What’s the difference between spirit and matter?

by Ekendra dasa

Spirit and matter are two seemingly incompatible things which, when combined, make up “the world as we know it.”

Basic qualities of spirit: permanent, conscious, always satisfied and blissful. Basic qualities of matter: temporary, unconscious, subject to adverse conditions.

For example, I—the person, the spirit—feel that I exist. My senses collect data, and I experience those things. Life isn’t always easy or pleasurable, but I tend to avoid pain when I can, and hope for as much pleasure as I can get.

My body—made of biodegradable stuff called “matter”—came into being at a certain time and isn’t going to last forever. If I don’t make it move, my body wouldn’t go anywhere. Other physical conditions (nutritional, environmental) must also be constantly met in order for the body to continue to exist at all.

How I got into this body is another long story. But at some point—I’m not sure when—I will have to exit this body and go somewhere else. Where I will go is also another story, but when I leave it, the body will cease to function.

Spirit is the essence, the active principle in every living being. Without spirit, matter can’t do anything. Matter is the stuff bodies are made of, the stuff that makes up the whole universe.

The difference between spirit and matter is similar to the difference between a driver and a car: Car minus driver equals “parked car.”

By vishvambarvyasadas108

Why reincarnation? What’s the purpose?

The Vedic literature offers two answers.

First, we’re being given a chance to live out our desires. You want to fly? Take the body of a bird. You want to swim? Take the body of a fish. You want to drink blood? The body of a tiger. Fool around and have sex all day? The body of a monkey.

Second: We’re being given repeated opportunities to attain spiritual realization, break free from material entanglement, and resume our eternal nature in the spiritual world. The Vedic writings are meant to guide us in achieving
this goal.

By vishvambarvyasadas108

If reincarnation is a fact, how does it work?

According to the Bhagavad-gita, whatever we think of at the time of death determines what sort of body we’ll take next. And of course what we think of at death depends largely on what we thought about and what we did during our life. The process is subtle, because the mind is subtle.

The Bhagavad-gita explains that the mind, at death, carries with it subtle conceptions, just as the air carries aromas. And these subtle thoughts are what shape the next body. They determine what sort of eyes one will have, what nose, ears, and tongue, what sort of hands and legs and other bodily features. These all assemble around the mind.

The Vedic writings tell us, also, that our karma—what we deserve for our past acts—proceeds not only from what we have done in the present life but from past lives as well. My present birth, then, is an outcome of what I have thought and what I have done in the past.

Are human beings always reborn as human beings? According to the Vedic literature, no. Some are, but others are promoted to still higher forms, forms beyond our present experience, and others are degraded to lower species.

Sometimes, for example, we see a person living just like a pig—dirty, sloppy, gluttonous. We may think he even looks like a pig. According to the Vedic teachings, such a person, already practically a pig in consciousness, may get the body of a pig in his next life.

The Vedic writings say that there are 8,400,000 species, most of them lower than human. In the lower species, the living beings always act precisely as nature dictates. They have no choice. A horse always acts like a horse, a tree like a tree. You never see a tiger stealing oranges.

And so the living beings in lower species always advance to species higher. Slowly, one step at a time, they are promoted by nature from one species to the next.

But human life affords us greater choice. We can live in harmony with nature’s laws, or we can violate them. And accordingly we may be promoted or degraded. The human life is therefore meant for spiritual realization and for gaining freedom from the cycle of birth and death. No other species offers us this opportunity.

By vishvambarvyasadas108

ReIncarnation: Who gives credence to this?

In much of the civilized world, the idea of reincarnation, or transmigration of the soul, is the prevailing point of view. More than a third of the world’s people accept reincarnation as a fact of life.

And even in the West, the doctrine of reincarnation has a long list of distinguished

  • Pythagoras (Greek philosopher and mathematician, c.582-c.500 BC)
  • Socrates (Greek philosopher, 469-399 BC)
  • Plato (Greek philosopher, 427-347 BC)
  • Plotinus (Greek philosopher, founder of Neoplatonism, 204-270)
  • Giordano Bruno (Italian philosopher, 1548-1600)
  • Francois Voltaire (French philosopher, 1694-1778)
  • Benjamin Franklin (US statesman, philosopher and inventor, 1706-1790)
  • Gotthold Lessing (German philosopher and dramatist, 1729-1781)
  • John Adams (Second president of the United States, 1735-1826)
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (German poet and dramatist, 1749-1832)
  • August Wilhelm von Schlegel (German poet, critic and translator, 1767-1845)
  • William Wordsworth (English poet, 1770-1850)
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson (US philosopher and writer, 1803-1882)
  • Robert Browning (English poet, 1812-1889)
  • Richard Wagner (German composer, 1813-1883)
  • Henry David Thoreau (US social critic, writer and philosopher, 1817-1862)
  • Walt Whitman (US poet, 1819-1892)
  • Thomas Huxley (English biologist and writer, 1825-1895)
  • Leo Tolstoy (Russian novelist and social critic, 1828-1910)
  • Mark Twain (US writer, 1835-1910)
  • Gustav Mahler (German composer, 1860-1911)
  • Rudolf Steiner (Austrian philosopher, 1861-1925)
  • David Lloyd George (British Prime Minister, 1863-1945)
  • Henry Ford (US automobile pioneer, 1863-1947)
  • Rudyard Kipling (English writer, 1865-1936)
  • W. Somerset Maugham (English writer, 1874-1965)
  • Carl Jung (Swiss psychiatrist and psychologist, 1875-1961)
  • Sir Hugh Dowding (British Air Marshal during the Battle of Britain, 1882-1970)
  • George S. Patton (US general, 1885-1945)
  • Robert Graves (English poet, 1895-1985)
  • Erik Erikson (US psychoanalyst, 1902-1994)
By vishvambarvyasadas108