Friday, October 9, 2009

Washing The Car

Radha Krishna “Those who are full of dirty things can take to the line of Krishna consciousness for a gradual cleansing process, following the regulative principles of devotional service.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 4.15 Purport)

Men especially take a great interest in automobiles. Televised sporting events give us a glimpse into the psyche of the average adult male. Aside from beer commercials, advertisements for automobiles are the most commonly aired type of commercial during big football, baseball, and basketball games. The latest cars from the big auto manufacturers are showcased in these commercials. Usually the car is seen travelling very fast through a closed track, enticing the viewer to go out and buy it. Men have such an attachment to their cars that they often value the relationship with their automobiles more than they value the relationships with their friends and family.

This concern for cars is an outgrowth of the natural service mentality of living entities. All living entities ( human beings, animals, birds, etc.) are spirit souls at the core. We have been forced to accept a material body due to our past deeds and desires, collectively known as our karma. We performed work in the past with a desired aim, and this life is a result of the performance of that work. At the time of death, our desires and work are measured, and we are then given a suitable body in the next life:

“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)

Since our real identity is with our soul and not our present body, our natural disposition is towards service. This is because all spirit souls are part and parcel of God. We are qualitatively the same as God, but quantitatively different. For example, our souls can only exist in one body at a time, thus our consciousness is only of the body that we currently occupy. God, on the other, is isvhara, meaning He is the Supreme Controller. One of the ways He displays His controlling feature is through His expansion as Paramatma, which is the Supersoul residing in the heart of every living entity. For this reason, God is conscious of every living entity, and also of their previous lives.

“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you (Arjuna) cannot, O subduer of the enemy!” (Bg 4.5)

Originally, we are all Krishna conscious, meaning we are devotees of God. Being a devotee means loving God in a service attitude. One can say that they love God, but if that relationship is exhibited by constantly asking for things from Him, then one cannot classify that as pure love. “God give me this, give me that.” That is not a loving relationship; that is simply viewing God as an order supplier. A devotee serves the Lord purely, without any personal motive.

When we take birth in the material world, God’s illusory energy known as maya, causes us to forget our original constitutional position. This is by design. We wanted to pretend to be God by coming to this material world, so the Lord facilitated that request by creating maya. It is for this reason that most of us are engaged primarily in karmic activity, accumulating possessions and trying to satisfy our senses. Nevertheless, a small bit of that service attitude still exists inside of us. Due to maya’s influence, we direct that service towards material objects instead of God. Everyone is serving something or someone, and no one can claim otherwise. Even the most powerful CEO of the largest corporation of the world, he is serving his board of directors, shareholders, and customers. A president serves his country, the husband serves the wife and vice versa.

Corvette By taking such a great interest in cars, men direct their service towards inanimate material objects. Many people often refer to their car as their “baby”, or they’ll refer to the car as “she” and “her.” They almost view the car as a person. An automobile requires constant maintenance in order to continuously function properly. People take great care to regularly perform tune-ups to ensure that the car performs optimally. Aside from the internal maintenance, car owners dedicate even more time, money, and energy towards maintaining the exterior of the car. The look of a car is probably the most important factor in determining whether a car will be purchased or not. Some cars travel faster than others and some have better features, but the car obsession really focuses on the external appearance. For this reason, having the car regularly washed is of utmost importance. Rain can actually damage the exterior of the car. If an automobile isn’t washed regularly, dirt and other grime can accumulate and damage the paint. Car owners are well aware of these facts, so they closely monitor the exterior look, making sure that the paint looks perfect and that there are no dings or scratches on the car.

On the surface, this sort of dedication to one’s car doesn’t seem to be too harmful. An automobile is quite expensive, so why not make sure that it looks nice? According to Vedic philosophy, such concern is actually a waste of time. One of the first lessons taught to aspiring transcendentalists is that we are not our bodies. What are we then? Aham brahamasmi, “I am a spirit soul.” This fact represents the beginning of spiritual understanding. In conjunction, the Shrimad Bhagavatam tell us that anyone who falsely identifies with their gross material body is a mudha. Mudha is a Sanskrit word that translates to rascal, fool, or ass. Based on these statements, we can conclude that anyone who strictly identifies themselves as black, white, American, Indian, etc. is a mudha. This is very easy to understand. Our souls are eternal but our bodies are not. At the time of death, our bodies are either burned or buried. Death means the changing of our body, so we needn’t be too attached it.

“The Blessed Lord said: While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead…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.” (Bg 2.11,13)

Therefore, the Vedic conclusion is that we should not pay so much attention to the desires of the body, but that we should rather spend our time focusing on the cultivation of spiritual knowledge. One who thinks of God at the time of death, never has to return to this material world:

“After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogis in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection.” (Bg. 8.15)

Lord Krishna If being overly concerned with our material body is a waste of time, one can imagine how senseless it is to dedicate so much time taking care of an automobile. The car is a mode of transportation, something we need to get us to and from places. Most of us need cars to get to work, to go to the supermarket, or to go to school to pick up and drop off our children. It is important for the car to function properly, but how the car looks is irrelevant.

Instead of our car, what really need cleansing are our soul and body. By definition, the spirit soul cannot be contaminated:

“The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.” (Bg 2.23)

Yet due to contact with material nature, the soul has become embodied in a conditional state. Though the body is made up of five gross elements (earth, air, water, fire, and ether) and three subtle elements (mind, intelligence, and false ego), it is these very material elements that can help the soul return back to God. Through all the sinful activity we’ve performed, our hearts have become dirty. The four pillars of sinful life are: meat eating, illicit sex, gambling, and intoxication. Aside from being bad for our karma, these activities are considered sinful because they bind us to the cycle of birth and death.

Krishna dancing with a gopi Though the body is temporary, it represents the vehicle that can drive us out of this material world by enabling us to put a permanent end to the cycle of reincarnation. We can clean our cars, but they will inevitably get dirty again. Even if they remain clean, the enjoyment we get is fleeting. The real aim of human life is to use our intelligence to clean the body and make it God conscious. We can do that by abstaining from the foul pillars of sinful life and by regularly connecting with God. We can use our ears to hear stories about Him, our eyes to view His deity in the temple and to read books about Him, our legs to travel to Holy places of pilgrimage, and our voice to chant His name and speak about His glories to others. The opportunities for service are endless, and our efforts will never go in vain:

“The unsuccessful yogi, after many, many years of enjoyment on the planets of the pious living entities, is born into a family of righteous people, or into a family of rich aristocracy…On taking such a birth, he again revives the divine consciousness of his previous life, and he tries to make further progress in order to achieve complete success, O son of Kuru.” (Bg 6.41,43)

Just as a car’s paint becomes damaged if the car is not washed, the living entity becomes damaged if its sins are not cleansed. Krishna is the Supreme Pure, so we should use His holy names and all other things related to Him to wash away our sins.