Journey Back Home
By Purushottam Kumar - 11.3 2017
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”, 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. Yudhisthira, an Indian king, who ruled 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 ever believe that one day they too would die.
Suppose we are presented a luxury car, say Rolls Royce, with a warning that it has a bomb in it which will definitely explode but when that will happen isn’t revealed. 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?” Aren’t we boasting about our IQ when we claim ourselves as astute? Because all of us are the possessor of one such vehicle and are obsessed by it. That “vehicle” is our “body” and 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 aren’t able to look beyond it. Without any qualms everyone agrees that in this world life is as temporary as a bubble in the ocean. But just like an ostrich who buries his head in the ground when in 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 the society, in fact we try hard to enjoy as hard as possible. Indeed in corporate a famous idiom is oft quoted – Work hard and party hard. But as the whiff of delicate wind destroys the house of cards similarly the powerful time shatters all our dreams and desires. Bhagavad Gita 2.18 too confirms the futility of the material body, “The material body of the indestructible, immeasurable and eternal living entity is sure to come to an end.”
Most of us do not muster 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 words of God so these are timeless and facts stated in it are eternal truths. These priceless literatures not just poignantly talks 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 we are souls.
The ageless soul
Just like a car starts functioning and moving when the driver sits inside the car and operates it, similarly our body becomes active once the soul enters the body. When the driver leaves, the car stops. Similarly when the soul leaves the body, the body becomes non-functional and drops dead. So, Krishna defines a wise person as those who lament neither for the living nor for the dead (B.G. 2.11).
In Gita 2.20 – 2.25, 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 wake-up call for all of us. As we now know that the soul is timeless and is never annihilated, we should channelize all our energy to protect our eternal soul. Vedic books 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 (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 have an opportunity to correct ourselves and reclaim the citizenship of the spiritual world. Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, isn’t like an insensitive jailer of this material world but in fact he is our father who is ever ready to bestow His love upon us, in fact He eagerly wants us to get reformed and return back to Him.
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. Soul’s subtle covering viz. mind, intelligence and false ego decide the soul’s destiny. The first body which the soul gets after leaving the spiritual world is that of a human being. Now in the human form of life the soul has the privilege to rectify the mistakes and become utterly pure, if it happens then the subtle coverings of the soul gets removed and it travels back to the spiritual world. Now if the person misuses his human form of life and instead of endeavoring for salvation resorts to sensual pleasure then he gets entangled in this world and continues to remain here till he becomes pure. The soul occupies 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. But in the higher planets too one continues to remain in despondency because the fright of birth, old age, disease and death exists there too.
Returning to the spiritual world
As long as the soul flits around the material world it remains diseased. The only cure is to flush out the accumulated impurities of the heart which have made us spiritually blind and return back to 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 Chaitanya or He sends His messengers like Narada Muni, Ramanujacharya, Madhavacharya, Adi Shankara, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura, Srila Prabhupada to persuade us to return back to His kingdom. He has also left behind spiritual literatures like Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Isopanisad etc. which categorically explains about the importance of leading a God centered life. However we need self realized spiritual teachers to understand the sublime message echoed in these revealed literatures.
The current 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. It is also explained that people living in this period are less intelligent, fickle minded, unlucky and suffer from spiritual aboulia. But the era has a great boon; people in this age are required to follow a very simple process for spiritual advancement. The process was revealed by Lord Chaitanya who appeared 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 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 dos and don’ts to maximize our spiritual growth.
Some of the mandatory dos are:
Chanting diligently and hearing attentively the names of Krishna.
Associating with like minded serious devotees
Regularly reading Vedic books which will take us closer to Krishna
Offering food first to Krishna and then taking it as His mercy.
Some of the obligatory don’ts are:
Not indulging in any form of illicit sex including watching pornography and movies which provoke sexual fantasies. Controlling sex desire is of utmost importance for spiritual growth. Once the taste for devotional life sprouts sex desire automatically vanishes. This is best explained by Yamunacharya, a great sage, “Since I have been engaged in the transcendental loving service of Krishna, realizing ever-new pleasure in Him, whenever I think of sex pleasure, I spit at the thought, and my lips curl with distaste.”
We should refrain from committing and encouraging violence. So we should not eat flesh of other animals including beasts, birds and fishes.
Along with this 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 catches fire then whether we are in a First Class AC coach or in 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. So, we should 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. But by holding Krishna’s hand we can cross over to a world which is ours 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 “Associate Solution Designer”)