When we understand who we are,
we can easily solve the mysteries of reincarnation.
A lecture in London in 1973
by His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
The individual spirit souls, however, transmigrate in the cycle of birth and death from species to species. Human life affords the soul a chance to regain his eternal life beyond birth and death.
dehino ‘smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
dhiras tatra na muhyati
Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has an eternal body that never changes, even when He comes to the material world.
“As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.” (Bhagavad-gita2.13)
Most people cannot understand this simple instruction of Lord Krsna’s. Therefore Krsna says here, dhiras tatra na muhyati. “A sober person is not bewildered by the change of bodies at death.” And adhira means just the opposite—a fourth-class man, a rascal. So, those who are not gentlemen, who are uncultured, uneducated rascals, cannot understand the transmigration of the spirit soul. Otherwise, where is the difficulty?
Any sober-headed, cool-headed person can understand that I, the spirit soul, am different from the body. For example, I can remember how I have changed my body throughout my life. I can remember how, when I was a boy, I was playing and jumping. Then I became a young man, and I was enjoying life with friends and family. Now I am an old man. So, my body has changed so much, but I am still the same person, remaining. That I am different from my body is indicated in this verse by the words dehinah and deha, which are very significant. Dehinah means “proprietor of the body,” and deha means “the body.”
In the previous verse Krsna said to Arjuna, “All of us—you, Me, and all these soldiers and kings present here—we existed in the past, we are existing now, and we shall continue to exist in the future.” This was Lord Krsna’s statement. But rascals will challenge: “How was I existing in the past? I was born only in such-and-such year. Before that I was not existing. At the present time I am existing; that’s all right. But as soon as I die, I will not exist. So how can Krsna say that all of us existed, we are existing, and we shall continue to exist? Isn’t that false?”
No, it is not false. It is fact. As spirit souls, we are existing in different bodies, and we shall continue to exist in different bodies in the future. As Krsna says, tatha dehantara-praptih: “At death the soul transmigrates to another body.” This is to be understood. I may not remember my life in a previous body, but that is another thing. Forgetfulness is our nature. But because I have forgotten something, that does not mean it did not take place. No. In my childhood I did so many things that I do not remember. But my father and mother remember. No, forgetting does not mean that things did not take place.
Similarly, death simply means forgetting what one was in the past life. That is death. Otherwise, as spirit souls, we have no death. Suppose I change my clothes. In my boyhood I wore one kind of clothes, in my youth I wore a different kind of clothes, and now in my old age, as a sannyasi Iam wearing different clothes. So, one’s clothes may change, but that does not mean the owner of the clothes is dead and gone. No. By this simple example, Krsna explains the transmigration of the soul.
All of us are individuals. There is no question of our mixing together. God is an eternal individual, and we are also eternal individuals: nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam. But while God does not change His body, we change ours—at least while in this material world. When we go to the spiritual world, there is no more change of body. Krsna has His eternal body, an eternal form full of bliss and knowledge, sac-cid-ananda-vigraha. Similarly, when we go back home, back to Godhead, we get a similar body. When Krsna comes to this material world, He does not change His body. Therefore His name is Acyuta, “He who never falls down.” Krsna never falls into maya [illusion], because He is the controller of maya. That is the difference between Krsna and us. We are controlled by the material energy, but Krsna is the controller of the material energy. Not only the material energy, but also the spiritual energy. All energies. Everything we see, everything manifested—that is Krsna’s energy, just as heat and light are the energy of the sun.
Krsna has many energies, but they have been divided into three principal ones: the external energy, the internal energy, and the marginal energy. We living entities are the marginal energy. This means we may remain under the external energy or under the spiritual energy, as we like. This is our independence. As Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita, yathecchasi tatha kuru: “Whatever you like, you can do.” Krsna gives this independence to Arjuna after speaking the Bhagavad-gita. He does not force Arjuna. Force is not good, because a decision made under force will not stand. For example, we advise our students to rise early in the morning. But I do not force anyone. I may force them for one or two days, but if they do not practice it, then force is useless.
Similarly, Krsna does not force anyone to leave this material world. Here we are all conditioned souls under the influence of the material energy. Krsna comes here to deliver us from the clutches of the material energy. He sees that we are suffering so much, unnecessarily. Why unnecessarily? Because we are all part and parcel of Krsna.
Now, if the son is in difficulty, the father suffers also. Suppose a son has become mad—or, nowadays, suppose he has become a hippy. The father is very sorry that his son is not living like a gentleman, that he is living like a wretch. Similarly, we conditioned souls in this material world are suffering so much, living like wretches and rascals. So Krsna is not happy. Therefore He comes personally to teach us, yadayada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati … tadatmanam srjamy aham.
When Krsna comes, He comes in His original form. But unfortunately we understand Krsna as one of us. In one sense He is one of us, because He is the father and we are His sons. But He is the chief living entity: nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam. While we have a little power, He is the most powerful-supremely powerful. That is the difference between Krsna and us. No one can be equal to Krsna or greater than Him. Everyone is under Krsna; therefore everyone is a servant of Krsna: ekale isvara krsna, ara saba bhrtya. As Krsna says in the Bhagavad-gita, bhoktaram yajna-tapasam sarva-loka-mahesvaram: “Iam the enjoyer; I am the proprietor of everything.” That is the fact.
So, we are changing our bodies, but Krsna does not change His. One should understand this. The proof is that Krsna says, vedaham samatitani vartamanani carjuna bhavisyani: “Iknow the past, present, and future.” For example, in the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad-gitayou willfind that Krsna says, “I spoke this philosophy of the Bhagavad-gitato the sun-god millions of years ago.” How could Krsna remember? Because He does not change His body. This is a simple fact.
We forget things because we are changing our bodies at every moment. That is confirmed by medical science. At every second we are changing the cells in our body, and so the body is changing imperceptibly. For example, the father and mother cannot see how the body of their child is changing, but when a third person comes and sees the child, he says, “Oh, you have grown so big.”
So, our body is changing imperceptibly. But I, the spiritual soul, am not changing. That is to be understood. We are all individual souls and we are eternal, but because we are changing bodies we are experiencing birth, old age, disease, and death.
Our Krsna consciousness movement is meant to get us out of this changing position and bring us to the permanent position. We are eternal, so why should we be in a changing position? We should try to answer that question. Everyone wants to live eternally; nobody wants to die. If I come before you with a revolver and say, “I shall kill you,” you will immediately cry out, because you do not want to die. That is not a very good business—to die and take birth again. It is very troublesome.
That I know subconsciously. I know that if I die, I will have to again enter the womb of a mother, and nowadays mothers are killing their children within the womb. Then again I will be forced to enter the womb of another mother. This process is going on. So, to be killed, to live within the womb of a mother—these things are very troublesome. Because we have a recollection of all this trouble in the subconsciousness, we do not want to die.
Therefore the question is, Since I am eternal, why have I been put into this temporary life? This is our real problem. But the rascals have set aside the real problem. They are thinking of how to eat, how to sleep, how to have sex, how to defend. Even if you eat nicely and sleep nicely, ultimately you will have to die. That problem remains. But they don’t care about this real problem, although they are very much alert to solve the temporary problems of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. These are not real problems. The birds and beasts also eat, sleep, have sexual intercourse, and defend themselves. If they know how to do all these things without having an education or a so-called civilization, what is our problem? These things are not problems. The real problem is that I do not want to die, but death comes. Why? This is our real problem.
The rascals do not know of the real problem. They think these temporary problems are most important. That Krsna explains in the next verse:
matra-sparsas tu kaunteya
tams titiksasva bharata
We are faced with so many temporary problems, which we must simply tolerate. Suppose there is severe cold. This is a problem. We have to search out nice food and a fireplace, and if they are not available we are in distress. But this problem is temporary. Severe cold, winter—these come and go. They are not permanent.
My permanent problem is that due to my ignorance I am taking birth, I am becoming diseased, I am growing old, and I am dying. These are real problems. Therefore Krsna says, janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi-duhkha-dosanudarsanam: “Those in knowledge should always see the miseries of birth, death, old age, and disease.”
So, our real problem is how to end transmigration from one body to another (tatha dehantara praptih). Krsna says we existed in a different body in the past, we are existing now, and in the future we shall also exist in a different body. In this way we are transmigrating from one body to another. The intelligent person asks, “What kind of body am I going to get in my next life?” That is intelligence. And if you prepare yourself, why should you be perplexed about transmigrating into a new body?
If in boyhood you prepare yourself nicely, if you become educated, then later you will get a nice job, a nice situation, and you will be happy. Similarly, if you prepare yourself in this life for going back home, back to Godhead, then where is the perplexity? There is no perplexity. We should think, “I am going to Krsna. I am going back home, back to Godhead. Then I will not have to accept another material body. I will have my spiritual body. I shall play with Krsna, dance with Krsna, eat with Krsna.” This is Krsna consciousness. Prepare yourself for the next life.
A dying man cries because he knows his next life will be horrible. According to the law of karma, those who are very, very sinful cry because they see horrible things at the time of death. But those who are pious, the devotees, die without anxiety.
Foolish people may say, “Sinful men are dying, and you devotees are also dying. So where is the difference?” But there is a difference. A cat catches its kitten in its mouth, and it also catches the mouse. But there is a difference in this catching. The kitten feels pleasure—”Oh, my mother is carrying me.” And the mouse is feeling its death knell—”Oh, now I am going to die!” This is the difference. Therefore, although devotees are dying and nondevotees are also dying, there is a difference of feeling at the time of death. Don’t think that they are both dying in the same way.
In the Bhagavad-gita[4.9], Lord Krsna says:
janma karma ca me divyam
evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
naiti mam eti so ‘rjuna
If you simply try to understand Krsna’s appearance, Krsna’s activities, Krsna’s worship, “pa’s temple, you will go back to Godhead. These are all divine, transcendental. Even if one does not understand them but simply tries to understand, he becomes liberated from birth and death. Krsna promises this.
So become very serious to understand Krsna and remain in Krsna consciousness. Then the problems of birth, old age, disease, and death will be solved, automatically and very easily.