“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.9)
Vedic literature is unimaginably voluminous, with the works devoted to bhakti being in noticeable abundance. Bhakti is devotion, and so you can find many lifetimes’ worth of books, poems, songs, dramas, and commentaries to sift through. The authors, languages and specific subject matters may vary, but the philosophy is always the same: devotion. Love of God is the height of an existence, and through these works the saints of the bhakti tradition try to get that point across, being as emphatic as possible. The question may arise as to why so much literature is necessary. The answer comes in knowing the nature of the cure that devotion offers.
Let’s run through some common problems that plague us and some of the corresponding solutions. Then we’ll study the behavior subsequent to finding such solutions. In our first problem, we have thinning hair. Not like it was during childhood, suddenly in adulthood the hair on the head starts to thin out. You don’t know what to do. Though it’s rude to comment on such things, others are now ceasing from holding back. They make remarks to you. It makes you feel so bad. You wish there was a way to fix the situation. You don’t even care about your appearance so much. You just want people to stop making comments.
In reading articles online and talking to various friends, you try a host of solutions. One of them seems to make a difference: mustard oil. The plain old oil that they sell in the Indian stores applied to your head a few times a week has suddenly made a noticeable difference. You can’t believe your good fortune. You wonder why nobody else knows about this. Why is such a simple solution, which has the potential to work for a lot of people, not being employed by every single person? Why aren’t all young adults put on this therapy as a precautionary measure? In finding this solution, you are not shy in sharing it with others.
In another scenario you notice that you’re overweight. You’ve been this way for some time, but it took you a while to realize it. One day you were lean and trim, fit enough to play sports for hours at a time. You therefore ate whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted. Then, due to other responsibilities, you stopped playing that sport so much. You didn’t change your eating habits in accordance; therefore your weight spiked. You think it’ll be easy to get back into shape, but you’re finding it particularly difficult. You can’t control what you eat.
So many solutions cross your mind from perusing the internet, but you end up starving yourself in all of them. Then a friend gives you a simple solution. He tells you to maintain your current food intake, but just divide up the portions throughout the day. You give this a shot, and what you notice is that you are slowly able to start eating less. You feel a burn throughout your body, and with a couple of other tweaks like exercise and not going out to eat so much, you end up losing a lot of weight. But it all started with controlling the portion size for your meals. You decide that you can’t keep this to yourself; you have to inform everyone you know who is struggling with weight gain.
In another scenario you’re having trouble studying. You have trouble getting out of bed each morning, since you know you will have a lot of work ahead of you. You do so many other things in the morning first, and by the time you’re finished you have no energy left to study. Then a friend gives you some advice. She says to study first thing in the morning. Get it out of the way; leisure time later on will be your reward. You give it a shot, and what ends up happening is that you gather so much momentum from the start of the day that you’re able to study for a long time. You keep away distractions. In this way, with a simple tweak you completely changed your productivity. Now you want to share this solution with so many others who are grappling with procrastination.
In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna states that one who knows the transcendental nature of His appearance and disappearance does not take birth again. The last part references the travels of the soul, wherein there is another birth after death. This concept shouldn’t be that difficult to understand. Birth and death are merely arbitrary demarcations based on the shifting of the external covering. It’s sort of like the division between night and day or the days on the calendar. Nothing has really changed; merely the passage of time. Yet we use these divisions to better organize our journey through life. They help in studying history as well.
So if we’re going to share information on how to solve thinning hair or weight gain or difficulty in studying, why wouldn’t we share information that will stop birth? Isn’t that more important than anything else? Birth is the cause of all the problems we see now. There must be death following a birth, which means that there must be disease. Disease is what leads to death. Even in the case of an accident, there is the unfortunate occurrence, which can be considered a defect in conduct, which is sort of like a disease.
Knowing of the nature of Krishna’s appearance and disappearance cures birth, which thus stops death. Therefore the saints of the bhakti tradition try to describe Krishna to as many people as possible. As Krishna is God, the detail behind the abstract, there is no end to His glories. This means that one will never finish in describing Him. This is a good problem to have, as it brings activity to the state of liberation. Not that the end of birth means the end of activity; devotional service is always vibrant. One who has got life can participate in bhakti, whose most pleasurable activity is contemplating and describing the glories of the beloved.
Krishna can only be known through the instruction of these saints, who kindly keep the line of disciplic succession going by passing on information about the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That information says that Krishna’s appearance and disappearance are not like ours. He never takes birth, in fact. He never dies, either. His body and soul are identical. His form is eternal, blissful and knowledgeable. He is the cause of all causes, the original person, the oldest living entity, and non-different from His energies. Those appearances and disappearances feature a multitude of activities, which further enlighten the otherwise bewildered soul into the true nature of Krishna. Knowing His nature means the end of birth, which is the cure worth giving to any and all.
Problem lately tackling the mind,
Happy when the solution to find.
With others then to share,
Since of their welfare to care.
Cause of all problems is birth,
Death, disease caused by this first.
No rebirth when Krishna’s nature knowing,
Transcendental are His comings and goings.