One of the great disciples of Vivekananda, Sister Nivedita asks him, ‘Swamiji, if I come with you what will you teach me? What will you give me?’ Vivekananda says, ‘I will teach you how to face death.’ That is the ultimate teaching. Here, Kṛṣṇa is giving that ultimate teaching. In these verses, He is saying something very strange:
janma karma ca me divyam evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ I
tvaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti mām eti so ‘rjuna II 4.9
It means: if you understand the secret of My birth and death, you will be liberated from birth and death, Arjuna.
How? Let us see the secret of the birth and death of Kṛṣṇa, how we all go through the birth and death cycle. Now, just as Kṛṣṇa made the statement, ‘I tell you this because you are my devotee and friend’, now I have to make the same statement to you all again. Here I am going to speak on something, which is beyond logic. It is pure experience. Before speaking, I take an oath: With integrity and authenticity, whatever I speak is the truth.
Whenever the ultimate truth is uttered, whenever something beyond our logic is uttered, we never receive it completely. If we are courageous, we fight, we question, we argue. If we don’t have that much courage, we don’t allow that word to enter into us.
Listen! We never believe anybody. It is always an argument, sometimes open, and at other times, in the mind. If we can’t express it openly, we continuously repeat the same words in the mind.
That is why, before entering the truths, I tell you what I speak is the truth. If you can, receive it. There is a possibility of transformation, because here I speak the truth that is realized only by experience, which cannot be logically true.
Different religions describe the process of death in different ways. Some say if you have done puṇya or merits, you will reach a place called heaven and if you have committed sins, you will be taken to eternal hell. Each one has his or her own faith. Some say there will be a special pushpak vimānam (aircraft) sent from Śiva’s abode and you will be directly taken to Śiva’s place.
The Kaṭhopaniṣad says you will pass through a tunnel and see ‘Anguṣṭha mātra puṛuṣa antarātma — meaning the thumb sized light, which is your soul when it leaves the body. There are so many explanations, so many versions as to how death happens and how your spirit enters into the next body. Here, Kṛṣṇa beautifully explains that people belong to different religions only when they are alive. When they are dead, they follow only one path, which is described in the Kaṭhopaniṣad.
See, when you leave the body, the moment the physical body dies and relaxes, that very moment the soul leaves the body. At that time, what you perceived as the highest pleasure in your life surfaces. If you thought eating was the highest pleasure in your life, naturally while leaving the body, you will think, ‘I should take a body which will continuously help me to eat. You go through all the choices and you decide to take a pig’s body. Whatever you think is the greatest experience in your life, which- ever experience occupies your maximum inner space, you decide your next birth based on that desire. Please listen, nobody else decides your birth. It is simply you who chooses. It is clearly the conscious decision of your soul.
Here Kṛṣṇa says beautifully, ‘I am telling you the secret of things.’ Kṛṣṇa says, ‘rahasyaṁ hy etad uttamam.’ ‘I am telling you the mysterious ultimate science, Oh, my dear devotee and friend, bhakto‘si me sakhā ceti.’
I made a few statements: ‘You take birth based on your desires, based on how you lived in the previous birth. Birth and death are your conscious decisions.’ We will now analyze these statements. Only then will we be able to intranalyze and powerfully live them.
Listen. We will analyze to internalize this whole concept, the secret of birth and death, the mysterious science that Kṛṣṇa delivers.
The moment this truth is understood, you will immediately see that Life is a blessing. This life is your decision, please be very clear about it. Including poverty, everything is your decision. Don’t think poverty has been forced upon you. Even that is your decision. When we take birth, we take birth based on our fear and greed. On one side, greed pushes us, ‘Let me become the son of a king, let me become the son of a rich man.’
Along with money comes the responsibility of protecting it. That is why goddess Lakṣmī, the goddess of wealth, is handed over to Lord Viṣṇu, the Protector! Lakṣmī, the goddess of wealth, is neither with the Creator, Brahma nor with the Destroyer, Śiva. She is with the Protector, with Viṣṇu. Along with Lakṣmī who represents wealth, the responsibility to protect Her also comes. Most of the time, we only want the enjoyment, we don’t want the responsibility. A person who is ready to take on the responsibility as well as the enjoyment will never be deprived.
If you understand this secret clearly, this very moment you will feel your life is a blessing and not a curse. Usually we always blame life. We do not realize we are responsible for everything happening in and around us. We say, ‘If I am given a chance, I would make the world much better than what it is now!’ We always think we can develop on existing creation.
Surely God is much more intelligent than us! Whether it is to do with your life or to do with the whole of Existence, He has done the peak of enriching from His vast responsibility. The one who achieves the peak of responsibility becomes a powerful enlightened being. The one who achieves the peak of enriching is God, an Incarnation. Because we don’t understand the mystery behind our decisions, we continuously blame life and the person who gave this life to us.
The greatness of God is that He gives you the freedom to be in bondage. Even if it is the ultimate freedom He offers you, He never forces it on you. He gives you the freedom to be in bondage if that is your choice. Your whole birth is based on your fear and greed. But the Incarnation, the enlightened Master’s birth is based on love and compassion. The whole secret is this. Ordinary man takes birth based on fear and greed. That is why his whole life is driven by fear and greed. Enlightened Masters assume the body out of love and compassion.
That is why Kṛṣṇa beautifully says, ‘ātma māyayā, because of My own energy, I take birth. With my own energy, just out of My love.The next question that follows is this: How can we be liberated by knowing this truth? How will it help us?
Understand, when I say the words birth or death, I don’t mean just dying at the end of life. I mean, every night’s sleep is your birth and death. Every night when you go to sleep, you die! When you come back in the morning, you take birth one more time. Every day, you assume the body. Every day, you leave the body. When you go to the causal body in deep sleep, you actually die and come back. When you come back, every day you are new. As of now, every morning, how do we come back to life? How do we take this body? Just look deeply. What happens when you wake up?
Usually, the moment you become aware that you are awake, either a thought based on greed or fear hits you. Maybe you want to meet somebody or meet some deadline. Immediately you jump out of bed. If you have analyzed your waking up, how you assume this body every morning, that moment is actually your taking birth. That moment when you take the body matters. These are the basic, very subtle, mysterious secrets of altering the whole consciousness. Whichever thought you enter your body with every morning, will play a major role in your consciousness for that entire day.
But an Incarnation, an Enlightened Master assumes the body out of love and compassion. He comes back just to pour His compassion out, just to share Himself with the whole world. When I say He comes back, I mean His coming back every day, every morning. If you understand this once and alter your thoughts at the time of waking up, you will alter your whole consciousness; the very quality of your consciousness can be changed. It is just like how a camera works. The first moment the lens is opened, whatever scene is there in front of the camera eye, is recorded on the film. That will remain forever. In the same way, during the first moment of consciousness, the thought that you have while entering into the body, plays a major role on your consciousness for the whole day.
When you get up, let the first thought be of love and compassion. Get up only to express your life in bliss. The moment you become aware of yourself, express, ‘Oh Lord, it is so beautiful! You have given me one more day! I am blessed that You have given me one more day’s extension to see Your Existence!’ Please understand, you have no right to any extension. Don’t think Life is your birthright. I have seen many people taking things for granted. Before they get the job, they say, ‘If I get that $10,000 per month salary, I will be really safe. I will feel blessed.’ The moment they get the job, in one month, they think it is their birthright.
Birth itself is not your right. Then how can you say something else is your birthright? The word birthright is completely wrong. You have no right even to your own birth. It is a pure gift. You can’t inhale or exhale for even one single moment unless the Divine allows you, unless the Universal Energy gives the extension. So every day is a blessing. When you get up from bed, assume the body with this gratitude to the Divine. The quality of your whole consciousness will change and you will become an Incarnation.
Here I am giving you the straight technique to become Kṛṣṇa, how to enter Kṛṣṇa consciousness, how to become an Incarnation. The man who assumes the body out of love and compassion is an Incarnation. If you assume the body out of greed or fear, you are a man. If you assume the body out of love and compassion, you are an Incarnation and you are divine. Your whole life will become pure eternal bliss. Your whole life will be a happening with a different consciousness.
Here Kṛṣṇa gives us a technique to attain Him, to experience janma karma ca me divyam. If we are able to live in such a way as to be free from the attachments born out of anger and fear, then we can be absorbed in Him, we can attain Him. All actions create their own reactions. When we sow a seed, the action, though it may appear to be complete, is in reality not so. We have set into motion a cycle, a chain of events. The seed sprouts and becomes a plant or tree. Thus it is in the order of Existence that every action or cause has its own reaction or effect. It is therefore quite difficult to escape from the clutches of the cause-effect cycle.
Here Kṛṣṇa gives a technique to cut these kārmic bonds, to be complete and realize the reality. Actions that are complete and free from fear and anger do not create bonds, vītā-rāga bhaya krodhā. They lead us towards elevated consciousness. Fear and anger that arise out of greed pattern are two of the most provocative emotions, the root patterns that create incomplete action, and lead to bondage.
Attachments are our bondage to the future based on experiences of the past. We have unfulfilled desires that we hope to fulfill. We look for results. When the results happen the way we wish them to, there is temporary satisfaction. More wishes arise. More attachments are formed. When things do not happen the way we want them to, we feel sorrow, we are depressed. We strive again. Either way it is a never-ending cycle that brings sorrow in the end. When we let go of attachments and perform complete actions with no expectations, we enjoy the path of action. There is no stress regarding what must happen, since there is no attachment.
Please listen. Completion is stopping the effect immediately and rewinding the effect towards the cause, and merging the effect into the cause! Stopping the effect immediately and rewinding it back to the cause, and the effect merging into the cause is Completion.
Kṛṣṇa offers a way to be in His space of completion. He says, ‘Be drowned in Me, man-mayā mām upāśritaḥ; you will have no anger, no fear. All actions will thus be without bondage. In this manner, you can be purified and realize Me, pūtā mad-bhavām āgatāḥ (4.10).’ He gives the assurance that having followed this path, many people in the past have achieved Realization.
He is not saying, ‘if you do this, maybe something good will happen.’ He straightaway gives us positive assurance. ‘Do it, you will achieve! Many people have done so and have realized Me, bahavo jñāna tapasā (4.10).’ Completion directly liberates you from the karmas; completion directly leads you to experience the truth; completion directly makes you experience the reality of life! Masters are like mirrors reflecting us. If the devotee is praying for wealth, he gets it. If he wants healing for body or mind, he is granted it. To a devotee who says, ‘Oh God, I want nothing except knowledge of Your true reality,’ the God grants him that. He shows him the way to the ultimate reality. If you visit our ashram, you will see that there is something for everyone. We have healing prayers, fire rituals, yoga and meditation-Nithya Dhyana Yoga, Nithya Kriyas, enriching temple etc. for people from all walks of life. For the ones who connect with worship, we have temples. For the ones who wish to attain their reality through yoga, there are various Nithya Yoga programs. For those on the path of experiential knowledge, there are meditation programs. For those who want to rewrite their future as they want and live enlightenment, we have the Inner Awakening program. Only in this manner can we raise the consciousness of society.
We cannot hope to transform society through any mass movement. It can happen only through individual transformation. When such people act together, it will have the same power as a laser beam. Each devotee and each disciple is unique. The way I treat each one is unique. What I tell one person is not applicable to another. I warn my disciples, time and again, please do not advise someone else based on the advice I have given you. It will only cause more confusion.
Here, Kṛṣṇa promises and reaffirms what He has said earlier, that — He will take care of the need of every one of His devotee. Only the most compassionate being who cares for all, will make this statement. Now it is left to the devotee to have some intelligence as to what to approach the Master for.
Kṛṣṇa explains here why non-attachment is so difficult. It is in our nature to look for success in whatever we do. It is impossible to embark on an activity expecting it to fail. There is nothing wrong in looking for success at the end of an activity. What creates problems is the illogical attachment to that expectation of success.
What Kṛṣṇa says here shows that our mindset, human nature, has not changed in over five thousand years. Even then they were looking for material success. They were looking for instant results. When they prayed to God they were praying to fulfill their expectations of material success.
Kṛṣṇa is the greatest psychologist who ever lived and lives. He has measured human nature accurately. What we want is tangible and instant results. In Kṛṣṇa’s days, when saṁskāras, root patterns were relatively fewer, people had a different concept of time. There was much less rush and much less aggression. Yet the Master uses a term ‘kṣipra’, instant. The master is talking about humanity; past, present and future. He says you normally pray to God not as an expression of gratitude, but to seek unfulfilled material desires and all that you think will bring you happiness.
All your actions, Kṛṣṇa says, are based on material success, and He says such activities bear instant results in this world, kṣipraṁ hi mānuṣe loke (4.12).Whether you understand it or not, all these prayers and actions do produce instant results. This does not mean whatever you pray for is instantly granted by the God you prayed to. God, fortunately, has far more wisdom than we have. God uses His buddhi, wisdom, to grant what He deems appropriate. However, the result of your actions is instant. The karmaphala is immediate. When religions talk of karma (action) and karmaphala (the fruits or outcome of action,) they speak in terms of merits and sins, pāpa and puṇya. They tell you that you will go to hell if you accumulate sins, and you will go to heaven if you gain merits. They try to control you through fear and greed of heaven. There is no hell or heaven.
When you think good thoughts, do good deeds, you feel good, you are in heaven. When you think evil, you act evil, you feel evil and you are in hell. That is all there is to karma. This is the cosmic cause-effect principle. You are what your intent is; you become what your intent is. Karma acts instantly, here and now. Do not blame others for your actions. Karma is in your hands. You are a free spirit; you have the power of thought, the power of words, the power of action, and the power of living. It is not merely guaranteed by your national constitution, but by God’s own constitution. What you sow, you shall certainly reap.