“There is no specific date at which the jiva was born. Nor can anyone trace out the history of jivatma’s manifestation from the Supreme Lord. Therefore it is beginningless.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 13.13 Purport)
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1. When was the jiva born?
The jiva refers to the conditioned living entity. Conditioned refers to the potential for duality. Just as when we wake up after a long slumber, there is the potential for darkness outside. It might also be light out. It all depends on the specific positioning of the sun at that time.
In the same way, sometimes the jiva is under the spell of illusion. This is known as material existence. The jiva forgets its true identity as spirit soul, aham brahmasmi. It considers the place of birth to be a factor in its perpetual existence.
The bodily appearance, extending the duration of temporary life, seeking one enjoyment after another, maintaining possessions – these take top priority. It is something like trying to maintain the dream, to never wake up from the false reality.
The other condition is spiritual life, which has no beginning and no end. Therefore, the jiva is actually sanatana. There is no time of birth. Travel back in time as far as the mind can conceive. Know that the jiva existed. There was no difference in the percentage of vitality.
For instance, I am as alive today as I was during the time spent in the womb. The physical features might be different. The capacity to execute tasks and contemplate philosophical subjects might be different. I may not remember such a time, but that memory has no bearing on existence.
2. When will the jiva die?
Part of the conditioned experience is thinking in terms of duality. The all-encompassing range is birth to death. Every condition in duality occurs in between. When there is birth, there must be death. This truth of life, as we know it, is certain.
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)
People depart in front of our eyes. We know that people from the past have left this world. Nothing remains of their time except for memories and influence. This is a frightening proposal, as everything we work so hard to maintain does not carry forward, into the future.
The truth is that the jiva never dies. We prove the claim based on the initial proposition. Today is the present. Starting tomorrow, today will be the past. As we say that the jiva never takes birth, it means that at any arbitrary point in time, we can find the jiva.
Whenever death will occur, we can make a note of that time. Soon thereafter, that time turns into the past. Since we can always go into the past and find the jiva, it means that there is no such thing as death.
The jiva always exists. It will never cease to be. This is the nature of spirit. Shri Krishna confirms these truths in the sacred discourse known as Bhagavad-gita.
न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचिन्
नायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूयः
अजो नित्यः शाश्वतो ऽयं पुराणो
न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे
na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ‘yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre
“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)
3. Should I attempt to trace out the history of the jiva?
The wise acharyas explain that this is a waste of time. When a diseased person visits a doctor, the primary impetus is healing. Fix the problem. Get the car running again, so to speak. Cure the illness.
This is not to say that the initial cause is meaningless. If there is an investigation that leads to discovery of the cause, then the information could prevent harm in the future, for others. Nevertheless, the illness itself has to be dealt with first.
In the same way, the jiva is in the conditioned state at the moment. The initial cause is forgetfulness of the jiva’s position as pure spirit soul, eternally linked to the source of everything, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
This knowledge is sufficient. There is no need to trace the exact moment in time that the initial forgetfulness took place. The remedy moving forward is to simply remember. This is the entire purpose of Vedic culture, of the descending knowledge passed down through the acharyas, originating in God.
Remember to walk in the light,
Of effulgence shining bright.
From original realm coming,
Through which enlightened becoming.
From the guru descending,
And into current time extending.
Such that no need time to waste,
Moment of jiva’s fall to trace.
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