by bhakta jeff
vidyāṁ cāvidyāṁ ca yas
tad vedobhayaṁ saha
avidyayā mṛtyuṁ tīrtvā
Only one who can learn the process of nescience and that of transcendental knowledge side by side can transcend the influence of repeated birth and death, and enjoy the full blessings of immortality.
(Sri Isopanisad Mantra 11)
When discussing things which are beyond our sense perception we depend on faith. In order to check whether we follow blind faith or not, we have to explore both sides of the argument. In other words, we have to test whether a proposed conclusion about a particular phenomenon makes sense in juxtaposition to its opposite. Therefore instead of mentioning arguments in favor of a possibility of after life, let us explore the viewpoint about the impossibility of after life.
There are a several questions that we could ask to a person who claims there is not separate life accept the one we live here while the body is functioning. They are as follows:
1. How did the word “eternity” originate?
When we speak of any material element, it has a beginning and end. Just like our body. It is born at a certain point and it is annihilated by death. How it is born? It is born from the mixture of ovum and sperm supplied by mother and father. Therefore the origin of the body is the body of our parents. From this we can see that anything material is relative. It does not appear out of nowhere but its existence is always depending on something else. If we accept that ultimately everything is depending on something else, we should not have any difficulty to accept that our very language we communicate in is also naming things which are already there. Even irrational words such as hooray or oh are naming emotions which are already there. In this way our language is also relative. How is it possible then that a word like “eternity” exists though? One could say well that’s easy –it is derived from the temporary. Because we know what temporary means, therefore we understand that the opposite must be eternity. This however does not solve the question and the reason for this is that we can then ask how do we understand that there is temporary? If eternal and temporary are related, then we cannot understand one without the other. How is that we understand that things are temporary if the eternal does not exist?
Another objection might be raised: the word eternity is simply wild imagination without any substance. It’s a nonsense, which has no connection with anything in this world whatsoever.
To this we could say that if it has no connection with this world it is not related to anything in this world and that would mean that it is absolute –in other words its existence does not depend on anything else. Therefore the question is how did the word “eternity” originate if it has no origin?
2. Why don’t we let the body die?
Our material existence is based on survival instinct. The body has needs and if we do not fulfill them it will die. Therefore we are constantly working on how to preserve the body. We feed it, wash it, fix it when it gets sick. If there’s no eternity though why don’t we just let it die? The body is chemicals and the chemicals merge with other material elements when the body dies. The water goes to water, the earth goes to earth, air goes to air, etc. So nothing is lost. How is that the temporary body is manifesting an illusion of trying to preserve itself if all of its elements are preserved anyway?
One could say, because while we’re alive we can enjoy. This however does not really solve the question. If being alive is illusion, then the enjoyment is also illusion and if there’s an illusion, because nothing absolute exists, illusion must be derived from reality. Therefore the question is if being alive is illusion, is being dead reality? How can an illusion of being alive come from a reality of being dead? How can a dead person have an illusion if he’s dead? How do we know he has an illusion if we ourselves do not know what the dead experience is all about due to our illusion of being alive?
3. If consciousness is made of matter, how come a person dies although the material elements of his body do not disappear?
4. If consciousness is made of matter and individuality is illusion, there is no meaning to parents or grandparents and thus our existence does not have origin. If it does not have origin, is it eternal?
5. If my existence is illusion, whatever I say is illusion as well. Is therefore my statement that eternity does not exist also an illusion and thus eternity exists?
6. If the observer and observed are one, then the reader and read is one and that means that you already know what I’m going write now as you are what I’m going to write now. The question is why keep reading this?
7. If you still reading this and the reason for it is that you want to do it just like that for no reason, we could ask how can there be a no reason situation in matter, whose existence is always depending on something else?
8. If you want to kill yourself just to prove that you don’t exist right now, who are you going to prove it to if I don’t exist?
9. If I don’t exist, who is writing this?
10. If you and me are one and you’re actually writing this, how come you’re writing this if you don’t exist?
11. If you don’t exist, how come you want to kill yourself?
12. If none of us exist, why are you against the eternal soul option if it’s an illusion?
These are some of the controversial points about the “I am only matter and nothing else” faith. Because none of them can be answered, the proponents of this fanatical dogma will at this point bring in their version of God. God is a principle beyond which there is no more argument and we all have our God as God constitutes the limitation of our knowledge. Unfortunately for the materialists the God principle comes quite soon in their philosophy and that is why they as though constipated refuse to discuss things which are beyond the scope of their limited sense perception. Because, as they say, consciousness is an illusion created by matter, to fully prove their philosophy they would have to kill themselves and not kill themselves at the same time, which is difficult to accomplish. Because their dogma does not give any explanation of consciousness, their whole life is a complete defeat of their own doctrine, because it is the consciousness by which they percieve their life. Embarrased by lack of evidence, they cannot teach their doctrine to others. Instead they find great pleasure character assisinating and mocking those who do accept after life as a fact. When pushed for proof of their irrational faith, it is impossible for them to explain it in fact, one simply has to feel it. It’s beyond words they say. Because they like the enjoyment derived from the illusion of consciousness, they try to forget the doctrine from time to time and they take up what is called a materialistically motivated religion. In it, they worship themselves as God and use their concocted idea of God as a means to manipulate others to worship them as such. This is the madness of an atheist.
"This process of going back to Godhead is a different branch of knowledge, and it has to be learnt from the revealed Vedic Scriptures, such as the Upanisads, Vedānta, Bhagavad-gïtā,
Srimad-Bhāgavatam, etc. Therefore, to become happy in this life and to get a permanent blissful life after leaving this material body, one must take to this sacred literature and obtain transcendental knowledge. The conditioned living being has forgotten his eternal relation with God, and he has mistakenly accepted the temporary place of birth as all-in-all. The Lord has kindly delivered the above-mentioned Scriptures in India and other Scriptures in other countries to remind the forgetful human being that his home is not here in this material world. The living being is a spiritual entity, and he can only be happy by returning to his spiritual home, with the Godhead.
The Personality of Godhead, from His Kingdom, sends His bona fide servants to propagate this mission of going back to Godhead, and sometimes He comes Himself to do this work. All living beings are His beloved sons, His parts and parcels, and therefore God is more sorry than we ourselves are for the sufferings which we are constantly undergoing in the material condition. The miseries of the material world are also indirect reminders of our incompatibility with dead matter, and intelligent living entities generally take note of these reminders, and side by side engage themselves in the culture of vidyā, or transcendental knowledge. Human life is the best opportunity for the culture of spiritual knowledge, and the human being who does not take advantage of this opportunity in human life is called a narādhama, the lowest of human beings.
The path of avidyā, or material advancement of knowledge for sense gratification, means repetition of death and repetition of birth also. The living entity, as he is spiritually, has no birth or death. Birth and death are concerned with the outward covering of the spirit soul, the body. This is compared with the putting on and taking off of outward garments. Foolish human beings who are grossly absorbed in the culture of avidyā, nescience, do not mind this cruel process, but, being enamored of the beauty of the illusory energy, they do the same things over repeatedly, without learning any lesson from the law of Nature.
The culture of vidyā or transcendental knowledge is essential for the human being. Unrestricted sense enjoyment in the diseased, material condition of the senses must be restricted as far as possible. Unrestricted sense enjoyment in this bodily condition is the path of ignorance and death. The living entities are not without spiritual senses. Every living being in his original spiritual form has all the senses which are now material, covered by the body and the mind. Activities of the material senses are perverted reflections of spiritual pastimes. The engagement of the spirit soul under the material covering is the diseased condition of the soul. And real sense enjoyment is possible when the disease is removed. In our pure spiritual form, freed from all material contamination, pure enjoyment of the senses is possible. The aim of human life should, therefore, not be perverted sense enjoyment, but should be to cure the material disease. Aggravating the material disease is no sign of knowledge. It is the sign of culturing avidyā, ignorance.
The degree of a fever must not be increased from 105 to 107 for good health. The degree is to be reduced to the normal state of 98.6. That should be the aim of human life. The modern trend of material civilization is to increase the degree of the feverish material condition, which has therefore reached the point of 107 in the form of atomic energy, with the foolish politicians crying that at any moment the world may go to hell. That is the result of the advancement of material knowledge, and of the neglect of the most important part of life, the culture of spiritual knowledge. Here is a warning in Isopanisad that we must not follow such a dangerous path leading to death. On the contrary, we must side by side develop the culture of spiritual knowledge so that we may become completely free from the cruel hands of death.
This does not mean that all civic activities for the maintenance of the body should be stopped. There is no question of stopping activities, as there is no question of wiping out one's temperature altogether when trying to recover from a disease. We have already tried to explain the matter by the expression "to make the best use of a bad bargain." The culture of spiritual knowledge has to be done with the help of this body and mind, and therefore maintenance of the body and mind is required if we are to reach our goal. The normal temperature should be maintained at 98.6 degrees, but it should not be foolishly increased to the degree of 107. The great sages and saints of India wanted to maintain the normal temperature by a balanced program of material and spiritual knowledge. They never allowed the misuse of human intelligence for diseased sense gratification.
Human activities diseased by a temperament of sense gratification have been regulated in the Vedas under the principles of Salvation. This system is found in four divisions: religion, economic development, sense gratification and salvation. At the present moment the people have no interest either in religion or salvation. They have only one aim in life, sense gratification, and in order to fulfill this end they have different plans for economic development.
Misguided man thinks that religion should be maintained for its contribution to economic development, and that economic development is required for sense gratification. And in order to guarantee further sense gratification after death, in heaven, there is some system of religious observances. But this is not the purpose of the principles of salvation. The path of religion is actually for self realization. Economic development is required just to maintain the body in a sound, healthy condition. A man should live in a healthy condition of life with a sound mind just to realize vidyā, true knowledge, which is the aim of human life. This life is not meant for working like an ass or for the culture of avidyā or for sense gratification.
The path of vidyā is most perfectly presented in the Srïmad-Bhāgavatam. The Bhāgavatam directs a human being to utilize his life in the matter of enquiring about the Absolute Truth. The Absolute Truth is realized step by step as Brahman, Paramātman, and, at last, Bhagavān, the Personality of Godhead. This Absolute Truth is realized by the broad-minded man who has attained knowledge and detachment, having followed the 18 principles of the Bhagavad-gïtā described above. The central point in these 18 principles is the attainment of transcendental devotional service to the Personality of Godhead. Therefore it is recommended for all classes of men to learn the art of devotional service to the Lord.
Religiousness, economic development and sense gratification without the aim of attaining devotional service to the Lord are all different forms of nescience, as will be shown hereafter in Sri lsopanisad. Thus, to culture vidyā especially in this age, one must always hear and chant and worship with concentrated attention, targetted on the Personality of Godhead, Who is the Lord of the transcendentalists."
(Sri Isopanisad mantra 11 purport by His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada)