“Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent there is no endurance, and of the existent there is no cessation. This seers have concluded by studying the nature of both.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.16)Download this episode (right click and save)
nāsato vidyate bhāvo
nābhāvo vidyate sataḥ
ubhayor api dṛṣṭo 'ntas
tv anayos tattva-darśibhiḥ
The embodied soul continually passes. The “continually” part refers to time. Known as kala in Sanskrit, time is the great devourer. Whatever exists now will not persist into the unending future. There is nothing that can be done to change this. The laws of the material world are fixed in this way.
The embodied soul passes through time, and the one constant is that it remains embodied. This is the law behind what is generally known as reincarnation. To incarnate means to come to a certain place in a particular body. The “re” prefix refers to the event happening again. Basically, I took birth in this body, and after death I will take birth again in another body. That is reincarnation.
dehino 'smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
“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.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)
The changing of bodies is the foundational truth in the larger curriculum known as the spiritual science. Why is the education required? Why should a person know this truth? Isn’t blind faith enough? If I know that God exists and that His laws should be adhered to, why do I have to learn anything else? Why not just enjoy life, having faith in His guiding hand?
1. Knowing is half the battle
This was the tag line of a popular television cartoon show of the 1980s. At the end of each episode, there would be a short lesson provided. They would give justification for sharing that lesson by saying, “…and knowing is half the battle.”
The idea is that if you are involved in a struggle, you need some intelligence. When a nation goes to war, they act off intelligence data. They have spies implanted in the rival countries. Those spies report back on possible threats and also weaknesses of the enemy. Sometimes the intelligence can be way off, but there still has to be some knowledge beforehand for the war to be successful.
“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.7)
The living entities in this world are struggling with the six senses, which include the mind. They are essentially at war with maya, or illusion. They may not know this at first. They may be trying to win maya’s favor, unaware that she stands in their way of true happiness. Knowing the difference between matter and spirit is half the battle in overcoming the cycle of rebirth.
2. It will spare them so much grief
Do you like to be sad? Do you look forward to the experience of losing a loved one? Obviously, no one would prefer grief. Loss of something important is an unpleasant experience. The knowledge of the changing of bodies brings protection against grief. It is a fact of the spiritual science, so it is not some tall tale made to alleviate concerns about the afterlife.
The protection comes from knowing that the embodied soul has moved on. It will live elsewhere. The key is that it will continue to live. The sober person, upon realizing this, is not bewildered. There is no reason to lament the loss of life, since the individual never loses their existence.
3. It is a launching pad towards higher wisdom
There is much more to know. There are amazing truths lying beyond the knowledge of reincarnation. There are the three modes of material nature, time, action and reaction, the individual spirit soul, and finally, the Supreme Controller. Within each topic is endless nuance; points for discussion and contemplation.
paśya me pārtha rūpāṇi
śataśo 'tha sahasraśaḥ
“The Blessed Lord said: My dear Arjuna, O son of Pritha, behold now My opulences, hundreds of thousands of varied divine forms, multicolored like the sea.” (Bhagavad-gita, 11.5)
The Supreme Controller is Bhagavan, which means a distinct individual full of attributes. He is transcendental, so you can study things like His hands and legs and marvel at what they are able to do. Since God is an individual, there is duality within the spiritual science. He shows the universal form, which is the complete everything, to Arjuna. Since Krishna is able to show this, it means that He has an identity separate from the complete whole; even though He is everything.
4. It allows the individual to do the best work for their fellow man
Knowing the science of reincarnation helps me in my struggle against illusion. It provides protection against the grief resulting from loss. It allows me to move closer to the Supreme Lord in association, to happily study Him further. Formal initiation into the Vedic culture is known as the upanayanam-samskara. The first word means “to bring one closer.”
I get all of this help for myself, and from that elevation I am able to help others. I can do the best welfare work. Instead of throwing money at a problem, I can give people a chance to really enjoy life, to feel pleasure. Moreover, I can save them from the greatest danger: rebirth.
5. It allows the individual to take steps to stop rebirth going forward
It’s comforting to know that the spirit soul will continue to live on after death. But there is actually something that can be done to stop rebirth. Every individual in this world is worshiping, even if they don’t realize it. By default, worship is done in honor of the material nature, the aforementioned maya. The ultimate outcome of that worship is rebirth. There are other temporary results, and there is misery at every step.
punar āvartino 'rjuna
mām upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate
“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)
A step up is to worship heavenly figures. Such worshipers have not stopped rebirth, but they have landed in higher planets, where the residence period is prolonged and the enjoyment heightened. Worshiping heavenly figures leads to birth on their planets.
The person who worships the Supreme Lord, however, never has to take birth again. Bhagavan created the material nature, after all. Reincarnation works through His will. If He wants to stop it, He can. He leaves the decision up to the individual. If I want to stay with Krishna, I can. In His company I experience true bliss, through offering unending service. The choice for this highest existence is made easier once I am made aware of the science of reincarnation.
Ultimately choice by me is made,
Whether happy or in suffering to wade.
Knowledge of reincarnation helping me,
Imperishable life, the changing bodies to see.
Much more even beyond there,
Of complete picture to become aware.
How can stop rebirth’s spinning wheel attack,
Worshiping Krishna and never coming back.