“Without the Supreme Lord, there can be no profuse sunlight, moonlight, rainfall, breeze, etc., without which no one can live. Obviously, our life is dependent on supplies from the Lord. Even for our manufacturing enterprises, we require so many raw materials like metal, sulfur, mercury, manganese, and so many essentials – all of which are supplied by the agents of the Lord, with the purpose that we should make proper use of them to keep ourselves fit and healthy for the purpose of self-realization, leading to the ultimate goal of life, namely, liberation from the material struggle for existence.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 3.12 Purport)
“My allergies are really bothering me this season. Some years are worse than others. Last year, I was okay for the most part; just a few days here and there were severe. I’ll never forget that one day at work when I sneezed for seemingly the entire day. I couldn’t look at my monitor for more than a few seconds at a time. What the other people must have thought? It was very embarrassing, and this was my first day, too. What a way to start at a new place.
“I’m not as worried now because I can purchase medication that will help immensely. There are side effects, of course. I transform into a zombie-like state, where it is easier to fall asleep if I want to. The sleep isn’t real, though. If you sleep well, you’re not supposed to be tired the next day. With this medication, I can sleep through the night okay, but then during the afternoon of the next day I am extremely tired. This is because the sleep the night before wasn’t so effective.
“Nevertheless, I take this medication because it helps me to breathe. The allergy symptoms are reduced and the nasal passageways are cleared. The key ingredient that aids the breathing through the nose is pseudoephedrine. It is found in many decongestant cold medications as well. Since they’ve added it to allergy medications, I no longer fear allergy season. I have a weapon to use in my fight against itching, sneezing, and nasal congestion.
“The only real nuisance is that I have to show my driver’s license every time I purchase this medication. I feel as if I’m doing something wrong, though I’m not. If I bought pain killers or regular allergy medication, I wouldn’t have this problem. Nobody would think anything of it. Why the added security measure? Well, apparently the pseudoephedrine in the allergy medication can be used to create crystal meth, which is a recreational drug that is either banned or highly regulated by the government. If people purchase too much of the allergy medication in a short period of time, the government is tipped off to the behavior, with the assumption that the purchases are used for making the recreational drug. Simply amazing; something that can lessen the symptoms of my allergies can also do so much damage to the body.”
In this example, we have a medication and an accompanying ideal use. That ideal use is known to the majority of the patients. They wouldn’t know of the medication otherwise. They would have no reason to use it. Indeed, someone suffering from allergies in such a way likely doesn’t care what the ingredients are. They are looking for relief; not a lesson on science. Side by side, the improper use of the medication is so harmful that the government steps in to regulate its purchase.
The body of the living entity can be thought of in the same light. It has an ideal use. That use brings the healthy condition. The occupier of the body, the individual, does not need to know why that ideal use is beneficial. They do not need to know the purpose to see the benefit. The use itself is that powerful. So many negative consequences follow any other utilization of the body that an entire disciplinary system is in place to monitor the behavior of the human being. This system, which can also be explained and studied in a philosophy, is known as dharma, which is often translated to mean religion or religiosity. In this way we see that real religion is simply a way to maintain, sort of like a guidebook for the body.
Dharma cannot apply to the species lower than the human being because these other species have no way to change their behavior through instruction. You may get a dog to sit and roll over on command, but you can’t get it to avoid sinful behavior. Sin doesn’t apply to dogs because they are not expected to adhere to honesty, cleanliness, austerity or compassion. These four principles are there for the human being to follow because they couple with the ideal use of the body.
That ideal use is serving God. There is no other purpose to the human body. It would also be the purpose in the other bodies, but due to nature’s arrangement those bodies are limited in their exercise of ability. The tree cannot serve God because it cannot know God. The spirit soul inside the tree is enveloped in so much ignorance that it cannot even move. The dog and the monkey primarily act off the urges to eat and mate. The tiger acts off the instinct to kill, and the moth is not intelligent enough to realize that it will die by entering the luminous flame.
The human body is provided for serving God. We can think of it like medication for the spirit soul, a vehicle for eradicating the previous ignorance. Since the body is vulnerable to so many other uses, the guidebooks known as shastra are given. They tell us how to use the body, starting from infancy. In that helpless state the parents get the burden of protecting. Then in youth the responsibility shifts to the guru, or spiritual master. In adulthood, where there is the independence to make one’s own decisions, the instruction from the past helps to keep one in line. Therefore whether one is a child or an old man, there is equally the opportunity to serve God and thus use the body correctly.
In the present age the influence of shastra is greatly diminished, for in ignorance man thinks that the summit to an existence is to enjoy the senses as much as possible. No thought is given to how so many diet and exercise routines are employed because of the negative effects of unrestricted sense enjoyment. No thought is given to how one is still left wanting after having eaten to their satisfaction. The opinion is that since material enjoyment can be found without praying to God, what need is there for God in one’s life? He must be a figment of the imagination of the less intelligent.
Despite shastra’s limited influence today, there is still a way to serve God that can be taken up by any person. That way is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” Chanting is also hearing, which reading provides for as well. These are ways of serving God, which is the proper use of this most valuable human body. With an intelligence advanced enough to foresee negative consequences to prohibited behavior, the human being can also see what awaits them through the proper use of serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
This body from heaven sent,
For understanding God life is meant.
In case to take use that is wrong,
In for misery hard and long.
If path of transcendence to choose,
With intelligence to see future can use.
Shastra our actions to guide,
Relief by ideal use to abide.