Birth and death both have an air of mystery around them. Scientists and philosophers have scratched their heads for several centuries to understand the process of procreation and the cessation of a person’s life. In this article we will try to understand the cause of birth as well as the cause of death.
Who is born and who dies?
It is our common experience that nature works in cycles – the seasons, tidal waves, day and night. Therefore, it is no surprise that human life is also a cycle. A child is born, he grows to become a man, then fades into old age and finally dies only to be born again in the womb of another mother. The principle of re-birth is one of the fundamental truths of existence. So logical and scientific people cannot deny it. The person who is experiencing this cyclic change is actually a spiritual soul that resides in the body of a human being. This soul does not die. Soul only changes the body.
Why do we take birth?
The following verse from Bhagavad Gita is very apt: –
Bhrāmayan sarva-bhūtāni yantrārūḍhāni māyayā:
“Under the spell of material nature, which is one of the many energies of Lord Krishna, everyone is wandering throughout the universe on the carriage of the body.”
Life involves a series of actions and reactions. It is like a spider’s web composed of actions and reactions of not just this life but also previous lives from time immemorial. One lifetime is just a flash in the eternal life of a person. It can be compared to an episode in the web-series whose beginning cannot be traced.
When a child is born, it is to be inferred that this specific birth is the result of his previous activities. Furthermore, his birth is the beginning of another set of activities. Everyone is born different based on activities of previous lives. One man is born in a wealthy family, while another is born in a destitute family, although both of them are born in the same place, at the same moment and in the same atmosphere.
On the one hand a person whose previous activities are pious is given birth in a rich or pietistic family, while on the other hand a person who is carrying a burden of impious activities is forced to take birth in an impoverished household. It is clear that a particular type of body is given to a person for performing a specific type of activities, for instance tigers have a body to hunt and eat meat, pigs have a body to seek and eat stool, humans have a body with the intellectual faculty to read and write. This has been going on perpetually and its origin cannot be traced.
Why do we die?
We often say, “I see,” which implies that we see with our eyes or with our spectacles, both are instruments of sight. If a person’s spectacle is broken or if one is infected with cataract then these instruments of sight become incapable of acting, consequently, the person also ceases to see. Usually people buy a new pair of spectacles or undergo a surgery to remove the cataract. Sometimes the surgery is not feasible and the only solution is to get an eye transplanted from a donor.
The material body is a huge collection of instruments or organs. If one or more of these instruments cease to function properly, the soul or person inside is also rendered incapable of proper activity. As mentioned previously, a particular type of body is given to a soul to perform specific activities.
By superior arrangement of Lord Krishna when a soul completes her quota of such activities the material body in which it resides ceases to act, therefore, the soul also ceases to perform her reactionary activities. This cessation of activity is called death. Again, when a soul gets a fresh instrument for activity, that is called birth.
This cycle of birth and death is going on incessantly by constant bodily change. The final change is called death, and acceptance of a new body is called birth.
Can we avoid death?
The living entity or soul has neither death nor birth, in fact we all are eternal.
Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2 verse 12
na tv evāhaṁ jātu nāsaṁ
na tvaṁ neme janādhipāḥ
na caiva na bhaviṣyāmaḥ
sarve vayam ataḥ param
The living entity never dies, even after the death or annihilation of this material body. In fact there was never a time when the living entities and Lord Krishna did not exist. Furthermore, the living entities shall continue to exist eternally along with Lord Krishna.
A Not So Merry Life
A wise person can observe the morbid condition of the material world. This miserable condition of the material world starts even when the child is in the mother’s womb. He is surrounded by blood, stool, urine and is cramped in a small bag inside the mother’s abdomen. After birth a child is dependent upon another person to look after him. He cannot communicate how he feels. For example, if a child is bitten by a mosquito he cries but the mother gives him milk because the child is not able to communicate his problem.
When the same child attains boyhood he is enrolled in an educational institution. Not only is he forced to study but he also has to undertake examinations. As a child grows into a man he has to work in a job or business to make a living. He is answerable to a boss or a customer and is often abused by his superiors. Some people marry with the expectation of love and happiness. With marriage comes immense financial responsibilities and emotional baggage. The huge scores of husband-wife jokes are a testimony to this fact. In conclusion, it would be an understatement to say that any person who is trying to be opulent and comfortable in this material world is actually unhappy because that is the nature of this temporary existence.
Vedas Have The Solution to Death
One has to make a solution to the problems of birth, old age, disease and death. A smart person should not be bewildered, instead he should seek a remedy to this vicious cycle. The solution is readily available with a person who is liberated. The liberated person as described in Vedic Scriptures is one who engages in uninterrupted devotional service to the Lord. Since we, the living entities, are eternally the servitors of the Supreme Lord Krishna, when a person is sincerely engaged in the Bhakti or transcendental loving service of Lord Krishna, he is factually liberated.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) with the aim to make transcendental association of ‘Vaishnavas’ or devotees of Lord Krishna accessible to general masses irrespective of region, religion, caste, color or language. His lectures and books have been translated in more than 80 languages. ISKCON temples have been strategically established as embassies of the spiritual world in various towns and villages of this material world. All this is an olive branch from Lord Krishna himself. It is up to us to accept His divine gift and enter back into the spiritual family of Lord Krishna.