Monday, September 24, 2012

The Human Birth

Lord Rama“Why don’t your eyes drink fully that pure, nectarean form? Get the most out of your human birth; why live like an animal?” (Janaki Mangala, 62)

kasa na piahu bhari locana rūpa sudhā rasu |
karahu kṛtāratha janma hohu kata nara pasu ||

The human birth is the most auspicious because of the potential it carries for the purification of consciousness. There is no difference between souls. An animal’s soul and a human’s soul are the same, but differences arise in the type of body accepted. Indeed, even within the human form there are varieties to consider with respect to the output of energy. The body of a child is not nearly as capable as the body of an adult, yet we don’t consider the two body types to have different souls. For the human birth there is only one way to reach a successful end, to make the experience fruitful. The greatest welfare workers are those who know this hidden gem of knowledge and then kindly pass it on to as many people as possible.

That task isn’t always easy. One of the subtle elements of material nature is ego, which in its tainted form deludes the otherwise intelligent living being into thinking that they know everything. The property of “all-knowing” can only exist in someone who is all-pervading. Think of it in terms of a computer server. Only if you have a machine capable of holding every observation ever made by every person to have ever existed can you have a chance at perfect knowledge. The database doesn’t guarantee you the perfection in thought, however, for you still have to know how to look up information and properly make use of it. You need the ability to recognize patterns in experiences and then know how to implement the resulting mental conclusions to alter behavior for the better.

The human being cannot be all-knowing because he cannot remember what happened a day or two ago. A few hours ago is also a little fuzzy with respect to exact timings. How then can the human being think that they are supremely wise or not in need of instruction from others? The answer is that the ahankara, or false ego, takes over and uses pride as a way to block off the good counsel others offer.

The kind-hearted saints distribute the proper information regardless of the reception. Does it really matter what someone else thinks? If we know that we are correct, isn’t it our duty to instruct others on the proper way to act? Why should we pay so much concern to how others treat us, for unkindness and intolerance should have no bearing on our decision to speak the truth?

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala we have an instance of where good instruction is offered with emphasis at a time when the only all-knowing being was within eyesight. The Supreme Personality of Godhead in the avatara of Lord Rama was on the precipice of a remarkable feat. The most famous and capable kings from around the world had gathered in Janakpur to take part in a contest that would determine the husband of Janaki, the daughter of King Janaka.

She was found as a child while in the ground that the king had planned on ploughing. Because of the strange circumstances of her birth, the girl was named Sita and raised by the king as his daughter. When the time came for her marriage, Janaka decided to hold a contest, where whoever could lift an enormously heavy bow originally coming from Lord Shiva would be declared the winner.

The princes called to Janakpur were eager to show their prowess and prove their worthiness to have such a beautiful and chaste woman for a wife. Yet they were humbled by the bow, unable to even move it. Then Rama, Lakshmana and Vishvamitra arrived on the scene. Rama and Lakshmana were brothers belonging to the Ikshvaku line led at the time by King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Vishvamitra was a venerable rishi residing in the forests at the time. The two beautiful brothers were with him to protect him from the attacks of ogres.

Shri Rama’s form is described above as nectarean. If we should come upon nectar, something with a heavenly taste, it would make sense to taste it. The reference to the eyes points to the fact that the nectar from Rama in this instance came from His beautiful form. The eyes would do the drinking by looking upon Rama, getting their fill of the pure nectar. Shuddha refers to the Supreme Lord, who is above the modes of material nature. Everything about His personal self is pure, including His transcendental body.

It is also advised that one should drink this visual nectar as a means of getting the most out of the human birth. To understand and love God represents the purpose to an existence, and since the human being can take the steps to rationally understand this need, they have the most auspicious birth. The spirit soul in the human form has spent many lifetimes in previous wombs and lived the life of the animals, birds and beasts. Those lives revolve around eating, sleeping, mating and defending.

“The foolish cannot understand 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.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.10)

The human being follows the behavior of the animals when there is no attention given to worshiping God. Instead of drinking nectar with the eyes, the mouth tastes the poison that brings intoxication. The flesh of the innocent animals killed to satisfy the taste buds only further binds one to the cycle of birth and death. The itches for sense gratification are regularly scratched through illicit sex and gambling, rounding out the life of sinful behavior.

The sin is designated as such because of the effect the behavior has on consciousness. As Rama is shudda, or pure, interaction with Him is by definition sinless. Through service to Him the human being can avoid wasting the precious human birth on activities already patronized during the many previous lives.

Lord RamaIt should be noted here that the recommendation for worshiping God relates to tasting nectar, not just to refraining from bad behavior. The call for worshiping God is not strictly tied to sitting quietly and forcing restraint on oneself. To truly transcend the animal instincts, the beautiful mental picture of Shri Rama innocently awaiting His turn in the contest comes to the rescue. Though He has the most to be proud of, Rama does not falsely inflate His ego. He is the most capable, so He doesn’t need the fanfare that the other kings require prior to their attempt. He and Lakshmana are in youthful figures who have just arrived from the forest, an austere setting. The wilderness is no place for a prince, something the infamous King Pratapabhanu once found out. He accidentally ventured out into the forest one time and had the misfortune of meeting one of his old rivals, who had since taken the false guise of an ascetic. The rival then tricked the king into insulting brahmanas, which in turn caused Pratapabhanu to be cursed to take birth as a ghoulish creature named Ravana in the next life. Dasharatha’s eldest son Rama would defeat that same Ravana later on.

The animal drinks up maya, or material nature, not knowing any better. The birth from the womb of the mother for the human being is like an animal birth, but with the entry into spiritual life under the guidance of the spiritual master, the second and more important birth takes place. That existence ideally culminates with the sweet vision of the Supreme Lord, a mental picture which can be created and maintained through the regular chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

In Closing:

Rather than in maya’s pool sink,

Nectarean beauty of Shri Rama drink.

 

Sins from many past births salvage,

Of this human birth take advantage.

 

Sacred contest in Janaka’s land,

In eyesight the future winner stands.

 

Invest your full faith and trust in Him,

And against enemies of life you will win.

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