Get ready to confront and transcend the most formidable enemy on your way to the spiritual world.
Neither it can be seen or touched or felt but its existence is undeniable. Just like the tsunami waves it does not have any emotions, it entraps and swallows all. The high and the mighty, the poor and the meek, men and women, every being of this world has to bow to it and have to surrender to its dictum. The Time factor, the mightiest of all is unstoppable and unconquerable. The might of Time has always remained unchallenged and will remain so for ever. Time annihilates everything. Time underlines that in this world nothing is timeless but everything is temporary. This is why scholars, philosophers and wise sages since eons have been urging people to purge their insatiable worldly desires and focus on things which are permanent and indestructible. Yudhishtar, an ancient king who ruled the earth about 5000 years ago, once said that the most astonishing thing in this world is that people see others are dying every moment but they never really believe that one day they too would die.
Suppose we are presented a luxury car with a warning that it has a bomb that will explode after a certain time; when it will explode is uncertain. How many of us would be drawn with the charm of owning such a luxurious suicide car? The unequivocal response would be, “None of the two-legged sane man would even look at it.”
Unfortunately all of us own such a vehicle and are even obsessed by it: our body. We go overboard to display our fondness for it. Empirical evidences and intellectual introspection do confirm that one day our body will decay and disappear, but still we are not able to look beyond it. Although we see that life in this world is as temporary as a bubble in the ocean, we somehow deny it. Just as an ostrich buries his head in the ground upon perceiving danger, we too shrug off any such discussion or contemplation, pretending that our bubble would never burst.
We whip our imagination and make elaborate plans for our future. We spend time in amassing wealth, enticing opposite sex, and struggle hard to carve a niche for ourselves in society. Work hard and party hard – this seems to be the modern slogan. But just as a whiff of delicate wind destroys a house of cards, powerful Time shatters all our dreams and desires. BhagavadGita (2.18) too confirms this point: “The material body of the indestructible, immeasurable and eternal living entity is sure to come to an end.”
Most of us do not muster the courage to think beyond this life because we do not have knowledge beyond this world. However, plethora of information is available in Vedic books, which explain about a life where there are no miseries, no fear, no anxieties and most importantly no death. Vedic books are understood as divine, direct words of God, so these are timeless and facts stated in them are eternal truths. These priceless literatures not just poignantly talk about the ephemeral body, but it reveals the secret that we do not become extinct with the extinction of our body. It further explicates that we are not this body but spirit souls.
The Ageless Soul
Just as a car starts moving when the driver sits inside operates it, similarly our body becomes active once the soul enters the body and animates it. When the driver leaves, the car stops. Similarly when the soul leaves the body, the body becomes dysfunctional and drops dead. Krishna defines a wise person as those who lament neither for the living nor for the dead (Gita 2.11).
In Bhagavad-Gita (2.20-25), Krishna describes the attributes of the soul.
For soul there is neither birth nor death.
Soul is unborn, eternal, ever – existing, immutable, everlasting, present everywhere, unchangeable, immovable, primeval and eternally the same. · Soul can never be cut to pieces by any weapon, nor burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.
As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless one.
The above revelation should be a wakeup call for all of us. Since the soul is timeless and is never annihilated, we should channelize all our energy to protect our eternal soul. Vedic texts inform us that once we were happily residing in the spiritual world but like a spoiled brat we refused to appreciate the love and warmth of God and other fellow spiritual citizens and so we were sent to this reformatory house, the material world. In this material world also there are prisons where felons are confined till they are reformed. We too are here because of our past misdeeds, but now we have an opportunity to correct ourselves and reclaim the citizenship of the spiritual world. Krishna , the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is not like an insensitive jailer of this material world. He is our eternal father who is ever ready to bestow His love upon us. He eagerly wants us to get reformed and return back to Him.
The Soul’s Journey
As the uncontaminated rain water upon touching the ground gets sullied, similarly the soul which is intrinsically pure gets covered with impurities upon entering this material world. The soul’s subtle covering – mind, intelligence and false ego – decide its destiny. In the human form of life the soul has the privilege to rectify the mistakes and become pure. Purification involves removal of the subtle coverings that qualifies it to go back to the spiritual world.
If we misuse this human opportunity and indulge in sensual pleasure then we continue to remain here. The soul keeps accepting new bodies based on the activities done in the present life and the desires nurtured. If a person has animalistic propensities like eating flesh of animals, overeating, indulging in illicit sex, remaining unclothed, etc. then he acquires a body of a beast, insect, reptile, bird or tree in next life. But if one performs good deeds like giving charity, living a regulated life, is honest and kind hearted, never indulges in violence etc. then he gets promoted to heavenly planets where there is tremendous scope for corporal pleasure. Whether one goes to the higher or lower planets, the miseries of material existence, namely birth, old age, disease and death, will always trouble him.
Returning to the Spiritual World
The soul is in a diseased condition in the material world. The only cure is to flush out the accumulated impurities of the heart that blind us about reality and God’s kingdom. God being benign takes trouble to redeem the lost souls. He personally comes to this world as Lord Krishna , Lord Rama , Lord Caitanya or He sends His trusted messengers like Narada Muni, Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Sankaracarya, or, in modern times, Srila Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvaté Öhäkura and Srila Prabhupada , to persuade us to return back to His kingdom. Spiritual literatures like Bhagavad-Gita and Srimad- Bhagavatam explain about the importance of leading a God centered life. Self-realized spiritual teachers help us to understand the sublime message echoed in these revealed texts.
The current period, the period in which we are living, is called as Kaliyuga, the age of downfall. The scriptures explain that during this era irreligious activities will become prominent and ungodly people would occupy centre stage. People living in this period are less intelligent, fickle-minded, unlucky, and suffer from spiritual aboulia. But the era has a great boon: a simple but extremely effective process can uplift even the most downtrodden. The process, chanting of the holy names of Krishna , was inaugurated by Lord Caitanya 500 years ago in the city of Mayapur, India. He said that in this age chanting the names of God like the Hare Krishna Mahamantra is the most potent way to re-spiritualize our lives. Chanting cleanses the hearts of all the dust accumulated for millions of lifetimes; it also jogs our memory thus helping us to revive our original spiritual relationship with Krishna . It’s a very simple yet an extremely powerful process and anyone can do it.
While treading on the path of spirituality we need to follow few do’s and don’ts to maximize our spiritual growth.
Some of the mandatory do’s are:
. Chanting diligently and hearing attentively the names of Krishna .
· Associating with likeminded serious spiritual practitioners
· Regularly reading Vedic books that will give us knowledge about Krishna
· Offering food first to Krishna and then accepting it as His mercy.
Some of the obligatory don’ts are:
· Abstaining from illicit sexual activities
· We should refrain from committing and encouraging violence. We should not eat flesh of other animals including beasts, birds and fishes.
· We should also not indulge in gambling and any form of intoxication.
Following above process will surely guarantee a bright future and help us to transcend this material world where there is danger at every step. If a train is on fire, whether we are in a I Class airconditioned coach or in a general coach, sooner or later the fire will consume us. Similarly whether we are rich or poor, successful or unsuccessful, death will devour us one day. We should therefore immediately take up the process of devotion to God lest it becomes too late. No doubt the mighty Time in the form of death will apprehend us one day, and we should be ready for it. By holding Krishna ’s hand we can cross over to the eternal spiritual world where everyone is eagerly waiting to embrace us. Purushottam Kumar is a member of congregation at ISKCON Kolkata. He works in Tech Mahindra, Kolkata, as an Associate Solution Designer.