Everyone who happens to take his birth in India is a potential benefactor of others, because it is on Indian soil alone that the culture of transcendental knowledge has been most elaborately presented, from ancient times to the present. The saints and sages of Bhārata-varṣa, as India has long been known, never tried to cultivate or satisfy artificially the needs of the body and the mind exclusively; they always cultured the transcendental spirit soul, which is above the material body and mind. And even now, the saints and sages continue to do so, in spite of all difficulties. But it would be sheer stupidity if Indian people attempted to do good to others without first themselves attaining transcendental knowledge.
Now, if we want to acquire transcendental knowledge, our first duty will be to understand that the spirit soul is eternal truth. The external ingredients, the body and the mind which develop around the spirit soul, are all relative or partial truths. In the second chapter of Bhagavad-gītā, the Personality of Godhead explains this fact elaborately:
"The spirit soul which pervades this body is eternal, and thus one should understand that no one can destroy the eternal, ever-existing spirit soul. Although this material body is subject to annihilation, the proprietor of the body is eternal. Therefore, O scion of Bharata, knowing this eternal truth, you can go on with your fighting engagement.
"Both the person who thinks the spirit soul can slay and the person who thinks that the spirit soul can be slain are ignorant of the fact that the spirit soul is neither slayer nor slain at any time. The spirit soul is never born, nor can he ever die. He has no past, present, or future, because he is eternal. And although very old, he is always fresh and does not become annihilated even after the annihilation of the body. One who understands the soul as eternal and indestructible—how can he hurt or kill anyone? It is only the outward body and mind that are destroyed.
"The body and the mind are just like a person's outward clothing. The clothing is changed when it is old, and the living person takes on a new set of clothing after giving up the old one.
"The spirit soul can never be struck by the sharp sword, nor can he be burnt by fire. He can never be affected by water or air, and thus, the spirit soul is eternally indestructible, nonflammable, nonevaporable, and noncorrodable. He is permanent, all-pervading, and eternal. He cannot be explained by any human language, nor can he be perfectly conceived of by any human mind. He remains always unchangeable, and knowing all these facts, one should not lament over his disappearance."
In the language of Bhagavad-gītā, the spirit soul is called kṣetrajña, the knower or tiller of the field, whereas the body and mind, the coverings of the spirit soul, are called kṣetra, or the field. In the thirteenth chapter of Bhagavad-gītā, the Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, discusses the subject matter of kṣetra, kṣetrajña, and also prakṛti (nature, or the phenomenal world, which is enjoyed) and puruṣa (the enjoyer of the phenomenal world). Lord Kṛṣṇa explains that all actions and reactions that take place in this phenomenal world are the actions and reactions of this combination of kṣetra and kṣetrajña, or nature and the enjoyer of nature. For instance, rice paddy is produced by the action and reaction of the field and the tiller, or a child is begotten by the combination of prakṛti, the enjoyed, and puruṣa, the enjoyer. In the same way, whatever we see in the phenomenal world is produced by this combination of kṣetra and kṣetrajña.
This kṣetrajña is the living spirit, whereas the kṣetra is the material which is lorded over. Physics, chemistry, astronomy, pharmacology, economics, sexology, and other material sciences deal with the materials of kṣetra. But the science that deals with spiritual existence—pertaining to kṣetrajña—is called transcendental knowledge. Real culture of knowledge, therefore, pertains not to kṣetra but to kṣetrajña. We shall get full opportunity to discuss all these subjects more elaborately, but for the present we may be satisfied simply by knowing that the kṣetrajña (puruṣa, or enjoyer) is the central objective of all knowledge, because it is this kṣetrajña alone that creates everything in conjunction with the material body and mind and the allied physical elements.
The kṣetrajña is the eternal spirit, whereas the kṣetra is matter, which is temporary and ephemeral. This eternal truth is summarized in the Vedas in the aphorism brahma satyaṁ jagan mithyā: "Spirit is fact and the world is a false shadow." By "false shadow" one should understand that the world is temporary, existing only for the time being. But one should not make the mistake of thinking the world has no existence at all. I really possess my temporary material body and mind, and I must not make myself a laughing stock by denying the existence of my body and mind. At the same time, I must always remember that the body and mind are temporary arrangements. However, the spirit encaged by this body and mind is eternal truth and indestructible. No one can destroy the eternal spirit—that is what we need to understand at the present moment. The indestructible spirit is thus above the conception of violence and nonviolence.
Today, the whole world is mad after the culture of knowledge in relation to temporary arrangements for the gross material body and the subtle material mind. But more important than the body and mind is the spirit, which has been set aside without any proper culture of knowledge. As a result, the darkness of nescience has overshadowed the world and has brought about great unrest, disturbance, and distress. How long can one enjoy external happiness? It is like soaping the outer garments without putting any nourishment into the stomach.
But this eternal truth, the indestructible spirit, does exist as the living entity in each and every body. He is very minute and is finer than the finest atom. Learned experts have attempted to make a measurement of this living spirit. They say that the living spirit, the soul proper, can be measured approximately as one ten-thousandth part of the tip of a hair.
This living spirit remains within the body just like a tiny dose of a potent medicine: the soul spreads its presence all over the body. And thus, we can understand, the sensitivity we experience to even the slightest touch on any part of the body is due to the spreading of this living spirit throughout the body. But when this minute quantity of living spark is gone from the body, the body lies dead, prostrate, and it cannot feel the slightest pain—even if hacked by an ax.
That this minute living spark, the spirit, is not a material thing is proved by the fact that no material scientist has ever been able to create the living spark by any combination or quantity of material substances. Experienced material scientists have been obliged to accept the fact that the living spark cannot be duplicated by material science. Whatever can be created by the manipulation of matter is destructible and temporary. In contrast, the living spark is indestructible, precisely because it can never be constructed by any combination or quantity of matter. We can produce material atomic bombs but not the spiritual spark of life.