“It is by great fortune that one comes to Krishna consciousness on the path of bhakti-yoga to become well situated according to the Vedic direction.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 6.47 Purport)
“Time to try on new clothes. So many different kinds are here, so which set will be the best one to wear?” When in these scenarios, will we select something twice our recommended size? What about the clothes that are too small? Obviously only the perfect fit will suffice, for otherwise the stated objective can’t be reached. Whether it’s to look good or finish some work, the clothes must properly match our bodily dimensions to maximize comfort. In the bigger picture, the human form of body can be considered the best fit for the spirit soul looking to release its unlimited potential for divine love.
How do we know that this potential exists? And why the qualification of “divine”? Does not the animal love? Dogs and cats are known to be affectionate towards their significant others and family members, so how can we deny their potential for love? To understand the uniqueness of the human form, imagine having only a spoon to use to cut your food. What if someone gave us a fork to eat our soup? These objects are mismatches, so we won’t be able to accomplish what we want. The tools may be useful, but they don’t fit the particular situation, the task that requires completion. In the same manner, every type of material body has some value, some utility, but not all of them allow for the constitutional activities of the soul to take place uninhibited.
What is the difference between constitutional activities and non-constitutional ones? The distinction is rooted in situation – time, circumstance and objective. A person playing baseball has the constitutional activity of catching, throwing and hitting a baseball. If they were to show up in a soccer uniform, their ability to play baseball would be hindered. If you showed up to a soccer match with a tennis racket, the extra weight in your hand would only slow you down as you ran up and down the field.
The spirit soul is the essence of identity, the spark of life if you will. As a tiny spark, the soul can have many different homes. The living entity is therefore called sarva-ga, which means he can travel to every destination there is. A human being must live inside a home, a fish inside of water, a bird on a tree, and a tiger in the jungle, but the living entity in general can actually be placed anywhere. The same identifying aspect is present within every life form. One individual spirit soul can find a destination in the sky, water, earth, or even deep within the ground, like where the worms and ants live.
If we, being spirit soul, can live anywhere, where is the best place to go? For the human being not fully God conscious, being unaware of their spiritual identity, the most pleasant home is that place where amusements and delights can be found in great abundance. As this usually comes from good association, any place where friends and family can be found becomes the most pleasant destination. One person’s friends and family may not be located in the same place as another’s; therefore it is impossible to say that a single area’s pleasantness applies universally, across every single human being.
Upon further abstraction, we see that it is the spirit soul which seeks pleasure. The soul is blissful by nature, wherefore it seeks ananda. It is also eternal and in full knowledge. These last two aspects are little difficult to perceive on our own. After all, we know that birth and death mark the beginning and end points of a person’s existence. Sort of like cutting out a segment from a timeline, the person’s lifetime is determined by the amount of time elapsed between birth and death. Where they were before birth and where they end up after death are both mysteries that can’t be uncovered by the naked eye. Because of this deficiency, to understand that the spirit soul is eternal is a little difficult at first.
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)
The Bhagavad-gita, India’s treasured treatise on spirituality, dissipates some of the fogginess. It’s difficult to understand that the soul of the living being existed prior to the current birth and that it will continue to remain vibrant after death, but these relevant facts can be revealed by observing the outward changes to a living entity. From the time of birth, the body constantly morphs, yet the identity of the individual does not. The baby is completely different in shape, behavior and intelligence than the same person as an adult, yet the identifiable aspect within does not undergo change. We don’t consider the baby and the adult of the same being to be two different people.
Reincarnation, or the transmigration of the soul, is best perceived through observing the changing body. As soon as there is death, another body type is assumed by the same living entity. This also means that prior to the current birth there was a different body type assumed, sort of like putting on and taking off clothes. The clothes analogy works nicely because it also accounts for the variety in behavior. Some people are known to be quick to acquire intelligence, learn instruction and follow a specific path that is otherwise deemed difficult. Others are perpetually in darkness and misery, finding difficulties in every turn in life. The differences are due to the body type assumed, which has accompanying material qualities. In Sanskrit these qualities are known as gunas, which can also translate to “ropes”. A rope is useful in specific situations, but if it should happen to be tightly wrapped around our body against our will, we would be severely limited in our autonomous movement.
We might be tempted to say that the person tied up with ropes couldn’t do anything, but that is not the case. While bound up they could still think, hear, see, and make observations with the brain. Their consciousness would still be there, which means that the body and its movement are not the determining factors in the vibrancy of the living entity. As long as consciousness is present, there is life. Since the consciousness comes from the soul, the body of the living being does not form its identity; the soul does.
The body types of the lower species can be likened to forms that are tied with ropes. The tree is a living entity, but it cannot move. Though it lives in the same spot for many, many years, no one would dare consider the tree more advanced than the human being. In the theory of evolution, fitness is measured by survivability. Species are considered evolved if they can better adapt to their environment. Adaptation refers to the ability to survive in the specific conditions. Surviving means staying alive. In that case, the tree doesn’t have to adapt at all; it can remain alive through every season, sometimes standing still for thousands of years. Simply by observing the tree, the measurement of fitness in the theory of evolution is invalidated, as living longer is not always better.
When presented the choice, would a human being rather remain tied up with ropes for one hundred years or go about enjoying life without ropes for fifty years? As most would choose the latter, we see that living long is not the ideal measure of advancement. Rather, the ability to exercise one’s natural qualities, which come from the soul, is what determines auspiciousness in conditions. The individual’s inherent qualities cannot come from the body type inherited; this body can only dampen qualities. The lamp that is shining brightly is the source of light in a room, even when a shade is covering it. Some shades may let out more light than others, but never, at any time, does the shade itself become the source of the light.
In living beings, the spirit soul is the spark of life, and the body types assumed can only hamper the soul’s exhibition of its natural dharma, or inherent characteristics. Within any species, the soul’s primary dharma is the desire to serve, which is based on love. In the human species, where the ropes of material qualities are the loosest, the serving propensity is evidenced in every activity. Even in the wealthiest individuals, those with billions of dollars in net worth, eventually there comes a time when guilt sets in, where happiness is no longer found through the accumulation of more money. At that time, the wealthy person turns to philanthropy, desiring to serve their fellow man. If serving is beneficial after you have satisfied your senses with money, then surely it is just as beneficial for those who forgo that passionate pursuit from the beginning.
The human body is the best fit for the conditioned living entity – he who travels through the endless spiral of reincarnation – because it brings the best opportunity for consciousness to be fully developed. We send children to school because from past experience we know that if a child is educated properly and thoroughly, they can grow up to be wise adults, capable of staying self-sufficient and making a beneficial contribution to society.
Since consciousness can be developed, its development should be aimed in the proper direction. This is where bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, comes in. Religion without philosophy is sentiment, and philosophy without religion is mental speculation. Therefore to find the real fruit of existence, we need to combine both philosophy and sentiment to give us real religion. Bhakti-yoga fits in perfectly, for it already incorporates reincarnation, the position of the soul, the inhibiting influence of material nature, and the need to love.
The right sentiment is introduced when the ideal beneficiary of service is identified. Not surprisingly, that person is God, whom most of the world knows in some way. Even if God is not known or His existence vehemently denied, He is honored and worshiped through His form of nature. The wealthy person honoring money shows respect to God in some way, for the Lord is the original proprietor. Every person acknowledges a higher force, so each person’s understanding of God correlates with the recognized influence of that higher power.
God is known as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, or Bhagavan, in the Vedic tradition, which gives us wonderful scriptures like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam. Bhagavan is the ultimate authority; He is the complete manifestation of everything honored in this world. He is the ideal beneficiary for the loving propensity of the spirit soul because He is inherently linked to every living entity. From one God came many spiritual sparks, like tiny children inheriting the qualities of their father to a lesser degree.
The Supreme Lord is known as Krishna because He is all-attractive. Acting like magnets, the tiny spiritual sparks traveling through reincarnation are inherently attracted to loving service to Krishna, but depending on the body type they assume, that inclination may be inhibited. The human being has the best opportunity for rekindling the dormant God consciousness resting within the heart. Divine love is awakened through acts of devotion, the most effective of which is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Chant Krishna’s names, hear the sound vibration that represents Him fully with your ears, and keep the vision of His sweet form that holds a flute and wears a peacock feather within your mind. Through properly conditioning consciousness you will find pleasure in any situation.
The best fit of the human body allows for devotion to continue uninterrupted and without motivation. As both interruption and motivation are negated, there is no chance of being taken away from the bhakti platform. How can any ropes tie down the devotee sincerely desirous of connecting with Krishna, who is the most powerful? Why would the Supreme Lord ever let His devotees be affected by outside influences when all they want is to think about Him, chant His glories, and hear about His activities?
In other species, other body types, the fit isn’t perfect; therefore the loving propensity gets directed to other areas. In the human species, the fit can also lead us in the wrong direction, but at least there is the opportunity for finding the right playing field, one whose properties match the constitutional qualities of the living entity. Just as the human body is the best fit for the spirit soul separated from Krishna’s company, the holy name is the perfect sound vibration for the tongue desirous of speaking and singing. Prasadam, the remnants of foodstuff offered first to Krishna, is the perfect fit for the taste buds of the tongue, and the vision of the Shri Vigraha [deity] is the perfect fit for the eyes which are desirous of staring at something beautiful. Using every sense to remain in Krishna consciousness, the perfect fit of a home, the spiritual world, is granted to the liberated soul at the time of death.
In shopping the keen purchaser clothes buys,
That match their dimensions, the perfect size.
Wrong fit brings pain and discomfort,
Wearing them not fun, enjoyment they hurt.
Living entity can take on many body types,
From gunas material conditions one must fight.
By ability to love God is fitness measured,
To chant holy name of Krishna that is treasured.
Thus for spirit soul human form is best fit,
Allows for reaching God after body quit.