All the information that I will be presenting comes from the Vedic scriptures. The Vedas are very ancient scriptures that were written down 5,000 years ago. However this knowledge is eternal. So prior to being written down, this knowledge was passed down orally from one perfect master to the next. Such a line of perfect teachers is known as a disciplic succession or a parampara. A parampara is necessary for the truth to descend in its pure form. We are in the parampara known as the Brahma Sampradaya. We feel very fortunate to be receiving our knowledge through this lineage. Having said this, it becomes obvious that this is not my opinion. I am just passing on this eternal science.
To discuss this idea of destiny, basically we will be talking about karma. To understand this subject of karma, we must understand who we are. To understand life in any way, we must understand who we are. But most people don’t really know this, though we may think we know.
The Vedas actually tell us we should all ask ourselves the question: Who am I? But we almost never ask this question because we think we already know the answer. Certainly, we all have our identities. We have had them our whole life. We have got them in our minds, we have them on our lips, and we have them in our pockets. Meaning, this is who I think I am, this is who I tell others I am and I prove it with my passport, my driver’s license. We accept this and so does everyone else.
But is this our true identity? Upon close examination we discover that this is only a compilation of many labels. And the labeling process begins at birth. So all of us here right now, as soon as we took birth, received one of two labels: male or female. We still identify like that: “I am a man” or “I am a woman.” At the same time we get another label according to our race: Caucasian, Negroid. And, of course, our family identity: we belong to this family. And our national identity: I am Russian, I am American. Actually, this identity is so strong that every day on this planet one person kills another person just because they have a different label.
This is just the beginning. Many labels come and go throughout our entire lives. Once again, at birth we are also known as babies, then kids. We start school, now we are students. A few more years go by, now we are teenagers and finally adults. We take up a profession in life and we are known accordingly: doctors, lawyers, secretaries, nurses. Then we get married, we have our husband or a wife. Then we have a child, now we are parents: fathers, mothers. A few more years go by: grandfathers, grandmothers. And this is how we see ourselves: this is me. And this continues on and on until we finally get the last label: dead.
If we look closely, we can see that this is all in relation to our material bodies. It is true: the body is male or female, black or white, big or little, young or old. Whatever the body is, it is. That is true. The question is: Is this who we are?
Every day we all take our pilgrimage to the mirror to see how ‘we’ look. Sometimes we are quite disappointed, but we always come back the next day, “Oh, maybe there’s been some improvement.” But do we really see our self? So the question is obvious: Am I this material body?
If we want the most authoritative answer, we should go to the revealed scriptures of the world: the Holy Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad-gita. They all tell us the same truth and there we learn: “No, we are not the material body.”
But this is the modern world. Very rarely does anyone go to scripture to find the truth in life. However we do readily accept the conclusions of the scientists. We like the scientists, they prove things. Uniquely enough, in this case the scientists have proven in their laboratories that we are not the material body. They have discovered that there is no cell in the human body that lives more than 5 years. Some cells have a very short life. For instance, the lining of our stomach, those cells live 5 days. Our skin cells – 1 month. Liver cells – 6 weeks, etc. But in 5 years everything has changed.
So if I look at a photograph of myself taken 10 years ago, the eyes in the photograph are different from the eyes I am looking at the photograph with. They are not the same eyes. According to this scientific formula, if I am 35 years old, I’ve had 7 bodies. But, of course, we all know we are not 7 different people. Everybody knows: I am still me. So the changing factor is the material body, the constant factor is our self. We are not this material body.
At this point some people become introspective or meditative. They look inside to find out who they really are. When we look inside, what do we find? Emotion, desire, sentiment, will. It is all very real. And it is easy to conclude, “A-ha! This is who I really am.” But we must confirm this with scripture, and especially with Vedic scriptures, because they are very detailed in this knowledge. When we do, we find we have made another mistake. This is not who we are either. This is actually another material body. It is called the subtle mental body. Sometimes it is called the astral body. I know some of you have heard of the astral body. So really we have 2 bodies: our gross physical body and our subtle mental body—like 2 layers of clothing: an outer layer and an under layer. But the question remains: Who am I?
Again, we go to the Vedas and we learn that we are in a different category of energy. Everything is energy. Our bodies are material energy, but we learn that we are spiritual energy. We further learn we are a tiny spark of spiritual energy.
We learn that material energy is temporary. It is very easy to see. We know all too well our bodies are very temporary. So much so that we do not even want to talk about it, “Hey, hey, hey! Don’t talk about that!” But even more permanent things like this building—come back here in 1000 years, “Where was that lecture?” Very temporary.
We learn that spirit is eternal. Eternal means no beginning and no end. We are eternal. We also learn that material energy is non-living. Again, easy to see. This table or this microphone, there is no life. But we learn that spirit is life itself. There is no such thing as live matter, there is no such thing as dead spirit. We are the life force in the body. As long as we are present in the body, the body is called alive. But actually this is not true. The body is dead. We are alive. And that becomes obvious at the time of death. At the time of death we leave the body. At that exact moment the body reveals its true nature: it can’t even sit in a chair, it falls on the floor. We are the life force in the body.
Therefore our true identity is spirit soul. Spirit meaning that we are spiritual in essence. Soul meaning the individual spiritual spark that we eternally are. We never become someone else, we never cease to exist. For some people this is very depressing news, “What?! I will always be me? I thought it would be over soon!” Sorry, it is never over. But when we learn the truth in life, this is very wonderful news.
So, once again, we are spirit soul. We further learn we are part and parcel of the Supreme Soul. There is a Supreme Soul from which we all come. We are known as the atma; the Supreme Soul is the Paramatma.
Now, understanding this, we can begin to discuss destiny, karma and grasp the concept.