A Starving Bird in a Polished Cage
I’d like to introduce you to a place where there is constant conflict between people wearing different colours and varieties of clothing. For example, those in white shirts insult, abuse and cause harm to people wearing black shirts, and vice versa. Even those who are dressed in different shades of the same colour are unable to get along with each other. It sounds ridiculous, but the place I am describing is real – it’s called Earth.
This planet is full of discrimination and fanaticism on the basis of race, nationality, religion and gender, to name a few. But all of these designations are superficial – they are related to the body, which is nothing but a piece of clothing for the soul. In verse 2.22 of the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna says, “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.”
The apparent differences which cause so much division in society are completely irrelevant. The soul, which is who we really are, is not black or white, not British, American or Chinese, not Hindu, Christian or Muslim, not man or woman. The only way to eradicate discrimination from this world is to educate people about this fact.
Rather than discriminating between irrelevant things, we should discriminate between the soul and the body, and try to understand the needs of the soul. The needs of the body, such as hunger and thirst, cannot be satisfied by putting on a freshly-ironed shirt or a new pair of jeans, no matter how fancy or expensive the clothes may be. Similarly, the needs of the soul cannot be satisfied simply by caring for the body. Focusing on the body but neglecting the soul is no different from polishing a birdcage but forgetting to feed the bird inside – it’s a waste of time and effort.
The Vedic scriptures explain that what the soul really needs – what it yearns for above all else – is a loving relationship with the Supreme Soul, whose love is unconditional and unlimited. Nothing else can satisfy us.