A learned man never laments over a subject which appears and disappears as a matter of course. The material body, which we get from the womb of our mother, becomes transformed after some time into ashes, earth, or stool, as the case may be. And the subtle mental body, which is also material and composed of false ego and intelligence, likewise vanishes when the soul is liberated. Therefore, those who are truly learned do not give much importance to this material body and mind, or to the happiness and distress that pertain only to the material body and mind.
On the other hand, such learned men do give much stress to the happiness and distress of the soul proper, which is spirit and transcends the existence of the body and the mind. When we enter into such culture of knowledge, it is called transcendental knowledge. Marshal Arjuna portrayed himself as a materialistic fool, without any transcendental knowledge, just to teach us, who are cent-percent materialistic fools. For His part, the Personality of Godhead imparted the transcendental knowledge of Bhagavad-gītā, because He found Marshal Arjuna the most deserving person to hear it.
Just like Marshal Arjuna, the prime minister for Nawab Hussain Shah of Bengal—namely Sākara Mallika, who was later known as Sanātana Gosvāmī, one of the chief disciples of Lord Caitanya—represented himself as a materialistic fool before Lord Caitanya, when he met the Lord at Benares. He presented his case before Lord Caitanya as follows: "Ordinary persons, those who have no knowledge of transcendence, address me as a great leader, a great scholar, a mahātmā, a paramahaṁsa, and so on. But I am doubtful whether I am really so; they may be insulting me indirectly by calling me something that I am not. I know that I have no knowledge about myself as I am, but still, some of the materialistic fools address me as learned. This is undoubtedly a joke and an insult."
With these words, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī presented his case. In fact, he really was learned in transcendental knowledge, but he pretended to be a materialistic fool like us. Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī refused to let himself be called a great leader or erudite scholar, since he had no transcendental knowledge. Indirectly, he asserted that there is no greater materialistic fool than one who advertises himself and collects the cheap votes of similar fools to gain fame as a great scholar, great leader, great philosopher, great mahātmā, or great paramahaṁsa, all without any knowledge of his real self, the spirit soul, and without doing any benefit to the soul proper—simply wasting time in the matter of the happiness and distress of the temporary material body and mind. Sanātana means "eternal." Thus, Sanātana Gosvāmī was interested in the eternal happiness of the living entities more than just the temporary happiness of their temporary body and mind. When one thus becomes interested in the permanent happiness of the permanent soul, he becomes a disciple of Sanātana Gosvāmī, or a real "sanātanist," that is, a transcendentalist.
Throughout the world at the present moment, almost all the leaders, scholars, and mahātmās are more or less materialists, without any taste for transcendental knowledge. Thus, in the first instance Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Personality of Godhead, rebuked Marshal Arjuna and refused to accept him as a paṇḍita or scholar, with a view to teach the so-called learned scholars and leaders of the materialistic fools.
Almost all the leaders of the people have popularized various modes of religiosity that have to do only with the material body and mind. But very few of them know that the body and mind are nothing but the outward coat and shirt of the soul proper. Simply by taking care of the outward coat and shirt, one cannot do any good for the real self, the soul proper. Since factually the soul is the chief interest, the real self, no sane man can look after the interest of the outward paraphernalia while overlooking the chief interest, his very self; the interest of the subordinates, the material bodies, is looked after automatically. But no one can serve the chief simply by serving the subordinates. In other words, it is not possible to satisfy one's inner hunger simply by soaping the outer clothing.
So when we speak of a living entity, we must see the body and the mind as two outward coverings, two layers of paraphernalia—and the living force or spirit soul as the chief, central figure. The outward coverings are temporary arrangements, and therefore everything dependent on the outward covering is also a temporary arrangement. Happiness or distress perceived in relation with the temporary arrangement of the body and mind is also temporary. Thus, in Bhagavad-gītā the Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, says, "O son of Kuntī! All forms of happiness or distress, such as winter cold or summer heat, are due to material sense perception only. They come and go according to the laws of nature, and they are therefore to be tolerated without our being disturbed. One who is not disturbed by all these comings and goings of temporary happiness and distress—he alone becomes a fit person to attain eternal life."
But at the present stage of our existence, it is difficult to be unaffected by the temporary happiness and distress pertaining to the body and mind. Nor is it possible at present to assert that we are unidentified with the body and mind. Therefore, in our present state of existence, there is no possibility of our being indifferent in these matters of material happiness and distress. Thus, acquiring transcendental knowledge does not mean that we become indifferent to our present state of affairs, but it means that we should not be overwhelmed by the coming and going of happiness and distress.