“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)
देहिनो ऽस्मिन् यथा देहे
कौमारं यौवनं जरा
धीरस् तत्र न मुह्यति
dehino ‘smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
The sober human being can see clearly around them. They can discern objects. They can tell what is living and what is dead. They can see the patterns caused by the movement of time. In this state of being, it is natural to question the meaning to it all. The science of self-realization has an answer.
The Sanskrit word to describe this kind of sobriety is dhira. The word can also refer to intelligence. The notable reference to the word is in a shloka from Bhagavad-gita. The specific mention is that the dhira individual is not bewildered by the changing body.
That body is always changing. On a joyous occasion like a birthday or wedding, we might take many photographs. There is no intention or expectation to one day look back on the event as dated or in the past. We do everything in the moment, after all. We don’t think that we are living during a vintage time period.
At the same time, that is how we view pictures from the past. From during our childhood. From prior to our birth. When our parents were children. When our grandparents were getting married. So much has changed since then.
More specifically, it is the body which has changed. That picture represents but a snapshot within a series. The body is never actually still. It is always changing, but the individual inside is not. The dhira person recognizes such a change and they are not bewildered by it.
But why is the body always changing? Why are my children no longer so small that they can be held up with one hand? Why are they ready for school, when in the past they could not talk? Why are my grandparents no longer in this world? Why are we destined for the same fate? To where will we go?
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that this life is a culmination of sorts. At least that is the opportunity presented. It is like reaching the final stage in a video game. You have conquered the other levels. Whether it took you a few days to complete or many years, you are nearing the end.
The path forward is to finish what needs to be done. With respect to the present birth, it is in the auspicious human form. You see, that changing body is not limited to the human being. There were changing bodies before. There will be changing bodies in the future.
The individual inside is the life force. The same kind of life force is there in the plants, the animals, the insects, the aquatics, and even in the residents of the heavenly realm, who are currently out of our vision.
To finish what needs to be done is to put an end to the cycle of acceptance and rejection. Find a state of being where there are no more changes. Live in such a body that has a nature identical to the individual itself.
That achievement is known by the Sanskrit word moksha. This is release. This is freedom, in the truest sense. This is giving up the body and no longer being subject to birth and death. This is finding an eternal state of being.
There is a corresponding discipline to attain the goal. This goes by different terms, such as religion and spiritual life. The Sanskrit word is dharma. This dharma is actually eternal, sanatana. It has no beginning and no end. There was never a time that someone had to create it, and neither will dharma ever cease to be relevant.
Dharma is not dependent on time and circumstance. We may worship a certain person as our savior, but dharma was there prior to this individual’s arrival, as per documented in recorded history. This makes sense, because the identified savior should be as eternally present as the dharma used in service.
Dharma is especially relevant to the human being because they have the best opportunity for following it. That is why the beginning of the human birth is inquiry. This leads to the meeting with the person who can answer the relevant questions. That meeting and subsequent approach is known as initiation, or taking the second birth.
This birth is more important. It is not guaranteed to take place, but through good fortune there is the meeting. We need to at least ask the questions first. Otherwise, we remain in the dark. We don’t take full advantage of the opportunity.
The person answering the questions might relate eternally relevant truths found in works like Bhagavad-gita, Bhagavata Purana, and Vedanta-sutra. As dharma is not limited to a certain standard of intelligence, a person can fulfill the destiny of the human birth through other ways, as well. They can live the principles of shastra through service and therefore be as much within the dharma life.
जन्म कर्म च मे दिव्यम्
एवं यो वेत्ति तत्त्वतः
त्यक्त्वा देहं पुनर् जन्म
नैति माम् एति सो ऽर्जुन
janma karma ca me divyam
evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
naiti mām eti so ‘rjuna
“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.9)
Either way, the destination is the same. The self-realized individual does not have to take birth again. Based on their consciousness, they travel to a situation from which they never have to return.
Finish work to be done,
Such that rebirth none.
Human birth a culmination,
Highest potential with determination.
First from inquiry to make,
And then sacred wisdom to take.
Or just by service dedicated to,
Revealed by spiritual guide who.