nainaṁ chindanti śastrāṇi
nainaṁ dahati pāvakaḥ
na cainaṁ kledayanty āpo
na śoṣayati mārutaḥ
“The soul can never be cut to pieces by any weapon, nor burned by ﬁre, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.” Bhagavad Gita, verse 2.23
A few weeks before Srila Prabhupada left the body he was in Bombay. His body became sapless, and yet it was transcendental. It’s very hard for me to watch his last days’ videos. I scream silently when I look at his muscle-less body. But to think that his body was material is an offense according to the Vaishnava philosophy. A pure vaishnava offers his body in the selfless service of Krishna, and this offering makes his body transcendental. It makes it as pure as the soul. So, Srila Prabhupada said that he would like to leave the body in Vrindavan. He humbly expressed his wish to his disciples who got worried at the thought of moving Srila Prabhupada to Vrindavana in such a sensitive and dire condition. But his wish was his disciples’ command. In Vrindvana, amidst the intense but slow pitch Hare Krishna kirtan, he dictated the purport of a verse from Srimad Bhagavatam and left.
Many of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples have vacated the bodies in fully Krishna conscious state, making themselves eligible for Krishna’s personal association. There have been many saints outside the vaishnava tradition who have left the bodies in high awareness, aiming to merge in Brahmajyoti of Krishna.
The soul can’t be cut, burned, moistened, or withered, says Krishna. None of the elements of this world can alter the transcendental form of the soul. For souls like Srila Prabhupada, the body (as well as intelligence, mind, and senses) is a means to serve Krishna. For conditioned souls, it’s the body we serve, and the mind we feed, and the senses we exploit. To appreciate and realize what Krishna has said in this verse, one has to aim to become transcendental to the modes of material nature. To achieve that aim, one has to begin the journey immediately. We’ve been postponing it for millions of lives either due to ignorance or due to our uncontrollable passions. Hearing this verse or reading it is a sign that the time has come to begin the journey of self-realization.
A saint in his last stage of throat cancer was asked by his doctor if he didn’t feel any pain. How come the saint was so calm and still, the doctor asked him. To this the saint said, “I’m not in pain, doctor. It’s the body which is in pain.” Imagine a sword piercing the abdomen and slitting the system beyond repair, a Tsunami washing away our bodies to the unknown shores or in the bottomless depth. Imagine burning in WTC fire, or a freefall from a chopper without a parachute. Imagine that after all this we still remain in barely functional bodies for decades to come. These thoughts make me shudder. I would rather die…is my first reaction. In my conditioned state I’m this body who is controlled by my mind.
An intense shifting pain in my legs has been keeping me awake at nights since last Sunday. It aggravates when I’m sleeping and wakes me up to acknowledge its value. During the day it lessens occasionally. I’ve been trying to tolerate it as Krishna says “Tams titiksasva…” in the verse 2.14. Painkillers from the medical industry seem to be very feeble compared to this karmic pain that I’ve accumulated over many births. Last night the pain shot up beyond my threshold of toleration. “Krishna” I muttered in pain “please help me bear it.” It shot up like a crackle’s lights in the dark sky. “Krishna, please heal me.” The pain continued rising. “Narsimhan Dev, please protect me.” “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare”, I chanted. The mobile clock showed that an hour had passed tossing around in pain. I sat in my bed and started chanting on my beads. Chanting made me feel better. I woke up at 4.30 to begin my day. Feeling tired, I slept again after chanting a few rounds. The pain rose with the sun, and I woke up at 6am. Its intensity agitated the internal enemies. My mind went off to the dark lands of doubts and criticism. The mind screamed silently in the abyss of my being. This is maya, I heard a soft voice. I pleaded to Krishna to help me.
He won’t bless me with any quick fixes that inhibit my ability to transcend pain or make me indulge in pleasure. I should live from moment-to-moment in the realization that I’m not this body which fire can burn, water can drown, wind can disintegrate, or a weapon can slit. Above all, He wants me to remember Him from one moment to another. Not that back of the mind remembrance, but it’s like a child crying for his mother, a lover crying for his beloved. But I’m taking baby steps. At the initial stages on the path of bhakti, a little pain makes me cry and get mad. Krishna knows when to shoot a pain in my body, and when to withdraw pleasure from my senses. He’s supremely intelligent. But, patient and faithful I need to be.