The Bhagavatam tells of a king who late in life, about to hand over his kingdom, instructs his sons,
nāyaṁ deho deha-bhājāṁ nṛloke
kaṣṭān kāmān arhate viḍ-bhujāṁ ye
” Of all the living beings granted bodies in this world, one given this human form should not work hard day and night simply for sense gratification, which can be had even by the hogs that eat stool.”
The Vedic sages say that we each have, as it were, two bodies: a gross body(the physical one we see) and a subtle body( the “body” of mind and intelligence). And just as the gross body has senses that crave gratification – the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and sense of touch, so the mind and intellect are “senses” for the subtle body, and they too crave to be gratified. Just as on the grosser level one might delight in physical pleasures, on the more subtle level one may delight in the higher, more rarefied pleasures of the intellect and the mind.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna grants Arjuna the spiritual eyes to see him in a cosmic “universal” form, in which Arjuna can see, as if in one place, all that exists in the universe. That wondrous form having limitless arms and legs and faces, dazzling like thousands of suns, and filling earth and sky in all directions – encompassing all rivers and mountains and seas, all people and all planets, all creatures and all creations – inspires in Arjuna an overwhelming awe.
Yet soon that form assumes a fierce aspect, all-devouring, cataclysmic, into whose blazing mouths Arjuna sees all beings, wave upon wave, rushing to destruction, like moths into a fire.
When Arjuna asks: Who are you?, the dreadful form replies: I am time and I have come to destroy all. Krishna soon withdraws the vision and resumes his congenial human form. But now Arjuna has seen God in the form of time, the supreme controlling force and ultimately the destroyer of all.
The Vedic literature speaks of God as having different aspects, beginning with an aspect that is all-pervading, silent, impersonal and invisible. That impersonal feature of God as time exquisitely governs every moment of existence. And it both creates and destroys, builds up and tears down.
The Srimad Bhagavatam points out that, despite caring and attentive parents a child may die, despite an expert physician a patient may succumb to disease, and despite a strong boat a voyager may drown.
The Bhagavad Gita says:
prakrteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah
ahankara-vimudhatma kartaham iti manyate
All acts are carried out dint of the qualities of nature. Yet a soul bewildered by false ego thinks, “I am the doer.” Just as the laws of the nature control the movements of the planets, those laws also control the movements of all living beings. All this lies beyond our control. We can no more halt or reverse this course. We are born, we live, we grow old and we die. This cannot be changed. A boy cannot make himself old, nor can an old man make himself young. This we know. Even things we take for granted we are doing are in fact carried out by the machinery of nature which compels us. We eat, sleep, love and defend ourselves because the bodies we live in tell us to do so. We have no choice but to obey. We are strapped to the machinery. The acts we think we do are in fact done by force of the modes of nature.
These are the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance.We act calmly and thoughtfully in goodness, strive and endeavour in passion and decline into lethargy, foolishness and delusion in ignorance. A living being, though by nature pure, becomes coloured by these three qualities, as pure water might be coloured by minerals with which it comes in touch. We think sometimes that we have free choice, but in reality, the particular modes we are coloured by lock us into a ceratin karmic trajectory, a certain destiny, a certain fate.
One can go beyond that destiny, even beyond goodness, only by true knowledge, where one sees everything in its natural relationship with God or the Divine, and so one gets free from false ego and sees oneself as a spiritual being, beyond material qualities, sharing instead in the qualities of God, as a part shares the qualities of the whole. This is the sublime and pure transcendental knowledge and one can realize this when one is mature in devotion to the truth, or mature in God consciousness.
Even if all acts are carried out by the modes of nature, nature allows us this tiny freedom: if we so choose, we can follow higher guidance, the guidance given by sages who know more than we. Then we can elevate ourselves from ignorance, passion and goodness to transcendence or we may take a direct path to transcendence, like one might skip the stairs and take the elevator.
The Vedic sages say that a first step toward elevation to goodness is to place oneself in harmony with nature’s laws or God’s laws and this implies knowing what to do at what times.
The Srimad Bhagavatam advises that we should waste our life trying to stave off sorrow and boost our joy, but rather accept them both as they come and stay focused on the real purpose of life: spiritual realisation.
The Srimad Bhagavatam says that having sex whenever one feels like it and there is an attractive opportunity is like the sexual congress of monkeys who follow a similar principle. Sex, like all human activity is meant to be divinely purposeful. Sri Krishna says that he is ” sex not contrary to dharma” – not contrary to right action, to responsibility, to spiritual principles for advancement in human life. The right time and context is within marriage. And even in marriage, the focus of life is not on sex but on spirituality.
The time to seek spiritual understanding is now. The first sutra of the Vedanta Sutras says: athato brahma jijnasa- Now is the time for inquiring into the Absolute. The atma or the soul has travelled through many bodies just like we change clothes and now has arrived in the human body. We should use this opportunity and enquire into the Absolute. We don’t know when such a time and opportunity will come to us again.