“The psychologist makes a serious study of the physiological conditions of the brain, as if the construction of the cerebral lump were the machine of the functioning mind, but in the dead body the psychologist cannot bring back the function of the mind. These scientific studies of the cosmic manifestation or the bodily construction independent of the Supreme Lord are different reflective intellectual gymnastics only, but at the end they are all illusion and nothing more.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.34 Purport)
“Oh darn, my car won’t start. Why is this happening to me today? I have to get to work. Why does God hate me? The car is exactly the same today as it was yesterday. Nothing has changed. The tank is full of gas, none of the service lights are on in the dashboard, and it’s not even that cold outside. The engine should work just fine. This is ridiculous. I will have to call a tow-truck so that I can bring this to the mechanic. They will have to tell me what’s wrong.”
The issue in these instances can be very simple. For instance, perhaps the car battery is dead. If you left the trunk open overnight, the light in the dashboard indicating that the trunk was open would have remained on all night as well. Since the car wasn’t on, the battery was utilized unnecessarily to keep the indicator light on. Now in the morning the car won’t start because the battery is out of power. If you give it a quick jumpstart and let the car run for a while, you should be back to normal.
There could also be more major issues. Perhaps the battery needs to be replaced entirely. Maybe the alternator is bad. Maybe there’s some other part in the car that has become defective, thus making the car inoperable. In these instances, you just get the new part and have an expert install it. You should then be good to go.
Lacking God consciousness, the enthused scientist thinks they can keep the machine known as the human body running forever, making the necessary fixes along the way. But in the end it is one part in particular that they have no control over. That part is not of the same quality as matter. It is spiritual, and as such it is rooted in the Supreme Spirit.
“This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.14)
Actually, the material energy is also rooted in spirit. We cannot generate matter on our own. For instance, we can’t look at an empty plot of land and will a large building to be erected. If we want the building, we need to gather the necessary materials. To get the parts, we have to look in places where there are collections of matter; we don’t generate the matter ourselves. Even the trees, which grow from a tiny seed, are generated from life. If the tree is dead, it stops growing. If it was never alive, it would never have produced wood to be used in construction. If all we see is the material, then our understanding is incomplete.
“But how do we see the spiritual if it is subtle? How do we know that spirit is the catalyst to something if we can’t put it in our hands? I know that I’m eating pizza right now because I can see it in front of me. I can smell it and also taste it. How can I do the same with spirit?”
The visible changing of bodies is one indication of the presence of spirit. We know the pizza pie in front of us through a variety of sense interactions, so seeing isn’t the only way to believe with respect to spirit. We can hear spirit as well. The fact that sound can be produced by a living creature indicates the presence of spirit. The very reference to life indicates spirit. And that spirit is impossible to control through blunt scientific instruments.
“How do we control it then? How do we control birth and death? How do we stop disease? How do we animate the dead body?”
These issues and more are addressed in the original spiritual science, which is presented in a concise way in the Bhagavad-gita. This classic Vedic text is likened to a work for undergraduate study. The graduate study is the Shrimad Bhagavatam and postgraduate the Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita. Despite the various grade levels, there is a common theme that can be understood by any person: we are not our body.
Aham brahmasmi is the Vedic aphorism that says that we are Brahman, or pure spirit. We are not the changing body. We drive the car, but we are not the car. We can alter the parts to fix the broken car, but this has no bearing on the driver. In a similar manner, we can make changes to the body, but as the occupier we are not affected. The spirit soul is tied to consciousness, which is subtle and can be influenced by the actions taken when operating the vehicle.
We can use our car to drive to work or school or we can use it to commit a crime. We can visit our friends and family or we can drive to a strip club. The choices each have a subsequent influence. The aggregate influence, taken as a whole from all the actions of the individual within their body, constitutes karma, or the reactions to fruitive activity. It would make sense then to try to get the best karma, to reap the best reactions to work. In order to get the best reactions, you need the best work.
That work is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. It is a discipline which identifies the individual properly right from the outset. Notice that in no other discipline does this occur. If we simply study the human brain we will not really get anywhere. We may be able to heal physical damage to the brain, but nothing can be done to get that amazing organ to start working again should the spirit soul depart the body. The person who studies only the brain and not the occupier in the body thus doesn’t really have any worthwhile information.
I am a spirit soul, and I came from somewhere. In this life I emerged from the womb of my mother, but prior to that I existed as well. This truth is presented in the Bhagavad-gita, which again shows the value of the work. The instruction that Shri Krishna offers in the Gita is straightforward. He tackles the most difficult issues right away, lest He be accused of withholding vital information.
As spirit I am eternal, and Shri Krishna is the source of that spirit. He generates the material creation to toss the souls desirous of false competition into a pool of endless games. The competition is false because there is really no winner. If everyone must die eventually, how can we say that any one person is superior to another? The real superior authority is Shri Krishna, and in bhakti-yoga the individual soul looks to connect with Him right away.
The recommended method of bhakti-yoga practice for this age is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” In this practice we hear God, though we may not believe it in the beginning. This connection reawakens a dormant consciousness that is our original consciousness. Krishna, or God, is our eternal well-wisher, and in the purified state of mind we never wish to leave His company. He is the missing piece to revive the devotional engine that roars without motivation and without interruption in the ideal state. One who takes the steps to learn of spirit from the right authority, namely Shri Krishna or someone who follows in His line of instruction, will not be swayed by the illusion of the material energy.
Frustration when the car does stall,
Auto mechanic we must then call.
Expert orders and installs the vital part,
So that again our car can start.
Body a machine controlled by the brain,
But there is a driver, entity of substance not the same.
Study spirit, for it is at the core of our existence,
Ignoring it yields no results in spite of endless persistence.