शरीरं यद् अवाप्नोति
यच् चाप्य् उत्क्रामतीश्वरः
वायुर् गन्धान् इवाशयात्
śarīraṁ yad avāpnoti
yac cāpy utkrāmatīśvaraḥ
vāyur gandhān ivāśayāt
The health experts say there is a pandemic. A deadly disease not previously discovered. Perhaps it was formed in a lab or maybe some natural mutation occurred from within the animal community. Whatever the actual origin, the situation is now dire. Due to human contact, the breadth and scope of the health issue is rapidly multiplying.
For the first time in history, the healthy are quarantined. For some reason this virus has a kind of VIP status. The statistics do not support the extreme mitigation measures, but good luck to anyone who has a dissenting opinion. They will lose their voice to speak, their standing in society, and likely even their job.
One of the widely adopted measures is to place bacteria-collecting cloths to cover the face and mouth. This applies to all age groups, even though it has been seen that children are practically immune to the developing situation. Never mind the detriment to breathing, the decrease in oxygen levels, and the overall increase in anxiety. This new way is supposedly “staying safe”, even though the same scientists only months prior dismissed the practice as having no validity or applicability in dealing with stopping the spread of infectious diseases.
The practice would be something like trying to stop the smell of blueberry muffins cooking downstairs in the kitchen from entering the room upstairs. There are filters and traps placed alongside the bottom opening of the doorway. There are fans running in every direction. The occupant of the room is also wearing a cloth to cover the nose and mouth, but this time to stay safe from the alluring smell.
The truth of the situation is that nothing can stop the transfer from one place to the next. It is a reality of nature, sometimes harsh to accept, but a truth nonetheless. In Bhagavad-gita we find the comparison to the air carrying aromas. Vayu is the potency of the wind, which is powerful enough to uproot an entire building. There is visual confirmation of the fact during the weather event known as a tornado.
The aromas from the spring season can lead to an increase in histamine levels within the body. The result is the phenomenon known as hay fever, or seasonal allergies. While it may help a little to remain indoors, the power of the wind is so strong that the allergens find their way inside all the same.
The comparison in Bhagavad-gita is for explaining the process of the conceptions of life from one birth to the next. Birth is indeed a miracle. The spark of spirit animates the body, from the time it is within the womb to when it is an elderly adult. The same quality of spirit, with the same size, animates both the tree and the large elephant.
If you were to take the tip of a piece of hair and then divide it into ten thousand parts, just one of those parts would be equivalent to the physical size of the spirit soul. The individual is amazing in this regard, and no one can perceive how it enters the womb. By the same token, no one knows to where it travels after death. Some are not sure if there is even a continuation of existence.
Shri Krishna explains that not only does the individual continue to exist, but their consciousness carries forward. This is why the state of being at the time of quitting is so important. Sort of like your life flashing before your eyes, the consciousness determines the next kind of destination.
यं यं वापि स्मरन् भावं
त्यजत्य् अन्ते कलेवरम्
तं तम् एवैति कौन्तेय
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)
Just as we cannot prevent the aroma from the kitchen carrying into the room upstairs, so the force of nature taking the living being from one lifetime to the next cannot be stopped. The nature of the consciousness, however, can effect a transition in direction of travel.
Typically, the options are threefold. Remain where you are, i.e. stay on earth. Receive demotion to a lower planet, i.e. condemned to hell. Or get promoted to the heavenly region, i.e. move upward.
पुनर् आवर्तिनो ऽर्जुन
माम् उपेत्य तु कौन्तेय
पुनर् जन्म न विद्यते
punar āvartino ‘rjuna
mām upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate
“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)
These three realms are still part of the material world, which has the rule of repeated birth and death. The purified consciousness brings the exceptional reward of promotion to the spiritual realm. This place has no birth and death, and one who achieves it never has to leave.
The human lifetime is the best chance to shape the consciousness to facilitate directional travel to the imperishable realm, which is unmanifest in the sense that it does not undergo creation, maintenance and destruction. While we cannot stop nature from carrying forward our consciousness, we can use the help of the Supreme Divine Being to influence the transition towards the best possible destination.
Towards the best possible destination,
From practice and determination.
Where the direction to steer,
With consciousness clear.
So that no more to repeat,
Birth and death defeat.
Rather to the unmanifest place,
Worshiping one of lotus-like face.