Why Is There Birth And Death

[Radha-Krishna]“Besides this inferior nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is a superior energy of Mine, which are all living entities who are struggling with material nature and are sustaining the universe.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.5)

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अपरेयम् इतस् त्व् अन्यां
प्रकृतिं विद्धि मे पराम्
जीव-भूतां महा-बाहो
ययेदं धार्यते जगत्

apareyam itas tv anyāṁ
prakṛtiṁ viddhi me parām
jīva-bhūtāṁ mahā-bāho
yayedaṁ dhāryate jagat

“Why do people have to die? Why does that inevitability manifest as soon as there is birth? I understand that people have been asking these questions dating back thousands of years. As far back into the past that we can conceive, for which we have recorded history, mankind has pondered this issue.

“I think it is worth complaining about. Look around. People are celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, acquisitions, upward mobility, and so forth. But why? Death will take everything away. These same people will lament the loss of a loved one. The departed will leave to another place.

“After a period of mourning, the same people will move on. They will be back to their old ways. It is as if visible death has not changed their outlook. For myself, I cannot be so blind. It takes only a single instance to wake me up.

“I want to know the reason. Why are we put into this situation? Why should we celebrate anything that has an expiration date? Why should we be happy about anything? I would like an answer. Anyone can shrug their shoulders. Any person can claim ignorance. There has to be an authority on the matter. What is their opinion?”

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that the root cause is contact with the inferior nature. With respect to analyzing the Supreme Personality of Godhead, there are two natures. We could also consider them to be energies. A superior and an inferior.

We, the living beings, are actually the superior nature. We are in the category of the higher energy. Simple proof is the requirement of an operator for the proper functioning of a machine. For instance, if our smartphone breaks, it cannot fix itself.

[cracked screen]A superior energy needs to intervene. That energy triggers some sort of change, be it a software update, replacing internal parts, or changing a setting. The phone can continue to operate, after the intervention. It can do amazing things.

At the end of the day, it is still only a phone. It is a collection of material elements. These are the inferior nature. To further break down the category, there are five gross elements and three subtle elements to this nature.

भूमिर् आपो ऽनलो वायुः
खं मनो बुद्धिर् एव च
अहङ्कार इतीयं मे
भिन्ना प्रकृतिर् अष्टधा

bhūmir āpo ‘nalo vāyuḥ
khaṁ mano buddhir eva ca
ahaṅkāra itīyaṁ me
bhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā

“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego – altogether these eight comprise My separated material energies.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.4)

We suffer birth and death when coming in contact with these elements. If we put on a certain outfit, we have to suffer or enjoy under the conditions created by the contact. If the material of cotton does not suit me well, I will feel hot. I will countdown the hours until I can change clothes into something better.

Contact with the inferior nature, in general, creates the condition of death. Birth is the meeting. It is joining the superior energy with the inferior energy. At the end of the day, we are still superior, so even through birth and death we remain the same in quality. The shifts are akin to changing clothes.

वासांसि जीर्णानि यथा विहाय
नवानि गृह्णाति नरो ऽपराणि
तथा शरीराणि विहाय जीर्णान्य्
अन्यानि संयाति नवानि देही

vāsāṁsi jīrṇāni yathā vihāya
navāni gṛhṇāti naro ‘parāṇi
tathā śarīrāṇi vihāya jīrṇāny
anyāni saṁyāti navāni dehī

“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.22)

The avatara or the representative of the avatara comes to canvass for a return to the higher way of living. They reveal to us the difference between natures and how the source of deficiencies is contact with the inferior nature.

That contact is a choice. The choice is measured through consciousness. Every activity has a final impact landing at the consciousness. This is the reason for translating bhakti-yoga as “Krishna consciousness.”

That change in consciousness is a shift in choice. It is choosing in favor of the higher nature. The living beings, who are of the higher category, should associate with others who are in the same category. God the person is the highest of all, as these distinctions between natures do not apply to Him.

[Radha-Krishna]That is to say, we talk about God having a superior nature and an inferior nature, but this only applies to our viewpoint. When we return to the original, spiritual consciousness, such designations no longer apply. The dualities go away, including the dreaded cycle of birth and death. That change in consciousness is through steady practice aligned with the principles of dharma, which are timeless.

In Closing:

Joyous celebration to be had,
But finding myself sad.

Since knowing with time expired,
Gone soon everything transpired.

From moment of birth this way,
That none permanently to stay.

Ultimately upon a choice landing,
Bhakti with higher nature standing.

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