“The whole cosmic order is under Me. By My will it is manifested again and again, and by My will it is annihilated at the end.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.8)
prakṛtiṁ svām avaṣṭabhya
visṛjāmi punaḥ punaḥ
bhūta-grāmam imaṁ kṛtsnam
avaśaṁ prakṛter vaśāt
Question: “I had a recent experience that got me to thinking. I was looking at old pictures of friends and family. Instead of making me happy, it only made me sad. Many of those people are gone today. The older generation doesn’t look nearly as good now as they do in the pictures. Then I realized that the time went by so quickly. The changes between the past and the present were right there in front of me to observe. And that picture is nothing more than a representation of the present at some point. Doesn’t this mean that life is depressing? What we have right now is destined to go away. Obviously I have known this all along, but seeing the fact facing me directly got me to thinking. What is the point to life?”
Time works in both directions. The tendency is to think only of the past, but there is the infinite future as well. For example, when an athlete is crowned “the greatest of all-time” for their achievements, the true meaning is that up until the present no one has performed as well as them. The word “all” has a specific meaning, though. The title here implies that no one in the future will ever be as great as this player, which is something that no person actually knows. From the Bhagavad-gita we know one thing for sure: everything is destined to be destroyed.
That paints a rather bleak picture. Is the speaker of the Gita trying to make people sad? Is He trying to depress them? The fact is that as soon as something is born, it must die. The timer starts upon exit from the womb. We think that the timer relates to maturation. When will the child say its first word? When will it begin to crawl? What kind of person will it be in adulthood? How will it find happiness?
Actually, as time continues the newborn comes closer and closer to ultimate death. What exactly is that dreaded event? It is the end of everything within that lifetime. The individual remains the same. Between the points in time of childhood and adulthood they are identical. What changes is their covering, which consists of material elements. When we look at someone, we see this material covering. We can’t see the soul, which is finer than intelligence, ego and mind.
indriyāṇi parāṇy āhur
indriyebhyaḥ paraṁ manaḥ
manasas tu parā buddhir
yo buddheḥ paratas tu saḥ
“The working senses are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and he [the soul] is even higher than the intelligence.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.42)
As clothes start to wear out and grow old, the same applies to the material covering on the individual. This fact is only depressing when one doesn’t know their true identity. When they don’t know their real nature, they mistakenly take their temporary body to be everything. In this mindset they are guaranteed to be depressed, as loss is bound to happen. Just as that body is acquired, it must be rejected at some point.
The destruction takes place through time, which is one way to understand God. The term “atheism” is somewhat misunderstood, as it is impossible to entirely reject the existence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Ignorance is simply the opposite side to intelligence. As everything is rooted in God, ignorance must be included. Atheism is simply a limited understanding of the Supreme, where the highest deity is understood through the impersonal force known as time, whose ultimate weapon is death.
The same God who destroys everything, including the cosmic creation at some point, causing depression can bring the individual’s spirits back to life. He does this through His personal presence. Knowledge of this personal presence is what equates to the term “theism.” The more you know, the more advanced you become, and the less depressed you are.
This presence is never the cause for depression. For this reason it comes primarily through sound. We see this and see that and then become depressed. Not right away, but eventually what we see will be the cause of depression. This is because we see only the material. God is completely spiritual, so we are not yet qualified to see Him, though He is around us everywhere. If we can’t even see our own true identity, how can we see the life of everything that lives?
He arrives through sound to rescue us. The sound can be of His names, such as those found in the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. The sound can be the words of wisdom He gives, such as those offered to Arjuna in the famous Bhagavad-gita.
iti guhyatamaṁ śāstram
idam uktaṁ mayānagha
etad buddhvā buddhimān syāt
kṛta-kṛtyaś ca bhārata
“This is the most confidential part of the Vedic scriptures, O sinless one, and it is disclosed now by Me. Whoever understands this will become wise, and his endeavors will know perfection.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 15.20)
The sound can also be words that describe Him, such as those found in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Brahma-samhita, the Puranas or any work derived from original Vedic literature. The sounds create His image in the mind and on paper. The image of the all-attractive Supreme Lord brings the depressed individual back to life, for it gives an indication of their blessed future. Should they choose to associate with the personal aspect of God, they get to enjoy in the place where time lacks a negative influence. They get to be with the controller of time, who slashes away the depression of ignorance with the joy of knowledge.
From old picture seeing changed face,
What of this life, destruction of empty space.
Reason that for getting true joy abound,
From the Vedas descending a sound.
In maha-mantra the Lord’s name,
And words describing Him the same.
Then ignorance to be none,
Since joy from this to come.