What of my personality will be lost?

When I was younger than 10, I was with my mother and two siblings. My mother gave me some sweet and when my siblings came, she didn’t have enough for the three of us so she took the sweet and gave it to my two other siblings instead and said “You will get a sweet at another time instead”. When she said it, I thought to myself: “That never happens”. I understood at that moment that my siblings were the preference before me.

Experiences I have in life changes me, hopefully for the better. Experiences, thoughts, life philosophy shapes my personality.

So when I die, what part of my personality will be with me when I become reborn?

Brajanath dasa: Vidura Prabhu is actually asking his question: Is there any similarity between our material conditioned personality and our spiritual personality?

Srila Narayana Maharaja: No. We now have a different soul, mind, body and senses. In this world there are twenty-eight categories, including the eleven senses, the sense objects and other elements, and they are all different with respect to one another. On the other hand, in the spiritual world all these aspects of a person are one. The jiva in the spiritual world has senses, mind, body, and soul, and they are all one spiritual substance.

Walking with a saint 2008, page 287.

How can I reconcile this with my own experience?

I try to spend a portion of every day on doing japa and reading. These spiritual activities and beliefs are hard-grained in me and if a day goes by without some spiritual activity I feel like I have wasted that day. That my life has become worthless because I missed out on just that day.

I have no problem that my masters degree in IT will be lost when I die, but all the life experiences I’ve had that makes up parts of my personality – I don’t want to loose those skills. The skills and perceptions I’ve gained, aren’t they equal to spiritual realizations that will stay with me? I always thought that the personality changes made me closer to my spiritual personality. 

How can I reconcile this? It doesn’t make sense to me.

Once one is advanced in devotional service, his spiritual assets are never lost under any circumstances. Whatever spiritual advancement he has achieved continues. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā. Even if a bhakti-yogī falls, he takes birth in a rich family or family of brāhmaṇas, in which he again starts devotional activities from the point where he left off. Although Vṛtrāsura was known as an asura, or demon, he did not lose his consciousness of Kṛṣṇa or devotional service.

Srimad-Bhagavatam Purport 6.17.38

So what stays? What leaves? I thought that spiritual advancements in this material life affected ones personality, making the personality gradually more spiritual.

I get that there is a difference in ones material personality and ones spiritual personality. I just thought the material personality very slowly changed into a spiritual one. So when one receives ones siddha deha (spiritual identity), the process of shedding the material personality to a spiritual personality is finished.

There seem to be a contradiction here where on one hand one states that spiritual advancement is never lost, but on the other hand it is stated that ones spiritual personality is different from ones personality here in this material world.

So what is it?

Disappearance day of Narayana Maharaja

Today is the disappearance day of my harinama and diksa Gurudeva, Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja. In that regards I will publish a story from his life to illustrate his glories. The wonderful story is from Srila Gurudeva – The Supreme Treasure – Volume 2. The second volume of Gurudevas biography, written by his Sripad Bhaktivedanta Madhava Maharaja who was his secretary for thirty years, following and serving him devotedly.

Srila Gurudeva – The Supreme Treasure Volume 2, from page 21:

Sriman Narayana Prabhu worked as a policeman. On one night, Śrīman Nārāyaṇa Prabhu was scheduled to work the late night shift, from 10 pm to 6 am. Earlier that day after his lunch, he was thinking, “My duty’s time has still not come, so I can chant some rounds for some time, and then I can join the office in the evening”.

But he became so absorbed in chanting harināmā that he forgot all about the time and his work duties until the wee hours of the next morning. Seeing that there was only half an hour left before the completion of his shift, he became very anxious and quite worried. He arrived at the station and told his colleague, “Maybe my higher officer marked me red in the attendance book. Oh, and of course he must have been so much angry with me for being late and irregular”.

GurudevaHis fellow officers were surprised. “What are you saying, Mr. Tivariji? You have done so many activities since this evening. Your superior officer has become so much satisfied. Come on my friend, how can you say that you were not here? See here is where you signed in.”

Śrīman Nārāyaṇa Prabhu became astounded and said, “What! I have come here and joined the office today and was so busy in my work that my officer became happy!”

His friends looked at him and said, “Yes, therefore in the registration book, your officer has promoted you to a higher rank”.

Śrīman Nārāyaṇa Prabhu couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He checked the attendance book and saw that indeed his superior officer had written next his name “highly recommended for promotion”. He understood what had happened. The Lord Himself came, assumed his form and performed his duties so expertly that his superior was extremely pleased. Śrīman Nārāyaṇa realized how Kṛṣṇa was so merciful to him. He thought of the mercy that Kṛṣṇa bestowed on Pūtanā, giving her the position of a nurse in Goloka Vṛndāvana and he started crying. He remembered this verse:

aho bakī yaṁ stana-kāla-kūṭaṁ jighāṁsayāpāyayad apy asādhvī lebhe gatiṁ dhātry-ucitāṁ tato ‘nyaṁ kaṁ vā dayāluṁ śaraṇaṁ vrajema

Śrīmad-bhāgavatam 3.2.23

Alas, how shall I take shelter of one more merciful than He who granted the position of mother to a she-demon [Pūtanā] although she was unfaithful and she prepared deadly poison to be sucked from her breast?

Śrīman Nārāyaṇa solemnly vowed in his mind, “Why waste my life? I will give up this job and will only do bhajana of the Lord.”

When Śrīman Nārāyaṇa revealed his mind to Śrīpāda Narottamānanda Prabhu, the latter said, “Tivārījī, it is true, there are so many examples in the scripture of Bhagavān Himself coming to serve His devotee.”

“Oh, Prabhu, can you please give me an example?”

Śrīpāda Narottamānanda Prabhu, enthused by the young man’s eagerness to hear the pastimes of Bhagavān and His devotees, quoted the verse 9.22 from Bhagavad-gītā:

ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāh paryupāsate teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy āham

“However, for those who are always absorbed in thoughts of Me, and who worship Me with one-pointed devotion by every means, I Myself carry the necessities they lack and preserve what they have.”

“In connection with this verse,” said Śrīpāda Narottamānanda,“There is a true story of Śrī Bhagavān personally coming to serve His pure devotee, Ārjuna Miśra.

The Story of Ārjuna Miśra

Once there was a pure devotee named Ārjuna Miśra, who was a very poor brāhmaṇa. Every morning he would perform his bhajana, spend two hours writing a commentary on Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā, and then go out to beg alms.

Ārjuna Miśra’s wife would prepare the food collected by her husband, offer it with love to their deity of Bhagavān, Śrī Gopīnātha, give the mahāprasāda to her husband with great attention, and later partake whatever prasād was left with great satisfaction. This was their constant mood, and they were fully satisfied in the consideration that their poverty was a gift from Śrī Bhagavān. So their time passed blissfully.

Nearly all their clothes were torn, and between them they posessed only one cloth – a dhotī – that was suitable to wear outside the house. When her husband was out begging alms, his wife wore a piece of ragged, torn cloth. When he was at home and she needed to go out, she wore the dhotī.

One day, after his morning bhajana, Ārjuna Miśra sat down to write a commentary on the Bhagavad-gītā verse 9.22:

ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāh paryupāsate teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yoga-kṣemaṁ vahāmy āham

“However, for those who are always absorbed in thoughts of Me, and who worship Me with one-pointed devotion by every means, I Myself carry the necessities they lack and preserve what they have.”

Pondering this, Ārjuna Miśra’s mind became perplexed with a grave doubt that he was unable to resolve. He thought, “Will that Person, Svayaṁ-Bhagavān, who is the only master of the whole universe, Himself carry the necessities they lack of those who are engaged in His single- pointed bhajana, and preserve what they have? No, this can’t be true, because why is my situation as it is? I am completely dependent on Him, and with exclusive devotion, have offered everything to His lotus feet. So why do I have to undergo this misery of poverty? The words in this verse, ‘I Myself carry the necessities of those engaged in My bhajana’ , could not have been spoken by Bhagavān; someone must have changed it.”

Ārjuna Miśra tried to resolve this dilemma on the strength of his own intelligence but became increasingly doubtful and perplexed. Finally, he put three slash marks on this line with his red pen, and went out to beg alms.

Now, the most compassionate Bhagavān, who protects the surrendered souls, saw the doubt appear in the mind of His devotee. Taking the form of an extremely beautiful, tender, dark-complexioned boy, He filled two baskets with ample rice, dāl, vegetables, ghee and many other goods, and tying the baskets to the ends of a bamboo rod, He personally carried them on His shoulder to the house of Ārjuna Miśra.

Finding the door locked, He knocked several times, calling loudly, “Oh Mother, Oh Mother!’”

The brāhmaṇī heard the calling, but being home alone and wearing only her torn cloth, she felt she could not answer the door. The knocking and calling continued, and finally finding no alternative, with head lowered shyly, she opened the door. Carrying the weight of the full baskets on the bamboo, the boy entered the courtyard, placed His load on the floor and stood to one side. Śrī Bhagavān in the guise of a boy, said, “Mother, Paṇḍitjī (the brāhmaṇa, Ārjuna Miśra) has sent these supplies. Please take them inside.”

The brāhmaṇī’s face was lowered, but hearing the sweet words of the boy, she looked up and saw the two big baskets, filled with more vegetables and food grains than she had ever seen in her life, right there in the courtyard. Being repeatedly requested by the boy to take them, she finally carried them in a daze to the inner chamber of the house. Constantly gazing upon His beautiful face, she became completely happy.

Oh, how beautiful His face is! How can a person of such dark colour have such exquisite beauty? She had never even imagined such beauty. Awestruck, she stood transfixed. Then she noticed that on the boy’s chest were three bleeding slash marks. It looked as if someone had cut his chest with a sharp weapon. Her heart became deeply disturbed and she cried out, “Oh son! Which cruel person has made these cuts on Your chest? Alas! Alas! Even a stone heart would melt at the thought of hurting such a soft, tender body!”

Śrī Kṛṣṇa, in the guise of the boy, said, “Mother, while bringing you these foodstuffs, I was delayed, so your husband punished Me in this way.” With her eyes filling with tears, the brāhmaṇī cried, “What! He made these cuts on your chest? When he comes home I’ll ask him how he could have done such a brutal thing! My son, don’t feel distressed. Stay here for some time, and I will prepare some of this food and You can accept the prasāda of Ṭhākurjī.”

Seating the boy in the courtyard, the brāhmaṇī went to the kitchen and started to prepare an offering. Kṛṣṇa then thought, the purpose for which I carried these food-stuffs has been completed. When the brāhmaṇa comes home, he will discover the authenticity of My words, and will never doubt them again. Thus having made arrangements to dispel the doubts of His devotee, Kṛṣṇa disappeared.

That day, despite great effort, the brāhmaṇa was unable to collect any alms. Losing all hope, he returned home, considering the situation to be the will of Ṭhākurjī, his deity. His wife opened the back door when he knocked, and since he knew there had been no supplies in the house, he was surprised to see her cooking, and inquired, “What are you cooking? How is it that you have some supplies?”

Now she was surprised, and said, “Well, you sent a six-month supply of food with that little boy. Why do you ask? And I never knew your heart was so hard like stone. How could you slash the tender body of that boy three times on His chest? Have you no mercy?”

The brāhmaṇa was astonished.

“What are you talking about? I didn’t send anything home… nor did I hurt any boy. Please explain!”

The brāhmaṇī showed her husband the huge pile of supplies brought by the boy. Then she took him to the courtyard to show him the boy and His cuts… but the boy was not there. She searched the whole house for Him. Where had He gone? The courtyard gate was closed, as it had been before the boy came. The couple looked at each other in surprise. The whole situation began to dawn on Ārjuna Miśra, and tears began to flow continuously from his eyes.

After washing his hands and feet he entered the deity room and opened his Bhagavad-gītā. The three red pen slashes he had made that morning on the line: “I Myself carry the necessities of those engaged in My bhajana”, were now gone. His doubt was completely dispelled, and overwhelmed with happiness, he came out of the deity room crying.

“My dear, you are so fortunate! Today you directly saw Śrī Gopīnātha! And He personally brought all these foodstuffs! How could I have possibly sent so much stock, just by begging?”

Then he explained to his wife, “This morning, while writing my Bhagavad-gītā commentary, I doubted one statement of Śrī Bhagavān, and slashed some words with three lines of red ink. That’s why the tender chest of the sweet young boy you saw, our Ṭhākurjī, Gopīnātha, was marked with three cuts. He is supremely compassionate, and went to considerable trouble to prove the authenticity of His statements, and to remove the doubts of an atheist like me.”

His throat choked up and he was unable to speak further. Overwhelmed with love, he cried out, “Oh Gopīnātha! Oh Gopīnātha!” and then fainted. Standing in front of their deity Śrī Gopīnātha, the brāhmaṇī was struck dumb, and her eyes filled with tears. Returning to external consciousness a while later, Ārjuna Miśra took his bath, did his daily duties, offered to Śrī Gopīnātha the meal that his wife had prepared, and with great love they both accepted His remnants. He continued writing the commentary on Gītā every day, immersed in love of God.