I hope you all are faring well. Last week I had begun a very interesting series on Death, please be sure to check on the part one in order to have a build up to where we are now.
Last week I tried to shed some light on living every day as if it were our last and how this thought process can greatly influence our lives and daily choices. As a progression from there, it is also worthy to say that the only way to have decent thoughts at the time of death is to cultivate decent thoughts while living. As it is mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita that whatever state of consciousness one remembers at the time of death, that state he is sure to attain. (BG 8.7)
We cannot spend our lives thinking of all sorts of things and think that at the time of death we can magically cheat nature and suddenly turn out thoughts to God. It doesn’t work that way. A student who spends his time reading books on English cannot walk into an exam for Chemistry and hope to remember his elements, how to balance chemical equations, laws of thermodynamics, etc. This is because he has not given these subject his attention and as such it does not become his experience. Without dwelling on this too much, what actually happens after death, is a big mystery for many of us. In the Srimad Bhagavatam, there is a detailed description of how the soul journeys till he gets another body. I’ll save us that detail here but encourage my readers to read further or request a blog dedicated to that. What I’ll like to focus on, is the question of eternal damnation or eternal bliss.
I write for a vast majority of readers across different religions and as such I know many of you subscribe to many different ideologies of where the soul goes to after it leaves the body. I do not intend to bash anyone’s faith or belief or try to place mine above others, I just wish to say things as they are. Whether or not you believe in hell or heaven or paradise, one fact is clear across many religions that there is a life after death. The Bible gives countless examples (reincarnation), and so does other scriptures like the Gita. However the Gita gives us a lot more by making us understand that our next body is determined by the sum total of our activities in this body. We get to either progress or regress as the case may be. If we have been able to acquire a lot of pious credits by performing good deeds, we get to enjoy those credits in heaven and when they are exhausted we again come back to this material world. If we have been very nefarious and have so much impious credit from wrong doings, we get to suffer them, then again return. Many people find it difficult to grasp the concept of having to return here, the Bible says “…heaven and Earth shall pass away…” the Gita mentions that … from the highest planet down to the lowest, are all places of miseries…” Only those who go to the Supreme abode of the Lord do not return here.
Why am I going into all of these? We have to understand that we are responsible for our life here and also after. It is a big misconception to think and believe “You only live once”. If for some reason, you even subscribe to this idea, then why not make the better of this one, what is the loss. However if this doctrine is false, which it can be proven to be scientifically, then we are at a big loss. I have taken the liberty to pull up a few references from the Srimad Bhagavatam of some things that happen to those who lived a life full of misdeeds.
While living one may be proud of one’s body, thinking oneself a very big man, minister, president or even demigod, but whatever one may be, after death this body will turn either into worms, into stool or into ashes. If one kills poor animals to satisfy the temporary whims of this body, one does not know that he will suffer in his next birth, for such a sinful miscreant must go to hell and suffer the results of his actions.
(Srimad Bhagavatam 10:10:10 translation).
Apparently a devotee may grow old, but he is not subjected to the symptoms of defeat experienced by a common man in old age. Consequently, old age does not make a devotee fearful of death, as a common man is fearful of death. When jarā, or old age, takes shelter of a devotee, Kālakanyā diminishes the devotee’s fear. A devotee knows that after death he is going back home, back to Godhead; therefore he has no fear of death. Thus instead of depressing a devotee, advanced age helps him become fearless and thus happy.
(Srimad Bhagavatam 4:27:24purport).
In due course of time, when a pure devotee is completely prepared, all of a sudden the change of body occurs which is commonly called death. And for the pure devotee such a change takes place exactly like lightning, and illumination follows simultaneously. That is to say a devotee simultaneously changes his material body and develops a spiritual body by the will of the Supreme. Even before death, a pure devotee has no material affection, due to his body’s being spiritualized like a red-hot iron in contact with fire.
(Srimad Bhagavatam 1:6:27 purport).
If while here on Earth we spend our very limited time gathering enemies, fault finding, committing all kinds of sinful activities, then we are sure to suffer for all of these.
I usually tell devotees who know me personally that when death comes, we cannot choose who comes to see us or not. Now imagine you are on your death bed and all those around you are people you have treated badly, do you think you can have the mental peace to even focus on God in that physical state of being with guilt lashing out at you? My spiritual Mentor would say, treat everyone around you as if you were going to live and die with them, because we most likely will. In my next blog I shall try to bring to light the matter of appreciating people who have passed versus appreciating people who are living.
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PS. Photo credit not mine.