June 23, 2013

Who Are You Really? ~ Vrindavan Rao

Everyday Bhagavad-Gita: Designations.

Verse 2.20: For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.

Ever wonder where you come from? And, who you really are?

Have you ever wondered what even prompts us to ask such questions in the first place?

When you think about it, it’s interesting how even the questions we think to ask are subject to our experiences, which themselves are directly tied to our identifications. A.C. Bhaktivedenta Swami Prabhupada, the translator of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, develops this point in his purport by declaring that it is under the impression of the body that we seek the history of birth and the origin of the soul.

There is quite a lot within this simple statement that requires some serious unpacking. Let’s put it in perspective.

Our identification with the body affects us on so many different levels. It’s not that we simply identify ourselves as “human.” This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to assigning designations to our bodies. From here we start piling them on one after another—identifying ourselves as male/female, with a country, a race, a religion, and on and on. And before you know it, all these things we’ve chosen to associate with ourselves turn into us, i.e., our identities.

The major problem with all these designations (besides the fact that they are not who we are), is that they come and go.

They are not permanent, and like the body which is subject to birth and death, they too come to pass. But because we identify with them, they infect our thoughts about the soul to the point where we begin to think that we, as souls, are subject to birth and death. This is why Krishna dedicates so much time in His conversation with Arjuna convincing us that the soul is of an entirely different nature than the body.

The soul is not subject to birth, death, disease and old age like the body.

Let’s return to our discussion of identifications in order to flesh this out a bit more.

What was your answer the last time someone asked you, “What do you do?”

More often than not, we immediately throw out titles such as student, professional, doctor, mom, and so forth. Did you ever think to say, “I’m trying to purify my heart so that I can re-establish a loving relationship with God and realize that I am actually the soul?” As an aspiring bhakti yogi, or one is trying to love God, this is what we are actually doing. Sure, we may be a professional, or a student, or whatever, but this is not who we are really are.

Shouldn’t what we do be a direct reflection of who we really are?

While it’s true that we have duties to perform, and roles to fulfill, these titles don’t represent the soul. They represent the body, the circumstances, and the environments that we occupy, but are subject to change. This is not to minimize or dismiss their importance. We should  fulfill all of them to the best of our ability. In fact, the advanced bhakti yogi fulfills their roles as mother, father, provider, friend, citizen as expertly as possible.

However, the point is that we should not become so caught up in identifying with these designations that we lose sight of the fact that we are actually spiritual beings undergoing a material experience.

This is why the Gita stresses that designations serve as obstacles in trying to realize we are the soul. It is very important to remember the context. Nowhere does the Gita recommend that we detach ourselves and give up everything. In fact, it is frowned upon as artificial renunciation. Practical realization that we are the soul will only serve to enhance our relationships with others since this will enable us to see all living entities as equal and worthy of the greatest respect.

This is not an easy process. But, the practice of bhakti is the most potent and the path recommended for our times. Some days it seems an almost insurmountable task to fix our consciousness on God with all the distractions that surround us. But this is why spending time reading and reflecting on the Bhagavad-gita on a daily basis is so crucial. It will guide us away from our temporary identifications and allow us to return to our core.

Ultimately, it all boils down to love. God wants us to love Him. This is the one thing that we must give to Him freely and it is so easy to do.

All we need do are two things: always remember Him and never forget Him.


Vrindavan Rao was born into the bhakti tradition and grew up enveloped in it. However, her personal discovery of the bhakti path began in 2004 when she had the opportunity to go to a Vedic College in Belgium and since that time she has embraced it completely. Her love for travel has given her the opportunity to study Vedic texts, such as the Bhagavad-gita, in places such as India, Canada, Belgium, Ukraine and the United States under the guidance of several advanced practitioners.

She especially loves the Gita and refers to it as her “Guidebook for Life” since it contains practical answers for complicated questions and is currently writing a daily blog on every verse of the Gita. In addition, you can keep track of all the happenings of Everyday Bhagavad-Gita on Facebook and via Twitter.

Her background is in science and she not only has a Bacherlor’s degree in Biochemistry, but also a Masters in Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology. In her free time she loves to write, read, give presentations, sing and work out.

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Editor: Thaddeus Haas


{Photo: via Faith on Pinterest}


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