“The living entity, thus taking another gross body, obtains a certain type of ear, tongue, and nose and sense of touch, which are grouped about the mind. He thus enjoys a particular set of sense objects.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.9)
The acharya is the spiritual teacher who leads by example. They set a standard that others can emulate. Removing the guesswork, they show a way to confidently live life. No more speculating. No more remaining in the dark.
“Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.21)
The acharya leads through their actions and they teach through their words. They have at their disposal many lifetimes’ worth of experience. The mistakes that are common, they can be avoided. Just accept the information through the descending process. No need to experience for yourself. For the most important aspects of life, the acharyas save us so much time.
1. They tell us about the soul
A person born in a race that is considered a minority group in the area might not see any issues until they reach adulthood. Then they realize the discrimination that they and their ancestors have faced for many generations. Anger is a natural result. So is resentment. The thought is that everyone is equal at the core, so why should there be prejudice?
Another person realizes that since they have so much affection for their dog, why not extend the same to other animals? After all, the cow loves its children just as much as the human being does. Milk is the product of love and nothing else. Why should certain animals be mercilessly killed, while others are spared? Can’t a human being live off of milk, fruits, grains and water?
The acharya reveals the true identity of the individual. This saves valuable time since the complete definition is brought forward. Not only is every animal equal on the inside, but the properties are the same across all living things. The animating spark within is known as atma, or spirit soul.
“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)
The soul does not die. It never comes into being, either. The wise person sees with an equal vision, sama-darshana. They apply this to the cow, the dog, the ant, the elephant, the tiger, and the human being. In fact, everything that is living is known to have spirit soul inside.
2. They tell us about the changing of bodies
What explains the difference in behavior? Why do we treat a tiger differently than we do a cat? Coupled with knowledge of the soul is information about what covers it. Matter. Taken collectively in a temporary manifestation that matter becomes known as the body.
The distinction is between individual, purusha, and matter, prakriti. That is at the core of spiritual life. Any kind of religion lacking this information is based more on sentiment. Any attempt made towards understanding the Almighty is a step in the right direction, but only jnana, or knowledge, saves valuable time.
This is because the human being has a higher potential for intelligence. One aspect of intelligence is inquiry. The experience through life can be summed up as a series of questions and answers. The questions start from the very beginning, as the child constantly asks the parents, “What is this, what is that.” The acharya saves us so much time by giving the proper answer to what everything that we see is, namely a spirit-matter combination.
The individual within doesn’t change, but matter does. It is constantly shifting, through the passage of time. Within that timespan attachments are formed, with happiness and sadness accompanying. The body changes, starting from youth and ending in old age, but the spirit within is constant.
3. They tell us about life and death
Two events are closely related. One typically brings great sadness, and the other tremendous heartache. One is a gain and the other a loss. Interestingly, the first event guarantees the second.
“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)
The acharya reveals the secret behind the most puzzling issues: life and death. Why do people have to die? If death is guaranteed, why did we take birth in the first place? Philosophers have been searching for answers for centuries. Mental speculation doesn’t reach a certain conclusion, since one person’s attempt is as good as another’s. It is something like trying to guess what is on the walls while sitting in a dark room. Only when the light turns on is there clarity.
The acharya is like that light, bringing the Divine light, in fact. They say that death is nothing more than the final change of body, where the set of material elements is discarded in favor of another. The subtle elements of mind, intelligence and false ego accompany the spirit soul to the next life, where another type of body develops.
In this way death is not something to be lamented. Birth is caused by material desire. It follows death, which is a kind of escape or exit. We took birth in this life because we died in the previous one. The acharya doesn’t rely on mental speculation. They quote the highest authority that is Shri Krishna, who presents these spotless teachings in an easier to understand format. It is a conversation, which is recorded and passed on to future generations in the book known as the Bhagavad-gita.
4. They tell us that sense gratification will not make us happy
Birth follows death, but when was the original birth? Why are we forced to accept a material body? The answer is desire, namely material desire. As long as that remains, birth and death continue.
To this end the acharya reveals an eye-opening truth that everyone eventually realizes to some extent. Sense gratification will not make us happy. The meaning is that varieties of experiences in eating, sleeping, mating and defending will do nothing for our long-term satisfaction, shreyas. Preyas, or short-term interest, may be met in this way, but in the end we will be left wanting more.
The acharya shows the way of bhakti, or devotion. This is like karma, or fruitive work. The enjoyment may seem like kama, or sense gratification, but when practiced properly the first objective is satisfying God’s senses. Since He is the master of all senses, Hrishikesha, His happiness becomes our happiness.
Bhakti simultaneously burns away the future created through karma. This means that if there is pure consciousness of God by the time death arrives, rebirth will stop. More than just securing the best afterlife, there is true enjoyment even within a material existence. It is impossible to reach this conclusion on our own. The genuine spiritual leaders are sent from above to save us from wasting even more time in future births.
At birth hourglass sand like falling,
Death the end eventually befalling.
Time thus a premium to take,
Best use from acharyas to make.
Who of spirit-body difference explaining,
And pleasure of sense gratification waning.
That life for service in devotion meant,
Time best in that engagement spent.
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