Originally posted by Dasa
Published on October 14th, 2014 | by HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada | Full size image
Remembrances of past lives can be fascinating, but the real goal of understanding reincarnation is to become free from the painful cycle of birth in death. Srila Prabhupada warns, This is not a very good business–to die and take birth a ...[text shortened]... , sleep, have sexual intercourse, and defend themselves. They know how to do all these things...
But the rascals do not know it. They are always busy with temporary problems. For example, suppose there is severe cold. This is a problem. We have to search out a nice coat or a fireplace, and if these are not available we are in distress. So severe cold is a problem. But it is a temporary problem. Severe cold, winter, has come, and it will go. It is not a permanent problem. My permanent problem is that because of ignorance I am taking birth, I am accepting disease, I am accepting old age, and I am accepting death. These are my real problems. Therefore Kṛṣṇa says, janma-mṛtyu-jarā-vyādhi-duḥkha-doṣānudarśanam: [Bg. 13.9] Those who are actually in knowledge see these four problems—birth, death, old age, and disease.
Now, Kṛṣṇa says, dhīras tatra na muhyati: [Bg. 2.13] "A sober man is not perplexed at the time of death." If you prepare yourself for death, why should you be perplexed? For example, if in your childhood and boyhood you prepare yourself nicely, if you become educated, then you will get a nice job, a nice situation, and be happy. Similarly, if you prepare yourself in this life for going back home, back to Godhead, then where is your perplexity at the time of death? There is no perplexity. You'll know, "I am going to Kṛṣṇa. I am going back home, back to Godhead. Now I'll not have to change material bodies; I'll have my spiritual body. Now I shall play with Kṛṣṇa and dance with Kṛṣṇa and eat with Kṛṣṇa." This is Kṛṣṇa consciousness—to prepare yourself for the next life.
Sometimes a dying man cries out, because according to karma those who are very, very sinful see horrible scenes at the time of death. The sinful man knows he is going to accept some abominable type of body. But those who are pious, the devotees, die without any anxiety. Foolish people say, "You devotees are dying, and the nondevotees are also dying, so what is the difference?" There is a difference. A cat catches her kitten in its mouth, and it also catches the mouse in its mouth. Superficially we may see that the cat has caught both the mouse and the kitten in the same way. But there are differences of catching. The kitten is feeling pleasure: "Oh, my mother is carrying me." And the mouse is feeling death: "Oh, now I'm going to die." This is the difference. So, although both devotees and nondevotees die, there is a difference of feeling at the time of death—just like the kitten and the mouse. Don't think that both of them are dying in the same way. The bodily process may be the same, but the mental situation is different.
In Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa says,
janma karma ca me divyam
evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
naiti mām eti so 'rjuna
If you simply try to understand Kṛṣṇa, you can go to Him at the time of death. Everything about Kṛṣṇa is divine, transcendental. Kṛṣṇa's activities, Kṛṣṇa's appearance, Kṛṣṇa's worship, Kṛṣṇa's temple, Kṛṣṇa's glories—everything is transcendental. So if one understands these things, or even tries to understand, then one becomes liberated from the process of birth and death. This is what Kṛṣṇa says. So become very serious to understand Kṛṣṇa, and remain in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Then these problems—birth, death, old age, and disease—will be solved automatically, very easily.
A dhīra, a sober man, will think, "I want to live eternally. Why does death take place? I want to live a very healthy life. Why does disease come? I don't want to become an old man. Why does old age come?" Janma-mṛtyu-jarā-vyādhi [Bg. 13.9]. These are real problems. One can solve these problems simply by taking to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, simply by understanding Kṛṣṇa. And for understanding Kṛṣṇa, the Bhagavad-gītā is there, very nicely explained. So make your life successful. Understand that you are not the body. You are embodied within the body, but you are not the body. For example, a bird may be within a cage, but the cage is not the bird. Foolish persons take care of the cage, not the bird, and the bird suffers starvation. So we are suffering spiritual starvation. Therefore nobody is happy in the material world. Spiritual starvation. That is why you see that in an opulent country like America—enough food, enough residences, enough material enjoyment—still they are becoming hippies. The young people are not satisfied, because of spiritual starvation. Materially you may be very opulent, but if you starve spiritually you cannot be happy.
A spiritual rejuvenation is required. You must realize, ahaṁ brahmāsmi: "I am not this body; I am brahman, spiritual soul." Then you'll be happy. Brahma-bhūtaḥ prasannātmā na śocati na kāṅkṣati samaḥ sarveṣu bhūteṣu [Bg. 18.54]. Then there will be equality, fraternity, brotherhood. Otherwise it is all bogus—simply high-sounding words. There cannot be equality, fraternity, and so on without Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Come to the spiritual platform; then you will see everyone equally. Otherwise you will think, "I am a human being with hands and legs, and the cow has no hands and legs. So let me kill the cow and eat it." Why? What right do you have to kill an animal? You have no vision of equality, for want of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Therefore, in this material world, so-called education, culture, fraternity—all these are bogus. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the right subject matter to be studied. Then society will be happy. Otherwise not. Thank you very much.
The Self and Its Bodies
"You are suffering because in your past life you indulged in sense gratification and got a body according to karma, Śrīla Prabhupāda tells listeners at a lecture delivered at the Hare Kṛṣṇa center in Detroit, Michigan, in June 1976. He then goes on to explain the secret of how to become free from karma and enjoy perfect happiness.
yathājñes tamasā yukta
upāste vyaktam eva hi
na veda pūrvam aparaṁ
"As a sleeping person acts according to the body manifested in his dreams and accepts it to be himself, so one identifies with his present body, which he acquired because of his past religious or irreligious actions, and is unable to know his past or future lives." [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 6.1.49]
Here is a very good example of the ignorance that covers the living entity in the material world. When we dream, we forget everything about ourselves—that we are Mr. Such-and-such, an inhabitant of such-and-such a place, with such-and-such bank balance. Everything is forgotten. And when we awaken, we forget about the dream. But whether we are in the wakened state or the dreaming state, we are seeing our own activities. In the dream we are the seer, and in the so-called awake condition we are also the seer. So we, the spirit soul, who is experiencing, remain the same, but the circumstances change, and we forget.
Similarly, we cannot remember what we were in our previous life. Nor do we know what we are going to become in our next life. But it is a fact that, as spirit souls, we are eternal. We existed in the past, we exist at the present time, and we shall continue to exist in the future. Kṛṣṇa explains this in the Bhagavad-gītā [2.12]: "O Arjuna, you, I, and all these persons who have assembled on this battlefield have existed before, and we shall continue to exist in the future." This is the preliminary understanding in spiritual life—knowing "I am eternal."
As spirit souls, we do not take birth, nor do we die (na jāyate mriyate vā kadācit). We are not finished with the destruction of the material body (na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre [Bg. 2.20]). The destruction of the body is going on already. Our childhood body is now destroyed; you cannot find that body. Our youthful body is also destroyed; we cannot find it anymore. And in the same way, our present body will also be destroyed, and we shall get another body (tathā dehāntara-prāptiḥ [Bg. 2.13]).
When the soul transmigrates, the gross body is lost. The gross body is made of matter, and anything material will eventually be finished. That is the nature of matter. But the spirit soul is never finished.
So we are changing bodies, one after another. Why are there different types of bodies? Because the living entity, the spirit soul, is contacting various modes of material nature. And according to what modes are influencing him, the living entity develops a gross body.
So we have acquired our present body because of our past activities. Karmaṇā daiva-netreṇa jantur dehopapattaye: [SB 3.31.1] One gets a particular type of body according to his past karma, or material activities. Nature acts automatically, according to our karma. Suppose you contract some disease. Nature will act: you will have to develop that disease and undergo some suffering. Similarly, when we come under the influence of the modes of material nature and perform karmic activities, we must transmigrate from body to body. Nature's law works so perfectly.
Now, when we come to the civilized human life, we should ask, "Why am I suffering?" The problem is that because we are under the spell of māyā, illusion, we take suffering to be enjoyment. Māyā means "that which is not." We are thinking we are enjoying, but actually we are suffering. In this material body we have to suffer. We suffer on account of the body. Pinching cold, scorching heat—we feel these things on account of the body. Under certain circumstances we feel pleasure. But in the Bhagavad-gītā [2.14] Kṛṣṇa advises,
mātrā-sparśās tu kaunteya
tāṁs titikṣasva bhārata
"Material happiness and distress are caused by the body. They come and go just like seasonal changes. So do not be disturbed; try to tolerate them."
As long as we are in this material world, happiness and distress will come and go. So we should not be disturbed by them. Our real business is trying for self-realization. That must go on; it must not stop. Self-realization is the goal of human life. Suffering and so-called happiness will go...