His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
(founder of the Hare Krsna movement)
His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
(founder of the Hare Krsna movement)
by Purujit Dasa
Krsna compares the soul’s situation in the material body to a person wearing a dress.
As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.
We might change different dresses, but we, the person, remain the same. Similarly, our body might change from childhood, to youthhood, to old age, but the soul remains unchanged. If we take a big cloth, it does not have any specific shape and therefore we can call it impersonal, but when we cut it into a coat, it reminds us of a person. Similarly, this whole material world is impersonal. But because we have taken a portion of it and utilize it as our body, it looks like a person. In reality the body has no personality; it only appears personal on account of the soul “wearing” it.
In the Bhagavad-gita, it is also mentioned that just as we may cover ourselves with a shirt and coat, the pure soul is covered by the "shirt and coat" of the subtle and gross bodies. Our bones, blood, flesh, and our different senses (like our eyes, ears, and skin) make up our gross body; and our mind, intelligence, and false ego make up our subtle body. False ego means the misconception that I am matter, that I am a product of this material world and those who do not accept the existence of the soul are victimized by such a misconception. Although a person may claim his very consciousness to be nothing but an interaction of various chemical elements, he maintains a sense of pride and takes credit for whatever he is doing. For example, if any of the modern scientists today succeeded in making life from matter and thus proved once and for all that chemicals, not God, are the source of everything, they would still hesitate to give the Nobel Prize to the chemical elements acting in the brain of a scientist responsible for such an invention. Rather the scientist would take the Prize. The position of such foolish people is described in the following verse of the Bhagavad-gita:
gunaih karmani sarvasah
kartaham iti manyate
The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.
And yet, we can say it’s true. We are in one sense nothing but products of our material conditioning. Your decision to read this article at this very moment did not arise out of its own accord. A friend might have told you about it, or you might have bumped into it while googleing on the internet. The decision to read it did not come unconditionally out of nowhere. It is a consequence of many previous events and a result of various circumstances. While being in a bodily conception of life we are obliged by the call of nature to follow her commands, whether we like it or not and our illusory feeling of freedom, which arises due the influence of the false ego is actually the very cause of our bondage. In this way, the feeling of freedom which, as we have mentioned earlier, is the intrinsic characteristic of the spirit soul is sought on the platform of the non-eternal material body and this is symptomized by the desire to live forever in the material body. The non-believers in the soul’s existence may appear very skeptical, uncommitted, and free-thinking, but this is only a shaky fasade. Due to their strong attachment to matter, they firmly subscribe to the most irrational faith, namely they believe in the “immortality of the body.” Srila Prabhupada comments:
The definition of the mode of ignorance is stated in the Vedic literature: under the spell of ignorance, one cannot understand the thing as it is. For example, everyone can see that his grandfather has died, and therefore he will also die; man is mortal. The children that he conceives will also die. So death is sure. Still, people are madly accumulating money and working very hard all day and night, not caring for the eternal spirit. This is madness.
A great example of such a person is a demon Hiranyakasipu, who by mystic powers became the most powerful person in the whole universe. He became so proud of his powers that he even dared to challenge the authority of God Himself. But God, in His form as Lord Narashingha finished the demon in one shot, despite the demon's great strength.
As Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita (10.34), mrtyuh sarva-haras caham: "I am all-devouring death." The Lord is just like death to the atheists, for He takes away everything they accumulate in the material world. Hiranyakasipu, the father of Prahlada, always denied the existence of the Lord, and he tried to kill his five-year-old boy due to the boy's unflinching faith in God. However, in due course of time the Lord appeared as Nrsimhadeva and killed Hiranyakasipu in the presence of his son. As stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.13.47), this killing process is natural. Jivo jivasya jivanam: "one animal is food for another animal." A frog is eaten by a snake, a snake is eaten by a mongoose, and the mongoose is eaten by another animal. In this way the process of destruction goes on by the supreme will of the Lord. Although we do not see the hand of the Supreme Lord directly, we can feel the presence of that hand through the Lord's process of destruction. We can see the clouds scattered by the wind, although we cannot see how this is being done because it is not possible to see the wind. Similarly, although we do not directly see the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we can see that He controls the process of destruction. The destructive process is going on fiercely under the control of the Lord, but the atheists cannot see it.
The process of dying starts at birth. Just like with clothing, the spirit soul utilizes a particular body and when the body wears off, the soul leaves. Life of an atheist is therefore nothing but a complete contradiction. He wants to cheat himself that death is not a problem and tries to cover all his reasoning powers with sense gratification. He’s like an ostrich which puts its head in the sand at times of danger. His sense gratification is a chloroform by which he hopes to erase the pain of death reality coming up soon. The law of nature however will not excuse him. We have to change our body whether we like it or not.
dehino 'smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
dhiras tatra na muhyati
As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.
Dehinam means one who has accepted this material body. "Accepted" means we have done something by which we have been forced to accept it. Just like in the prison house, the prisoners have to wear prisoner’s dress. If you are put in jail, you have to keep your household dress aside and put on the ugly dress of a prisoner. If you protest, "No, I cannot accept this dress. I am a gentleman. I have a fancy dress. I will put on my fancy dress," you will be forced.
A good example of a chloroform philosophy of death denial is Carvaka Muni, a philosopher who preached atheism in the ancient India. He urged people to completely abandon any sort of consideration for future consequences of their actions and simply enjoy their senses to the fullest extent. The modern scientists say that after finishing this body, we don’t exist anymore and everything is finished. But this is not new. Carvaka Muni, also said lthat: bhasmi-bhutasya dehasya kutah punar agamano bhavet. Why you are worrying about next life? As soon as this body is burned into ashes, everything is finished.
Since everyone wants to enjoy nice food, Cārvāka Muni advised that one eat as much ghee as possible. One may say, "I have no money. How shall I purchase ghee?" Cārvāka Muni, however, says, "If you have no money, then beg borrow or steal, but in some way secure ghee and enjoy life." For one who further objects that he will be held accountable for such unauthorized activities as begging, borrowing and stealing, Cārvāka Muni replies, "You will not be held responsible. As soon as your body is burned to ashes after death, everything is finished."
Krsna Himself uses the example of atheistic logic in the Bhagavad-gita:
tatra ka paridevana
All created beings are unmanifest in their beginning, manifest in their interim state, and unmanifest again when they are annihilated. So what need is there for lamentation?
Here, the Lord is conveniently taking advantage of the materialistic argument in order to provoke Arjuna’s questioning abilities. If we, He argues, at least theoretically, accepted the atheistic theory of non-existence of the soul, there should be no lamentation over dying. I:n the purport to this verse, Srila Prabhupada explains:
Take, for example, a big skyscraper manifested from the earth. When it is dismantled, the manifestation becomes again unmanifested and remains as atoms in the ultimate stage. The law of conservation of energy remains, but in course of time things are manifested and unmanifested—that is the difference. Then what cause is there for lamentation either in the stage of manifestation or unmanifestation? Somehow or other, even in the unmanifested stage, things are not lost. Both at the beginning and at the end, all elements remain unmanifested, and only in the middle are they manifested, and this does not make any real material difference.
After death, the material elements which form our body during our lifetime are simply going to transform, but none of them will be lost. For example, all the water in our body will be evaporated and then through the process of nature will again turn into water, the earthly portion of the body goes to earth, the airy portion goes to air, etc. The form might change, but the energy remains. And if everything is matter and I am also matter, what will change after I die? According to the atheistic theory, nothing. Why is death a problem then?
Death is certainly a problem, because it checks the atheist’s unlawful sense gratification. For this reason, the atheists constantly try to convince themselves that death and everything else is nothing but illusion. Their attempts however remain fruitless endeavor.
The demoniac conclude that the world is phantasmagoria. There is no cause, no effect, no controller, no purpose: everything is unreal. They say that this cosmic manifestation arises due to chance material actions and reactions. They do not think that the world was created by God for a certain purpose. They have their own theory: that the world has come about in its own way and that there is no reason to believe that there is a God behind it. For them there is no difference between spirit and matter, and they do not accept the Supreme Spirit. Everything is matter only, and the whole cosmos is supposed to be a mass of ignorance. According to them, everything is void, and whatever manifestation exists is due to our ignorance in perception. They take it for granted that all manifestation of diversity is a display of ignorance. Just as in a dream we may create so many things, which actually have no existence, so when we are awake we shall see that everything is simply a dream. But factually, although the demons say that life is a dream, they are very expert in enjoying this dream. And so, instead of acquiring knowledge, they become more and more implicated in their dreamland.
to be continued...