Lord Krishna explains to Arjuna that he should not grieve over death, as the soul is everlasting and simply passes into other bodies with the dissolution of the physical body. The soul exists beyond the elements of material nature (any physical weapon, fire, water and wind/air), and hence is indestructible. It assumes various bodies (or garments) during life–from conception, through infancy to old age–and after death, as it passes into subtle dimensions of being in afterlife worlds.
The individual spirit soul will experience innumerable incarnations (or reincarnations) until it attains liberation and self-knowledge. The living entity in the body, the jivatma or individual spirit soul, and the Supersoul are both of a transcendental nature, but the individual becomes conditioned by the three modes of nature, the three gunas, and loses awareness of the true nature of Self. Lord Krishna explains:
The Vedas mainly deal with the subject of the three modes of material nature. Rise above these modes, O Arjuna. Be transcendental to all of them. Be free from all dualities and from all anxieties for gain and safety, and be established in the self. (Ch.2, V. 45)According to the Vedic teaching, the three gunas compose all of the spiritual, psychic and physical materials within all manifest planes of being. These three gunas are headed by the demi-gods Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer–and their bodies compose the Universe. Whereas western scientists distinguish between matter and energy, the Vedic teachings distinguish between a threefold material, energetic and mind/intelligence principles within all things. The three modes of nature are referred to as tamas, rajas and sattva, and as the modes of ignorance, goodness and passion.
In the Gita, Lord Krishna explains “I am the seed giving father” (Ch.14, V.4) and He impregnates the mother, or material nature. The spiritual spark, or jivatma, is thus embodied within the three modes of nature and conditioned by them. The mode of sattva, or goodness, is purer than the others and related to intelligence, illumination and mind. Individuals under the influence of sattva become conditioned by the concepts of happiness and goodness. In the mode of rajas, the soul becomes conditioned by passion, attachments, desires and longings, as characterized by the sexual attraction between men and women. Lastly, the mode of tamas, of mass and inertia, and of ignorance, causes “the delusion of all living entities.” (Gita, Ch. 14, 8) Tamas is related to sleep, indolence and foolishness, and manifests in depression, laziness, addictions and false knowledge. The three modes of nature are intertwined in all things, but one or another mode will dominate in different manifestations and people. Lord Krishna explains:
Sometimes the mode of passion becomes predominant, defeating the mode of goodness ... and sometimes the mode of goodness defeats passion. Again, sometimes the mode of ignorance defeats goodness and passion. In this way, there is ever a competition for supremacy. (Ch. 14, 10)
Swami Prabhupada explains that “the mode of goodness is the purest form of existence in the material world.” (1972b, p. 677) Thus the yogi, or spiritual aspirant, would make efforts to cultivate sattvic properties.The afterlife state is determined by which mode of nature predominates within a person’s life. If situated in the mode of goodness at death, the spiritual soul passes upwards to the “higher planets;” whereas one conditioned by the mode of passion will be attracted to the “earthly planets;” and one conditioned by the mode of ignorance will “go down to the hellish worlds.” (Prabhupada, 1972, p. 681) The yogi, who is one with the Self, transcends the modes of nature and can escape completely from the cycles of life and death, to share in the Eternal Life.
When the embodied being is able to transcend these three qualities, he can become free from birth, death, old age and their distresses and can enjoy nectar even in this life. (Ch. 14, 20)From the viewpoint of the Gita, modern psychology and science are ruled by the “mode of ignorance,” --foolishness and false knowledge, wherein material nature is taken to be the cause of the living entities, and the “seed” of the Godhead is ignored. Human beings only appear to be the product of material nature, when we do not know the Self. The individual spiritual soul, in realizing the deeper Self, is freed from this delusion and from material entanglement.
The nature of human consciousness must be understood as originating from the jivatma, or the individual spiritual soul within the heart. Again, consciousness is related to light, and the spiritual soul is described as self-illuminating:
... as the sun alone illuminates all this universe, so does the living entity, one within the body, illuminate the entire body by consciousness. (Ch. 13, V. 34)Swami Prabhupada elaborates on the meaning of this sacred text:
As the sun is situated in one place, but is illuminating the whole universe, so a small particle of spirit soul, although situated in the heart of this body, is illuminating the whole body by consciousness. Thus consciousness is the proof of the presence of the soul, as sunshine or light is the proof of the presence of the sun. ... consciousness is not a production of the combination of matter. It is the symptom of the living entity. The consciousness of the living entity, although qualitatively one with the supreme consciousness, is not supreme because the consciousness of one particular body does not share that of another body. But the Supersoul, which is situated in all bodies as the friend of the individual soul, is conscious of all bodies. That is the difference between supreme consciousness and individual consciousness. (1972b, pp. 659-660)A small particle of spirit soul (the spiritual spark) inhabits the material heart as the “sun” of the body. The spirit soul is self-illuminating and its light is an expression of the infinite light of That Self, the Supersoul. Consciousness within the mind and body originates from this self-illuminating entity. The substance of consciousness is light, and ultimately, this light originates from a realm of supernal Light.
The knowledge of Self and of Krishna, the Supersoul, enlightens the individual and destroys these illusions of the false ego:
When, however, one is enlightened with the knowledge by which nescience (ignorance) is destroyed, then his knowledge reveals everything, as the sun lights up everything in the daytime. (Ch. 5, V.16)Ordinary consciousness, so-called waking consciousness, is conditioned by the material realm, by the senses and desires of the body, and by the psychological needs of the ego. A false ego forms as a product of matter, and assumes a bodily conception of consciousness. Liberation requires a freedom of consciousness from material nature and a realization of pure spiritual consciousness. This liberation of the spirit soul is called enlightenment, or “mukti.” This is the way of the yogi and spiritual warrior.
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