“The child thus remains just like a bird in a cage, without freedom of movement. At that time, if the child is fortunate, he can remember all the troubles of his past one hundred births, and he grieves wretchedly. What is the possibility of peace of mind in that condition?” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.31.9)
शकुन्त इव पञ्जरे
तत्र लब्ध-स्मृतिर् दैवात्
स्मरन् दीर्घम् अनुच्छ्वासं
शर्म किं नाम विन्दते
śakunta iva pañjare
tatra labdha-smṛtir daivāt
smaran dīrgham anucchvāsaṁ
śarma kiṁ nāma vindate
Friend1: When you were attending school, did most people complete on time?
Friend2: What level are we talking here? Elementary school?
Friend1: Let’s do high school and college.
Friend2: Okay. So you are asking if anyone failed and dropped out entirely?
Friend1: Well, you always get a few of those, but in my case there are people who required an extra year or two.
Friend2: Two years! Why would they need that?
Friend1: I am using this as a launching pad for further discussion.
Friend2: Alright. Since you had experience with it, you don’t need to ask me.
Friend1: I’m trying to determine how common the occurrence was. In my high school the other students used to refer to them as “super-seniors.”
Friend2: Because they weren’t necessarily in their last year.
Friend1: Extra-time. Like the penalty-time session in a soccer match. The overtime period in professional hockey. You’re not really sure how many extra years they are serving, but it is extended beyond the standard.
Friend2: Wow, that was one of my recurring nightmares while growing up. I am about ready to finish the year, only to find out there was this one class I failed to attend. I have a week to catch up on the entire year’s worth of work; otherwise I will be left back.
Friend1: Well, these students didn’t look affected by the ordeal. In college it was worse. Some of them were happy to have to spend another year.
Friend2: Don’t you have to pay extra money for that? As in, thousands of dollars.
Friend1: It all gets added to the bill; part of the loan. The idea was that you get to spend an extra year partying with your friends. You won’t get to live with people like this again. In the real world, things are more serious.
Friend2: Sure, but why do you want to pretend that you can’t grow up? Just move on in life.
Friend1: I bring this up because sometimes people will want to continue enjoying material life, even after hearing about the importance of paramartha.
Friend2: Which is the long-term interest.
Friend1: I know about spirit soul. I know about the distinction between identity and illusion.
Friend2: Brahman and maya.
Friend1: Sort of like procrastinating, I will put spiritual life off until later on. In the meantime, let me have some fun.
Friend2: Hmm, that is a risky proposition.
Friend1: I know what you are saying, that there is the potential for rebirth. Even so, what is the big deal? I take birth again. The soul never perishes. Shri Krishna confirms the truth in Bhagavad-gita.
Friend2: The problem is you cannot guarantee the circumstances of the next birth. Nature determines, measuring your consciousness at the time of death. If you were too afraid to move on with spiritual life, you will be stuck with a material consciousness. Then you are guaranteed rebirth and have to suffer the ordeal again.
Friend1: Is it really an ordeal? I don’t feel that I have suffered so much thus far.
Friend2: It is suffering from beginning to end. The period within the womb is terrible. Take the authorized accounts from Shrimad Bhagavatam. The birth process is so traumatic that we forget everything entirely. We pray that we will be devoted to God the person this time around, but we fail to live up to the vow.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: Following dharma is difficult. It requires discipline. You need a leader to show the way. You need others around to keep you on track. You need a repository of authorized information to maintain the intellectual assurance. Sadhu, shastra and guru. We have all three, so let us not waste the opportunity: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
With uncertain future to fear,
In school spending another year.
Not considered harm impending,
Rather now the fun extending.
With spiritual life a risky game,
Where suffering again to attain.
In womb bunched up so,
Better now toward liberation to go.