Articles by HDG Shrila B.S. Tirtha Maharaj

To Whom Do We Actually Belong?

The question is - to whomdoes our body actually belong while alive? According to the Vedas, a living entity, the atman, takes shelter of the semen of the father and then gets injected into the womb of the mother where this atman, the spirit soul acquires the body and gradually develops. In that case, does the body belong to the father or the mother? His Divine Grace Shrila B. S. Tirtha Maharaja takes us on the path to self-discovery...

“Who are you?”
“I belong to the Gandhi family.”

Although this particular Gandhi family is not the ruling family of India but a merchant family but the confident young Gandhi claims its prestige and status because of this name. It will take more questions for this truth to be revealed.
We are always very eager at every occasion to declare our sense of belonging. This is a very common human habit. To start with, we wish to let everyone know that we belong to some well- known family. Then we are very keen to declare that we belong to an upper caste or class. One never fails to announce in a tone bordering on arrogance that he/she belongs to the Brahmana class. In the ancient times, a warrior always claimed with pride that he belonged to the Kshatriya class or a particular dynasty. We are always fond of identifying ourselves with a famous lineage. Even today, our national pride is very clear when we declare that we belong to a particular country. Leave alone the common people, even educated and cultured people who believe in one world cannot contain themselves when they start cheering their national teams or players in international contests. This is when their basic human nature comes to the surface. To top it all, especially these days, one becomes extremely passionate in revealing his sense of belonging to a particular religion or a particular religious sect. Sometimes, this religion or the sect adopts violent means to promote its aims and beliefs. The idea that ‘I am this body’ is the basis for this and similar human behaviour. Due to this misunderstanding and ignorance of our actual spiritual identity, today the entire humanity is suffering from hatred and violence. Generally, we see that people sacrifice their personal interests for the sake of advancement of the community to which they belong. They appear to work relentlessly for the society in which they

live. After the death of both the parents, the eldest son mostly spends all his time and his earnings in bringing up his brothers and sisters with a profound sense of duty and responsibility. Somebody gives up all wealth in charity. Many patriots even give up their lives for the sake of their country. All these appear to be acts of great sacrifice based on selfless love. But the reality is otherwise. All these socalled actions of affection, benevolence, charity, duty, generosity and love are, truly speaking, based on selfishness. By performing such actions, people actually gratify their proud sense of false ego. They derive happiness from doing these actions. They have perverted minds influenced by a selfish motive incapable of the correct reading of circumstances. We interpret in our own way the reasons for our every action due to our biased or prejudiced mind always influenced by a selfish motive. The correct judgment is possible only by one who is totally liberated, the one who is completely free from worldly desires, good or bad. Because of the misconception of body as
self, we operate from the plane of ignorance and are thus led to wrong conclusion. We assess and evaluate everything from the stand point of personal interest. One cannot do any real good to others because of this tainted mindset.

The attachment to everything - wife, children, and wealth is only due to the attachment to the physical self. There are two kinds of selfishness - concentrated and extended. Concentrated selfishness is seen in animal society and extended selfishness in human society. Humans see their family, society, community and country as their expansions. A person apparently loves his wife, children and possessions because their association gives him happiness and this is what is important to him. In other words, a person does everything with a selfish motive even with great pain and trouble if it ultimately results in giving the happiness desired. Then he/she is not bothered about how the others with whom he/she interacts feel about it. If, for any reason, a person does not get happiness, then he/she is ready to end the relationship.
An embodied soul of this material world is actually selfcentered and is more attached to one's own body and self
than to his/her immediate relations like wife, husband and children. In India, it is common knowledge that a mother
is ready to kill her girl child in her womb because the society prefers boys. Similarly, young adults want to send
their elderly parents to senior citizen care centres because their presence at home is a burden and inconvenient for
them. In a nutshell, for persons who think the body is the self, those things whose importance lies only in their
relationship to the body, are never as dear as their body itself.

In this connection the Shrimad Bhagavatam (10-10-11) poses the following pertinent question:
dehah kim anna-datuh svam
nishektur matur eva cha
matuh pitur va balinah
kretur agneh shuno’pi va

While alive, does this body belong to its employer, to the self, to the father, the mother, or the mother’s father?
Does it belong to the person who takes it away by force, to the slave master who purchases it, or to the sons who
burn it in the fire? Or, if the body is not burned, does it not belong to the dogs that eat it? Among the many possible claimants, who is the rightful claimant? Not to ascertain this but instead to maintain the body by
sinful activities is not good.

The question is - to whom does our body actually belong while alive? According to the Vedas, a living entity, the
atman, takes shelter of the semen of the father and then gets injected into the womb of the mother where this atman, the spirit soul acquires the body and gradually develops. In that case, does the body belong to the father or the mother? Or does it belong to the mother’s father (grandfather) because he brought her into the world? Or does the body belong to one who kidnaps it? Can the body be said to belong to one who purchases it in human trafficking? Can the son who cremates the body after death as in Hindu custom, claim its ownership? If one dies in a remote jungle, a dead body is generally eaten by dogs and jackals. Can we say the body belongs to them? Who is the legitimate claimant? This is the question.

The undeniable fact is that the body is not the property
of anyone because actually it is created in this world by five material elements, pancha mahabhut, namely, earth, water, fire, air and ether. When the body disintegrates, whether burnt or buried, it merges again into these natural elements. Thus, in the beginning, the body comes into existence by a combination of matter and it disappears when the combination is dismantled. A person is truly intelligent if he/she understands this.

While living, one may be very proud of one's body
thinking it as very beautiful, handsome or muscular, but
after death, the body will be reduced to ashes, if cremated. If buried, it will be eaten by worms. If it remains unclaimed, the vultures and the dogs will eat it and will be turned into their stool. A person is truly intelligent if he or she understands this stark reality. Foolish persons, ignorant of this fact, indulge in many sinful activities to maintain their bodies. No matter how well one may try to maintain the body, it is subjected to old age, disease and death.
 Ignoring this fact, they commit all sorts of sins. Everything one does, is to cater to the enjoyment of the body, but the body is temporary and, ultimately, perishable. One who is slightly advanced in knowledge can understand this. This man knows that he is not the body but it is his. The one who understands his spiritual existence is not only indifferent to his close relatives but also has no attachment even to his own body. The hero of the Mahabharata, Arjuna, initially hesitated to fight the war of Kurukshetra. This reluctance can also be attributed to a subtle selfishness and not due to apparent compassion that he exhibited. At that juncture, he could realize that even if he won the war, all his close relatives on both the sides, would be completely wiped out. No one would be left alive with whom he could share the joy of his victory and celebrate it. This subtle thought was haunting him but did not occur to him earlier. When ready on the battle front, even contemplation of the prospect or the possibility of the loss of close relatives was very terrifying for him.
In other words, for an ignorant karmi or a furtive worker,
his own body is more dear than that of his relatives as
parents, siblings, wife and children. For a jnani, who has
basic understanding of spiritual existence, his atman or the
soul, is more dear than his own body.
An ignorant karmi thinks he is the physical body and a
partially enlightened jnani thinks the body is his and he is
not the body. He believes the body belongs to him. A
bhakta, devotee of God, truly understands his position.
Neither he presumes like the karmi believing that he is the
body nor does he misunderstand like the jnani that the
body is his. He is completely convinced that both his
body and his actual self, the spirit soul, belong to the
Supreme Lord Krishna. The devotee is fully aware of the
fact that a conditioned soul in the material world has two
coverings namely; gross external body consisting of limbs
and organs like hands, legs and stomach and the subtle
body composing of mind, intelligence and false ego. Both
these are material and they are the products of the
physical energy of the Supreme Lord Krishna as per His
own declaration in the Gita (7/4) as follows:

bhumir apo’nalo vayuh
kham mano budhir eva cha
ahankara itiyam me
bhinna prakritir ashtadha

Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego - all together these eight constitute My separated material energies. The devotee is also fully aware that all the living beings of the world, the jivatmas, are eternal parts of the Supreme Lord Krishna,
as conveyed to Arjuna in the Gita (15/7):

mamaivamsho jiva-Ioke
jiva-bhutah sanatanah
prakriti-sthani karshati

The living entities in this conditional world are My eternal
fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are
struggling very hard with the six senses, which include
the mind.
In this verse, the identity of the jiva or the atomic soul is clearly given. The living entity is eternally a fragmental part of the Supreme Lord Krishna. It is not that he assumes individuality in his conditional life in the mundane realm and merges with the Supreme Lord when liberated. The jiva soul is eternally a part as clearly denoted by the Supreme Lord’s use of the word sanatana (eternal), in this verse. The Supreme Lord Krishna is like a blazing fire; we are like minute sparks that emanate from Him. The Supreme Lord is like the sun and we are like minute molecular particles of its rays. To conclude, all beings of this universe are parts of the Supreme Lord Krishna and hence we belong to the Supreme Lord Krishna, and to no one else as clarified by Him in the Gita (7/5):

apareyam itas tu anyam
prakritim viddhi me param
jiva-bhutam maha-baho
yayedam dharyate jagat

Besides these, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is another,
superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living
entities who are exploiting the resources of the material,
inferior nature.
Our gross, physical body consisting of our limbs and organs as well as our subtle body consisting of our mind, intelligence and emotions are both made of the Supreme Lord's material energy. Our actual self, the spirit soul of each embodied being, has its origin in the Supreme Lord Krishna’s spiritual energy. Therefore, the devotee’s perspective is perfect when he says his spirit soul as well Earth, water, fire, air and ether are Shri Krishna’s material energies his physical body belong to the Supreme Lord Krishna.


Quick Navigation