Is immortality a real possibility, or simply utopian nonsense?
Adapted from a lecture given in London on August 22, 1973
nasato vidyate bhavo
nabhavo vidyate satah
ubhayor api drsto 'ntas
tv anayos tattva-darsibhih
"Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent [the material body] there is no endurance and of the eternal [the soul] there is no change. This they have concluded by studying the nature of both." Bhagavad-gita 2.16
THERE ARE TWO things: sat and asat. Sat means that which exists eternally, and asat means that which is temporary, which appears and disappears. A Vedic injunction says, "Don't be entangled in the temporary; try to come to the platform of eternity."
In the previous verse, Lord Krsna says:
yam hi na vyathayanty ete
so 'mrtatvaya kalpate
"Those who are not disturbed by the material changes are eligible for liberation." Our mission, the human mission, is to come to the platform of immortality. In modern civilization, the so-called scientists and philosophers cannot even imagine the possibility of becoming immortal. Then why is Krsna speaking about immortality? Is He speaking something utopian? No, He is speaking fact. Otherwise, if Krsna is speaking something nonsense or utopian, then no one would be interested to read Bhagavad-gita.
You may argue that we are foolish persons who indulge in reading Bhagavad-gita even though Krsna is speaking utopian nonsense. But why were the great spiritual masters of the past like Ramanujacarya and Madhvacarya India's greatest spiritual teachers giving attention to the reading of Bhagavad-gita? Because Krsna does not speak anything nonsense. That is a fact.
Our business should be to engage on the eternal platform not on the temporary platform. Real human civilization should be based on becoming immortal. That is the distinction between India and other countries. Now, I'm not speaking of India today, but formerly India was guided by great spiritual teachers like Vyasadeva, the original spiritual master. Vyasadeva was a great learned scholar. He recorded so many books: four Vedas, eighteen Puranas, Vedanta-sutra, Upanisads. He guided the whole society, but he lived very humbly. Even Canakya Pandita, a prime minister, lived in a cottage. That is the distinction between Vedic or Indian civilization and modern civilization. Indian civilization means interest in the eternal, whereas others are interested in the temporary.
Formerly, of course, India was also very materially opulent. Four hundred years ago India was so opulent that Europeans were attracted to go there. Even during the time of the Mogul Empire, India was very opulent. In Delhi you can visit the Red Fort. You'll see on the walls pictures of birds and trees that were once covered with jewels. There are holes now where the jewels were. Material opulence means jewels, gold, silk, butter not plastic pots, plastic buckets, plastic cloth. These things have no real value.
The Aim of Spiritual Civilization
So the people of India traditionally stressed permanent, spiritual civilization. Their aim was to make this life perfect and become immortal. The whole effort was to conquer birth and death. Modern people do not understand that birth and death can be conquered. They only imagine, "By scientific advancement, someday we shall become immortal." But here is information from Bhagavad-gita. Krsna says we can become immortal; He's not speaking something nonsense or utopian.
We should be interested in permanent life, not temporary life. This life, this material life, is temporary. We may live for ten years or ten hours. There are living entities who live for ten minutes, and there are living entities who live for ten million or ten billion years. According to Bhagavad-gita, residents of Brahmaloka, the highest planet, live billions of years. All these durations of life are within this material world, but no life here is permanent. Whether you live for ten billion years, ten minutes, or ten seconds, your life is temporary.
That is being explained here. Nasato vidyate bhavah. The material body has no endurance; it will not permanently exist. Nabhavo vidyate satah: The soul is permanent. The soul has no change; it will never be nonexistent.
Krsna says, "My dear Arjuna, you, I, and all the kings and soldiers assembled here it is not that we did not exist in the past." That means we are not the body. This body was not existing in my past life. But because I am soul, I am existing now, I existed in the past, and I will exist in the future. That is sat. Therefore, spirit has no change.
Sometimes we experience that a thread becomes tangled and to find the beginning is very difficult. Similarly, because of our attachment to the material body, we become entangled in material life. In this meeting we don't talk of material things. Here we talk only about the spirit soul, Krsna, our relationship with Krsna, how to satisfy Krsna.
Formerly, this place was known as Piggot's Manor. Now we have named it Bhaktivedanta Manor. What is the difference? Formerly, it was for sense gratification. Now it is for elevating one to the spiritual standard of life. Anything can be changed like that for sat-sanga spiritual association. If you associate with the eternal, you advance in spiritual life. And if you associate with the temporary, you become degraded. Don't be entangled. Try to become liberated from the entanglement. That is the mission of life.
These things cannot be understood as long as we are in darkness. Darkness means sinful life. The more we engage in sinful life, the more we fail to understand what is eternal and what is temporary. So we should be purified. The whole human life is meant for purification, just as a diseased person must be purified from the contamination. In material existence we are impure, contaminated by the three modes of material nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance.
Even the quality of goodness is contaminating. For example, a brahmana, or learned, cultured person, is considered in the mode of goodness. But he is entangled if does not try to become immortal and simply thinks, "Now I have brahminical qualifications. I'm educated, I'm very clean, I'm very controlled, I know what is what." If he does not try to go further ahead to become immortal he is still entangled.
Those in the mode of passion think, "I'm so rich, so powerful. I have my nice wife and family and so many nice businesses." That is the conception of life of one controlled by the mode of passion. Such a person is certainly bound.
And those under the mode of ignorance do not know the value of life. Lazy, unclean, and ignorant, they are very firmly bound.
The more you are enlightened about the value of life, the more you become liberated. The more you become liberated, the more you advance in spiritual knowledge. Therefore, these meetings we hold every day are meant for advancing in spiritual life. Here there is no program on how to become rich, how to possess more cars, how to have a bigger bank balance, how to have a nice dress. These are material things.
And we are not interested in increasing the influence of the mode of ignorance how to sleep thirty-four hours a day when there are only twenty-four. We see how some people sleep until two o'clock in the afternoon. If you rise at two o'clock in the morning, that is nice. But they are accustomed to get up at two o'clock in the afternoon, because they think, "The more we sleep, the more we enjoy life."
Therefore, they are like the Sunyavadis, philosophers who believe that the ultimate truth is void. Some people want to become zero by always sleeping. But that is not life. Sunyavada philosophy is not life. Activity is life. Caitanya Mahaprabhu says, "Don't become zero. Be engaged always in chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra." That is Caitanya Maha prabhu's movement. We are not going to be zero. We want to be very active, not for sense gratification but for Krsna's service.
Elevation or Degradation?
Now what is Krsna's service? That we are teaching, how to worship Krsna.
sravanam kirtanam visnoh
arcanam vandanam dasyam
These are the nine kinds of service to Krsna: hearing about Him, chanting His glories, remembering Him, serving His lotus feet, worshiping Him, offering Him prayers, becoming His servant, and surrendering everything to Him. These services are all eternal, spiritual. The more we engage in them, the more we are elevated, and the more we engage in activities of material sense gratification, the more we are degraded.
If you perform your occupation, your duty, very nicely but have no Krsna consciousness, the scripture says you are simply wasting time and laboring hard. That's all. Therefore Krsna explains the distinction between the temporary and the eternal. We should not be much interested in the temporary, because then our life is spoiled. We should be interested in the eternal. That will make our life successful.
Unfortunately, people today do not know, cannot imagine even, that there is a possibility of becoming immortal. It is more than a possibility; it is a fact. And chanting Krsna's name is so important in this regard. In the scripture it is said, kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta sangah param vrajet: "By chanting the name of Krsna one attains the supreme."
Param means "spiritual." There are two kinds of energy: para and apara. The material world is apara, inferior energy. Besides this there is another nature, which is para, spiritual. We should be interested in the spiritual, not the material. Why? Because that is real life.
In today's verse it is said that the difference between the spiritual and the material is studied by the those who have realized the truth, the tattva-darsibhih. The word tattva is very important. Tattva means "truth." In the Srimad-Bhagavatam we find:
vadanti tat tattva-vidas
tattvam yaj-jnanam advayam
bhagavan iti sabdyate
"Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramatma, or Bhagavan." Bhagavan is the last word in tattva, the Supreme Truth. Therefore, when Lord Krsna speaks in Bhagavad-gita, Vyasadeva writes, sri bhagavan uvaca: "The Supreme Personality of Godhead said." Vyasadeva is saying, "Although I am writing this, I am not the speaker. The speaker is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The authority is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, not I."
Modern so-called philosophers, scientists, and scholars say, "I think. I think." But what is the value of their opinion? Great personalities do not speak like that. Even Krsna says, tattva-darsibhih: "It has been concluded by higher authorities." That is the way of understanding. In the modern age we also sometimes give reference by saying that such-and-such professor says such-and-such. But these "authorities" are not tattva-darsibhih, seers of the truth. They are all speculators.
We have to go to the seers of the truth. Lord Krsna says,
tad viddhi pranipatena
upadeksyanti te jnanam
"Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth." You should understand this word: tattva-darsinah, seers of the truth. They are authoritative; others are not. Others simply speculate.
Speculation takes place on the mental platform; it has no value. Just as this body is nonpermanent, the mind is also flickering accepting something and rejecting something. That is the mind's business. So the mind cannot be tattva-darsi. Of course, we have to think with the mind, but under the direction of authority. Then we can reach real tattva, truth. And Bhagavan, Lord Krsna, is the last word in tattva.
Thank you very much.