During the rainy season the moon was prevented from appearing directly by the covering of the clouds, which were themselves illumined by the moon’s rays. Similarly, the living being in material existence is prevented from appearing directly by the covering of the false ego, which is itself illumined by the consciousness of the pure soul. (Srimad Bhagavatam: 10.20.19)
“If once we can meet our soul, then a diametrical change comes in our life. At that time, we will be astonished to realise, “Oh, such a highly qualified thing is here within me! … What a wonderful existence I have! In reality I am soul, and the nature of the soul is so noble, so high, so good.” — Swami B.R. Sridhar
Death, that all-powerful, unstoppable, destructive force which has baffled humankind since time immemorial, is compared to a simple change in dress in the ancient Veda. The gross, material body is described as a temporary covering over the eternal spark of spirit within, which changes during the course of transmigration through different planes and species of life. According to one’s karma, the soul cycles through different experiences (samsara) in the worldly plane, only becoming free from this bondage upon realisation of their true self and their relationship with the Divine.
The existence of an eternal life is not, of course, a discussion that is unique to the Vedas; this is a subject touched upon to varying degrees in many religions and philosophical systems. None, however, elaborate upon the topic with such clear, scientific, and systematic detail as is found in the Veda. The existence of an eternal soul is affirmed, and the nature of that soul, the nature of the coverings that obscure the soul at present, and the process of the soul’s transmigration is all discussed at length. Furthermore, this understanding simply constitutes the ABCs of the Vedic knowledge. This point, where many teachings end, is only where the Vedic teachings begin.
देहिनोऽस्मिन्यथा देहे कौमारं यौवनं जरा । तथा देहान्तरप्राप्तिर्धीरस्तत्र न मुह्यति ॥१३॥
dehino ’smin yathā dehe kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā tathā dehāntara-prāptir dhīras tatra na muhyati
As the living being passes through the bodily changes of childhood, youth, and old age, it similarly attains another body at death. The wise are not deluded by this. (2.13)
न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचिन् नायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूयः । अजो नित्यः शाश्वतोऽयं पुराणो न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे ॥२०॥
na jāyate mriyate vā kadāchin nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ’yaṁ purāṇo na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre
The soul is neither born nor dies; it has neither been nor will it be created, because it is unborn and eternal. It is ever-youthful, yet ancient. It is not destroyed when the body is destroyed. (2.20)
apareyam itas tv anyāṁ prakṛtiṁ viddhi me parām jīva-bhūtāṁ mahā-bāho yayedaṁ dhāryate jagat
O mighty hero, Arjuna, this external, worldly nature is inferior. But know that superior to this nature is My marginal potency, comprised of the individual souls. Worldly existence is adopted by the souls for enjoyment through fruitive actions. (The divine world emanates from My internal potency and the mundane world from My external potency. The potency of the living beings is known as marginal as they are constitutionally situated midway between these planes. They may choose to reside either in the mundane plane or the divine.) (7.5)
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