A famous Canadian singer started this acronym YOLO in one of the songs of his 2011 album. Ever since then, it quickly became a part of the teenagers’ lingo all over the world. It does not convey any new idea though. It basically stands for “You Only Live Once” (YOLO). This philosophy of life has been current since a very long time in human society but the acronym gained quick popularity because it summarized an entire worldview in a single word and it was sort of “cool” to say that, especially amongst the teenagers. In the animal kingdom, in fact, this is the only philosophy they know.
As much as you would think that we would slam this idea here, we are actually presenting a favorable view on it by applying a paradigm shift. If you look at it from one angle, it is wrong but if you look at it from another, it is right.
WHERE YOLO IS WRONG
This philosophy is rooted in the idea that birth and death are the boundaries of our existence. There is no acceptance of the principle of reincarnation. The only proofs which can be shown to reject this principle is that we do not remember any past life or that there is no scientific method to establish its veracity. It is also a matter of convenience for the mass of people because this philosophy promotes hedonism — the pursuit of sensual, self-indulgence — which is generally appealing to the mass of people. It also almost negates the principle of accountability to one’s actions. There is no consideration either of sin or piety or the results of both either in heaven or in hell. This concept of life basically gives a sense of freedom which is why it is so popular.
DECONSTRUCTION BY LOGIC
The first flaw in these assumptions is to think that because we do not remember any past life it does not exist. If that is the case, we do not remember anything of our life when we were a one-year-old. Does that mean we were never a one-year-old? So this is not a strong argument. Even in most cases of serious accidents, the person does not remember what had happened. He wakes up a few days later in the hospital but does not remember anything of the accident. That does not mean he did not meet with the accident. If he really did not meet with one, he would not be in the hospital. So by observing his current position, one should know by inference at least that he met with an accident. It requires a little intelligence.
The second flaw is to think that there is no scientific evidence to establish its veracity. Well, there have been rare instances in which a child would accurately describe his previous life and when checked for verification, the details matched exactly. There are a few documentaries on these cases on YouTube as well. In fact, many such rare cases have been compiled and now there is a sizeable collection of such case studies on YouTube and in books. The modern scientists may not be equipped as yet to explain the phenomenon of reincarnation but these case studies shatter their strongly held viewpoint on the matter.
By dictionary definition, science is the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. So how can they negate something when they are observing it? Although they may not be able to adequately experiment on it, but if they are observing something, then they cannot deny its existence. So if the case studies are indicating reincarnation, how can one negate the principle altogether?
Moreover, to err is human. We all have four principal defects — we commit mistakes, we can be disillusioned, we have imperfect senses and we have a cheating propensity. With these four defects, we cannot come to a perfect conclusion about anything. The scientists themselves are imperfect and their theories and instruments must also be imperfect because it is their creation.
The third flaw is the hedonism and whimsical life that the idea of one life promotes or suggests. Everyone wants to be happy. That is a fact. In this material world sensual pleasure is defined as happiness and one of the chief reasons why people hold back on sensual pleasure is religious codes which pronounce enjoyment and suffering in this and the afterlife for moral and sinful conduct respectively. Sinful life is a life based on sensual self-indulgence. So, if the concept of afterlife is negated, there is no heaven or hell. Everyone can do as he pleases; which is immediately pleasing to everyone but ultimately destructive. There will be an enormous amount of sinful activity which will cause a hellish situation for everyone, even in this life, what to speak of the next.
In days of yore, there was an atheistic philosopher of the name Cārvāka Muni who professed this same YOLO concept of life. He said,
ṛṇaṁ kṛtvā ghṛtaṁ pibet
yāvaj jīvet sukhaṁ jīvet
kutaḥ punar āgamano bhavet
His theory was that as long as one lives one should eat as much ghee as possible. In India, ghee (clarified butter) is a basic ingredient in preparing many varieties of food. Since everyone wants to enjoy nice food, Cārvāka Muni advised that one eat as much ghee as possible. One may say, “I have no money. How shall I purchase ghee?” Cārvāka Muni, however, says, “If you have no money, then beg, borrow or steal, but in some way secure ghee and enjoy life.” For one who further objects that he will be held accountable for such unauthorized activities as begging, borrowing and stealing, Cārvāka Muni replies, “You will not be held responsible. As soon as your body is burned to ashes after death, everything is finished.” This sort of thinking gives rise to an irresponsible and dangerous type of civilization.
The fourth flaw is that there is no concrete explanation for the varieties of life that exist. For example, an exact reason cannot be determined as to why one is born poor and another rich. Or, why is one born as a human whereas another as a dog? We shall visit this in the next section based on the law of karma.
DECONSTRUCTION BY SCRIPTURAL EVIDENCE
This whole theory of only one life stems directly from the bodily conception of life. That means, everyone thinks he is his body. So when the body dies, we think we die. But the first thing that constitutes real knowledge is the awareness that the soul and the body are two separate entities with diametrically opposite characteristics. That is clearly explained in the Bhagavad-gītā (2.17-18) as follows:
avināśi tu tad viddhi
yena sarvam idaṁ tatam
na kaścit kartum arhati
antavanta ime dehā
tasmād yudhyasva bhārata
“That which pervades the entire body you should know to be indestructible. No one is able to destroy that imperishable soul. The material body of the indestructible, immeasurable and eternal living entity is sure to come to an end.”
The soul is eternal and the body is temporary under all circumstances. Only circumstantially, the soul is trapped within the material body. Under the influence of the powerful material nature, the soul is disillusioned to think that he is the material body. That is confirmed in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (1.7.5):
yayā sammohito jīva
paro ’pi manute ’narthaṁ
“Due to this external (material) energy, the living entity, although transcendental to the three modes of material nature, thinks of himself as a material product and thus undergoes the reactions of material miseries.”
That means the eternal soul repeatedly dons and sheds the temporary material bodies one after another as is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā (2.22).
vāsāṁsi jīrṇāni yathā vihāya
navāni gṛhṇāti naro ’parāṇi
tathā śarīrāṇi vihāya jīrṇāny
anyāni saṁyāti navāni dehī
“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.”
Another interesting point to note here is that one does not need to wait until death to find out if reincarnation exists or not. Even in this life, one passes through so many stages or bodies — infancy, childhood, youth and then old age. When a person attains childhood, he has already shed his infant body; when he is a youth, he has shed his childhood body; when he is an old man, he has shed his youthful body. So Bhagavad-gītā (2.13) informs us that the soul similarly sheds the old body in exchange for a new one. This event is what is commonly known as death.
In fact, every moment we are shedding our old body and donning a new one but it is happening so imperceptibly that we see it as a continuous movement and we term it as growth. It is just like a movie theatre wherein the spool is set in motion and we see continuous movement on the screen. But if we go to the projection room, we see that it is actually thousands of still images.
What sort of new body one gets after death is determined by one’s mental condition at the time of death. Bhagavad-gītā (8.6) gives us the information that whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail. That final thought will be determined by his practice in the current life. If one is practiced to constantly think of one’s pet dog for example, he may very well remember the dog at the time of death and get the body of a dog after death. Our behavior also matters. If I am very attached to eating meat, then mother nature, under the supervision of the Supreme Lord, will award me a body like that of a tiger so that I can eat only meat my whole life.
Take the example of the accident we mentioned in the earlier section. The very fact that the patient is in the hospital with a deformed body suggests that he met with an accident. He may not remember the accident or in severe cases, he may not remember anything or anyone in his life. Similarly, due to the extreme shock resulting from a change of body, the living entity totally forgets his previous life. But from his present condition of life, we can infer as to what his past was. The type of species or family that one is born in and the advantages or disadvantages that ensue should be understood to be the result of his previous work. The Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (3.31.1) confirms this as follows:
striyāḥ praviṣṭa udaraṁ
“Under the supervision of the Supreme Lord and according to the result of his work, the living entity, the soul, is made to enter into the womb of a woman through the particle of male semen to assume a particular type of body.”
According to the variety of desires of the living entities, there are appropriate accommodation provided for them within 8,400,000 species of life. So a custom-made body is awarded to a living entity which is just suitable to his desires in his previous life.
But whichever species one may take birth in, one’s life can never be peaceful in this material world — whether in the heavenly, earthly, hellish or animal life. The four principal miseries of birth, death, old age and disease will plague the living entity in every life. Apart from that there are innumerable minor sets of miseries. Therefore, if one wants real happiness, one should not take birth in this material world but go to the spiritual world or the kingdom of God, Vaikuṇṭha. That can be done by remembering the Supreme Personality of Godhead Kṛṣṇa at the time of death. One is then immediately transferred to the spiritual kingdom after death. But for that, one needs to mold his current life in such a way that he constantly remembers the Supreme Lord at every step of his life. Then there is a good chance that one remembers Him at the time of death and returns to the eternal world, never to return. There one enjoys unlimited pleasure in the company of Kṛṣṇa.
WHERE YOLO IS RIGHTS
In reality we live only once because the soul never takes birth nor dies. Bhagavad-gītā (2.27) confirms this:
na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ’yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre
“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.”
Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (2.12), “Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” Each one of us is a tiny, eternal part and parcel of God. So we are actually a sample of God. God is eternal and we are also eternal. He is a conscious living entity and we are also conscious living entities but He is so powerful that he alone maintains the innumerable living entities both in the material and spiritual worlds.
Kṛṣṇa’s abode is also eternal. He describes it in the Bhagavad-gītā (8.20-21) as follows:
paras tasmāt tu bhāvo ’nyo
’vyakto ’vyaktāt sanātanaḥ
yaḥ sa sarveṣu bhūteṣu
naśyatsu na vinaśyati
avyakto ’kṣara ity uktas
tam āhuḥ paramāṁ gatim
yaṁ prāpya na nivartante
tad dhāma paramaṁ mama
“There is another unmanifest nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is. That which the Vedāntists describe as unmanifest and infallible, that which is known as the supreme destination, that place from which, having attained it, one never returns – that is My supreme abode.”
So the kingdom of God is sanātana, eternal. The jīva (individual soul) is also described as sanātana, eternal, and the Lord is also described as sanātana, eternal. The activity which can transfer this individual sanātana living entity to the sanātana abode to associate with the supreme sanātana, the Lord, is called sanātana-dharma, which is the eternal occupation of the living entity. We are temporarily engaged in different activities, but all of these activities can be puriﬁed when we give up all these temporary activities and take up the activities which are prescribed by the Supreme Lord. That is our pure life.
That sanātana-dharma or eternal occupation is defined by Lord Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad-gītā (18.55) as:
bhaktyā mām abhijānāti
yāvān yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ
tato māṁ tattvato jñātvā
“One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of Me by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God.”
When one is thus reinstated in the spiritual world by the execution of devotional service unto the Supreme Lord, one does not need to undergo repeated birth and death and he will live only once and forever in the blissful company of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Śrī Kṛṣṇa. So… what are you waiting for? Give up the illusory YOLO and take up the real one. The choice is entirely yours. [End]