“Every living entity is wandering within the universe, subjected to the law of karma and transmigrating from one body to another and from one planet to another. Therefore the whole Vedic process is meant to save the wandering living entities from the clutches of maya - birth, death, disease and old age. This means stopping the cycle of birth and death. This cycle can be stopped only if one worships Krishna.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 3.181 Purport)Download this episode (right click and save)
Imagine this situation. You’re enjoying. The engagement was planned beforehand. You knew it would bring you pleasure, and the reality met the potential. It’s such a great experience you wonder why you don’t have it more often. Perhaps in the future you can plan it again.
While all of this is going on, your friend says to you, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great to never have to do this again?” Confused, you ask them what they are talking about. They repeat the same question. Again, you want more clarity. They say that it would be wonderful to never have to experience the human birth again. No more learning how to crawl, walk and talk. No more going to school for twelve years. No more worrying about how to put food on the table to support the family.
As strange as it seems, this is actually the stated goal in the philosophy known as Vedanta. Indeed, the word itself means “the end of all knowledge.” Veda is knowledge and anta means “end.” Philosophically, it is the conclusion of conclusions. Human life exclusively features rational thought, the ability to act intelligently. The way of increasing intelligence is to ask questions. When you get the answers, process them, juxtapose them with answers to previous questions, and then store the resultant information. Keep asking questions until your knowledge base builds sufficiently.
Vedanta is for when you reach the end of the questions. There is no higher topic than death. After death there is birth, and then after birth there is death. The events go together in a chain or a cycle known as samsara. This is continuous suffering, as the individual within that cycle is not meant for either event.
The introductory truth of Vedanta philosophy reveals the reason why. The individual is spirit soul, aham brahmasmi. You and I are spirit. We are not the physical appearance displayed by the mirror. We are not the expensive clothes we were given as gifts for Christmas. We are not the sports car we use to drive around town. We are not even the house in which we live.
The body is something like the house for the spirit soul. When the time for occupancy is up, the spirit soul must go somewhere else. From Vedanta philosophy we learn that the ultimate goal is to escape from ever having to take up residence in a temporary house again.
The reason this is the goal is that there is something better to be experienced. We get a taste of it through following the recommendations of Vedanta philosophy. Be detached from work. Work in such a way that your attachment gradually decreases. The wise person should see the folly in repeating the same activity every day, going through the grind not so affectionately known as “the rat race.”
As a spirit soul, I have a higher destiny to fulfill. There is a different nature to which I inherently belong. That is the spiritual nature, and the pathway towards reentering it is jnana and vairagya. Only the human being can acquire true knowledge. Only the rationally thinking individual can voluntarily implement restriction. Both are done for the purpose of advancement.
The foolish path is to try to make a temporary solution to troubles. After all, no matter how physically fit we make the body, eventually there will be death. No matter how much material enjoyment there is today, one day it will all be left behind. Vedanta is for shaping the next destination, for determining the direction of the flight we are compelled to board.
Activity in the material world is known as karma. Each action has a reaction. There is always surrender, but the object receiving the dedication varies. Worship of any person or entity not the Supreme Personality of Godhead results in rebirth. This is true even for a person who goes to the planet of Lord Brahma. Brahma is the original creature, and he lives for a very long time. Yet even on his planet there is rebirth.
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)
Those going to Krishna’s planet don’t have to take birth again. Krishna is above even Vedanta philosophy. One who gets His favor does not require jnana or vairagya. They don’t necessarily need to know the difference between matter and spirit. This makes the boon of rebirth open to every single person, man or woman, adult or child.
The individual should seek Krishna’s favor for more than just an end to rebirth. There is endless activity in Krishna’s land. Everything is fresh and new, and the work done brings results that continue to give benefits. The work in bhakti-yoga, devotional service, never goes for naught. It has permanent progress, even when practiced in the material world. It purifies consciousness through connection with the Supreme Consciousness. Thus every problem gets solved through the Divine’s association. Just as He never takes birth, so too the souls surrendered to Him never have to accept a material body again.
Though happy are me and you,
Again all of this worth it to do?
Bigger picture, birth to take,
And struggle through life to make.
Vedanta revealing liberation’s goal,
No longer under maya’s hold.
Only going to Krishna’s planet when,
Liberated devotion, coming back never again.