The Bhagavad-gita is for everyone- even someone in outer space.
Some days back, a newspaper report titled "With samosas, the Gita and Ganesha, Sunita flies off into space" caught the eye of the Indian public. public. The Discovery shuttle was launched into space from the US and had, among others, Mrs Sunita Williams, a lady of Indian origin as part of its crew. She was reported to have carried some samosas, a deity of Lord Ganesa, and a Bhagavad-gita as part of her belongings to space. The mission was to work on a space station that is carrying out exploration of the planets in space around us, and would have the crew stay there for a period of no less than six months. Because of the prolonged period of their stay in space, this mission is being lauded by the scientists as being a unique one.
Modern man has always felt the need to conquer something unknown, something mysterious. After having conquered, first the land and then the seas, now endless space allures him. It does so by presenting before him limitless possibilities that even include staying there as one. And this is natural, because as a spirit soul, he has the constitutional right to go to any part of the material or the spiritual skies. People on the planet travel to different countries. Similarly, now they are trying to travel to outer space, trying to visit other planets and even test out the possibilities of staying there. Missions to Mars are not new. Some companies have, audaciously enough, even ad· vertised land on the moon for sale.
The uninformed might think that this temptation to conquer space is only recent. But, Lord Krsna in the Bhagavad-gita(8.l6) says, abrahma bhuvanal loka punar avartino 'rjuna – My dear Arjuna, even if you go to the highest planetary system, which is called Brahmaloka, you will have to come back. This statement has two implications for us. First is – attempts at inter-planetary travel are not something new to the human race. They were known to, and even practised by people of Vedic times. The Vedic literature is replete with accounts of powerful ascetics visting higher planetary systems and even demigods from high up visiting the earthly planets. Secondly, and more importantly, even if someone succeeds in going to the higher planets, according to the Lord Himself – such efforts are fruitless in an overall sense.
To understand this, imagine someone investing in a company that is rushing towards bankruptcy. One would surely be considered a fool to do so. But we fail to understand that everything in the material world including the planets around us, is temporary. The Vedas do recommend many sacrifices for elevation to the heavenly planets, like the jyotistoma sacrifices and some scholars even think that this is the whole purpose of Vedic wisdom. But the reality is something else. When somebody works hard for something temporary, it is not considered very intelligent. Why then should we consider it worthwhile to waste our time in trying to go to a place, which will be destroyed in due course of time? (Bhagavad-gita 8.19) In the western countries, already people are accustomed to shifting residences frequently. They don't like to stay in the same apartment for more than a few years. This tendency exists because all of us are searching for our original, permanent home – where Lord Sri Krsna resides. Searching for a suitable, likeable residence within the material world will never work out. So, paying heed to Lord Krsna 's advice, we should all try to go to Krsnaloka – paras tasmat tu bhavo 'nyo 'vyakto 'vyaktat sanatanah (Bhagavad-gita 8.20). A life of eternity, bliss and knowledge awaits us there.
Life in this material world is just like life in a prison house. A prisoner cannot freely change from one cell to another by his will. One is restricted to his own cell. All the planets are like cells of a prison. Man today is trying to explore possibilities of venturing out to other planets, but it is not practical by mechanical means. Whether we are American, Indian, Chinese or Russian, we have been given this planet to live on. Although there are millions and billions of planets and although we may have machines by which leaving our present planet might be possible, we cannot leave it because we are bound by God's laws, the laws of nature. Moreover, what will benefit us more is the understanding that mere changing from one cell to another will not make us happy. One cannot be happy so long as he is within the prison walls. Better, cleaner, larger cells may be available within the prison but real intelligence will be proven by trying to seek release from the prison altogether. We have to search for a residence outside the prison. This outside is the spiritual world – home of God.
Having said this, we know that there will still be some moth-like people who would want to enter the fire of experimenting with similar ideas of conquering space. Such people may take heart by Lord Sri Krsna' s statement from the Bhagavad-gita (8.15) –
mam upetya punar janma
samsiddhim paramam gatih
After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogis in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection. If we simply take to Lord Sri Krsna's instructions and try to engage in His devotional service, we will be granted eternal residence on His planet.
Accepttng our condition that we are now tempted by the impermanent, we should nevertheless, set our sight on the permanent. The final understanding should persist – whatever we might try to achieve by constructing a space station, staying there or hunting for prospects of colonising planets might all seem very appealing but, it is ultimately temporary. Permanent happiness will only be achieved when we get back to our permanent home – home of Krsna. We can only wish that the astronaut using her good sense, glances through the pages of the Bhagavadgita during her stay in outer space and gets attracted to the descriptions of the spiritual world. Only that will be to her true benefit.
Nanda Dulala Dasa, B. Tech.(Mech.), is part of the BTG India team and serves full -time at ISKCON Mumbai. He also assists in teaching Krsna Consciousness to the youth.