You won't find out by examining your body's parts or even its color, race, nationality, sex, or occupation. The search for identity must go beyond the body and mind.
A lecture in Bombay in December 1972,
sri bhagavan uvaca
idam sariram kaunteya
ksetram ity abhidhiyate
etad yo vetti tam prahuh
ksetrajna iti tad-vidah
"This body, O son of Kunti, is called the field, and one who knows this body is called the knower of the field." (Bhagavad-gita 13.2)
Here Lord Krsna states that the "field" of the body (the ksetra) is different from the one who knows the body (the ksetrajna). So we should know, "I am not this body; it is my body." If we analyze, we may say, "This is my hand, this is my leg, this is my head." But nobody says "I head" or "I hand." So the I," the soul, is different from the body. For example, although I am living in this apartment, I am not this apartment.
[Caption for picture: Life's a puzzle, but it can be solved. In our search for answers, we tend to overlook the essential element of our identity the soul. But when we understand who we are, then all of life's pieces fall into place.]
But the modern civilization accepts the basic idea that "I am this body." Therefore people think, "I am an American," "I am an Indian," "I am a brahmana," "I am a man," "I am a woman," and so on. Life's a puzzle, but it can be solved. In our search for answers, we tend to overlook the essential element of our identity the soul. But when we understand who we are, then all of life's pieces fall into place. This conception is condemned; it is the conception of the animals. A dog does not know that the soul who has obtained the body of a dog is different from the dog body. But it is a fact that although the soul is put into that condition, he's different from the body. This is the Vedic information, and this is knowledge.
If you meditate on your body, you may ask, "Am I this finger?"The answer will be "No, I am not this finger. It is my finger." Similarly, one can say, "This is my head, my leg, my body." So by simple logic we can see that we are not the body. And here it is confirmed by the supreme authority, Krsna.
Now, the sastra [scripture] says, yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke … sa eva go-kharah: "Anyone who identifies himself as his body, which is made of three elements mucus, bile, and air is no better than a cow or an ass." Now, just try to understand what the modern civilization is. It is a combination of cows and asses, because everyone is thinking, "I am this body." Someone thinks, "I am an American," another thinks, "I am a Russian," and they both think, "Let us fight." This is going on. The simple knowledge that "I am not this body" is lacking.
The Vedic declaration is aham brahmasmi, "I am spirit." And also so 'ham which means "I am qualitatively one with the Supersoul, Krsna." As Krsna's form is sac-cid-ananda eternal and full of knowledge and bliss so I am also sac-cid-ananda, because I am part and parcel of Him. The difference is that while He is infinite, I am very minute.
A minute particle of gold is qualitatively the same as the vast mass of gold in the gold mine, and a minute drop of sea water is the same as the sea, qualitatively. It has the same chemicals. Similarly, we, being part and parcel of Krsna, are transcendental to material conditions, but we have artificially put ourselves into this material condition. This is called maya, illusion. We wanted to enjoy separately from Krsna, and therefore we have been put into a condition of illusion.
The material condition we are in is just like a dream. At night, when we dream, we forget this body. Although in the daytime I identify myself with my body, thinking, "I am an American," "I am an Indian," "I am a brahmana," at night, when I sleep, I forget whether I am an American, an Indian, or a brahmana. Sometimes in a dream we go to a very nice place full of palaces and gardens, but as soon as the dream is over we are again on our bed. You see? This is our daily experience.
So, because we wanted to imitate Krsna, He has given us a temporary place of illusion, a place that is not factual.
Sometimes we think we see water in the desert. That is illusion. There is no water, but we say, "Oh, there is a vast body of water!" And just as the foolish animals may run after the illusory water in the desert, we are running after the illusion of happiness in this material world.
There is no happiness here. At the fag end of life we are disappointed and frustrated. When we can no longer enjoy our senses, we become very much depressed. You'll find that old men who are not spiritually inclined are very morose because they cannot enjoy their senses anymore. Sometimes they take medicine to make their senses strong, but how can it be done? It is hopeless. So we should understand that we are not this body and that bodily enjoyment, sense gratification, is illusion.
In another place in the Bhagavad-gita [6.21] you'll find this verse:
sukham atyantikam yat tad
vetti yatra na caivayam
sthitas calati tattvatah
[To a devotee] Find this verse and read the translation.
Devotee: There are a few verses together. "In the stage of perfection called trance, or samadhi, one's mind is completely restrained from material mental activities by practice of yoga. This perfection is characterized by one's ability to see the Self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the Self. In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness, realized through transcendental senses. Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain."
Srila Prabhupada: So, all information is there in the Bhagavad-gita. If we want actual happiness, we have to purify our consciousness of everything material. That is the goal of everyone in the Krsna consciousness movement to come to the point of pure Krsna consciousness. That consciousness can be achieved by the grace of Krsna: athapi te deva padambuja-dvaya-prasada-lesanugrhita eva hi janati tattvam bhagavan-mahimnah. Krsna cannot be understood by any method other than Krsna's method, and that method is bhakti, devotional service.
The root of the word bhakti is bhaj, which means "to offer loving service unto the Lord." And Krsna says, mahatmanas tu mam partha daivim prakrtim asritah: "Those who are broadminded take shelter of my spiritual potency and serve Me without deviation." So devotional service is for mahatmas. A mahatma is one whose atma, or mind, has been expanded. Those who are thinking in terms of family, society, nation, religion, and so on are not mahatmas. They are ksudratmas, small- or cripple minded persons. Mahatmas think in a broader way. As Caitanya Mahaprabhu said,
prthivite ache yata nagaradi grama
sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama
"In as many towns and villages as there are all over the world, My name will be celebrated." He was not thinking in terms of "My village, My country, My society." No, He was thinking in a broader way.
Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krsna, and Krsna thinks in terms of all living entities:
murtayah sambhavanti yah
tasam brahma mahad yonir
aham bija-pradah pita
"Of all living entities in all species of life, I am the father" [Bg. 14.4]. This is mahatma thinking. Krsna is thinking in terms of all living entities. People sometimes say Krsna is a Hindu God. Why a Hindu God? The dictionary may say that Krsna is a Hindu God, but in the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna Himself says, "I am the father of all living entities." Why should He be the father of just Hindus or Indians? No, He is the supreme father of everyone.
Similarly, this Krsna consciousness movement is not a crippled or sectarian movement. It is a very broad movement that is inviting all living entities to come to Krsna, back home, back to Godhead.
So, we should not be cripple-minded and identify ourselves with the body. As Krsna says here, idam sariram kaunteya ksetram: "The body is the field of activities for the soul." Suppose one is body conscious. He may undergo many severe exercises, and when his body becomes very stout and strong he's happy, because he is thinking "I am this body." Similarly, by the process of Krsna consciousness you can make your body spiritually stronger. As you can make your body physically strong, you can make your body spiritually strong.
The word ksetra means "field" or "land." By tilling the land you can produce nice grain or inferior grain, depending on how you work. The land is in your possession, and you can cultivate it as you like. Similarly, this body is "land," and I am the "tiller." By using the body in one way I can become spiritually advanced, and by using it in another way I can become materially advanced. It is up to me. To become spiritually advanced means to gradually forget that you are this material body and to realize, "I am Krsna's; I am brahman [spirit]." That is what it means to be spiritually advanced. And to become materially advanced means to think "I am this body," " I am an American," "I am an Indian," "I am a brahmana," "I am a man," "I am a woman." This is material advancement. Both ways are open to us.
We should always remember that we are now not animals but human beings. Therefore we can utilize our body according to our choice. In this chapter Krsna explains how we can utilize our body to become spiritually advanced. If we simply limit ourselves to struggling for the bodily necessities of life, we are just like the animals. Eating, sleeping, sexual intercourse, and defending these are common to both human beings and cats and dogs. But because I am a human being, I can utilize my body to understand God. The cats and dogs cannot do this. That is the difference between a human being and an animal. And if you don't utilize your body to understand God, then you're no better than the cats and dogs.
Animal life means sinful life, and this human life is also sinful unless we come to the Krsna consciousness platform. If one acts sinfully, he may lose this human form of life. Suppose you act like the hogs and do not discriminate in the matter of eating. Hogs will eat even stool. So, in your next life you will get the body of a hog. As Lord Rsabhadeva advises His sons:
nayam deho deha-bhajam nr-loke
kastan kaman arhate vid-bhujam ye
tapo divyam putraka yena sattvam
suddhyed yasmad brahma-saukhyam tv anantam
"My dear sons, don't use this body as the hogs do the whole day and night searching after stool to eat. Purify yourselves by austerity and come to the platform of eternal happiness."
Hogs become very stout and strong by eating stool, and then they enjoy sex without any discrimination with their mother, sister, or anyone. The dogs also have no courtesy or shame. In the street they're having sex. And now human civilization is also coming to this. In India it has not yet come to this, but in the Western countries public sex is a common affair. Young men and women are embracing and kissing, and sometimes they're sexually engaged on the sea beach or in the garden. We have seen it.
So, practically speaking people are coming to the hogs' and dogs' life. This is their advancement of civilization. Why? On account of the bodily concept of life: "I am this body." Therefore, one should first of all understand that the soul is different from the body. The human body has been awarded to us so we can utilize it as we like. We can utilize it like the cats and dogs and hogs, or we can utilize it like a deva, a demigod. That is up to us. We have a little independence.
But the sastra says we should not utilize this body like the dogs and hogs. And if we ignore the sastra, we will suffer. As Lord Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita [16.23]:
yah sastra-vidhim utsrjya
na sa siddhim avapnoti
na sukham na param gatim
"Anyone who does not care for the instructions given in the sastras cannot achieve any perfection or happiness." Suppose someone doesn't care for the law of the state. What kind of man is he? He's an outlaw; he's not a respectable citizen, and he will suffer punishment at the hands of the police. Similarly, anyone who does not follow the sastras injunctions is violating God's law, and he must be punished by material nature. Therefore we have to follow the sastric injunctions if we want happiness.
The Bhagavad-gita, the Puranas, the Vedanta-sutra these sastras are meant to help revive our Krsna consciousness. They give us transcendental knowledge. And the first, essential knowledge is to know, "I am not this body."
We have to transcend the bodily concept of life. The bodily concept of life means absorption in sense gratification. That's all. Because a person thinks "I am this body," he must try to satisfy his eyes by seeing something beautiful, and he must try to satisfy his tongue by eating so many abominable things. These things may be forbidden in the sastras, but because his tongue wants them he must eat them. So the bodily concept of life means to be forced to satisfy the gross material senses.
But gradually, by training ourselves in Krsna consciousness, we will desire more and more to satisfy Krsna. Now we are satisfying our senses that is the result of the bodily concept of material existence. And when we train ourselves how to satisfy Krsna oh, that is the perfection of our life. That is Krsna consciousness. Thank you very much. Hare Krsna.