Expand your conception of not just life, but also the self

Most religions expand the conception of life by explaining that death is not a termination, but a transition to life at another level of reality. By providing the hope of a joyful afterlife, they give their followers impetus to stick to religious ethics and endure life’s difficulties gracefully.

However, these religions frequently don’t expand the conception of the self from the material to the spiritual. Though they mention the soul, they don’t give a clear understanding of it as a higher-dimensional entity distinct from the body. So, despite their usage of spiritual nomenclature, their followers often maintain a material conception of the self. Due to their de-facto material self-conception, they visualize the happiness of heavenly afterlife in material terms as, say, a perennial family re-union in a land of plenty or an arena to enjoy luscious beauties and lavish bounties.

Due to their de-facto material self-conception, they visualize the happiness of heavenly afterlife in material terms as, say, a perennial family re-union in a land of plenty or an arena to enjoy luscious beauties and lavish bounties.

The Bhagavad-gita (09.20-21) outlines the mentality and destiny of such materialistic religionists. Even if they do pious deeds and attain celestial delights, they can’t live in heaven forever. When their pious credits get exhausted, they have to return to earth, just as tenants have to vacate their residence when their rent runs out. More importantly, even while in heaven, real happiness eludes them because indulgence in material lusts can’t satisfy the non-material soul, which longs for eternal spiritual love.

To help us attain fulfilling spiritual love, the Gita right from its start expands our conceptions of both life and the self. It reveals the soul to be a spiritual being distinct from its bodily dress. As souls, we are meant to delight in eternal love for God, Krishna, who is the abode of unlimited happiness. By practicing yoga, especially bhakti-yoga, we can connect with Krishna and relish higher spiritual happiness even in this life, what to speak of the next.

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