“When the embodied being is able to transcend these three modes, he can become free from birth, death, old age and their distresses and can enjoy nectar even in this life.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.20)
गुणान् एतान् अतीत्य त्रीन्
विमुक्तो ऽमृतम् अश्नुते
guṇān etān atītya trīn
vimukto ‘mṛtam aśnute
Friend1: I often hear His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada speak about the need to prepare for the next life. Do in this body to influence the next kind of body.
Friend2: And the principle is tied to the scientific truth of transmigration of the soul. What is referred to as reincarnation in general conversation is known as the changing of bodies, the basic effects of time on the visual manifestation. Demystifying the concept, Shri Krishna says that a dhira person, one who is sober, does not get bewildered by such changes.
देहिनो ऽस्मिन् यथा देहे
कौमारं यौवनं जरा
धीरस् तत्र न मुह्यति
dehino ‘smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
“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)
Friend1: As it is always changing, I have a way to influence. Though time is undefeated, though it is synonymous with death, kala, I do play a certain role.
Friend2: Yes; just because someone is bound for destruction does not mean that the short term cannot be changed. Scientific studies in the health field are based on this principle.
Friend1: What is that?
Friend2: Control groups. Differences in environmental factors. One person eats pizza every day; another eats bananas. Then study the difference over a period of time.
Friend1: There will surely be a difference.
Friend2: At the bodily level. That is one way to influence, though the modes of nature are in fact first providing sanction. The individual makes the choice for action, but the result is not guaranteed.
गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः
कर्ताहम् इति मन्यते
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
kartāham iti manyate
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
Friend1: Listen, the reincarnation stuff makes sense if you are open-minded. People inherently believe that they have lived before. By before, I mean prior to the present lifetime.
Friend2: For sure. I dream about flying through the air. I have visions of swimming underwater for lengthy periods of time. These occur because of past lives, i.e. the same soul but in a different body.
Friend1: The thing is, if we focus so much on the next life, isn’t there too much of a reliance on faith?
Friend2: What is there to have faith about? The understanding of the transmigration principle is specifically for having less reliance on faith.
Friend1: Okay, but no one can see the future. It’s the ole, “Follow me now so that you’ll benefit later. Just trust me. You don’t want to screw up, do you?” It becomes almost like a threat.
Friend2: You’re saying Vedic teachings then get lumped into the category of “faith based”?
Friend1: That’s exactly what I am saying. I never want that to happen. It is not simply another religion to put into a basket with others. There is no single book, single savior, or single time period of revelation.
Friend2: It is a culture, a way of life. Sanatana-dharma. The eternal way of living to match the qualities of the individual, who is spirit soul.
Friend1: How do you get beyond faith, though, if you constantly emphasize preparing for the next life?
Friend2: Here’s one way. The principles put forth actually produce benefits in the present life.
Friend1: Are they visible, though?
Friend2: Absolutely. You can gauge progress. You can see how you are doing. No need to rely solely on faith. No need to be afraid of God. No need to worry endlessly about eternal damnation. The latter is a quick way to increase the attendance at the weekly gathering, but logic dictates that a basic profession of faith can’t be all there is to connecting with the Almighty.
Friend1: What is your proof, though?
Friend2: Of what?
Friend1: Of experiencing benefits prior to death.
Friend2: A verse from the Bhagavad-gita. Shri Krishna says that a person who can transcend the three modes of nature will taste nectar.
Friend1: Goodness, passion and ignorance.
Friend2: The transcendental position brings freedom from birth, old age, death and the accompanying distresses. He does not specify that the benefits are only in the afterlife. That is to say a person can reach the transcendental position in this lifetime.
Friend1: How do they transcend the modes, though? What are the symptoms of such a person?
Friend2: Great questions. That is exactly what Arjuna asked next.
Friend1: You are not going to tell me?
Friend2: It’s more fun if you go look up the answers yourself. The fourteenth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita. Actually, the more you become immersed in the Vaishnava culture, the more you will see the truth for yourself. You may or may not be able to explain it to others, but the experience will be unmistakable.
When seriously Vaishnava culture to take,
Then experience never to mistake.
Since tasting nectar now,
Transcending modes how.
Not that only for afterlife to await,
When then just profession of faith.
For next and today also prepare,
In bhakti always way to compare.