“Asuras do not know that their bodies consist of the five elements of material nature and that when they fall they become objects of pastimes for dogs and vultures.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.17.31 Purport)
One who doesn’t know their true identity is less intelligent, or even unintelligent. This is the consideration of those who do understand their true identity. When lacking this most vital knowledge, one takes the appearance of their body to be very important. Fancy clothes, expensive jewelry, so many pairs of shoes – these things don’t determine who a person is. Indeed, they are coverings for a body that will one day be food for the vultures. As such, what wise person would assign so much importance to the body or decorating it?
We have to look at our body in the mirror. We have to feel the discomfort of wearing clothes which are too tight. These clothes fit just fine a few weeks ago, but since there hasn’t been much attention paid to diet and exercise, now they are not the right size. In addition, if we don’t watch our fat and salt intake, we could be forced to suffer from heart disease and high blood pressure later on. In this sense the body is important; it’s what keeps our consciousness intact in the present life.
However, there isn’t much significance to the body beyond the ability to maintain life. One person is heavy and another slim. One person is tall and another short. The differences don’t make the person. The heavy person could be very mean and the slim very nice. The tall person could be very stupid and the short intelligent. More importantly, at the end of life the bodies will no longer matter.
Do we give much importance to dog food? Do we see it and anticipate how wonderful it will taste? Do we go rummaging through garbage looking for scraps from last night’s dinner? Do we eat food that was prepared two weeks ago and accidentally left out on the kitchen counter? Obviously not, as these things are rotten; unsuitable for human consumption. And so the covering of earth, water, fire, air and ether surrounding the soul is destined to rot as well.
What keeps it from decaying right now? The spirit soul. When the soul is present in the body, the vultures stay away. There is heat within the living body. There is the ability to move, to autonomously act. There is life. Death is the absence of the soul only. The rest of the body may remain as it was previously. However, with a single flight of the soul from the body, that previously living body then immediately transforms.
The wise person can see into the future. Not that they necessarily predict the winner of this year’s Super Bowl, but the lack of immediate vision does not preclude them from seeing the destiny of their body. They know that one day the hands, legs, eyes and ears will either be burned to ashes or buried in the ground. Therefore they act without delay for securing the best future for the soul.
The soul ended up in its current situation based on karma. Karma is work. There is an action and then a subsequent reaction. This isn’t very difficult to understand. I eat too much food for dinner and I get heartburn and indigestion later on. I work out constantly and don’t eat very much, and then the weight of my body decreases.
The reaction for the soul goes through the conduit of the consciousness. The lasting reaction to any work is the effect on consciousness. Whatever state of being one remembers at the time of death, that state they will attain without fail. This is the statement of Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita. This answers the questions of “before” and “after.” We were somewhere before because we are somewhere right now. We will be somewhere after because we are here now and were somewhere else before. The soul is the constant, and it chooses where to go based on consciousness.
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)
While this body is not yet food for a crow it can be used to remember God. It can be used to understand Him, learn His qualities, figure out how to think of Him at all times, and serve those who are dear to Him. The entire suite of devotional activities, from start to finish, is provided by the kind souls who are already wise enough to see beyond the temporary body. They see God all the time through their work. As they see Him now, they will see Him at the time of death. This means that they will be with Him in the future.
They have no prejudice for travelling alone; they are more than happy to bring so many others along with them. They catch the interest of the sincere spiritual seeker by spreading the sound of God. They always chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” They defeat the arguments of the asuras, who either purposefully ignore the destiny of the body or are not yet wise enough to see it. The servant of Krishna gives this most insightful vision, and having seen it other wise souls make the best use of the temporary body by always serving the Supreme Lord Krishna.
Though right now with body to live,
Back to nature eventually to give.
After death body soon to be rotten,
By vultures and beasts to be eaten.
Destiny for the soul rather make,
By transcendental wisdom to take.
For spiritual destination let me strive,
While with this body I am now alive.