Out of all the philosophical understanding that the Vedic texts provide, this is one of the most important of all. An essential part of understanding spiritual knowledge, and an important part of the teachings of Lord Krishna, is that we realize our spiritual identity. Why it is suggested that we become detached from the world, or our body, or to see beyond the influence of the illusory energy makes no sense until we perceive that we are spiritual beings in a temporary material form. That is the key to spiritual advancement. Without understanding this main point, there is really little more we can truly comprehend or penetrate within the realm of spiritual knowledge and realization.
So now let us learn what Lord Krishna says about it. Remember, this is the heart or the essential spiritual teaching that He has given us, and does not include all of the other numerous verses found in the Vedic texts in which He explains this topic. And neither does it, nor can it, include the other innumerable verses that have filled the Vedic texts as given by other prominent personalities or avataras of God that further elaborate on this same subject. There are so many portions of the Vedic literature that go into details about our spiritual identity and how to perceive it that it lends credence to the fact that there is no other scripture in the world that deals so extensively in allowing the individual to understand one’s spiritual identity to the depth that the Vedic literature does.
So first of all, we need to realize that we cannot know what the purpose of life is, or what we should do with this existence, if we do not know who and what we are. For example, when Arjuna was hesitant to engage in battle with those who had mistreated his family and usurped his rightful claim to his kingdom, Lord Krishna told Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita (Bg.2.11-13) that though he seemed to be speaking like a learned philosopher, the truth of the matter was that Arjuna did not understand that the wise lament neither for the living nor the dead. This was because there was never a time when Lord Krishna did not exist, nor Arjuna, nor any of the kings that were on the battlefield. And regardless of whatever might happen in the immediate future, there is never a time when any of them will cease to be. One can see that as the embodied soul passes through this life from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at the time of death. Those who realize this and know their spiritual identity are not bewildered by such a change.
Lord Krishna goes on to explain that a person should know that which pervades the body through consciousness or awareness is indestructible. “No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul. It is the body only of the indestructible, immeasurable and eternal living entity that is subject to being destroyed. He who thinks that the living being can kill someone or is killed does not know this reality. One who is in spiritual knowledge understands that the Self neither kills nor can be killed. 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 does not die when the body is slain. Therefore, how can a person who knows that the soul is indestructible, unborn, eternal and immutable, kill anyone or cause anyone to kill?”1
“Just as a person puts on new garments when the old ones need replacing, similarly the soul accepts new bodies and gives up the old and useless ones.”2
“The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, burned, nor moistened by water or withered by the wind. The soul is unbreakable and insoluble, neither can it be burned nor dried. The soul is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable, and eternally the same. It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable, immutable, and unchangeable. In this way, there is no need to grieve for the body.”3
“He who dwells in the body is eternal and can never be slain. Therefore, you need not grieve for any creature [since all beings are, in essence, spirit souls].4 And when you have thus learned the truth, you will know that all living beings are but part of Me, and that they are in Me and are Mine.”5
Since all living beings are but spirit souls, then Krishna explains that a person is even more advanced in spiritual knowledge when he views all beings with an equal mind. It does not matter whether they are honest well-wishers, or are friends, pious, or if they are envious or act like enemies, or sinners, or even if they are merely indifferent and impartial.6
Nonetheless, it is not easy to understand the nature of the soul from a materialistic point of view. Lord Krishna says, “Some look on the soul as amazing, some describe him as amazing, and some hear of him as amazing, while others even after hearing about him cannot understand him at all.”7
It should be known that the living beings are without beginning, and whatever transformations they undergo, such as changes of body, are caused by the interactions of the material energy. It is nature that is the cause of all material activities, changes, and arrangements, while the living entity within the body is experiencing the various sufferings and enjoyments caused by such changes within this world.8
Krishna describes the predicament of the embodied living entities like so: The living entities in this material world of conditional life are in fact My eternal, fragmented parts. But due to the conditioned life [in which the living being forgets his real spiritual identity], they struggle very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.9 There are two classes of beings, those who are fallible and those who are infallible. In the material world every entity is fallible, while in the spiritual world the living beings are all infallible [meaning not subject to the spiritual forgetfulness found in material existence].10
Lord Krishna goes on to explain: The reality to be perceived is that the material activities are performed by the body, which is created from the material energy, while the Self does nothing. When such a sensible person ceases to see different identities, caused by different material bodies, he attains the conception of Brahman, the Absolute. Thus he sees that beings, spirit souls, are expanded everywhere. With such a spiritual vision a person can see that the soul is transcendental and eternal, completely beyond the modes of nature. Even within the material body the soul is never entangled, just as the sky does not actually mix with anything, but is all-pervading due to its subtle nature. In this way, the soul is also in the body but is not mixed with it. As the sun illuminates the universe, so the soul within the body illuminates the entire body with consciousness. One who can knowingly see the difference between the body and the soul within it, and can understand the process of liberating the soul from this bondage, attains the supreme goal of life.11
THE LIVING BEING IN MATERIAL EXISTENCE
Lord Krishna in His expansion as Lord Anantadeva said to King Chitraketu, “When a living being thinks himself different from Me and forgets his spiritual identity of qualitative oneness with Me in eternity, knowledge and bliss, then his material, conditional life begins. In other words, instead of identifying his interest with Mine, he becomes interested in his own bodily concerns and expansions like his wife, children, and material possessions. In this way, by the influence of his actions, his material existence continues, life after life, and death after death.12
Lord Krishna explains to Uddhava that the subtle and gross material bodies are created by material nature, which are the Lord’s expanded potencies. But material existence occurs when the living entity falsely accepts the qualities of the gross and subtle bodies [physical form, mind and intelligence] as being his true nature. Such an illusory state can be destroyed only by real knowledge [which is transcendental to the material environment].13
The living being in material nature follows the ways of material existence due to his association with the material energy, such as the modes of nature. Thus, [taking the unnecessary changes of life, such as birth and death, as the normal course of events] he meets with the good and evil reactions amongst various species of life.14
However, as the Lord says in His form as Kapiladeva, when the living being is unaffected by the fluctuating modes of material nature, and remains unchanged and free (detached) from proprietorship, he stays separate from the reactions of the modes and, even when in a material body, remains independent just as the sun stays aloof from its reflection on the water. When the living entity is under the spell of material nature and false ego, thinking he is the material body, he becomes absorbed in material activities. Then, by the influence of the false ego, he thinks he is the proprietor of so many things. Because of his association with the material modes of nature [and the materialistic level of consciousness], the conditioned soul transmigrates into different species of life in higher and lower situations. Until he is relieved from these material activities [and conceptions of life], he must accept this condition because of his faulty work and consciousness. Realistically, the living being is transcendental to material existence, but because of his desire to control material nature to suite his own wishes, his material existence continues, and he is affected by so many disadvantages, like in a dream. Therefore, it is the duty of every conditioned soul to engage his polluted consciousness in serious devotional service to the Lord with detachment for material results. Thus his mind and consciousness will be under full control [and will become purified].15
Lord Vishnu further explained to King Prithu that one who is advanced in intelligence and eager to perform welfare activities for others is considered best among human beings. An advanced human being is never malicious to others. Those with advanced intelligence are always conscious that the material body is different from the soul. If someone who is advanced because of executing the instruction of the previous spiritual masters is carried away by the influence of material energy, then all of his advancement is considered a waste of time. Those who are in full knowledge of the bodily conception of life, and who know that bodily desires are the results of being influenced by the illusion, do not become addicted to the body and its pleasures. A highly learned person who has no attachment to the body will not be affected by the products of material energy, such as house, home, wife, children, or wealth. The individual soul is one, pure, and non-material. It is the reservoir of all good qualities, and transcendental to the body and mind. When one is situated in My loving service without motive for material gains, he gradually becomes very satisfied within.16
This is because the soul becomes naturally engaged in his real occupational service. When the soul can engage in the service that is natural to him, rather than being forced to serve and feed the demands of the temporary material body, which can give only fleeting feelings of pleasure, then the soul easily becomes very happy.
It is only due to the contact with the soul that one’s vital breath, intelligence, mind, and body are functional. It is only due to contact with the soul that our friends, wife, and children are dear to us. Therefore, what object can be more dear than one’s own self?17 In this way we can recognize that it is actually the soul in everyone that is dear to us, and not merely the body, which will one day be lost.
As Lord Balarama explained to Rukmini, the material body, which has a beginning and end, is composed of the physical elements, along with the senses and modes of nature. The body, which is imposed on the soul by material ignorance, causes one to experience the cycle of birth and death. In actuality, the soul is like the sun, which never comes in contact with, nor separates from, the sense of sight and what is seen. Similarly the soul never undergoes contact with or separation from the insubstantial, material objects. Such transformations as birth are undergone by the body but never the soul, just as changes are seen for the moon’s phases, but never occur for the moon itself, though the new moon day may be called the “death” of the moon. So as a sleeping person sees himself undergoing changes within the illusion of a dream, one who is unintelligent undergoes material existence in the same way. Therefore, with transcendental knowledge you can dispel the grief and confusion that is weakening your mind.18
Just as fire, which burns and illuminates, is different from firewood which is what is burned to give illumination, similarly the soul, the seer within the body, is separate from the material body. Thus the spirit soul and the material body have different characteristics.19
Lord Krishna goes on to tell Uddhava that the living entity, called the jiva, is part and parcel of Him, but due to ignorance the conditioned souls have been suffering in material bondage since time immemorial. But by knowledge, they can be liberated. Both the individual spirit souls and the eternally liberated Supreme Lord is within the material body. It is as if by chance two birds have made a nest together in the same tree--the body. Of these two birds, who are friends, one is eating the fruits of the tree, whereas the other who is in a superior position does not eat. The bird who does not eat is the Supreme Lord, who perfectly understands His own position and that of the jiva, the eating bird. The jiva soul, however, does not understand himself or the Lord. He is covered by ignorance and eternally conditioned, whereas the superior bird, the Supreme Lord, is eternally liberated. One who is enlightened in spiritual realization sees himself as transcendental to the body, although living within one, just as a person who has awakened from a dream no longer identifies with the body in the dream. Nonetheless, a foolish person will think that he is the body, just as a dreamer continues to identify with the dream as long as he is not awoken from it. An enlightened person who is free from the contamination of material or bodily desires does not consider himself to be the performer of those bodily activities. He knows it is only the senses that come in contact with any sense objects.20
How a person falls into material consciousness is more thoroughly explained. Lord Krishna says that a person without proper intelligence will first identify himself with the temporary body and mind. Then when such a false understanding manifests within one’s consciousness, material passion pervades the mind, which motivates one into activities that actually cause suffering. Once the mind, though naturally fixed in goodness, becomes polluted with passion, it absorbs itself in thinking and planning the means for material advancement. Thus, such a person becomes burdened with innumerable and unnecessary material desires. One who does not control the mind and senses comes under their influence for more material desires. Thus, he is bewildered by strong waves of passion for gaining the fruits of material activities, although seeing clearly that the results are often future unhappiness. Although a learned person may be bewildered in such a way, he should carefully bring the mind under control. By seeing how he has been influenced by material desires based on the modes of nature, he does not lose himself in attachments.21
Naturally, the mind has a tendency to enter into engagement with the material sense objects, and the sense objects enter into the mind; but these are all merely designations that cover the spirit soul, which is actually My part and parcel.22
Understand that those states of existence that appear to have a separate existence from Me, the Supreme Lord, actually have no real existence. They merely create the illusion of separation from Me, the Absolute Truth, just as someone in a dream imagines different activities and rewards. In the same way, because of confusingly perceiving a separation from God, the materially conditioned living being performs fruitive activity thinking them to be the means for future rewards and arrangements [which will satisfy his mind and body]. While awake the living being enjoys the temporary characteristics of the body and mind. While dreaming he enjoys similar activities within the mind. When in deep dreamless sleep all such experiences merge into ignorance, and he is aware of nothing. The point of this is to understand that within all three states of consciousness the living being is above them, or separate in identity and remains the same. With such an understanding, he can become the controller of his senses [and does not become attached to the temporary material sense objects of this world].23
In this way, by understanding the unique position of the Absolute Truth through discriminating logic, one should expertly refute one’s own mental misidentification with matter and cut asunder all doubts about one’s own identity. One should thereafter avoid all lusty activities of the material senses by attaining the natural ecstasy from one’s own soul or spiritual identity. The conclusion is that the material body, which is merely made of material elements like earth, air, fire, and water, is not the true self; nor are the senses or the mind, nor are the elements or the controllers of such elements, like the demigods. Neither is one’s intelligence, material consciousness, nor one’s ego. All of these simply exist within the realm of temporary matter.24 The soul within the body is self-luminous and separate from the gross material body and subtle body. It remains fixed within the changing material existence, just as the ethereal sky. In this way, the soul has no end and is beyond any material comparison.25
SEEING THE SPIRITUAL UNITY BETWEEN US
If we can understand this information properly or deeply enough, we would not only understand our true spiritual identity, but also see the spiritual unity we share with all other beings. The essence of this perception has been related in the ancient Vedic texts, as we find in the Svetasvatara Upanishad (6.11) which states, “He is the one God hidden in all beings, all pervading, the self within all beings, watching over all worlds, dwelling in all beings, the witness, the perceiver.” If one can truly understand this and become enlightened in this way, he will see that he is a part of the Supreme Reality and realize his union with all beings. Within that enlightenment one can reach Divine Love. This love is based on the spiritual oneness and harmony between all beings, which is sublime. It is a source of spiritual bliss. It is a love based not on bodily relations or mutual attraction, but it is based on being one in spirit, beyond the temporary nature of the body. This is the love for which everyone searches, from which springs forth peace, harmony, and unity, of which all other kinds of love are mere reflections. This state of being is reached only through spirituality. Therefore, a life without spirituality is a life incomplete. All have the need to fill their souls with spirituality, the presence of God, in order to feel fullness, peace, contentment, and unity.
As the Supreme says in the ancient Vedic text of Bhagavad-gita (6.30): “To him who sees Me in everything and everything in Me, I am never lost, and he is not lost to Me.”
To begin seeing how things really are, and to recognize the Divinity in each of us, we have to start adjusting our consciousness. This takes place by being trained in spiritual knowledge and by the practice of yoga which purifies the mind. When the mind becomes purified and the false ego no longer influences our vision, we become sensible people. As the Bhagavad-gita (13.31-32) says, when a sensible man ceases to see different identities due to different material bodies, he attains the spiritual conception. Those with the vision of eternity see that the soul is transcendental, eternal, and beyond the modes of nature. Despite being within the material body, the soul is above material contact.
As the son is a part and parcel of the father, similarly, we are all individual parts of the Supreme Spiritual Father. In fact, the whole creation displays different energies that are expansions of the Supreme Energetic. Thus, there is diversity within the variegated material energy which expands from the Supreme Being. These expansions manifest in millions of species of life, as explained in the Vedic literature. Therefore, although we are in different material bodies, we are all expansions of the same spiritual energy. This is oneness and unity in diversity. On the spiritual platform, which is absolute, we are all the same. We are all spiritual beings, servants of the Supreme Being, undergoing life in the material creation. That is real unity. This perception is the perfection of the spiritually conscious person. He sees all living entities as reflections of the One, the Supreme Being. Thus, in a broad sense, there is one interest only amongst us all. Spiritually there is no clash.
We are all but small reflections of the Supreme Consciousness. When we put the greater whole above ourselves, and realize that we all contribute to the condition of this planet, then uniting with a common cause and with that Supreme Consciousness will be easy.
This planet does not allow us to be isolated, like individual islands. We all must work together and interface with others on some level. One lesson that this school of life on this planet forces us to learn is that when we come together willingly to communicate, with a positive purpose, or to pray together, and to unite for the good of the whole, then harmony and peace can exist. That peace forms and manifests when we focus on our spiritual nature, which brings between us our unity in the Supreme. Making this the center of our existence will easily bring peace, unity, and harmony in this world because it brings in the spiritual vibration that emanates from the Supreme. That vibration is one of spiritual love. It is all that is eternal. All else is temporary. Therefore, focusing on and using our energy on temporary emotions such as envy, jealousy, and anger, will only keep us far away from the Supreme, and from reaching any peace or unity between us.
We have to recognize how similar we are in order to expand our heart toward others we may have previously rejected. This is how love and understanding can dissolve the boundaries that keep us stifled as a society and individuals, and keep us from entering higher dimensions of consciousness. There is no other way to grow spiritually. A lack of love for each other reflects a lack of love for God.
When we think in spiritual consciousness, we do not recognize others by their differences. We see our similarities. This is easy when we think in terms of being sons and daughters of the same Supreme Father. We all belong to the One. Only in this way can there be universal love among all living entities. Only in this way can we begin to think that we are all related to each other. Once we establish our relationship with the Supreme, then we can establish our true relationship with everyone else. Our spiritual nature is eternal, and our spiritual relation with the Supreme is eternal. Therefore, our spiritual relationship with each other is also eternal. It is not subject to time and circumstances. This central point has to be established in order for there to be universal peace, brotherhood, equality, and unity in the world.
In essence, we are all consciousness in material forms. Consciousness cannot be destroyed. It is the essence of God in each of us. We are all spiritual beings, reflections of the Divine. We are not our beliefs, our cultures, or our minds and bodies. We are all divine souls on a wondrous journey through Truth and back to Truth. We have all manifested from God, the Supreme Truth, and we are all evolving back to God. As the Manu-samhita(12.125) relates, “Thus, he who by means of Self sees the self in all created things, after attaining equality with all, enters into Brahman [the spiritual atmosphere], the highest place.” That is the ultimate goal.
THE REINCARNATION OF THE SOUL
Since the soul is eternal but, in most cases in the material world, waiting to discover the way of liberation, the living being undergoes the continuation of the cycles of birth and death. So how this takes place is extensively explained in the numerous branches of the Vedic literature, but here it is summed up by Lord Krishna.
First of all He explains in the Bhagavad-gita (2.13) that, “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... As a person puts on new garments, giving up the old ones, similarly the soul takes on new material bodies giving up the old and useless ones.”26
So the continuation of life in new bodies after death is as natural as changing clothes. There is no need to mourn the body’s demise when a person dies, although we may miss that person, for he or she will continue on in another form, like a change of outfit.
Lord Krishna goes on to relate: “It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable, immutable, and unchangeable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body. If, however, you think the soul is perpetually born and always dies, still you have no reason to lament. For one who has taken birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore you should not lament.”27
In this way, we can understand that lamenting for the temporary body is a sign of misunderstanding the reality of the situation. In actuality, the soul is our real identity and we are merely taking up residence in a material body for a short length of time. As we progress through life we develop a type of consciousness, depending on our activities and habitual thought patterns and desires. This consciousness is tested at the time of death and perceived by what we are thinking of and our state of being when we are forced to give up this body. As Lord Krishna explains, “Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.”28 Thus, our consciousness takes us into the next form of existence according to what we deserve and desire.
“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas. Thus taking another gross body, the living being obtains a certain type of ear, tongue, nose, and sense of touch, which are grouped about the mind. He thus enjoys a particular set of sense objects.”29 So the final level of consciousness that a person develops in this life will provide him the means of acquiring the correct kind of body in the next life, with a certain set of senses, such as ear, nose, tongue, and sense of touch, so that he can live, enjoy, experience, or suffer in a certain way, and in the proper species that will accommodate such desires and consciousness. As it is said, out of love, hate or fear an embodied soul focuses his or her mind on something, and when done in such a way at the time of death, the person will attain the form that is being concentrated upon without fail. This is all based on what he is most attracted to, or what you could say he is meditating on, at the time of death. Furthermore, a person forms a type of karma according to his good or bad activities. This governs what a person deserves in his next life in terms of good or bad circumstances. But not everyone can apprehend how this process takes place.
“The foolish cannot understand,” Krishna explains, “how a living entity can quit his body, nor can they understand what sort of body he enjoys under the spell of the modes of nature. But one whose eyes are trained in knowledge can see all this. The endeavoring transcendentalist, who is situated in self-realization, can clearly see this. But those who are not situated in self-realization cannot see what is taking place, though they may try to.”30
“As long as the living being forgets his spiritual identity and perceives separate states of existence within the modes of material nature, he will be forced to take birth in various forms of existence in numerous varieties of experience.”31
“The unintelligent person in a material body, which has been created by his previous karma, as a result of his various activities, thinks that he is the one who performs or is responsible for everything he does. However, bewildered by his false ego, or his thinking that he is the body, the foolish person is caught by the reactions of all of his activities, and thus he is carried along by the interactions of the modes of nature [which push and pull him to act in various ways]. An enlightened person, however, who is fixed in detachment to the body [seeing himself as a spiritual being who is merely inside the body], will engage his body in all kinds of functions, whether sitting, standing, bathing, seeing, touching, eating, etc., and is never entangled by them. He remains as a witness to all that he does and does not get caught in such activities like the deluded person.”32
“In this way, the conditioned soul has been accepting material bodies since time immemorial. These bodies are like great trees that sustain one’s material existence. Just as a tree produces blossoms and then bares fruit, similarly the material body produces various activities which bare fruit in the form of reactions for which the living being is accountable.”33
This accountability is called karma, and as Lord Krishna further explains, “The material body moves according to the control of a higher destiny. Therefore, the living entity must live in such a body, along with the mind and senses, as long as one’s karma is in effect. But a self-realized soul who knows the absolute reality, and is situated in the perfect stage of yoga, never surrenders to the demands of the body, knowing it to be just like a form seen in a dream.”34
In conclusion, Lord Krishna explains the whole process of reincarnation as follows: The materialistic mind is shaped by the reactions to fruitive work. Because of the desires held within, it travels from one body to another. Because of false identity, the spirit soul follows along with it. Bound by its karma, or reactions to fruitive work [which instills the strength in its habitual thought patterns], the mind always dwells on the objects for which the senses hanker, both those of this world and those that he has heard about which he hopes to acquire in the next. As a result, the mind appears to come into being and then suffer annihilation with the loss of the body. Thus it loses its ability to perceive past and future (lives). When the living being is released from this body and enters the next, which is a product of his karma, he immediately becomes absorbed in the new circumstances of pleasure and pain, and completely forgets the previous body. The complete forgetfulness of the previous material existence is called death. Birth is merely a living being’s total identification with the new body, as if accepting the experience of a dream as reality. Thus, a person thinks that he is only now coming into being, just as a dreamer forgets all of his previous dreams once he starts a new one. As the mind begins to accept the identity of a new body, it also begins to interpret the various levels of good or bad experiences that seem to affect it in this new life.35
Because of the swift nature of time, material bodies are always undergoing creation and annihilation. But the subtle nature of time makes this imperceptible. Such different transformations take place just like those seen in the current of a river with ever-new water entering the area while the old moves away. Or like the stages exhibited by the light from a candle, such a flame emanates innumerable rays, all of which exhibit constant cycles of creation, transition, and elimination. Yet a foolish person says this is the light of the lamp, or this is the water of the river. Similarly, the material body is in constant transformation, yet those deluded by time think that at each moment the body is their real identity. In the same way, a living being does not actually take birth with a body, nor does he die. He is immortal. Only by illusion does it appear that a person is born and dies. Impregnation, gestation, birth, infancy, childhood, youth, middle age, old age, and death are the nine ages of the body. It is due to ignorance from material association that one identifies oneself with both positive and negative circumstances, even though the Self is different from the body. However, if one is fortunate, he can give up such a conception.36
A person can understand the likelihood of dying as well as rebirth by observing the death of one’s own father or grandfather, or the birth of one’s son. Thus, a person can be free from these dualities of life by understanding this realistically, and recognizing that the witness to one’s birth and death, or one’s own Self, is separate from the body. Yet, an unintelligent person will become completely bewildered by material nature if he fails to differentiate himself from it. Thus, he sinks deeper into the cycle of material existence. Due to his fruitive activities, a conditioned soul may come in contact with the mode of goodness and take birth among the demigods or wise men. Through the mode of passion he becomes a human being, or even a demon. And through the mode of ignorance he appears within the ghostly or animal species. Ultimately, the material life and experience of sensual pleasure is actually false. It is similar to a tree appearing to be quivering when its reflection is viewed on agitated water, or as if the earth is moving when one turns his eyes around in circles. It is a false impression, like that seen in a dream. In truth, the impermanent material existence does not stop for one who is engrossed in thinking about it, although it lacks reality. Therefore, one should not try to enjoy the temporary happiness that comes from the objects of the senses. Such an illusion based on the dualistic nature of the material energy will keep one from realizing the soul. Thus, even if one is insulted, ridiculed, or neglected by evil men, or even repeatedly beaten, tied up, or spat or urinated on by ignorant people, one who wishes to attain the highest goal of life should tolerate such difficulties and by intelligence keep oneself safely on the spiritual path.37
1. Bhagavad-gita 2.17-21
2. Ibid., 2.22
3. Ibid., 2.23-25
4. Ibid., 2.30
5. Ibid., 4.35
6. Ibid., 6.9
7. Ibid., 2.29
8. Ibid., 13.20-21
9. Ibid., 15.7
10. Ibid., 15.16
11. Ibid., 13.30-35
12. Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.16.57
13. Ibid., 11.10.10
14. Bhagavad-gita 13.22
15. Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.26.1-5
16. Ibid., 4.20.3-9
17. Ibid., 10.23.27
18. Ibid., 10.54.45-49
19. Ibid., 11.10.8
20. Ibid., 11.11.4-9
21. Ibid., 11.13.9-12
22. Ibid., 11.13.25
23. Ibid., 11.13.31-32
24. Ibid., 11.28.23-24
25. Ibid., 12.5.8
26. Bhagavad-gita 2.22
27. Ibid., 2.25-27
28. Ibid., 8.6
29. Ibid., 15.8-9
30. Ibid., 15.10-11
31. Srimad-Bhagavatam 11.10.32
32. Ibid., 11.11.10-11
33. Ibid., 11.12.21
34. Ibid., 11.13.37
35. Ibid., 11.22.37-42
36. Ibid., 11.22.43-48
37. Ibid., 11.22.49-59
Published with the kind permission of Stephen Knapp
Stephen Knapp (Sri Nandanandana) is the President and Treasurer of the Vedic Friends Association (www.vedicfriends.org). He has been researching Vedic spirituality and comparative religious study for over 30 years in a variety of settings. He has directly engaged in those spiritual disciplines that have been recommended for hundreds of years. He continued his study of Vedic knowledge and practice under the guidance of a spiritual master to get the insights and realizations that are normally absent from the ordinary academic atmosphere. Through this process he has been initiated into the genuine and authorized spiritual line of the Brahma-Madhava-Gaudiya sampradaya, or disciplic succession, under the sanction of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. He has also extensively travelled throughout India to most of the major holy sights and more, and is known for his slide shows on his travels to the holy places and spiritual festivals of India (even nicknamed "the slide show acharya"), and for his lectures on the Vedic and Indian philosophy. He has written several books on the science and spiritual practice of Vedic culture and Eastern philosophy.
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