“The Lord’s form is always youthful. Every limb and every part of His body is properly formed, free from defect. His eyes and lips are pinkish like the rising sun. He is always prepared to give shelter to the surrendered soul, and anyone so fortunate as to look upon Him feels all satisfaction. The Lord is always worthy to be the master of the surrendered soul, for He is the ocean of mercy.” (Narada Muni, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.8.46)
Becoming one of God’s servants is very easy to do. It can take one second, as in the case of Lord Hanuman, or it can take many many births. The famous book, the Bhagavad-gita, concludes with Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, telling His cousin and disciple, Arjuna, to abandon all varieties of religion and simply surrender unto Him. By so doing, one can be guaranteed of protection from all sinful reactions. This direction was given to Arjuna, but it applies to all living entities. Surrendering to God is the easiest way to achieve perfection in life but, for some reason, we living entities have a hard time fully surrendering unto the Lord. What gets in our way?
To answer this question properly, we must first investigate why we are put in the material world in the first place. The question of why we’re put on earth has been pondered by great theologians and philosophers since the beginning of time. The American television sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond, had an episode dedicated to this very question. A child on the show, Ally, asks her parents, Ray and Debra Barone, why God puts people on earth. The rest of the episode then focuses on finding an answer to the question. Since the show is meant to be funny, the actors handled the issue with a nice combination of seriousness and humor. In the end, they are unable to find a suitable answer to the question.
The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, actually provide the best answer to life’s most puzzling question. There are many religions in the world today, but the teachings of the Vedas represent the first religion on earth.
“I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.1)
According to Vedic information, our actual identities come from the spirit soul, aham brahmasmi. Our body is akin to an outfit, something that we put on, wear for a while, and then take off. The giving up of the body is what constitutes the event known as death. Yet through all these changes of the body, the soul remains intact. Consciousness at the time of death determines what type of body the soul will receive in the next life. If we live a life of sense gratification, with attachments to our activities, friends, family, and other possessions, we will naturally think of them when we are dying. The laws of karma thus dictate that we remain in the material world in the next life, forced to take birth again. This cycle of birth and death repeats ad infinitum until we are ready to return back to the spiritual world.
Though time and space are material concepts, the limits of which are inconceivable to the human mind, the Vedas do provide us information as to where we were before our first birth. Essentially, we come to the earth for the same reasons that we remain here. Wanting to pretend to be God, the spirit souls were allowed to come to this material world, which is governed by gunas (qualitative modes) and karma (fruitive activity or work). The original nature of the soul is to be God’s servant, but sometimes the soul wants to imitate God. That’s exactly what the human being is allowed to do while on earth.
God creates, and so do the human beings through sex life. God has an original form with hands, legs, and a face. Thus the living entity is also allowed to have similar features in the body of a human being. The difference between the material world and spiritual world is that the material world is temporary and full of miseries. The living entities falsely think themselves to be enjoyers. Thinking that we are the enjoyers is a false notion because we’re actually not in control of anything.
“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.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 3.27)
This entire material creation is but a small expansion of God’s energy. Living here, we are not God, but we pretend to be God-like. The living entities falsely think of themselves as purusha, or enjoyers. In actuality, we are prakriti, or the enjoyed. Who are we enjoyed by? God. Purusha is usually associated with the concept of spirit, and prakriti with matter. Matter is dull and incapable of acting on its own. When mixed with spirit, matter comes to life. Our material body is an example of this. After we die, our bodies are useless and start to decay. The body is only useful as long as there is a spirit soul residing within.
Though we are spirit in the sense that we control the matter that is our body, the ultimate spirit is God. Inside of every living entity exists two souls; the individual soul (jivatma), and the Supersoul (Paramatma). Paramatma is God’s expansion. The jivatma represents the Self, or our identity. Each jivatma can only reside in one body at a time. Due to this fact, we only have consciousness of our own life experiences. We suffer through our own pains and pleasures, but we are not conscious of the pains of others. We may be able to relate to the grief that others feel, but this is only through comparing their life experiences with our own. We don’t directly take part in the activities of other living entities. The Supersoul, however, exists within every living entity. This is a testimony to God’s greatness. He is conscious of every living entity.
The material disease means remaining ignorant of the presence of the Supersoul. This delusion then leads us to start thinking that we’re smarter than God. There is a class of transcendentalists known as the Mayavadis, who essentially preach atheism, using the Vedas as their justification. Mayavadis believe that originally everything belongs to Brahman, or God’s feature as the impersonal effulgence that covers the material world. These impersonalist philosophers study the Gita, but they don’t surrender unto Krishna. They either take the Lord to be an ordinary human being or an elevated form of Brahman. Their theory is that the Supreme Absolute Truth is formless, which essentially means that there is no God.
“Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.11)
Many of these Mayavadi philosophers are also very fond of studying many different religions, trying to find common ground amongst them. This analytical study leads them to concoct flawed theories such as Lord Krishna being merely a prophet, and not God Himself. The Bhagavad-gita is the Song of God. Many of the passages start out with the phrase shri bhagavan uvacha, which means “God said”. The word Bhagavan has special significance. It means one who possesses all fortunes, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Gita is also a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna. When describing God and His various potencies, Krishna uses the words “Me” and “Mine”. How can one then conclude that He is formless? Krishna is most certainly a person, and He is God Himself.
All these flawed theories come about due to man’s competition with God. Many people think they are smarter than the authors of the great Vedic texts. This mindset is very hard to break free of, and Krishna Himself states that it takes many many births for one to truly understand Him.
“Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 7.3)
It takes many births to understand God because it takes the experience of many lifetimes before one finally gives up their quest to surpass God in power. No matter what one’s material successes are, nature provides the great equalizer in the form of death. Yet still, since people have accumulated karma, they are forced to take birth again, forgetting the experiences of their previous lives. This is similar to how a boxer will continue to get up even after getting knocked down repeatedly. It is not until the living entity realizes the futility of even playing the game that he starts to head down the right path.
A person needs to be kicked really hard by material nature before they realize that they cannot be God. Once they give up this notion, they can then start to inquire as to what the meaning of life is. The famous Vedanta-sutras start off with the aphorism, athato-brahma-jijnasa, which means “Now is the time for inquiring about Brahman, or God.” Inquiring about God signals a very important step in the life of a human being. Simply having a sincere eagerness to know and understand God is sufficient enough to be successful. This is because once God sees our sincere desire, He will lead us in the right direction.
Though there are many different methods of transcendental realization, only one stands head and shoulders above the others. This method is bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. On a material level, bhakti-yoga is classified as a method of self-realization, but it is actually the eternal occupation of man. God exists to be our master, and we exist to be His servant. This is the natural order of things. All other self-realization techniques, such as jnana-yoga, hatha-yoga, and karma-yoga, are meant to eventually lead to bhakti, or pure love for God.
So how do we practice devotional service? In this age, it is very simple. We simply need to chant the Holy names of God as often as we can: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This mantra is most efficacious in this age, for it addresses God in a loving way. It’s basically saying, “God, I love You. Please let me always think of You, and let me always be Your servant.” There is no nicer prayer than this. It signifies complete surrender to God. Regularly chanting this mantra, without offenses, will solve any and all problems. This mantra helps us give up our false ego, and assume our real ego. The false ego leads us to think that we are God. The real ego reminds us that we are eternal surrendered servants of the Lord. Assuming this consciousness, we can easily return to the spiritual world and remain there forever.
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