Reflections on my 53rd birthday. For Vaiṣṇavas, only the birthdays of the Lord and of the Guru are celebrated, and I am neither of them, but I also do not agree with those devotees who say 'Why should we celebrate that we have come into this material world, this rotten bag of stool" etc etc.
We have never 'come' to the material world anyway, we were always here. Sadhu Bābā had a much more upbeat approach towards the body. He used to say 'śarīram ādyam khalu dharma sādhanam' - "The body is the prime instrument for spiritual practise." The human body is the most precious possession for it enables one to cross the ocean of birth and death. The Bhāgavata (11.20.17) says -
nṛ deham ādyaṁ sulabhaṁ sudurlabhaṁ
plavaṁ sukalpaṁ guru karṇa-dhāra
pumān bhavābdhiṁ na taret sa ātma-hā
"The human body is the most excellent (ādya) attainment, it is a rare boat that will carry us across the ocean of birth and death provided we take a Guru as captain. Kṛṣṇa comes as scripture to provide favorable breezes for that boat. Whoever does not cross the ocean of birth and death thus is committing suicide."
Śrīdhar Swāmī comments: evaṁ aprayatamānaṁ pramattaṁ nindati nṛ-dehaṁ plavaṁ nāvaṁ prāpyety - 'This verse criticizes the negligent who do not endeavour in the human birth-boat they received. ādyaṁ sarva-phalānāṁ mūlam - ādya means the root of all fruits [bounties]. sudurlabham udyama-koṭibhir api prāptum aśakyam - It is very rare, not attained by even millions of endeavours. tathāpi tu sulabhaṁ yadṛcchayā labdhatvāt - But still it is easily attained, just by good fortune, now. taṁ ca sukalpaṁ paṭutaram, it is called sukalpa, or very powerful and capable." Viśvanātha Cakravartīpāda adds: aho daridraś cintāmaNim akasmāt prāpya paṅke kṣipati - 'Alas! (Not using the human body) is like a poor man throwing a suddenly attained Cintāmaṇi-gem into the mud!'
We should always beware, of course, that this boat does not become a Titanic that crashes against the iceberg of aparādha...