Imagining the Downside of Immortality
New York Times – STEPHEN CAVE – Aug 27, 2011
IMAGINE nobody dies. All of a sudden, whether through divine intervention or an elixir slipped into the water supply, death is banished. Life goes on and on; all of us are freed from fear that our loved ones will be plucked from us, and each of us is rich in the most precious resource of all: time.
Wouldn’t it be awful? Go to story
excerpt from The Journey of Self-Discovery, spoken in August, 1973, on Krishna Janmastami at Bhaktivedanta Manor:
In the Bhagavad-gita [4.9] Krishna says,
janma karma cha me divyam
evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
naiti mam eti so ’rjuna
“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.”
It is a fact that we can stop our repeated births and deaths and achieve the state of immortality. But the modern civilization—our great philosophers, great politicians, and great scientists—they have no idea that it is possible to attain the stage of amritatvam, immortality. We are all amrita, deathless, immortal. In the Bhagavad-gita [2.20] it is said, na jayate mriyate va kadachit: We living entities—we never die and never take birth. Ajo nityah shashvato ’yam purano na hanyate hanyamane sharire. Every one of us—we are primeval and eternal, without beginning and without end. And after the annihilation of this body, we do not die. But when the body is finished, we will have to accept another body:
dehino ’smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
dhiras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.” [Bhagavad-gita 2.13]
At the present moment, all over the world people are lacking knowledge of this simple thing: that all of us living entities are part and parcel of Lord Krishna—that like Krishna, we are eternal, we are blissful, and we are cognizant. Krishna is described in the Vedic literatures:
ishvarah paramah krishnah
anadir adir govindah
“Krishna, who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body. He is the origin of all, but He has no origin, for He is the prime cause of all causes.” [Brahma-samhita 5.1]
When I say Krishna, that means “God.” It is sometimes said, “God has no name.” That’s a fact. But God’s name is given by His activities. For instance, Krishna accepted sonship to Maharaja Nanda and Yashodamayi and also to Vasudeva and Devaki. Of course, no one is actually the father or mother of Krishna, because Krishna is the original father of everyone. But when Krishna comes here, when He makes His advent, He accepts certain exalted devotees as His father, as His mother.
Still, Krishna is adi-purusham, the original person. Then must Krishna be very old? No. Nava-yauvanam cha: Always a fresh youth. That is Krishna. When Krishna was on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, He was just like a boy of twenty years or, at most, twenty-four years. But at that time He had great-grandchildren. So Krishna is always a youth. These are the statements of the Vedic literatures.
But if we simply read the Vedic literatures as a formality, it will be very difficult to understand what Krishna is—although all the Vedas are meant for understanding Krishna. In the Bhagavad-gita [15.15] Krishna says, vedaish cha sarvair aham eva vedyah: “By all the Vedas it is I who am to be known.” What is the use of studying the Vedas if you do not understand Krishna? The ultimate goal of education is to understand the Supreme Lord, the supreme father, the supreme cause. As it is said in the Vedanta-sutra, athato brahma jijñasa: “Now—in the human form of life—is the time to discuss the Supreme Absolute Truth, Brahman.”
And what is this Brahman? Janmady asya yatah [Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.1]. Brahman is the one from whom everything emanates. So science and philosophy mean finding out the ultimate cause of everything. And this we are getting from the Vedic literature—that Krishna is sarva-karana-karanam [Bs. 5.1], the cause of all causes. Just try to understand. For instance, I am caused by my father; my father is caused by his father; he is caused by his father, who is caused by his father… In this way, if you go on searching, then you’ll ultimately come to someone who is the cause that has no cause. Anadir adir govindah: [Bs. 5.1] The cause that has no cause is Govinda—Krishna. I may be the cause of my son, but at the same time I am the result of another cause (my father). But the Vedic literatures say that Krishna is the original person; He has no cause. That is Krishna.
Therefore Krishna says, “Just try to learn about the transcendental nature of My advent and activities.” The advent of Krishna—it is a very important thing. We should try to understand Krishna, why He makes His advent, why He comes down to this material world, what His business is, what His activities are. If we simply try to understand Krishna, then what will be the result? The result will be tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti so ’rjuna: [Bg. 4.9] we will get immortality.
The aim of life is amritatvaya kalpate, to achieve immortality. So today, on the advent of Krishna, we shall try to understand the philosophy of Krishna.