The Hammer - 21
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The Hammer For Smashing Illusion

Shankaracharya's famous "Bhaja Govinda"


By Hansadutta das
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Text 21

Again we take birth, again we die and again we lie within the mother's womb. O Murari (Krishna)! Please protect me, for it is very difficult to cross over the ocean of birth and death in this world.

For One Who is Born Death is Certain, And for One Who Dies, Birth is Certain

According to Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic literatures, we understand that the living entity is by nature spiritual and therefore eternal. In Bhagavad-gita Krishna says, "Once having been, he never ceases to be. Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings, and never will there be a time when we shall cease to exist. That which pervades the entire body is indestructible. No one can kill the imperishable soul." (Bhagavad-gita 2.12, 2.17) The soul is the moving principle behind this material nature. Material nature consists of earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego. "These eight elements," Krishna says, "comprise My separate inferior nature, and besides this inferior nature, there is another nature, which is superior, of which all living entities are part, and they maintain and struggle with this universe." (Bhagavad-gita 7.4-5 ) In a nutshell, this is a description of our present condition of life. We are by nature spiritual and therefore eternal, without any beginning and without end, but we are covered by material nature in the shape of this body, which is composed of earth, water, fire and air, or muscle, blood, bones, skin, fat, bile, stool and urine. This is the material covering. In ignorance, we are struggling to maintain the material body forever.

Sorry, No One Gets Out of Here Alive

Scientists, politicians, educators, poets, writers, artists--everyone is struggling hard to live perpetually in this material existence. Bhagavad-gita, however, informs us that "For one who is born it is certain he will die, and for one who has died, it is certain he will be born again." (Bhagavad-gita 2.27) Krishna says, "From the topmost planet within this universe down to the lowest, all of them are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place." (Bhagavad-gita 8.16) In ignorance, the whole world is engaged in the struggle for existence which is futile and hopeless, because no one can exist in this place for more than a few years, and then he has to leave. He has to leave his friends, relatives, wife, children and countrymen.

At every moment, the living entities are leaving this world. We call it death. But from Bhagavad-gita we understand that it is not death; it is simply a change of body. Just as when we smash a light bulb it is not death for the electricity; but it is just a matter of shifting to another position. The electricity continues to exist, but in another place. Only the container, the bulb, is broken or destroyed.

Similarly, when this body is worn out by old age and disease, and the soul can no longer function in it, at that time the soul leaves this body. In ignorance we say, "Mr. So-and-So has died," but he has not died; he has simply gone to another location. He has left this body. That is also described in Bhagavad-gita (2.22) where Krishna says, "As a man gives up an old and useless dress and gets a new dress, similarly the soul gives up an old and useless body and gets a new body." How that occurs is also described: "Wherever and whatever your mind is fixed upon at the time of leaving this body, that state you will attain without fail." (Bhagavad-gita 8.5) It is further described in Bhagavad-gita (15.8-9): "The living entity carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas. Thus he develops a particular kind of ear, nose, eye, mouth and sense of touch, which are grouped about the mind, and thus he enjoys a particular set of sense objects."

Changing Bodies--Which One will We Get Next?

The process of transmigration of the soul is going on perpetually. Not only at the time of death, but even in the present life we are changing our body at every moment. We learn from modern medical science that every seven years the body has been completely transformed or changed by the destruction and reproduction of the cells in the body. The body we had seven years ago is gone, and we have a new body. We can understand that once we had the body of a baby which then changed into the body of a child. The child's body changes into a youth's body. The youth's body changes into a man's body, and the man becomes an old man. Finally, an old man becomes a dead man. He is not actually a dead man. It is just that the body is discarded by the living entity in favor of developing a new body. This process is called samsara, the cycle of repeated birth and death. This is going on perpetually and is the most basic problem every living creature has to experience. One may be the prime minister of a nation, or he may be a peon in the street, but every one of us is subjected to this problem: we are born, we grow old, we become diseased, and we die.

Birth Control and Vitamins

The whole spectrum of material activity aims only at counteracting these four problems. We do not want birth. Therefore, human beings have created so many programs for birth control, such as abortion or contraception. We do not want old age. Therefore the health food business is flourishing. They are promising, "Eat this grass, eat these sprouts, take these vitamins, and you will remain young, healthy and beautiful." But of course no amount of vitamins or sprouts can keep us young. So it is just another business. We are struggling to remain young, but we are becoming old, and old age brings disease. In old age we cannot see, hear, digest or even sleep. Old age is a warning that one has to die.

Trying to Escape the Influence of Time

Science, technology, politics, economics, art, music and poetry are all aiming at counteracting these four problems, but Bhagavad-gita says that these problems cannot be counteracted by material arrangements, however sophisticated they may be. No one can escape the influence of time, which imposes old age, disease and death upon even the most powerful politician, scientist or businessman. Recently we saw the killing of the powerful leader Anwar Sadat. Before that, John Lennon was killed. Napoleon was killed, Alexander was killed, Hitler was killed. There is no example in history of anyone who has lived forever. Everyone has died. And every one of us in this room will also die. We find the whole world over that although we are destined to die, either today or tomorrow or after one hundred years, no one is making any preparation for death. Everyone is foolishly preparing to live and enjoy life, as if he were going to live forever. This is called ignorance. This is called maya (illusion). We are working as if we were going to be here for all time with our friends, family, countrymen, money and our position. We are ignoring the real fact that we have to become old men and women, become diseased and die.

Enlightenment through Knowledge

Vedic literatures are giving us enlightenment in the form of knowledge--especially knowledge of our spiritual identity as eternal servants of Krishna. It is the duty of the human being to pursue a life of self-realization. That is the purpose of this human form of life. A human being is different from an animal, because a human being has powerful intelligence and developed consciousness many, many times more than even the most intelligent animal. Therefore, to pursue the animal necessities--eating, sleeping, defending and mating--and neglecting self-realization, is a great misfortune. The animals only have one consideration: how to maintain themselves by finding food, by finding shelter, by defending themselves, and by begetting children through sex. But a human being should not waste his time all the days of his life just looking for food, shelter and sex, like the lower animals. A human being should try to understand his real position regarding his eternal relationship with God. That is the distinguishing characteristic of civilized human beings--that they are making spiritual advancement.

Instead of Worshipping God, They Think of Making Machines

People are now so fallen and degraded that not only do they not make any spiritual advancement, but they cannot even make material advancement. They do not even have enough to eat and a place to sleep. The reason for this defect in human society is that the people have become godless. Everywhere we find that the leaders are godless. Instead of worshipping God and in this way becoming prosperous, they are thinking of making machines to make life more comfortable and enjoyable. This is another feature of maya (illusion). We cannot live here for more than a few years, but human beings are working hard, day and night, trying to improve their eating, sleeping, defending and sex enjoyment. Modern men are wasting their time, trying to make improvements in life by inventing time-saving devices. In this way, they spend all their time trying to save time by creating machines and other kinds of sense gratificatory paraphernalia. No one thinks that he has to die and leave everything behind. We do not know where we came from. We do not know at death where we have to go. We are just thinking of this temporary material body and how to maintain it forever. We are completely indifferent to the fact that no one has been able to maintain his body in the past and that in the present no one is able to maintain himself. Similarly, in the future no one will be able to do so.

Gismos that Drain Your Energy

Krishna consciousness begins when we become thoughtful--"What am I? Where have I come from? Where am I going? Why am I suffering? What is this material creation? What is God? What is my relationship with God?" This is really all a human being has to do in life. He has nothing else to do. He can get food and clothing and a place to sleep. That is actually very easy. But because no one knows the purpose of life, no one is satisfied with the food which is provided for him through nature's arrangement. Especially in this country it is easy to produce food, but instead of producing food, people want to produce calculators, automobiles, televisions, tape recorders, airplanes, skyscrapers, liquor and cigarettes. All these things are unnecessary for understanding the purpose of human life. In fact, they simply drain our vital energy and leave us bewildered and frustrated, and thus we miss the golden opportunity to become Krishna conscious. They actually spoil our life.

Changing Bodies is Painful

If we actually want to be happy, we have to learn the science of the soul, the science of Krishna consciousness. This body is simply a dress, which the soul is wearing for a few years. When this bodily dress is worn out, we will discard it, and according to our consciousness at the time of death, we shall get another dress. But this changing of dresses, or changing bodies, is very painful and unnatural. Because we are eternal by nature, we want eternal happiness. We do not like temporary life. We want permanent life, but we do not know how to get it.

Everyone is Qualified

Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Vedic literatures give us the science of self-realization, popularly known as yoga. There are various types of yoga: jñana-yoga, karma-yoga, ashtanga-yoga, hatha-yoga and bhakti-yoga. The word yoga means linking or connecting. The yoga process teaches us how to connect with God, Krishna. It is a standard process, which has been practiced for hundreds of thousands of years. It is practical for everyone, be he rich or poor, learned or foolish, American or Filipino, black man or white man. Yoga practice can be learned by anyone. Anyone can make himself fit to go home, back to Godhead, if he is prepared to follow the rules and regulations of the standard yoga system. The yoga system is not for improving our health or peace of mind. Yoga helps us to get out of this material world.

Material Existence Cannot Be Improved

Material existence cannot be improved; it should be abandoned. That is the real program for human beings--to learn the science of Krishna consciousness and prepare one's self to go home, back to Godhead, where life is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss.

It doesn't cost anything, and you can practice Krishna consciousenss anywhere, either in the temple, at home, in your office or in your factory. Wherever you may find yourself, you can begin this program of preparing yourself to go home, back to Godhead, by chanting the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare and by following the four principles of spiritual life, which include abstaining from the eating of meat, fish and eggs. These things are not meant for human consumption, because wherever there is meat eating, there is the unnecessary violence of mercilessly killing animals in the slaughterhouse. That is sinful and has to be stopped. Fruits, vegetables, grains, sugar, milk and nuts are the basic items from which so many nice things can be prepared. This is the human diet. The taking of intoxication of all sorts must be stopped. This includes drinking, smoking or other types of intoxication like marijuana or LSD. Just give it up. As soon as you stop taking intoxication and eating meat, immediately you will feel naturally joyful and high. Everyone wants to feel intoxicated and joyful, but real joyfulness is becoming pure. When you purify your existence, you will feel real joy and real pleasure. Illicit sex also must be given up. Either you can be married and be responsible for a wife, or remain brahmachari (celibate student). Not this boyfriend/girlfriend, every day another sex partner. This is for animals. The animals are just running in the street. When one dog sees another dog, they have sex. Then he runs to another dog and another and another. This is animal life. Human beings are supposed to control their senses, especially regarding sex. Gambling should also be avoided. These are the four regulative principles: no meat eating, no intoxication, no illicit sex, no gambling. As soon as you accept these four principles, you will become pure. You will become happy, peaceful and besides that, you will save money. Your whole life will then change automatically. Automatically you will see this world as it is--not at all nice, but actually a miserable place, where everyone is suffering in different ways.

Chant Hare Krishna, follow the four regulative principles, and read Bhagavad-gita, read Krishna's words and try to understand this philosophy. Go to the temple, see the Deity, make an offering, even if it's just a small flower or a fruit, or just sweep the floor, or take prasadam. In this way, prepare yourself to go back home, back to Godhead. That is the purpose of this life. Take advantage of it; don't misuse it. Don't waste it pursuing some trivial sense enjoyment--smoking, drinking or sex life. These things in a few years will all fade away. When a man gets old, he cannot enjoy sex life. When a woman gets old, no one wants her. Nobody cares for an old woman. In this way, all of us, although we are quite young, healthy and handsome, will all become old, useless and rejected. So before old age overtakes us, we should become fixed in Krishna consciousness. It is a very easy process. It is joyful, and it is very important. Hare Krishna.

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Hansadutta das
Rittvik Representative of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Trustee, BHAKTIVEDANTA BOOK TRUST
WORLD SANKIRTAN PARTY


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