“A pure devotee does not accept any kind of liberation – salokya, sarshti, samipya, sarupya or ekatva – even though they are offered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.29.13)
Friend1: Today’s discussion will be on a particular verse of the Bhagavad-gita.
Friend2: It’s going to be a discussion or a lecture?
Friend1: A discussion since I have a few questions. I’m including the purport given by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in the Bhagavad-gita As It Is book.
Friend1: So here is my question.
Friend2: First quote the verse at least.
“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.12)
Friend2: Man, that is pretty profound. Give a quick review of the context, for anyone who might be listening.
Friend1: Krishna and Arjuna are on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Arjuna is a chariot fighter and Krishna is steering the chariot. Just prior to the war’s commencement, Arjuna has cold feet. He’s not sure he wants to proceed.
Friend2: What exactly is he worried about?
Friend1: Victory; namely the cost of it. There are people dear to his heart fighting for the other side. He does not want to be the cause of their demise. He knows that his side is right, though. He’s confused so he puts his doubts to Krishna.
Friend2: Okay, good.
Friend1: This verse is particularly meaningful because it again proves the immortality of the individual, who is spirit soul. The kings on the other side will continue to exist, even after death.
Friend2: Sorry to interrupt, but here’s a quick question. If they’re going to continue to exist, why go to war? What is the purpose of killing them if they’ll live forever?
Friend1: Not what I wanted to talk about, but I’m assuming the answer is that society would be benefitted from victory for Arjuna’s side. Righteousness would prevail. The kings would obviously move to a different body after death, but for the people who continued to live a great obstacle towards following dharma would be removed.
Friend2: Wow, that’s great. Okay, please continue.
Friend1: In the purport Shrila Prabhupada discusses how this one verse proves that there is always individuality. The juxtaposition is with the Mayavada, or impersonal, philosophy. The Mayavadi hopes to merge into the spiritual existence, which effectively kills identity.
Friend2: Yeah. You’re no longer a separate individual. You’re part of a whole. That whole is amazing. It’s the spiritual energy, after all. There is no birth and death while merged in the Brahman effulgence.
Friend1: There is always individuality for Krishna and Arjuna, too. It’s not just about the other side. Though Arjuna is a beloved associate, he does not merge into Krishna, who is God in the personal form.
Friend1: So here is where I’m confused. I know that in the Vedas there are five kinds of mukti described.
Friend2: Mukti is liberation, the release from the cycle of birth and death.
Friend1: One kind of mukti is ekatva. This means merging, oneness.
Friend1: So doesn’t that contradict Krishna’s statement? How is there always individuality when there is the option to merge in liberation?
Friend2: That’s a very good question. The option is there, no doubt about it. That’s why the impersonal path exists and it is valid. Krishna even gets asked the question by Arjuna later on, as to which path is superior. The Lord doesn’t say that impersonalism is bogus or completely wrong. He says that personalism is easier and preferred. He swiftly delivers the devotee, whereas impersonalism takes a long time to perfect.
Friend1: Okay, but what about individuality? What about the option to merge? Let’s say I choose the impersonal path. I try very hard to become Brahman realized. Since I am embodied, this path is difficult. Still, hypothetically let’s say that I am successful. What happens to my individuality?
Friend2: It remains. Even though you merge, you are still you. You are just unmanifest. Your existence can never be taken away from you.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: The option is there, but devotees don’t prefer it at all. They compare it to spiritual suicide. They would rather maintain their identity in a manifest way so that they can continue to serve the Supreme Lord. They don’t even strive for the four other kinds of mukti. They don’t mind being in heaven or hell, as long as they continue to see the Supreme Lord through their consciousness. Seeing in that way allows them to serve.
When at time of death perfectly spiritually aware,
Liberation achieved, option to merge is there.
But how then a separate identity maintaining,
When forever the Brahman light attaining?
Just dormant for a while, individuality stalling,
Safe from again to material world falling.
Bhaktas not wanting any liberation of variety five,
Preferring their devotion to keep alive.