“The human form is a special gift of material nature in the course of her enforcing stringent laws of miseries upon the living being. It is a chance to achieve the highest boon of life, namely to get out of the entanglement of repeated birth and death. The intelligent take care of this important gift by strenuously endeavoring to get out of the entanglement.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.16.9 Purport)
For those having grown up recently, there was a time when big purple dinosaurs could provide entertainment for hours on end. Indeed, one could watch the same animated film over and over again and not be bored in the least bit. The sound of the ice cream truck coming down the street would bring thrills and excitement, and the prospect of eating candy on Halloween was well anticipated. With adults, however, the activities and interests are different. Why is this? Why can’t a person go their whole life enjoying the same pursuits and interests? Why must there be advancement in terms of occupation? The reason for the shift is the development of the consciousness. The more intelligent a person gets, the more they abandon previous activities that were reserved for those with less intelligence. As the human form of life is the most auspicious, the highest state of intelligence within that form also has a corresponding set of activities. The highest discipline is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, and once the intelligent person reaches the state in life where bhakti is adopted wholeheartedly, every other engagement, even instruction on a subject taught by the scholarly professors in academia, becomes dull and tasteless, like the childhood cartoons and activities that were abandoned at the turn into adulthood.
Wouldn’t it be great to be easily pleased? For the child, running around a playground is the source of endless fun. Your parents let you go, and you run around until you can’t anymore. You play on the swings, the monkey bars, the slides and in the sandbox for hours on end. In between eating and sleeping, you follow other enjoyments like watching television and reading children’s stories. Why can’t the fun last forever? For the child there is no concern over impending death, scorned love, or how to pay the bills. If anything, the biggest worry is over why there must be rules and regulations imposed.
We see that as education increases, as further knowledge about life around us is acquired, the childhood enjoyments are steadily renounced. Instead of eating sweets by the bowlful, there is regulation imposed in eating. A balanced diet, consisting of vegetables, grains and proteins is followed so that health can be maintained to a satisfactory level. Knowledge of mathematics, science, geography, reading and writing is gathered to be able to earn a living as an adult. With financial independence comes the relief over how and where to procure life’s necessities. All of these concerns are absent in children, as they do not have the intelligence to understand the finer points of life.
Though higher education focuses on topics not studied by children, there is still another level to be ascended to. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, describe animal life as consisting of eating, sleeping, mating and defending. This is true in both child animals and adult ones. In the human form, the penchant for these activities is introduced at the time of birth. The human child is actually not much more intelligent than the mature animal. Therefore when education does take place, the real area of concern should be on how to transcend the four primary animal instincts.
For this to happen, there must be a corresponding set of instructions, teachings and pearls of wisdom that target those who want to reach the full potential for activity found within the soul. In fact, full allegiance to eating, sleeping, mating and defending can only take place when intelligence has not yet fully developed. This is similar to how children enjoy television programs and movies that adults would never want to sit through. Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers are meant for very young children, for even elementary school students and teenagers would never think of watching such programs.
To dedicate life to repetitive activities like drinking wine, eating sumptuous food cooked for one’s sense gratification and enjoying illicit sex in abundance, one must remain ignorant of the eternal nature of the soul, its marginal position with respect to the two primary energies, and how it is inherently linked to the Supreme Soul, or God. With children we want them to mature and get a good education so that they can advance beyond childhood activities. Otherwise we would just tell them to remain children their whole lives and enjoy material amenities without cessation. Education is therefore given for a reason. With advancement in intellect come new activities.
For the mature human being looking to go past the immature activities that imitate the animals, there is bhakti-yoga. Yoga is the linking of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. Yoga studios and classes are popular because they instruct students on how to use gymnastics postures and breathing exercises to curb the influence of the senses. Our troubles in life are caused by the senses, for the consciousness is actually the key to happiness. As an example, by eating too much, we get diseases and discomfort in the stomach. But overeating is simply the result of the influence of the senses, which can be controlled by the mind. Therefore a consciousness that is fully purified can make proper decisions in life that lead to favorable conditions.
“From whatever and wherever the mind wanders due to its flickering and unsteady nature, one must certainly withdraw it and bring it back under the control of the Self.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.26)
Gymnastics yoga helps to limit the influence of the senses; thus it provides health benefits. Aside from being very difficult to practice perfectly in the modern age, this type of yoga is incomplete, for it does not address the needs of the soul. Once the influence of the urges of eating, sleeping and sex life have been curbed, the soul needs an active engagement, something to do. The educated adult is given a degree to show their completion of specific courses, but after graduation they need an occupation to make use of their skills.
Bhakti is the corresponding set of activities for the liberated soul, he who wants to make use of liberation from the influence of the senses. Unlike yoga with gymnastics, bhakti-yoga is a fulltime engagement, one which directly addresses the consciousness. The quintessential act of bhakti is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Krishna is the word for God that means “all-attractive” and Rama means “He who gives transcendental pleasure to others”. The secret with chanting this mantra is the effect it has on consciousness. What we hear plays a major role in our thought processes. If we hear about sumptuous food, fine restaurants and beautiful women, our mind will be turned over to those areas. Similarly, if we hear about God, our mind will be transported to the spiritual realm, the place where there are no such things as education and development of consciousness. Temporary situations and growth cycles are only present in a land devoid of God’s personal association.
This is where the marginal position of the individual soul comes into play. Each one of us has a choice as to where we want to live. If we want temporary association with matter, we get to live in the material world. Here there are different species and corresponding levels of intelligence. The pig has a certain type of behavior, as does the dog. The human considers the pig’s activities low and base, disgusting behavior that should never be imitated.
In a similar fashion, the spirit souls in the Lord’s company consider the choice for association with matter to be the incorrect one. Therefore the souls in the spiritual world have the perfect consciousness, intelligence at its highest capacity. Their activities correspond with their level of intelligence. They spend their time constantly chanting Krishna’s glories, thinking of His beautiful form, worshiping both He and His servants, and never forgetting Him for even a moment.
Through chanting, hearing is automatically created for the sincere individual looking to choose in favor of spiritual life. With constant hearing of Krishna’s names, the consciousness gradually elevates to the point where the animalistic activities previously patronized become dull and tasteless. Indeed, constant indulgence in intoxication, gambling, meat eating and the like can only take place when consciousness isn’t fully developed. Therefore whoever teaches that life’s ultimate aim is to find these activities in abundance does not know the real mission for the human being. Any person they teach will remain dedicated to activities reserved for the immature.
Through humbly approaching a spiritual master, one who lives only in pure goodness, or shudda-sattva, the necessary elevation can take place. Krishna has not been so unkind as to leave everyone in the dark about His glorious nature. He gave us the original Vedas, which were followed by supplementary literature like the Ramayana, Puranas, Mahabharata and many other books and poems. Those who take these works for what they are, treatises on spirituality that are actually not different from Krishna Himself, will be able to make full use of them.
On the flip side, those who look at these works as mythology or subjects of only scholarly relevance will never be able to derive the full benefit. It’s similar to how a young child can never understand the value of something like an ancient painting or expensive vase. Children are told to keep away from valuable decorations in the house because they will never appreciate them. A child has no idea what expensive even means, for they have never earned a living. Therefore if such valuable items were to be placed into their hands, the items could get damaged or destroyed. The appreciation for the object itself would diminish as well.
Similarly, the scholars lacking any devotion to God who write commentaries on the Bhagavad-gita and try to explain them using their personal worldviews lead themselves and their readers astray. Vedic wisdom is the most valuable commodity in this world, and it should be treated as such. The spiritual master, or guru, understands this fact. He doesn’t just disclose Krishna’s teachings to anyone. He first assesses whether someone will be able to understand the concepts and accept Krishna with the proper attitude. Even in the translations and commentaries authored by the spiritual master, the subject matter remains far above the heads of the mundane scholars and non-devotees. In fact, the guru makes sure to address all bogus philosophies and commentaries that are in existence, so as to convince the open-minded person of the validity of the right teachers and the unworthiness of the unauthorized commentaries.
Becoming an adult shouldn’t be a bad thing. Though it’s more difficult to find enjoyment and entertainment, the source of the increased difficulty is an increased intelligence. As intelligence shouldn’t be harmful, the ascendency in consciousness is completely worth it, as being a child for all your life doesn’t really help the plight of the soul any. Correspondingly, for the adult human being remaining attached to matter doesn’t stop the cycle of birth and death, or reincarnation. If there is not a distinguishable choice made in favor of association with spirit by the time death arrives, the soul is placed into a material body again in the next life. Thus the development from childhood to boyhood to adulthood must start again.
“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.5)
From the Bhagavad-gita, we learn directly from Krishna that anyone who thinks of the Lord at the time of death doesn’t have to take birth again. To think of God while we’re quitting our body requires practice in remembering Him in our everyday life. To practice remembering, one must become a student and follower of bhakti-yoga. Otherwise there will be no chance of Krishna consciousness being fully developed by the end of life. Though immersion in bhakti is aided by renunciation from sinful behavior, by steadily increasing our knowledgebase of both Krishna and His energies, all of the previous activities regularly performed will eventually be viewed as dull and lifeless. Just because they were enjoyable before doesn’t mean that they should continue perpetually. The most valuable human form of life is the reward for having spent many lifetimes in inferior species. By trying to understand Krishna, or the personal nature of God, and following the discipline that corresponds to the highest level of intelligence, we can find our way back into the spiritual world’s welcoming arms.
In youth amusement from simplest things you will find,
But as you grow up, to follow same behavior you will mind.
Adult adopts activities which to their intellect does match,
Watching children’s programs and movies them you will never catch.
In same way, advanced is the human being,
To find higher pleasure is life worth living.
Eating, sleeping, mating and defending animals do follow,
If human imitates this, in despair and pity will they wallow.
Of identity in everyone the soul is the essence,
Being is alive only when graced with spirit’s presence.
Education in animal behavior does waste time,
Higher taste is the human being meant to find.
That topmost engagement is bhakti, divine love,
Just one requirement, God you must always think of.
Chant the name of Krishna, the Lord who is all-attractive,
At purifying consciousness this is most effective.
Follow service to someone you must, futile is resistance,
So make bhakti your way of life, taste the fruit of existence.