“As long as one does not inquire about the spiritual values of life, one is defeated and subjected to miseries arising from ignorance. Be it sinful or pious, karma has its resultant actions. If a person is engaged in any kind of karma, his mind is called karmatmaka, colored with fruitive activity. As long as the mind is impure, consciousness is unclear, and as long as one is absorbed in fruitive activity, he has to accept a material body.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 5.5.5)
यावन्न जिज्ञासत आत्मतत्त्वम् ।
यावत्क्रियास्तावदिदं मनो वै
कर्मात्मकं येन शरीरबन्ध: ॥
parābhavas tāvad abodha-jāto
yāvan na jijñāsata ātma-tattvam
yāvat kriyās tāvad idaṁ mano vai
karmātmakaṁ yena śarīra-bandhaḥ
There are different responses to learning about reincarnation. A person might be inquisitive into the nature of the past lives:
“Oh wow, you mean I have lived before? That is so cool. I always had a feeling. I guess it is a kind of intuition. From my dreams, for instance, I think that I can fly. It is a recurring experience. It is like I have been a bird before. It would be really interesting to trace out the past lifetimes, if at all possible.”
Another person might feel sad to know that they had to experience misery and despair again:
“I guess the last birth must not have been successful. Somehow I ended up back here. What is the point to everything? If I experienced death before, why do I have to follow the same? I know that it will arrive eventually. Better to simply take me away right now, while I have my wits about me.”
The sobering reality is that a person is defeated in all aspects. That is to say, no matter which direction they choose, the ultimate destination is the same. All paths essentially converge into a single door, so to speak. The final destination is death, which is guaranteed as soon as there is birth.
जातस्य हि ध्रुवो मृत्युर्
ध्रुवं जन्म मृतस्य च
तस्माद् अपरिहार्ये ऽर्थे
न त्वं शोचितुम् अर्हसि
jātasya hi dhruvo mṛtyur
dhruvaṁ janma mṛtasya ca
tasmād aparihārye ‘rthe
na tvaṁ śocitum arhasi
“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)
There is a way out, however. To help us understand, we can compare with the video game having an open-world concept. These titles are distinct from the linear style, which is more common. In a linear-type experience, the path is rather straightforward. Scroll from left to right, or vice versa. Move up and down, but never back towards the places you already conquered.
Eventually, there are certain enemies to defeat. This is the way to clearing the stages, up until you reach the end of the game. Upon completion, you have beaten it. You are the winner. You are the champion. In this way, it is easy to gauge progress.
With the open-world concept, however, you can essentially go anywhere. You don’t have to complete stages in a certain order; most of the time. You can continue to explore, picking up some items and power-ups, but these are not absolutely necessary.
Even with the open-world concept, there are some mandatory items. Without completing a certain section, you cannot move on. Sometimes, you might not know what is required at a certain point. For instance, you have travelled to every place you can think of. There is one-particular dead end. It is a cliff. You wonder why it was placed there to begin with.
The secret is to have the playing character kneel down while enabling a crystal sub-weapon. This triggers a whirlwind to appear, which swoops the character to a previously unreachable destination. Without clearing this hurdle, there is no way to beat the game.
There is a similar requirement with the cycle of birth and death. As explained in Shrimad Bhagavatam, a person must make an inquiry into spiritual life. They must be interested in atma-tattva, which is distinct from material life, which is maya.
Otherwise, there is defeat in every direction. Time runs out, but the clock starts again with the subsequent birth. We can spin on this wheel for countless lifetimes, extending beyond the dissolution of the entire cosmic manifestation.
भूत-ग्रामः स एवायं
भूत्वा भूत्वा प्रलीयते
रात्र्य्-आगमे ऽवशः पार्थ
bhūta-grāmaḥ sa evāyaṁ
bhūtvā bhūtvā pralīyate
rātry-āgame ‘vaśaḥ pārtha
“Again and again the day comes, and this host of beings is active; and again the night falls, O Partha, and they are helplessly dissolved.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.19)
Within Vedanta culture, this inquiry is the beginning. It is the entryway to eternal living. It is not expected that through simple blind sentiment a person suddenly makes an appearance on a list detailing who will be saved at the end of life.
The determination is through consciousness, which is influenced by knowledge and action. The human being is intelligent, and the purpose of that intelligence is to know the self, the material nature, the place of the self within that nature, the supreme authority and the relationship to Him.
It is a difficult subject matter to grasp, but the principles make sense through further time in immersion. It is a natural change of course, and those who eventually come to know of the self do not feel the need to turn back. They experience a higher taste in the process, and therefore renunciation of the material becomes second-nature.
रस-वर्जं रसो ऽप्य् अस्य
परं दृष्ट्वा निवर्तते
rasa-varjaṁ raso ‘py asya
paraṁ dṛṣṭvā nivartate
“The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.59)
Without that item one,
Not possible to be won.
Whether going with determination,
Destined for same destination.
With life of atma inquiry to make,
Like crucial knowledge to take.
The entire time that information needing.
Now towards transcendence leading,