“Those with the vision of eternity can see that the soul is transcendental, eternal, and beyond the modes of nature. Despite contact with the material body, O Arjuna, the soul neither does anything nor is entangled.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.32)
Due to rapid advancements in technology, which include the internet and its accompanying popularity, the encyclopedia sets aren’t as widely used anymore. Though their sales aren’t what they used to be, what if you could sift through those many volumes and absorb every piece of information presented. You would become a human encyclopedia, able to quickly reference information on pretty much any topic. But according to those who are enlightened about the workings of the subtlest science, whose operation takes place in the background unseen to the naked eye, that knowledge wouldn’t be worth much. The spirit soul is the essence of identity, and without knowing both body and soul and their relationship to one another, how can the proper end be achieved?
“So people who read the encyclopedia inside and out are stupid? What about doctors who know about medicine? They save lives with their knowledge and skill. Lawyers help the innocent defend themselves from wrongful attack, and teachers instruct their students on the basic skills necessary for holding down a job later on in life.” The encyclopedia example is one, but what if we applied the same principle to something more modern like the internet news sites. What if every day you could have all the information ready to be published on internet and blog sites fed into your brain? Would you have perfect knowledge?
Of course the real issue is what to do with all that information. The occupational duties of the professional who is knowledgeable about their field is one way to make use of the information absorbed, but the limits of time and space are always there. The essence of identity is actually not limited by these factors. The spirit soul is transcendental to the changes of the body, which occur throughout life automatically. At the time of death, the subtle elements of mind, intelligence and false ego carry the soul to its next destination, sort of like the passing of a sweet aroma through the unlimited space.
This information and much more about the spiritual science is presented in the Bhagavad-gita, the most famous and profound scriptural work emanating from the area today known as India. Just as with the encyclopedia and news examples, we can ask the same question relating to what knowing about the soul and body can actually do for somebody. Whether I am knowledgeable about reincarnation or not will have no impact on its operation. Ah, but there is something we can do. From knowledge of the body and soul comes the ability to charter a course in life that reaches a destination where reincarnation is absent, where the soul is freed from a body that is bewildered into taking worthless information to be worthwhile.
The Vedas deal only with real knowledge because under ideal circumstances, no other type of education is necessary. For instance, if one has a plot of land, some cows and a humble dwelling to call home, what need is there for education? The offspring can pick up the tools of the trade just by watching the elders, and general morality and obligation can be learned the same way. Love and affection don’t have to be taught; so the future generations can live peacefully, have enough food, and not worry about taxing their brains.
Indeed, in the “advanced” modern age, slowly but surely that rural lifestyle was pushed aside in favor of a more “enlightened” approach, where new generations of family members would attend college for the first time and enter the workforce in the cities. With this model education became a necessity, a requirement for being able to earn a living, which would in turn put food on the table. The topics discussed in educational circles ideally allow students to develop a skill that will help them be valuable to a firm that sells a good or service for a profit. In some cases the enlightened student can start their own business if they so choose, operating on the principles instructed to them during the prior period of education.
In the Vedic scriptures you will not find information on how to get a job. The earth and its many seeds solve the food problem. Growing crops and harvesting them at the appropriate time isn’t too complicated, and surely it is not as important as the meaning of life, the reason for being placed on this earth. The concepts of fruitive activity, sense enjoyment and mental speculation are the abstracted versions of what we think to be variety in information. The news sites and encyclopedias deal only with information about these three topics, but the presence of the soul and what it needs for a better condition are not addressed.
In the beginning of the Gita we learn that the living entity is not the body. The body changes all the time, from boyhood to youth to old age. Just as a person gives up old garments in favor of new ones, at the time of death the departing spirit soul discards one body in favor of a new one to be given at the time of the next birth. The soul is the superior entity; it is the spark of life. We know that life is present when there is autonomous growth. In the degraded mindset where sex life is sought out without any concern for repercussions, the debate over whether a fetus is a life is introduced. This is a silly notion, for if the fetus weren’t a living being, there would be no need to abort it. In the same way, the trees and plants are living because we know that as soon as we cut them down, they start to decay, just as the human body does when the soul exits.
The soul thus proves to be the only ingredient necessary to have life. The material elements are an after thought, as some living beings are extremely tiny and others large. The soul’s position transcendental to the body is important to know because through the playing field that is material nature the proper destination can be reached. Think of it like having a car to take you places. The car does not represent your identity. You can sell it at any time in favor of a new one. You can even get rid of it and use other modes of transportation, such as walking.
Nevertheless, the car’s separate identity does not automatically make it useless. If you utilize the car to take you places that will benefit you, it is worth having. Similarly, the spirit soul’s temporary body serves as the vehicle for interaction with nature. Under the proper guidelines put forth by the Vedas and their sincere followers and teachers, the soul can direct the body towards those activities which are supremely beneficial for not only this life, but also the next.
The knowledge of the soul and body ideally steers the living being towards bhakti-yoga, the summit of activity. In yoga there is both the restriction of sense interaction and a meeting of two spiritual entities. The individual spirit resides within the body alongside the Supreme Spirit. The Supreme Spirit is not visible, so He is sometimes described as nirguna [without qualities]. To show what the Supreme Spirit really looks like and what He is capable of, the original feature of the Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead known as Bhagavan, appears in select places and gives His association.
Since Bhagavan is Absolute, His instruction is as good as His association. Especially when that instruction comes directly from Him and is remembered as such, as soon as the student sincerely hears that information they are automatically associating with Bhagavan. In the Bhagavad-gita, the Supreme Soul revealed Himself to a distressed warrior who had temporarily forgotten the distinction between matter and spirit. Arjuna, the leading warrior for the Pandavas, only forgot about the science of self-realization for a moment, but more unfortunate is the majority of the population of the Kali Yuga who has never heard this information.
The Bhagavad-gita is a collection of verses describing how Krishna reminded His dear friend Arjuna of the meaning of life, the difference between the two souls residing within the body, and how one can go about acting without being materially attached. The Gita, now available to the world through the efforts of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and his disciples, provides Krishna’s association through His instruction. The pearls of wisdom coming from the Gita cannot be found anywhere else in the same format. In the past it took a lifetime of penance and austerity, detachment from material sense gratification and mental speculation, to reach the same point of enlightenment that Arjuna was able to find through Krishna’s direct instruction.
Now that same information is available to anyone who is sincerely interested in hearing about it. Without knowing that you are spirit and not matter how will you ever find the right path in life? If you don’t know that the spirit soul doesn’t have to suffer through reincarnation, how will you ever decide to follow the spiritual path in earnest? 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”. The benefits of bhakti are not exclusive to those following Vedic traditions. Any name of God chanted with faith, love and determination will bring the enlightenment necessary to eschew the material path that is filled with so many sinful activities, like meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex.
But if one is unsure about which name to chant, why not take Krishna’s name? Why not give recitation of the maha-mantra a try and see if you are better off for it? For starters, just by chanting for a brief period of time the feverish material existence around you goes on pause. This means that there is immediately some peace of mind for as long as the chanting continues. The food problem, the economic problem, and the enjoyment problem don’t require high knowledge to be solved. In the past people lived just fine without rapid information transfer. They did okay without television and internet, for the human brain will always seek out a pleasurable condition. The real aim of life is to transcend the temporary and seek the permanent, that which is similar in quality to the soul, the essence of identity. Bhagavan Shri Krishna is intimately familiar with the soul’s properties, so He provides instructions aimed only at benefiting the individual in the long run. Absorbing Krishna’s words, holding on to them as the most valuable information, leads the soul within the heart towards transcendental ecstasy.
For enlightenment know both body and soul,
Otherwise your knowledge filled with holes.
The body is your vehicle with which to act,
Amazing abilities from it you can extract.
If coupled with this the soul you know,
Then can find proper direction in which to go.
Bhagavad-gita is for knowledge the primary source,
Learn pearls of wisdom from this sacred discourse.
Chant Krishna again and again, though any name is fine,
From Bhagavan’s association sweet happiness to find.