dehino ’smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
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 Gita 2.13
Internalization of the truth of this verse can take us beyond the world of selfies that we click in beauty mode to look youthful forever, selfies that capture only joyful moments which fade away with the click of the camera. If we don’t nip in the bud the truth of this verse on the conscious layer of our minds and let it sync deep within, this verse can make us start a journey on the path of everlasting beauty which is alike internally and externally.
Krishna begins this verse with calling the soul “embodied” through the use of Sanskrit term “dehino”. We have seen bodies budding into boyhood, flowering youthfully into teens, wilting down into middle ages, and crushing under the wheel of incurable old age. To some old age attacks in childhood because disease robs them of so many bodily experiences. We react differently to bodily changes. Some become stoical, while some, I often hear smilingly saying “I’m young at heart.” Obviously, these people don’t mean the physical heart which is so prone to cardio diseases. This heart can break our emotional heart anytime.
Within the body that passes through different stages, a soul journeys with its karmic luggage. The soul is covered with a subtle body made up of the mind, intelligence, and false ego. The subtle body insatiably tries to satiate itself through the physical body. When the soul has exhausted the karmas that kept her in the current physical body, it transmigrates to another body. The scope of this transmigration spans across 84 million species. What decides a soul’s next body type is its state of mind at the time of vacating the current body. What decides its state of mind at the final moment is what kept the soul engrossed throughout the current bodily experience. This engrossment of the soul takes place through the subtle and physical bodies.
Krishna says, as the soul passes in this body from boyhood to youth, and then to old age, likewise it passes from the current body to another. Trying to sustain a stage of this body beyond the natural cycle, or making frustrating attempts to destroy it, both are the signs of imbalance. Clicking selfies in beauty mode and posting them on Facebook is a sign of indulgence. Deliberately harming the body is a sign of ignorance. Trying to hold on to youth and beauty is no different from making childish attempts to hold the moon in one’s palm. The act of suicide or actions that harm the body creates bad karmas which the soul will suffer through either in this body or the next. Krishna, the supreme intelligent, says don’t react to the natural bodily changes. But use the body as a vehicle to reach the final destination.
Those who believe this world to be an illusion say that we are not these bodies. But Srila Prabhupada gives us the complete understanding. He says, we are not these bodies, we are in these bodies. Three years ago Krishna put me in a situation to understand what it means to be embodied. My mother’s body was laid on the floor on a sheet of cloth, covered with another sheet. She was attired in a crimson Red salwar kameez that my elder nephew had brought for her. She looked peacefully beautiful. I had an urge to talk to my mother; the body. I heard the Supersoul telling me “She is not your mother. It’s the body in which the soul who played the role of your mother lived in for 65 years. So many changes I had seen that body going through, worst of them lasted 3.5 years as paralysis before the final moment. A preacher’s lines echoed in my head: “The body is always dead. It was never alive in the first place. As soon as the soul leaves the body, the body starts decaying. So it’s the soul’s activities that keep the body functional and in the state of growth for some time.” We are not these bodies. If we were, reviving a dead person would be possible. Doctors would just replace the malfunctioning organs, like a mechanic replaces a car’s spares. The body of my mother was laid on the floor, so what was it that made her dead – the absence of the soul who had lived in it once.
We transmigrates through 84 million species until we have realised that we can’t be happy here forever, until we have been liberated, and until we have made the supreme creator’s loving service our goal. So what happens post 84-million species trip? Do we merge with the supreme?
Krishna brushes off the notion of merging consciousness or soul-merging into the Supersoul several times in the Gita. He clearly says that we have always existed as individuals. In verse 4.5, Krishna tells Arjuna, “Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot.” As a preventive measure to avoid a possible misunderstanding that can arise from the verse 4.5 that Krishna also changes bodies, He immediately says in the verse 4.6, “Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all sentient beings, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form.” Krishna is the Supersoul whose body is not subject to the material laws of growth, decay, and destruction. His body remains unchanged. He doesn’t say that after liberation we can merge in Him or in His consciousness. Liberation prepares a fertile soil for the seed of devotional service to grow into a creeper that has the innate ability to enter the abode of Krishna, the highest planet. There is nothing beyond His abode, and there is no spiritual practice beyond the practice that has the potency to take us to the highest point of all that there is: Krishna. Every other reality is subordinate to the spiritual reality of His abode. In the verse 4.9, Krishna announces the final destination of those souls that transcend liberation and bloom in love for Krishna, “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.”
We vacate our physical bodies, and we don’t carry our subtle bodies to His abode. So what remains of us after all this body-shedding? The eternal us. Srimad Bhagavatam informs us that when a soul enters a material universe, its size is 10000th part of the tip of the hair, but when it becomes eligible to enter the Supreme Abode of Lord Krishna, it recovers its original state which could be of a flower, a peacock, a leaf, or a friend whose bodily features are similar to those of Krishna. Time exists on His planet only in present. Night and day are spoken of only in story tales, perhaps. Krishna enlightens us in the verse 15.6, “That abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by electricity. One who reaches it never returns to this material world.” The ultimate purpose of our existence is to go back Home and immerse in the love for Krishna. This is the highest achievement for any soul.
Our love for Krishna, and Krishna’s love for us make us glow forever on His planet. Our original beauty is everlasting. The concept of external beauty is a notion only of material planets. The fulfillment that we souls experience in His love transcends all the transient glamours of the material world. On His planet, we dress up for Krishna, we dance for Him, everything we do, we do it for Him. He is the cynosure of our existence. He expands Himself into as many as there are souls immersed in His pure love. We learn of this from His rasa leela past times when Krishna danced with all the gopis individually, simultaneously. In His Dwarka pastimes He expanded Himself 16108 times for His queens.
Basking in His love will make us eternally youthful. Even the thought of clicking selfies and posting them on Facebook will seem so frivolous. Actually, cameras and Facebook don’t work on the highest planet where our souls enjoy blissfully in serving Krishna.