There are three kinds of suffering, including miseries pertaining to the body and mind. In Hawaii, in front of my house, a man was keeping some animals and birds for the purpose of taking them to be slaughtered. I gave this example to my students: "These animals are standing here, and if you tell them, 'Oh, my dear animals, why are you standing here? Go away! You are meant for the slaughterhouse,' they cannot go. They have no intelligence."
Suffering without knowledge, without remedy, is animal life. One who cannot understand that he is suffering and who thinks that he is very well off is in animal consciousness, not human consciousness. The human being should be cognizant of suffering the threefold miseries of this planet. One should know that he is suffering in birth, suffering in death, suffering in old age and suffering in disease, and one should be inquisitive as to how he may avoid the suffering. That is real research work.
We have suffered from the beginning of our birth. As a baby, the human being is tightly placed in the abdomen of the mother in an airtight bag for nine months. He cannot even move, there are insects biting him, and he cannot protest. After the child comes out, the suffering continues. The mother undoubtedly takes much care, but still the child cries because he is suffering. There are bugs biting or there are pains in his stomach; the child is crying, and the mother does not know how to pacify him. His suffering begins in the womb of his mother. Then, after his birth, as he grows up, there is more suffering. He does not want to go to school, but he is forced to. He does not want to study, but the teacher gives him tasks. If we analyze our life, we will find that it is full of suffering. Why then are we coming here? The conditioned souls are not very bright. We should inquire, "Why am I suffering?" If there is a remedy, we must take advantage of it.
We are eternally connected with the Supreme Lord, but somehow or other we are now in material contamination. Therefore, we must take up a process by which to go back again to the spiritual world. That linking process is called yoga. The actual translation of the word yoga is "plus." At the present moment we are minus God, or minus the Supreme. But when we make ourselves plus—connected—then our human form of life is perfect. During our lifetime we have to practice approaching that point of perfection, and at the time of death, when we give up this material body, that perfection has to be realized. At the time of death, one must be prepared. Students, for instance, prepare for two to five years in college, and the final test of their education is the examination. If they pass the examination, they get a degree. Similarly, in the subject of life, if we prepare for the examination at the time of death and pass it, then we are transferred to the spiritual world. Everything is examined at the time of death.
There is a very common Bengali proverb that says that whatever one does for perfection will be tested at the time of his death. Bhagavad-gītā describes what we should do at the point of our death, when we are giving up this present body. For the dhyāna-yogī (meditator) Śrī Kṛṣṇa speaks the following verses:
- yad akṣaraṁ veda-vido vadanti
- viśanti yad yatayo vīta-rāgāḥ
- yad icchanto brahmacaryaṁ caranti
- tat te padaṁ saṅgraheṇa pravakṣye
- sarva-dvārāṇi saṁyamya
- mano hṛdi nirudhya ca
- mūrdhny ādhāyātmanaḥ prāṇam
- āsthito yoga-dhāraṇām
"Persons learned in the Vedas, who utter oṁkāra and who are great sages in the renounced order, enter into Brahman. Desiring such perfection, one practices celibacy. I shall now explain to you this process by which one may attain salvation. The yogic situation is that of detachment from all sensual engagements. Closing all the doors of the senses and fixing the mind on the heart and the life air at the top of the head, one establishes himself in yoga." (Bg. 8.11-12) In the yoga system this process is called pratyāhāra, which means, in technical language, "the opposite." Now the eyes are engaged in seeing worldly beauty, so one has to withdraw them from enjoying that beauty and concentrate on seeing beauty inside. That is called pratyāhāra. Similarly, one has to hear the oṁkāra sound from within.
- oṁ ity ekākṣaraṁ brahma
- vyāharan mām anusmaran
- yaḥ prayāti tyajan dehaṁ
- sa yāti paramāṁ gatim
"After being situated in this yoga practice and vibrating the sacred syllable oṁ, the supreme combination of letters, if one thinks of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and quits his body, he will certainly reach the spiritual planets." (BG 8.13) In this way all the senses have to be stopped in their external activities, and the mind must be concentrated on viṣṇu-mūrti, the form of Lord Viṣṇu. That is the perfection of yoga. The mind is very turbulent, so it has to be fixed upon the heart. When the mind is fixed within the heart and the life air is transferred to the top of the head, one can attain the perfection of yoga.