you'll still have to come back. But if you try your best to go to the spiritual world back home, back to Godhead you will not come back here to accept a material body.
Now, the question may be raised, "If I am eternal, why are there so many miserable conditions of life? Why am I subjected to birth, old age, disease, and death?" These are actually intelligent questions. Krsna instructs that these miserable conditions of life are due to the material body, and that if in the future we can attain a spiritual body in His kingdom, we will be free of this suffering. Those who are engaged only in sense gratification do not care for the future; they simply want immediate facilities to enjoy this life. They are like children without the care of their parents. Children simply play the whole day, not caring for their future life, not caring to get an education.
But in the human form of life, if we are actually intelligent, we should try our best to get that kind of body in which we will not suffer birth, old age, disease, and death. This Krsna consciousness movement is educating people for that purpose.
Now, one may ask, "If I simply devote myself to Krsna consciousness, how will my material necessities be supplied?" The answer is there in the Bhagavad-gita [9.22], where Krsna says,
ananyas cintayanto mam
ye janah paryupasate
yoga-ksemam vahamy aham
"For a devotee who is always engaged in My service, I supply his necessities of life." Krsna is already looking after everyone's maintenance. Eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman: "The one Supreme Person is supplying the necessities of all living entities." So for a devotee who is trying to go back home, back to Godhead, there will be no scarcity. Rest assured.
The practical example is this Krsna consciousness movement. We now have about 100 centers all over the world, with from 25 to 250 devotees in each. We have no fixed means of income, but we are spending in all the branches $80,000 per month. By the grace of Krsna we have no scarcity. Everything is supplied. People sometimes wonder, "These Hare Krsna people do not work, they do not have any profession. They simply chant Hare Krsna. How do they live?" The answer is that if cats and dogs can live by the mercy of God, His devotees can certainly live very comfortably by His mercy. There is no question of scarcity.
But for the devotee who thinks, "I have taken to Krsna consciousness, yet I am still suffering in so many ways," Krsna gives this instruction [Bg. 2.14]:
matra-sparsas tu kaunteya
tams titiksasva bharata
"Pains and pleasures are just like the winter and summer seasons. Try to tolerate them." In the winter, cold water is painful, but in the summer the same water is pleasing. So, what is the effect of cold water? Is it painful, or pleasing? It is neither, but in different seasons, when it touches the skin, cold water seems painful or pleasing. Such pains and pleasures are coming and going; they are not permanent. Krsna therefore advises, tams titiksasva bharata: "Just tolerate." But do not forget your real business, Krsna consciousness. Of course, if there are pains we should try our best to counteract them, but even if we cannot, we should not be diverted from our devotional practices.
So, one of the main devotional qualities is tolerance. One should learn to tolerate every condition of life. For example, in India those who are actually brahmanas (now we have created some brahmanas in the Western countries) do not neglect to take a bath early in the morning simply because the weather is p inching cold. Similarly, in the scorching heat of the summer season, one should not decide, "I shall stop cooking." The kitchen may be too hot, but still we cannot give up cooking. This tolerance comes by practice. Something may be painful for one or two days, but if you practice, soon it will no longer be painful.
In the practice of Krsna consciousness, one must follow all the rules and regulations. Sometimes this may be a little painful, but we cannot give them up. We have to learn to tolerate. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has also advised us that to advance in Krsna consciousness, one should be tolerant. Trnad api sunicena: "Become humbler than the grass." So many people trample the grass, yet it does not protest. And taror iva sahisnuna: "Be more tolerant than a tree." Somebody may break a tree's branches, somebody may snatch its fruits, somebody may cut it down, but still the tree is giving you shelter, wood, fruits, and flowers. A tree is a very good example of tolerance. And then, amanina manadena: "For oneself one should desire no respect, but one should offer all respect to others." So, anyone desiring to go back home, back to Godhead, has to learn to be tolerant and forbearing. That is the instruction of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
If we practice Krsna consciousness in this way, we will become fit forgoing back home, back to Godhead. Krsna explains this in the next verse [2.15]:
yam hi na vyathayanty ete
so 'mrtatvaya kalpate
"One who is tolerant of pains and pleasures becomes fit for going back home, back to Godhead. It is simply a question of practice. In Bengal it is said, sarire nam mahasaya jasa babe tayse: "By practice you can train your body to tolerate almost anything." For example, in the morning, when we go for our walk, we see so many people running. I cannot run. But if I practice for some days, I will also be able to run. If you practice enough, you'll be successful at anything.
So, if by practicing Krsna consciousness you can go back home, back to Godhead, why should you neglect it? That will solve all your problems. The real problems are birth, old age, disease, and death. If you can solve these problems simply by practicing some regulative principles, why don't you do it?
We are opening hundreds of centers just to give training to people so that they can practice Krsna consciousness and go back home, back to Godhead. You cannot go home, back to Godhead, so cheaply. You have to practice certain regulative principles; then you will be fit to go. They are not very difficult. In the beginning, just chant the Hare Krsna mantra. Then you'll become fit for more practice.
So, now we have a center in your city, and I request you to take full advantage of this Krsna consciousness movement and be successful in your life. Rest assured that after finishing this body, every one of us will have to accept another body. If we neglect the rules and regulations of spiritual life and are forced to accept the body of a dog, just imagine how painful that will be! But if we follow the principles of Krsna consciousness, then, as Krsna says, yanti mad-yajino 'pi mam: "Anyone engaged in Krsna consciousness comes to Me." So, practice Krsna consciousness and go back home, back to Godhead.
Devotee: [Translating from Spanish]: Can you explain a little more about developing a spiritual body?
Srila Prabhupada: Your spiritual body is already there; it is simply covered by your material body. You have to purify your consciousness, and then you will get your original, spiritual body. Krsna consciousness is a purifying process that cures a person of the disease of material life. Suppose one has a fever. The fever is not permanent. Cure the fever, and you become healthy. Similarly, cure the fever of material attachment, and you will attain your original healthy, spiritual body.
Devotee: You were saying that one can take birth even as a dog. How long must one reincarnate as a dog? How many births?
Srila Prabhupada: As long as you are unable to go back home, back to Godhead, you have to accept a body of a dog or a cat or some other species. There are 8,400,000 bodily forms, and you have to accept one after another. Now, make your decision whether you want to accept these different types of body or you want to get your original, spiritual body. In the spiritual body there is no more birth, old age, disease, and death, while in the material body these four miseries are continually occurring. You can get your spiritual body simply by a little cultivation of Krsna consciousness in this human form of life. But if your next life is other than human, you will have to wait perhaps millions of years to come again to this human form of life. After all, we are under the grip of the stringent laws of nature. You cannot escape them unless you come to Krsna consciousness.
Devotee: Are our reincarnations progressive or regressive?
Srila Prabhupada: Both.
Devotee: Why would we take birth as an animal?
Srila Prabhupada: Because you act like an animal.
Devotee: If one behaves badly in school, one has to stay where he is he cannot progress. But he does not go back.
Srila Prabhupada: No, sometimes one is demoted, also. That is quite natural.
Devotee: Some people don't believe that one can lose the human form and be degraded to animal life.
Srila Prabhupada: They may not believe in the law, but the law will be enforced. Suppose somebody says, "I can commit any criminal act because I don't believe in the court's judgment." Is that sensible? You may believe or not believe, but the law will act. For example, if you contract some infectious disease, you must develop that disease. That is the law of nature. So, we are contaminating ourselves by performing so many sinful activities, and according to the laws of nature we will have to accept the appropriate material body. The material laws are not under your control; you are under the control of the material laws.
Devotee: Who is in charge of giving us our next body?
Srila Prabhupada: God. Isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati: God, in His Supersoul feature, is situated in everyone's heart, and He is seeing all our activities and awarding us different kinds of bodies. So, we have to accept that we are fully under control. If we childishly claim to be independent, that is foolishness.
Devotee: Do the senses the material senses we now have originally belong to the soul, which has been covered by the material body?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. For instance, if a man in a normal condition becomes mad, his original senses are still there, but they act abnormally. Similarly, when we are in this material world, we use our senses in an abnormal way. But when we purify our senses of material contamination by using them to serve Krsna, that is our normal condition. Sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam tat-paratvena nirmalam. When we give up all material designations and become purified, we come to our normal condition.
Devotee: What are the characteristics of a person who has realized that he's not this body?
Srila Prabhupada: He engages cent per cent in Krsna consciousness. He doesn't know anything but Krsna and service to Krsna. That is our normal condition. Thank you very much.