“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)
“Real men are few and far between. They are difficult to find today. We are now a nation of wusses. There is no risk-taking. Everyone is playing it safe. In the process of avoiding risk, they are still worried. They want insurance for everything. Insurance for their health. Insurance for their car. Insurance for their home. How about actually going to work so you can prepare for a rainy day yourself? How about going out there and doing things for other people? Life itself is a risk, so why the increased worry over losing things?”
Indeed, this sentiment is not uncommon today. In America especially, in past generations there were extraordinary hardships. There were world wars and economic collapses. Citizens sacrificed everything in order to save their fellow man. So obviously the sudden shift to a mindset of protection and fear must be due in large part to the different economic conditions. There is so much more to worry over now. There is a lot more to be afraid of losing. But the attitude underscores a deeper flaw, one rooted in vision.
When one knows that they are not their body, they are not so concerned with losing everything. In fact, this body is destined for destruction. Think of it like an hourglass of time that gets flipped as soon as we exit the womb. Right now that sand is running. We can’t see the hourglass, so we’re not exactly sure how much sand we have left in comparison to others, but we know that time is indeed running out. Life is withering away.
Upon waking up to the fact that life is destined for destruction, if I think that this body represents me fully and that there is nothing after this, surely I will be afraid. “Why take a risk and end life now? Why not play it safe so that I can continue to enjoy what I have? Let me load up on insurance policies so that I don’t lose anything. Let others take the risks, for obviously they must not know any better. Let others deal with aggressors, for there is risk involved in combat. The defender could lose their life, and so they will lose their chance to enjoy their body.”
The sober person, however, understands that the spirit soul is the essence of identity. The soul passes on to another body at death, just as it passes through the different stages of life in the present circumstances. First there is the change from boyhood to youth. Then the shift is from youth to adulthood. Gradually, within adulthood, there is the change to old age.
Does anyone know exactly when they become old? In certain countries there is a specific age when government benefits kick in, awarding the status of “senior citizen.” But actually one could be in old age before that time. They could also be fully vibrant upon reaching the age of retirement. This must mean that the shift is gradual. With a gradual shift, there cannot be a change in identity. This means that though we are aging, we remain the same. We are in fact the same person we were when we exited the womb. We are the same person today who many years back played on the field all day with their friends. We are the same person who first entered the womb upon conception.
The sober person accepts the truth of the eternality of the soul and its constant transmigration from authorized Vedic texts like the Bhagavad-gita. The skeptic will claim that these are religious works based in faith alone. But where does the issue of faith come in when discussing the identity of an individual in different time periods of their life? Is it faith to say that I am the same person today than I was yesterday? Is it faith to say that the outside body constantly changes while the individual within remains the same?
Surely, there is some trust involved in accepting the fact that the soul will live on after this life is over, but that trust is strengthened by further immersing oneself in Vedic wisdom. The perpetual fear of risk is due to ignorance of the eternality of the soul. And we see that avoidance of risk does not prevent death. It prevents so many other basic things from taking place, and all in the name of fear of loss. But that loss is guaranteed for everyone, so the issue remains on how one should act.
The Bhagavad-gita sees with the divine vision, where one can see their future. In this sacred work it is said that whatever one contemplates at the time of death, that state they will attain in the next life without fail. This means that there will be a tomorrow after the dawn of this life. Hearing this the wise person then follows their duty, for they know that there is no reason to shirk responsibilities borne of their qualities and tendencies. A person of valor, honor, courage, and strength is naturally suited for administration and defense of the innocent. A person of accounting sense, who knows profit and loss and how to manage assets, is naturally suited for business. A person of intelligence, who can see the spiritual equality shared amongst all life forms, is suited for acting as the brain for society, for giving guidance to everyone on how to make the most of life. A person who lacks all of these skills is ideal for offering service to others.
There is honor in service, especially in the service that one is best suited for. From following prescribed duties, one loses fear over the destruction of the present body. Society functions more smoothly as a result. The issue is that in this present age of Kali determining one’s proper role is very difficult. The woman desires to take over the role of the man, the man happily takes a back seat, the butcher wants to guide others on life’s objectives, and the intelligent man keeps quiet for fear of being reprimanded for speaking the truth.
Despite the turmoil, there is still a service that any person can take up, regardless of their external qualifications. That service is bhakti-yoga, which is the ideal occupation for all spirit souls. There are nine different ways to practice bhakti-yoga, with the most effective for this age being the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
This chanting changes consciousness, which is the goal for the bewildered soul. A soul conscious of Krishna, or God, at the time of death no longer has to struggle through the repeating cycle of birth and death, where each day sees gain and loss on a smaller scale. The soul who is conscious of Krishna is fearless, and so they accept the task to remain a servant of God under any circumstance. The real man is one who knows that God exists and that life is meant for serving Him. In whatever capacity they can, the real man fearlessly executes their service to the Lord, who rewards them with a spiritual body in the afterlife. Men, women, and even children have the opportunity to serve, which means that any person can go from being very fearful to completely fearless, understanding the temporary nature of all things in this world.
Where all real men have gone?
Instead only fear to dwell upon.
Lacking knowledge of identity any,
With impending death fears so many.
Just as shift to adulthood from body of boy,
Death the spirit soul never to destroy.
Real identity as servant of God forever,
Knower of Krishna to fear again never.