Dharma, The Way of Transcendence
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dharmaḥ svanuṣṭhitaḥ puṁsāṁ
viṣvaksena-kathāsu yaḥ
notpādayed yadi ratiṁ
śrama eva hi kevalam

“The occupational activities a man performs according to his own position are only so much useless labor if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Personality of Godhead.”
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 1.2.8

There are different occupational activities in terms of man's different conceptions of life. To the gross materialist who cannot see anything beyond the gross material body, there is nothing beyond the senses. Therefore his occupational activities are limited to concentrated and extended selfishness. Concentrated selfishness centers on the personal body—this is generally seen amongst the lower animals. Extended selfishness is manifested in human society and centers on the family, society, community, nation, and world with a view to gross bodily comfort. Above these gross materialists are the mental speculators, who hover aloft in the mental spheres, and their occupational duties involve making poetry and philosophy or propagating some ism with the same aim of selfishness limited to the body and the mind. But above the body and mind is the dormant spirit soul, whose absence from the body makes the whole range of bodily and mental selfishness completely null and void. But less intelligent people have no information of the needs of the spirit soul.

Because foolish people have no information of the soul and how it is beyond the purview of the body and mind, they are not satisfied in the performance of their occupational duties. The question of the satisfaction of the self is raised herein. The self is beyond the gross body and subtle mind. He is the potent active principle of the body and mind. Without knowing the needs of the dormant soul, one cannot be happy simply with emolument of the body and mind. The body and the mind are but superfluous outer coverings of the spirit soul. The spirit soul's needs must be fulfilled. Simply by cleansing the cage of the bird, one does not satisfy the bird. One must actually know the needs of the bird himself.

The need of the spirit soul is that he wants to get out of the limited sphere of material bondage and fulfill his desire for complete freedom. He wants to get out of the covered walls of the greater universe. He wants to see the free light and the spirit. That complete freedom is achieved when he meets the complete spirit, the Personality of Godhead. There is a dormant affection for God within everyone; spiritual existence is manifested through the gross body and mind in the form of perverted affection for gross and subtle matter. Therefore we have to engage ourselves in occupational engagements that will evoke our divine consciousness. This is possible only by hearing and chanting the divine activities of the Supreme Lord, and any occupational activity that does not help one achieve attachment for hearing and chanting the transcendental message of Godhead is said herein to be simply a waste of time. This is because other occupational duties (whatever ism they may belong to) cannot give liberation to the soul. Even the activities of the salvationists are considered to be useless because of their failure to pick up the fountainhead of all liberties. The gross materialist can practically see that his material gain is limited only to time and space, either in this world or in the other. Even if he goes up to Svargaloka,* he will find no permanent abode for his hankering soul. The hankering soul must be satisfied by the perfect scientific process of perfect devotional service.

As we have already explained, rendering devotional service to God is the real dharma, or religion, for everyone in human society. People have manufactured so many religions according to their different circumstances and countries, but the essence is service to God. Suppose someone says, "I perfectly execute the ritualistic ceremonies described in my scripture and follow the tenets of my religion." That's very good. But what is the result? Whether you are following the Bible, the Vedas, or the Koran, the result must be that you are increasing your eagerness to hear about God. But if you believe that God has no form, that the ultimate truth is impersonal, what will you hear? Simply "God is formless," "God is formless," "God is formless"? How long can you go on like that? If God were formless, there would be no point in hearing about Him, because He would have no activities.

But God is not formless. He is a person, and therefore He has His form and activities. If God had no activities, why would He say in the Bhagavad-gitã (4.9),

anma karma ca me divyam evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti mām eti so 'rjuna

“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.”

Here Kṛṣṇa says that He takes birth (janma), but this "birth" is simply like the rising of the sun. Actually, neither God nor the living entity takes birth. In the Bhagavad-gītā (2.20) Kṛṣṇa says, na jāyate mriyate vā kadācit: the living entities neither take birth nor die at any time. Then what is death and birth? For the living entities death and birth are simply changes of the body—the gross body but not the subtle body of mind, intelligence, and ego.

Every night we "die." The gross body remains inactive on the bed, and the subtle body takes us away to dreamland. We may dream that we have gone to some friend and are talking with him, or that we are working in a different way than we do when awake. This daily experience proves that we have two kinds of bodies—the gross body of flesh and blood, and subtle body of mind, intelligence, and ego. We cannot see the subtle body, but it exists, as everyone knows. So, when death occurs we leave this "overcoat" of the gross body and are carried away by the subtle body into another "overcoat."

Because we cannot see the subtle body or the soul, we cannot see how the soul transmigrates from one gross body to another while the subtle body remains intact. When one is liberated, however, one is freed from even the subtle body and is promoted to the spiritual kingdom in a spiritual body. Therefore, while living in this gross body, we have to educate our subtle body in such a way that it becomes completely spiritualized.

That education is the process of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. If our mind is always thinking of Kṛṣṇa, and if we work intelligently for Kṛṣṇa, then our mind and intelligence will become spiritualized, and naturally our ego—our sense of "I am"—will also become spiritualized. At present we are thinking, "I am American," "I am Indian," "I am white," "I am black," and so on. This "I am" has to be changed. One has to simply think, "I am an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa."

If you educate yourself in this way, transferring the activities of your subtle body from matter to spirit, then at the time of death you will give up your subtle body along with your gross body and go back home, back to Godhead, in your spiritual body. This process is taught in the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. The gross body we automatically give up at the time of death. Now we should learn how to give up the subtle body as well. For that one has to develop prema, love for God.

The first step in developing love for God is to acquire some śraddhā—faith or respect. For example, when someone comes to one of our Kṛṣṇa consciousness centers to hear about God, that is a sign of respect for the glorification of God. The person knows that he will hear about God, because our only business is to talk of God; in our centers we don't talk of politics or sociology or anything else but Kṛṣṇa. Discussion of those subordinate topics may come automatically, but our real business is to talk about God. And those who talk about God are called saintly persons, or transcendentalists.

There are two kinds of people in this world: transcendentalists and materialists. The transcendentalists, those who are interested in spiritual life, talk of God and self-realization, and the materialists talk of topics concerning the body-politics, sociology, welfare activities, and so on. A main source of these topics is the newspaper, which is filled up with news of this and that, advertisements, fashion pictures, and so on. The materialistic persons read the newspaper, but we read Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. That is the difference. We are reading and they are reading, but the subject matter is different. As Śukadeva Gosvāmī said to King Parīkṣit (Srimad-Bhãgavatam 2.1.2),

śrotavyādīni rājendra nṛṇāṁ santi sahasraśaḥ
apaśyatām ātma-tattvaṁ gṛheṣu gṛha-medhinām

“My dear king, there are many hundreds and thousands of topics for the materialistic person to hear.”

So many novels, books of so-called philosophy, newspapers, cinema magazines. All of this is of great interest to those who are apaśyatām ātma-tattvam [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 2.1.2], blind to self-realization, and gṛheṣu gṛha-medhinām, simply interested in maintaining the body, wife, children, house, and so on. Because they have no information of the soul, they are talking about the body, or sometimes about the mind. One philosopher theorizes something, and another philosopher theorizes something else, producing lots of literature that is all nonsensical because it is the result of mental speculation.

Often such speculation leads to atheism. Two classes of men always exist within this world: the atheists and theists, or the asuras and the devas. Therefore a class of atheists existed thousands of years ago in India. It is not that the atheist class developed recently. The number may have increased, but there have always been atheists. For example, long, long ago there lived an atheist named Cārvāka Muni. (He was known as a muni, a "thinker," because he was a mental speculator.) So, this Cārvāka Muni presented his atheistic philosophy as follows:

ṛṇaṁ kṛtvā ghṛtaṁ pibet yāvaj jīvet sukhaṁ jīvet
bhasmī-bhūtasya dehasya kutaḥ punar āgamano bhavet

Cārvāka's theory was that as long as you live you should eat as much ghee as possible. In India, ghee (clarified butter) is an essential ingredient in preparing many varieties of delicious foods. Since everyone wants to enjoy nice food, Cārvāka Muni advised that you eat as much ghee as possible. If you say, "I have no money. How shall I purchase ghee?" Cārvāka Muni, replies, "Then beg, borrow, or steal, but somehow or other get ghee and enjoy life." And if you further object that you will be held accountable for such sinful activities, Cārvāka Muni replies, "You will not be held accountable. As soon as your body is burned to ashes after death, everything is finished. So live joyfully, eat nicely, enjoy your senses, and finish your life." This is atheism, the philosophy of those who are apaśyatām ātma-tattvam [Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 2.1.2], blind to the truth of the soul.

If you inform such people that the soul is transmigrating from one body to another among 8,400,000 species of life, they don't care. Even if you inform them that one who follows Cārvāka's philosophy is going to be a tree in his next life, they will reply frankly, "Oh, it doesn't matter; let me enjoy. If I become a tree, what is the harm? I shall forget this life." People have become so foolish that they have lost sight of their real self-interest. They are like children. Suppose you say to a child, "If you always play and do not go to school, you will not become educated, and then you will suffer in the future—you will have no position in society." The child may reply, "I do not care," but the certainty of suffering is there. Similarly, when you inform a modern person about the transmigration of the soul and explain that his sinful activities will cause him to become an animal, aquatic, or reptile in his next life, he will reply that he doesn't care or that he doesn't believe you. That is not very intelligent, because transmigration is a fact.

At every stage of life, one has a past, a present, and a future. A young man can remember his childhood, live in the present, and plan for his future as an old man. And why should there be no future for the old man? There must be a future, and that future is to get another body, whether it be the body of an animal, a tree, a demigod, or an associate of God. As Kṛṣṇa states in the Bhagavad-gitã (9.27),

yānti deva-vratā devān pitṝn yānti pitṛ-vratāḥ
bhūtāni yānti bhūtejyā yānti mad-yājino 'pi mām

“Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship the ancestors go to the ancestors; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; and those who worship Me will live with Me.”

So, you prepare yourself for your next body by how you act in this body. The ultimate goal is to get a body in the kingdom of God. That is the highest perfection (saṁsiddhiṁ paramam). Why? Kṛṣṇa explains, mām upetya punar janma duḥkhālayam aśāśvatam nāpnuvanti [Bhagavad-gītā 8.15]. "If someone comes to Me, then he does not get any more material bodies in the material world." What harm is there in staying in the material world? The harm is that every situation in this world is duḥkhālayam aśāśvatam, full of miseries and also temporary. Suppose you are an American. You may think, "In America there is enough money, vast land, and resources. I shall live perpetually as an American." No. You can live as an American for perhaps one hundred years, but you'll not be allowed to live as an American perpetually. Even Lord Brahmā, whose one day is millions of years long, is not allowed to remain perpetually in his position. The ant will not be allowed, the cat will not be allowed, the elephant will not be allowed, the man will not be allowed, the demigod will not be allowed to live forever. The great demon Hiraṇyakaśipu tried to live forever. He underwent severe penances to become immortal, but it was impossible. Of course, the lunatic scientists promise, "By scientific advancement we shall become immortal." But it is impossible.

Therefore, intelligent persons should try to achieve the ultimate transmigration, which is to go back home, back to Godhead. That should be the aim of life. Unfortunately, people do not know this. Therefore we are trying to render our humble service to human society by teaching, "You are attempting to become happy in so many ways, but instead of becoming happy you are becoming frustrated. So please take this Kṛṣṇa consciousness and you will actually become happy." Imparting this knowledge is our mission.

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