Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Verse 2.20: For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.

Ever wonder where we come from? Have you ever wondered what prompts you to ask that question? It's interesting how even our questions are subject to our experiences and identifications. Srila Prabhupada, the translator of the Bhagavad-gita as it is, very succinctly brings to light an important point in the purport to this verse. That is: Under the impression of the body, we seek the history of birth, etc., of the soul.

Puts a lot of things into perspective if we take the time to unpackage this statement. Our identification with the body effects us on so many different levels. It's not that we simply identify ourselves as "human". That's just the start of our assigning designations to our bodies. From there we start identifying ourselves as male/female, with country, race, religion etc... All of these things that we associate ourselves turn into identities. And like Prabhupada says, due to the fact that we associate the body with birth and death we bring in that same type of thinking when it comes to the soul. That is why Krsna is taking so much time to convince us that the soul is totally different than the body. It is not subject to birth, death, disease and old age like the body.

Let's get back to the concept of identifications. What did you answer the last time someone asked you what you did? Most people immediately throw out titles like student, professional, doctor, mom and so forth. Does anyone ever actually think to answer: "I'm trying to purify my heart so that I can re-establish my loving relationship with God and realize that I am actually the soul?" As an aspiring bhakti yogi or one is trying to love God, that is what we are actually doing! We may be a professional or a student or whatever, but that is not who we are actually are. What we do should be a direct reflection of who we really are.

It is true that we may have duties to perform and roles to fulfill but those titles don't represent the soul. They represent the body, circumstances and environments that we are in right now and are subject to change. This is not to minimize their importance, as we should fulfill them all to the best of our ability. In fact, the advanced bhakti yogi fulfills their roles as mother, father, provider, friend, citizen etc., expertly. However, the point is that we should not be so caught up in identifying with these designations alone that we lose sight of the fact that we are actually spiritual beings that are undergoing a material experience.

That is why the bhakti texts state that designations serve as obstacles in trying to realize we are the soul. It is very important to remember the context. No where do the bhakti texts recommend that one should detach themselves and give up everything. In fact, it is frowned upon as artificial renunciation. Practical realization that one is actually the soul will only serve to enhance relationships with others since such a person will be able to see all living entities as equal and worthy of the greatest respect.

However, coming back to the fact that many of us do identify ourselves with various material designations, the fact that we are conditioned to "accept truth" with our senses makes it even more challenging when we look in the mirror. We don't see the soul, but the body! If we can get over that fact and realize that it is the soul that causes the body to function, then we have all these other designations to trip us up. How so? Due to the fact that these identifications prompt various desires.

When a desire arises, what does a living entity do? They start making a plan as to how to fulfill that desire and so the endless cycle of planning and desiring continues. In fact, it is said that if we even have a pinch of material desire to execute our plan to fulfill that desire, we will have to accept another body. However, if instead we engage in devotional service (acting in the consciousness that everything is Krsna's and everything I do is an offering to Krsna), that begins the process of purifying our desires. Simply by acting in this consciousness, the process of bhakti starts to work.

Just yesterday, a friend of mine was relating an experience to me. She got cable TV in her house and was saying that she tried flipping through various channels trying to find something to watch but just felt uninterested and bored. Instead, she chose to spend that time glorifying God by chanting his names. She was expressing how peaceful and focused she felt afterwards. Simply by choosing to engage in one of the nine potent forms of devotional service (one of which is chanting), she automatically experienced practical experience of how God reciprocates with one who chooses to spend time with him.

This is how potent the process of bhakti is. Sometimes it may seem almost impossible to attain God consciousness with all the distractions that surround us. Hence the bhakti texts serve as a guide to make us aware of these impediments. Ultimately though it all boils down to love. God wants us to love him. All we need to do is: always try to remember him and never forget him.


  1. Loved this post!

    "What we do should be a direct reflection of who we really are. "

    That part really stuck out to me. It reminded me of a line I read in Srila Prabhupada's purport of Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.6:

    "To find complete satisfaction, to find true peace, one must attain to loving devotional service of God. That’s when we realize who we are and who God is."

    And when it comes to all of those other labels and roles we wear and act out, by experiencing the peace and satisfaction that comes of knowing our true natures, and God's, we then help to spread that peace out to others and no doubt fulfill our roles to the best of our ability, as you mentioned in your post.

    Another line of Srila Prabhupada's came to mind while reading your post...In particular during what you shared of my account of not finding cable tv satisfying and having then decided to chant. When I felt restless , not finding anything to satisfy , I realized that it was where I was looking for satisfaction that was the problem. These words popped in my head. They deal with how to awaken our dormant affection and realization of God:

    "This is possible only by hearing and chanting the divine activities of the Supreme Lord, and any occupational activity which does not help one to achieve attachment for hearing and chanting the transcendental message of Godhead is said herein to be simply a waste of time."
    ~ Puport from Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.8

    Nothing compares to drawing near to God. No television show, no glittering trinket the world could offer! I think sometimes we tend to compartmentalize our spirituality. Set it aside for certain times, think about it while engaged in certain practices. But it seems here Srila Prabhupada is telling us to be engaged in thinking about God, having Him be our motivation, in all that we do. And anything that takes our focus off of Him is a waste of time. I'm really starting to see the value in that. :) When I chose chanting instead of mundane pursuits I really felt more focused, more at peace, and to me that told me I made the right choice. :)

    Okay, I see I think I wrote an essay! lol Sorry about the length. Great post! :)

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and realizations Jessica! Yes, nothing compares to drawing nearer to God, as you aptly put it and it's so true that we tend to compartmentalize our spiritual practices.

    Ultimately the more we invest in our relationship with Krsna, the greater reciprocation we'll see. The ball is in our court!