Soquel, California — Wednesday, December 7th

Questions (and answers)

I had to wait until I was a little over twenty-eight years old before I finally found all the answers I was looking for, in a book called the Bhagavad Gita—As It Is, by Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad.

All my questions about heaven and hell and eternity that used to so disconcert Father Carey in my old catechism class, are explicitly and comprehensively answered — particularly by the Gaudiya-Vaishnava philosophers — in the Vedas. No more of that, "It's a mystery," stuff!

The Bhagavad Gita is a primer on Vedic knowledge, yet any one verse is so much deeper than anything I ever learned in catechism.

For instance, I have always wanted to know: Who am I? Why am I here? Why are we separated from God? Why didn't we just live happily together in heaven from the very beginning? Why did we have to come here? How can we get out here?

And recently while rereading the Bhagavad Gita, it struck me that this one verse (8:6) answers all these questions:

yam yam vapi smaran bhavam / tyajaty ante kalevaram
tam tam evaiti kaunteya / sada tad-bhava-bhavitah

"O son of Kunti (kaunteya), whatever state of being one remembers (yam yam vapi smaran bhavam) at the time of leaving their body (tyajaty ante kalevaram), that state they will attain without a doubt (tam tam evaiti) because their mind is constantly absorbed in such thoughts (sada tad-bhava-bhavitah)."

In this verse we see that the soul is independent of matter, that we — the jiva souls, or conscious living entities — are transcendental to our gross physical bodies and our subtle minds, and that at the end of one life (tyajaty ante kalevaram), it is the subtle character of the mind (yam yam vapi smaran bhavam) that produces the gross persona of the next material body (tam tam evaiti), to enable us (the immortal souls) to continue to play a temporary make-believe role in the fantasies with which we are obsessed (sada tad-bhava-bhavitah).

Here, Krishna (God) explains to His friend Arjuna (the son of Kunti) that the physical body is merely a biological expression (tam tam evaiti) of the soul's delusion (yam yam vapi smaran bhavam) — an inevitable product of our mentality (sada tad-bhava-bhavitah) at the time of death (tyajaty ante kalevaram).

Because we are captivated by maya (illusion), and because we selfishly desire to exploit and enjoy this tantalizing illusory environment in an infinite variety of ways (sada tad-bhava-bhavitah), we are compelled to transmigrate (tyajaty ante kalevaram) to another biological organism meticulously engineered to those precise prejudices and aspirations (tam tam evaiti) to enable us to continue our fanciful participation in this unreal world (yam yam vapi smaran bhavam).

In other words, the world is in the mind (bhava-bhavitah), and because we are preoccupied with the sensual gratification and enchanted by the mental and intellectual stimulation we experience vicariously in this fantasy-world (sada tad-bhava-bhavitah), we acquire a suitable material body (tam tam evaiti) for the continued exploration and exploitation of that illusory environment (yam yam vapi smaran bhavam) when we transmigrate from one body to another, or transition from one world to another, at the time of death (tyajaty ante kalevaram).

As soon as we understand that we are ultimately responsible for our predicament — that our desire to exploit this material environment is the cause of our bondage to it — we become eligible for liberation.

This is explained clearly, verse-by-verse, in the Bhagavad Gita.

Read it again, for the first time.

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Layout by iMonk — December 7th, 2005.