Krishna's Mercy

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Posts Tagged ‘death’

Planning for the Next Life

Posted by krishnasmercy on August 24, 2013

The changing bodies“According to our activities in this life, we either rise or sink. This life is a preparation for the next life. If we can prepare, therefore, in this life to get promotion to the kingdom of God, then surely, after quitting this material body, we will attain a spiritual body just like the Lord’s.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, Introduction)

“Okay, I need to take my car in to get serviced tomorrow. I’m going on a trip this weekend to my old college, and though it is a only a few hours away, I want to make sure there is nothing wrong with the car. In the past I’ve had issues on road trips; a tire went flat or something in the engine started acting up. It wasn’t fun. I like to be prepared, so I will need to get the oil changed and make sure the tires are in good condition.

“I need to juggle my schedule around a little bit. The best time to bring the car in is the morning of a weekday. But then I have work too. I can work from the car servicing place with my laptop, so I should be okay there. I have no meetings tomorrow, so that should be the ideal day to bring the car in. Then I also want to squeeze a workout in. It keeps me calm to have a short workout on a regular basis. It helps me focus better on other things. But the gym is near the office; not near where I live. So I will have to plan for a long trip to the gym after getting the car serviced.

Auto repair“Then I want to visit my preferred house of worship in the evening. That too is far away from my home. I will need to figure out how I am going to do this. All of this planning is in relation to my trip for this upcoming weekend. I need to get away every now and then, otherwise the repetition of the weeks starts to get to me. Who wants to feel trapped in endless monotony? No, I would rather make plans; it keeps me excited.”

This is a very common experience. We have to make plans; otherwise we will be left unprepared for so many of life’s situations. Without preparation, dealing with issues becomes difficult. In the swoon of plan-making, it is easy to overlook the obvious fact that we expect to be alive in the future. What is the point to making plans if you won’t be around? There is no guarantee, as death can come at any moment, but we nevertheless assume that our existence will remain going forward. It is a gamble on our part, but one considered safe due to knowledge gathered from past experiences. Using the same mindset, we can prepare for the afterlife.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.13“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)

In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says that the spirit soul, who is the individual residing within, the vital life force, continues its existence perpetually. As this is a difficult concept to grasp, the analogy is made to the changing of clothes. The body puts on clothes in the morning, wears them throughout the day, and then takes them off at night. At least this is the common practice of those who are hygienically inclined. Young male college students may act otherwise, but even they change their clothes eventually.

The changing bodyIn the same way the spirit soul accepts a body, wears it for some time, and then discards it. There is the analogy to the transformation through life as well, such as the change from boyhood to youth. Death is the visible indication of the shedding of the clothes, or body, and birth is the visible mark of a new body being accepted. We don’t change who we are when we change clothes, and in the same way the individual does not come into being at birth nor does it cease to be after death.

Just as we can make plans for what we will do a week from now, we can make plans for how we will act in the next life. This is the objective of the spiritual science, which explains to us about the universe beyond our perception. It is not a place earned through a simple profession. You don’t just sign a contract and enter into the spiritual kingdom. There is a specific mentality of the residents of the spiritual kingdom, and without adopting that mentality, which is more accurately described as consciousness, there is no chance of entering.

The activities planned for next week don’t have to be limited. We can travel to a different country or remain where we are. The choice is ours. In the same way, residence in the spiritual kingdom is not the only destination for the soul who has just shed its clothes. The more likely outcome is rebirth in the present land. Stay where you are, but just with a different body. You don’t have to be in the same species either. You can become a cat, a dog, a monkey, or a tree. You were likely one of these things before. Only in the human species can you take actions that directly influence your next destination.

There is some faith involved in accepting this knowledge and then acting on it, but we already put faith in the higher powers to allow us to remain alive in the future. If I plan on going to lunch at 1 pm today, I am putting faith in other living entities to not destroy me in the meantime. I’m trusting that the forces of nature will not end my life and that no disease will kill me from the inside. Lunchtime isn’t that far away, either, and yet I must rely on these other factors to cooperate. Imagine, then, how much faith is involved in things like marriage, family life, and retirement.

In the spiritual science planning for the next life involves only consciousness. What you think of at the time of death is what you will get. You already think of so many things right now, so it is the collective that reveals your true consciousness. If you think of sex all the time, at the time of death you will be focused on a life full of sex. Therefore you’ll likely get the body of a dog or a monkey in the next life. If you think of money all your life, you’ll get the body of a businessman in the next life. And yes, there is a specific body to a businessman, as certain traits are required for success in profit/loss ventures.

If you think of the spiritual kingdom, that’s the destination you’ll get. As the spiritual science helps us to best plan for the next life, it allows us to change our consciousness. And that change occurs through activities. Instead of planning for how you will enjoy food and wine this weekend, plan for how you will think of God. Plan for how you will serve Him. Plan for how you will associate with people devoted to Him. This association will force you to be God conscious for at least a little while. Hopefully that will inspire you to make plans to maintain that consciousness going forward.

Krishna speaking the GitaThat same association is passed on in the written instructions of the Supreme Lord and His devotees. The speaker of the Bhagavad-gita is the Supreme in His original form, which is a personal one. He has many non-different expansions as well, but even if such a personality is difficult to comprehend, one can hear the Supreme without difficulty. Through chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” one feels the divine presence.

Through this sound gradually an attachment develops, and with an attachment one feels the need for more association with God, who is described more fully in texts like the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Ramayana, which provide the scientific understanding for His position as God and give details into His pleasurable activities. Those activities await the devoted soul who plans a return trip to the spiritual kingdom.

Even if we are hesitant to accept the concept of rebirth, know that just as there is every likelihood that we will continue to be alive tomorrow, there is every chance that life will continue on after death. Living entities continue to appear in this world, and they are not placed into bodies randomly. They came from somewhere. This means that we will go somewhere after death, and in following bhakti-yoga, the complete spiritual science, we can choose the best “somewhere” to be.

In Closing:

In future living being moving here and there,

Means that still we must be somewhere.

 

Same concept spiritual science takes,

Teaches how best somewhere to make.

 

If of God always to know,

Then surely to Him you will go.

 

Simple declaration not the way,

Must desire for with God to play.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Blame Birth

Posted by krishnasmercy on May 27, 2013

Krishna's peacock feather“The miseries of life, namely birth, death, old age and diseases, are present everywhere within the material world. But one who understands his real constitutional position as the eternal servitor of the Lord, and thus knows the position of the Personality of Godhead, engages himself in the transcendental loving service of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.51 Purport)

“It’s not fair that some children in school have friends and others don’t. Do you know how demeaning it is to have everyone else in the class invited to a student’s birthday party except you? How would you feel? No, this should never happen. The stigma from that omission can have lasting negative effects. It is better if we just outlaw any birthday invitations from within the classroom. Also, no more making friends with only certain kids. No one should feel that rejection in the early years.”

“It’s not fair that one team loses and one team wins. These are just kids after all. Sports is meant to be fun. Why should one team feel good after the day and the other feel bad? What are we doing to our children? It is better if we don’t keep score. This way no one’s feelings get hurt. Everyone has a good time and we don’t cause any long-term mental trauma.”

“The tobacco companies need to pay for what has happened to so many smokers. Sure, the consumers made the decision to smoke, knowing full well that the habit wasn’t good for them. But still, the tobacco companies knew what they were doing. They are responsible for so many deaths. They caused so many diseases. Through a class-action lawsuit, there will be some redemption for the victims. The companies owe this money to them.”

Fruits and vegetables“Don’t eat saturated fat. It clogs your arteries and leads to heart disease, which is a leading killer among adults. Don’t fail to exercise properly; otherwise you will become obese, which is another leading cause of death. Eat enough fruits and vegetables every day; otherwise you will be in bad health. Stay away from the fast food restaurants, whose only objective is to earn a profit. They don’t care what they put in their food. If you get cancer and die, they won’t have any concern. They should be forced to be more responsible with their marketing. If it weren’t for them, people would live so much longer.”

In all of the above referenced situations, there is surely some truth to the claims, but the glaring omission is the inevitability of death. If there is really any blame to go around for negative outcomes in life, with the worst outcome being death, then it should lay squarely on the shoulders of birth. As soon as one takes birth, they are guaranteed to die. This is assured. Nothing can be done to stop the eventual death once the birth takes place.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.27“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)

Can we sue birth? Can we put birth on trial? Can we stop birth from taking place?

Delving into this last question will actually get us somewhere. All other attempts will only fail. In professional sports, in the past players often got injured in the head through collisions with other players and with the object of interest, such as the ball or puck. Helmets were then introduced, with the hope that this would solve the problem of head injuries. The result today, however, is that with the added protection players more liberally attack the game, flying at high speeds and colliding even more violently with other players. Concussions are now a major problem, so much so that the behavior in the games is being policed in such a way that there is strong restriction, inhibiting the natural flow of the games.

In human interaction, there are guaranteed to be unpleasant situations. Not everyone will be nice to us. Not everyone will have many friends. Not everyone will be liked. So many will be mocked, ridiculed, made fun of, and belittled. Policing the behavior of others will do little to stop this, as in any human interaction there are bound to be varieties. Have we never belittled someone? Have we never made fun of someone else? Surely we have, and so we are assured to be on the receiving end of the same behavior from time to time.

No matter what foods we eat, we are guaranteed to die. This is just a fact. If you eat carrots your whole life and nothing else, you will die. If you exercise all the time, watch your cholesterol, don’t overexert yourself, and stay level-headed, you will still die. Birth is the real culprit in this death. Others may form the immediate cause, in which case there is just punishment slated for them if they are guilty, but ultimately it is birth in the material land that causes the death.

Only in the spiritual science is there any attempt made to stop birth. It isn’t necessarily recommended that one act like a tree either. “If you don’t want to get hurt, just sit in your room all the time and say nothing. This way you’ll never experience defeat and you’ll never have anyone to blame for your problems.” As this goes against the nature of spirit, there is a better way to end birth and death. It involves tolerating the different situations in life.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.14“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.14)

A home during the winter seasonSummer and winter come and go like clockwork each year, and they each have their pros and cons. The living spirit must tolerate both seasons, in spite of the complaints. I can complain all I want about the heat of the summer, but I still have to live throughout. I have no other option. The same applies to the interactions with other living entities. It must be tolerated; there is no avoidance of the interaction.

How to tolerate it becomes the question. What is the tolerance supposed to bring? Should we all purposefully suffer?

The spiritual consciousness puts an end to birth and death. The spiritual consciousness is the original consciousness, so there is no harm in finding it again. In that pure state, one tolerates heat and cold, happiness and sadness, and praise and ridicule. They more than tolerate it; they are unaffected by it. If you have a higher purpose to fulfill with your actions, the unwanted elements of life will be like little distractions that you won’t want to pay attention to.

How do we regain the spiritual consciousness?

Bhagavad-gita As It IsThere must be connection with the Supreme Spirit. Only the human being has the ability to connect with Him through conscious action. The animals reach their limit with eating, sleeping, mating and defending. The nonmoving creatures can’t go anywhere. They are stuck where they are. The human being can find God through consultation with authorized works. In those works, the nature of the material land is explained, as well as the certainty of birth, old age, disease and death.

The purpose of birth is also explained. Birth is a way to try our hand at competing with God. As there is no way to surpass God in areas of opulence, birth is guaranteed to bring misery. The time factor erases everything eventually, and so whatever is gained is temporary. The body itself is not permanent, so its degradation and eventual destruction are causes for sadness for the person ignorant of the true nature of spirit.

Bhagavad-gita, 8.16“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.16)

The spiritual world is eternal and full of bliss. There is no birth there. Death does not take place either. Since there is no birth, there is no cause for sadness. There is no blame to go around, because the cause for blame is absent. Seems like a utopian idea based only on faith, but actually a replica of the spiritual atmosphere can be created in the temporary land. This gives a glimpse of the eternal life spent in the association of the Personality of Godhead, the origin of all life.

Nature is nature, there is nothing we can do to change it. We can escape it, however. We can work within its laws to find the best end: residence in the spiritual plane. The spiritual consciousness is best created today through the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” It is then strengthened through avoidance of meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. Through such a simple formula all good things are found.

In Closing:

So many problems, like games losing

Disease and friends others choosing.

 

With such things blame to go around,

Plenty, but initial cause not found.

 

Birth is what came first,

Then death, condition the worst.

 

Question then of birth to stop how,

Chant holy names and find answer now.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Witch-hunt Riding Through

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 24, 2013

birth and death"Day after day countless living entities in this world go to the kingdom of death. Still, those who remain aspire for a permanent situation here. What could be more amazing than this?" (Maharaja Yudhishthira speaking to Yamaraja, Mahabharata, Vana-parva, 313.116)

If you’re really cornered in an argument, if the other side has you stuck on a position that is just not a winning one, you can always rely on the ad hominem attack to help you out. If you’re wise enough to know that your argument doesn’t hold any merits from the outset, you can employ the attack right away and save yourself the headache of dealing with logic and reasoning. While the technique is correctly labeled a fallacy, it works in the public arena, especially in an era where knowledge is more commonly accepted through sight than through sound.

What is the defect in sight?

Images appeal to emotion, while sound appeals to intellect. Intellect is superior to emotion when judging the proper course of action. If you’re at work and someone keeps agitating you with their boorish behavior, what is the proper response? The intellect says to ignore it, as the job pays you a salary that maintains your lifestyle. You are not a bad person. What others say to you is not a reflection on your character. Rather, it is a reflection on theirs, especially if you haven’t done anything wrong. Why should someone else’s stupid words upset you?

Emotion says to fight back. “I’d sure like to let this person have it. Just one time, I want to tell them off. They’re useless to the company. They don’t do anything but sit back and criticize others. If they were asked to do something, they couldn’t take charge. They have no courage of their own. As soon as they point out a flaw in someone else, they buy some more time. They think they prove their worth by nitpicking the work of others, while not providing any tangible help in the process. Such a useless person deserves no respect.”

politicsIf you follow emotion in this case it will likely be to your detriment. In the same way, if you are swayed only by the emotional response to images and short sound bites played on television, then you won’t delve deeper into the issue. With respect to politicians, stories about how many houses they own, where they went to vacation, whether or not they sipped water during a speech, and how much they earn in a year are meaningless. Even what they say during a televised speech and how well they speak are meaningless. They are politicians holding political office after all. The laws they pass are what affect the people; not just the words. Anyone can say anything; it’s how they act in office that matters. Yet the coverage on television rarely focuses on what is actually done or what real impact a piece of legislation will have. This is because emotion works when trying to sell a losing argument.

And through that same medium, personal attacks on others work as well. If you can find any odd statement that a person has made, you can use that against them. Never mind the fact that everyone makes mistakes or that every person is flawed to some degree. Just shine the public spotlight on that blemish and watch your problems disappear. In times past, such tactics were used to suppress critics of the government. People were labeled as belonging to this party or that, and then blacklisted for what they were accused of believing.

With knowledgeable devotees of the Supreme Lord, the arguments presented in favor of devotional service are without flaws. That is because they were originally heard from God Himself, who passed on that information through notable personalities in the subsequent generations. The teachings of the devotees can be summarized as such:

“Human life is meant for realizing God. The spirit soul is what identifies each of us. The body is a covering composed of the material elements. It is temporary and destined for destruction. Why should a perishable lump of matter be the primary focus for the superior living being, whose intelligence indicates an active spirit? God is not sectarian; He is for everyone. It is the soul’s dharma, or essential characteristic, to serve. That dharma is seen in all activities, where service is the driving component. God is the ideal object of service; all other objects are thus flawed, which leads the person offering the service to feel unsatisfied. Turn yourself to God by chanting His names, reading about Him, and worshiping His deity. Avoid behavior that makes it difficult to realize His true nature.”

Krishna's lotus feetSeems well and good, no? Nothing too controversial here. Ah, but the truth of the creation’s origin is what leads to the controversy. We are not just spirit souls who randomly entered into these perishable bodies. There was a choice in the matter. To serve God is to live in transcendence; real freedom. To serve yourself is bondage, and it has a commensurate playing field. The material world is thus the home for the souls who don’t want to serve God. As soon as their desires shift back to the right place, they follow a path destined for liberation, a return trip to the original home.

The souls who don’t make that choice are violators of the original dharma. Therefore they will not take too kindly to the teachings of the devotees. While the material is flawed, the spiritual is not. Therefore the spiritually infused devotees will always have arguments that are superior to the materialists’. Left with no other choice, the ad hominem attack is the savior for the materialist defiant of God’s will. Their arguments will be along the lines of the following:

“Look at those devotees. They couldn’t make it in life so they decided to worship an imaginary figure. They couldn’t figure out how to earn money, so they convinced themselves that they could live with very little. They worship cows and don’t eat meat. They worship these strange gods from a primitive time. They are taken in by mythology and hocus pocus. They are crazy to think that living entities control the planets and the elements. They are insane to believe that God can have a form and that originally He is bluish in hue and all-attractive in features.”

Lord KrishnaTake just one of these practices that seems strange to most and you have a good way of discrediting the devotees as a whole in the realm of public debate. Nevertheless, the practice of the devotees is not dependent on anyone. To be a surrendered soul means to accept the mercy of the Supreme Lord for everything. He ensures that His dependents can always stay connected with Him. Whether a million people think they are crazy or only a few has no bearing on their practice.

And in actuality, no one is crazier than the person who thinks that through imitating the animals they can be happy. The animals don’t worry about mortgage payments, unrequited love, the national debt, healthcare costs, or the price of gasoline. They eat, sleep, mate and defend without a problem. The human being is supposed to be more intelligent, and yet through imitating the animals they find a more hellish life. Is not the person who tries to imitate the flying of the birds insane, considering the fact that the bird already flies through nature’s arrangement? Is the bird superior to the human being? What, then, will flying do for the human being? Should not the advancement of the species correlate to an increase in real intelligence?

Maharaja Yudhishthira, a famous king from an ancient time, once remarked that the most amazing thing in life is the fact that people don’t think they are going to die even after they see so many others, including their elders, leave this world. It’s an interesting point if you think about it. Are we not crazy to act as if we’re never going to die, when we know that we are? Wouldn’t an intelligent person seek to find answers to the mysteries of birth and death?

The devotees understand such mysteries through hearing Vedic wisdom. This process is known as shravanam and it appeals to the intellect. From hearing faultless knowledge, one can use their pure emotion to serve God, thereby showing real intelligence. Call them fanatical or call them brilliant, but regardless the wisest souls in this age always chant the holy names in full ecstasy: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

When in argument about to lose,

To resort to personal attack can choose.

 

When not one good retort exists in your hand,

Discredit your opponent all across the land.

 

Just one strange practice of the devotees take,

And as oddball their public persona make.

 

On the devotees’ practice this has no bearing,

Only in real wisdom interested in sharing.

 

One who imitates animals at any cost,

Shows that their intelligence is really lost.

 

Hearing from shastra the intellect to appeal,

In bhakti pure ecstasy towards God to feel.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Old Age

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 28, 2012

changing bodies“There is no superior power which can check the cruel hands of death. No one wants to die, however acute the source of bodily sufferings may be. Even in the days of so-called scientific advancement of knowledge, there is no remedial measure either for old age or for death. Old age is the notice of the arrival of death served by cruel time, and no one can refuse to accept either summon calls or the supreme judgment of eternal time.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.19 Purport)

You’ve seen the news. Eat blueberries to extend your life. Exercise a certain number of times each week and you can prevent the onset of a specific disease. And of course the claims are backed up by studies. Recent research shows this and shows that. Then there are the newer studies coming out which refute the older ones. “Scientists now believe that coffee is not good for you, while it was previously said that it was good for you.” One day oat bran was the secret to reducing the risk of heart disease, and the next day oat bran brought on so many side effects. While the focus is always on extending life and thereby trying to escape the undefeated warrior known as death, what about the issue of old age? How do we stop that?

Let’s think of it this way. Say that we listen to the advice that we get from the health experts, who use the advantages of modern medicine and the noted perceptions in recent scientific research to come up with their recommendations. Modern medicine has certainly given us many advancements, such as vaccines for debilitating illnesses and effective treatment for previously crippling diseases. The advanced machinery of today is very good at extending life, especially for people who are traumatically ill. In days past the same tragedies would have likely resulted in instant death, but with advancements in treatment people can heal a lot faster now.

Scientific researchRecorded perceptions, commonly known as experimental research, are what brought about these advancements. You started with a certain hypothesis. Next, you created a controlled environment, and finally you ran your tests. If the results are the same through repeated retries, you can assert that the original hypothesis was correct. This is the basic scientific method. You have both observation and experiment. Without observation the experiment is of no value. Without experiment, your observation is as good as a guess. Statements that begin with “I believe” can be countered by another person’s belief. As each person is a valid human being, who is to say whose belief is more valuable? How do we decide which opinion carries more weight?

So we have a specific set of recommendations that was created through past experiments and conclusions. For the moment, we’ll ignore the fact that past recommendations and conclusions have sometimes later on been refuted through new research, which in turn reveals the flaw in relying solely on the scientific method. The root cause of the defect is quite easy to spot as well: who is able to perceive every single event in history? We may create a controlled environment, but this doesn’t mean that we can think of every possible combination of conditions. For instance, studying weather patterns over a period of thirty years to come up with a guess as to the future changes in climate is silly because the earth has existed for much longer a period of time. If you can’t go back and study the entire history of the earth and its climate, the entire process is academic. If somehow you could absorb the information pertaining to all of weather’s history, you still have no idea how the millions of living entities residing on earth will behave going forward and what effect that behavior will have on the environment.

The recommendations we’re following from the health experts in this hypothetical scenario relate to daily habits. We’re told to sleep at least eight hours a night, so we do that. We eat on time, avoid saturated fat, exercise regularly, but not too strenuously, and eat all the foods that are purported to prolong life. For this situation, let’s say that everything works out. We live for a very long time, long enough to see the birth of our great-grandchildren. We reached old age, so the previous effort is considered worthwhile. The recommendations were effective because they extended our time within the present body.

But what about old age itself? Where does that fit into the equation? If I live to a point where my body starts to decay, what is the use in continuing on? Moreover, what have the recommendations done for my quality of life? If I lived a long time but remained stuck to a wheelchair or had difficulty walking around, should not those defects be a concern? In this respect the scientific advancements have done little to nothing. Eating the “right” foods can help you live longer, but nothing can be done to stop old age from coming, let alone death. A cure has yet to be found for old age, which is the messenger of death, telling the living entity that their time for exit is approaching.

Why bring this up? So what if healthy living doesn’t address old age? Would we rather live dangerously and die young? The reason the defect requires mentioning is that the living spirit has the potential to do great things. Extending life is not one of them and neither is preventing old age. Surely one should try to remain healthy, attempting to keep the spirit soul tied to an active form, but the real aim of life is to put an end to the cycle of birth, old age, disease and death. This can only be done through fostering the proper consciousness.

“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)

Lord KrishnaThe continuous cycle is known as reincarnation. One doesn’t have to die and get born again to be part of the transmigration process. The changing body can be seen through visual evidence, which shows that reincarnation is a scientific fact and not a dogmatic belief. Your outward form changes but you as a person do not. Identity is tied to spirit, which is immutable. In the C# computer programming language, the “string” data type is immutable. This means that you can’t change the contents of a string object after it is created. You can perform some operations on it and get a resultant value, but that new value must be reassigned completely to the original variable if you want to access the new value.

Following a similar concept, the spirit soul residing within the body cannot be altered, but it can be assigned to a new body. Old age also represents a kind of new body; thus the reassignment occurs constantly. When there is a complete shift in bodies, at which point memory is totally erased, the corresponding events are known as death and birth. There is no way to stop this from happening, at least in the immediate future, but through the proper consciousness one can escape the cycle going forward.

And what consciousness is that? The fear over death is what drives the scientific studies and the consuming public to follow the outputted recommendations. That same fear can be used as impetus to learn about the Supreme Lord, who is not a sectarian figure. His association is the most cherished, and through following the proper set of procedures, one can live a virtuous life and at the same time advance in consciousness. If you follow the regulations passed on by scientific studies, you can perhaps find a healthy condition that prolongs life, but the issue of consciousness is not addressed. When following the highest system of religion known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, every situation can become favorable.

How does this work exactly? The quintessential act of bhakti is the chanting of the holy names in a mood of love and devotion. You chant so that you can occupy your time and hear transcendental sound vibrations. Hearing is the easiest devotional act and it is also the most effective in terms of changing thought for the better and increasing intelligence. If you’re smarter you can recognize nonsense in instruction a lot easier. You can also follow the right path with more confidence. Hearing can take place with laziness on the outside, but the mind actively engages during the process by creating mental images and forming counterarguments to the thoughts that arise. If you’re forced to think while hearing, you will be better off in the long run.

“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.”  (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.5)

Krishna's MercyBy regularly reciting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, the consciousness gradually becomes so pure that it looks for ways to continue to stay in that sublime setting. Thus a proper scheme to follow on a go-forward basis is created without a problem. You learn to prolong your spiritual life, which continues after death. From the holy names, the forms and features of the Supreme Personality are revealed, and they are so pleasurable that you hope to bask in their glory without cessation. Whether in youth or old age, the devoted soul finds a pleasurable situation, and knowing that their cherished object of worship is protecting them, the time of death is no longer one to be feared.

In Closing:

From experts issues of health to resolve,

But still the problem of old age to solve.

 

Perhaps by eating right live long you will,

But from an aged body a problem there is still.

 

Know that every second your form is decaying,

But your identity the same it is staying.

 

Therefore must address the needs of the soul,

Through consciousness on its fate gain control.

 

Fix the mind on the Supreme Lord’s lotus feet,

In bhakti’s bliss, death with a smile you’ll greet.

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Proof by Example

Posted by krishnasmercy on May 22, 2011

Lord Krishna“Who could list the innumerable transcendental qualities of Prahlada Maharaja? He had unflinching faith in Vasudeva, Lord Krishna [the son of Vasudeva], and unalloyed devotion to Him. His attachment to Lord Krishna was natural because of his previous devotional service. Although his good qualities cannot be enumerated, they prove that he was a great soul [mahatma].”  (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.4.36)

Who isn’t enamored by “the amazing”, for the very title hints at the effect it will have on others? Those who can perform wonderful feats relating to strength, memory and overall skill garner great attention from the common man, who then immediately tries to correlate the abilities with his own. For instance, a daredevil stuntman who flies his motorcycle between two cliffs separated by a perilous drop must have every thought entering his mind both prior to and during the stunt. The average person wouldn’t dare undertake such a feat, nor could they deal with the pressure. As is obvious to many, nothing is more amazing than the divine miracles, especially the events and pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead described in sacred texts. But since God’s abilities put to shame any of those belonging to human beings, His very existence is called into question. Since we can’t fathom an entity possessing the greatest amount of beauty, wealth, knowledge, strength, fame and renunciation at the same time and to the fullest extent, it becomes easier to just deny the Lord’s existence altogether. And with each additional layer piled on top of the presentation of divine information comes another source for skepticism. There is the time element, the language barrier in the scriptures presented, and also the believability aspect pertaining to wondrous feats such as the genesis of the creation itself. Though faced with all of these impediments, if we simply study the behavior of the Lord’s adherents, we’ll see that the Supreme Spirit does indeed exist. The bhaktas, or devotees, are the proof to the claim that the meaning of life is to become God conscious by the time the end of life is reached.

“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)

Lord KrishnaHow did we stumble upon this conclusion? How do we know for sure that the meaning of life is to understand God? The Vedanta-sutras, one of the oldest and most respected treatises on spirituality, opens by emphatically declaring that now is the time for inquiring about Brahman, or Truth. The specific aphorism is athato brahma jijnasa. This inquiry is conspicuously absent in every form of life except the human being. The ant, cat, dog, and elephant have no understanding of the guaranteed nature of birth, old age, disease and death, even though they readily experience each of these events. The animal has no idea of the differences between body and spirit and the temporary duration of sense gratification. Only the human being, with its higher potential for intelligence and its ability to wholeheartedly submit to an authority figure, one who already knows and understands Brahman, can both inquire about and understand the highest knowledge.

The basic truths of spirituality are nicely presented in the Vedas, the scriptural tradition of India. The skeptic may argue that every region has its own specific religious tradition, so why the special attention given to the one coming from India? Indeed, the penchant for spirituality is present in every society, even if no information is ever presented on the nature of the Supreme Spirit and His relationship to the individual, subordinate entities populating the phenomenal world. The very desire to serve, which manifests in forms such as mundane love, charity, philanthropy and wholehearted dedication to meeting the demands of the senses, is indication enough of the loving propensity of the soul.

The Vedas are unique because they transcend sectarianism and sentimentalism. Surely there is devotion to a specific figure recommended, but this entity is not the exclusive property of any one group of people, and neither is He benevolent solely to human beings. Spirit is the essence of life, the driving force behind activity. Without spirit, we are left with dull matter. Prior to its entry into the womb of the mother, the spirit soul existed somewhere else. Though we can’t decipher the previous locations of this instance of spirit, we do know that life on earth was moving along just fine prior to our birth. From the events subsequent to the passing on of a person, we also understand that life continues to exist long after the soul exits its body. Therefore we can conclude that spirit is immutable, unchangeable and ever existing. The body, however, is just the opposite in quality, as it requires the spiritual injection to come into being, develop and leave byproducts. The soul is so important that the second it exits the body, the life form starts to rot and decay, giving off a foul odor.

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.“ (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.20)

Lord Krishna with Mother YashodaNot only do the Vedas provide information about the differences between spirit and matter, but the cause behind association with the temporary body is also revealed. The Supreme Lord, the singular divine entity that every spiritual tradition is touching on in some way or another, is constitutionally situated always in the company of the individual soul. Irrespective of the level of intelligence and development of consciousness found in the living entity, God’s presence is always there. We can think of it in this way: A young child roams around completely under the protection of the parents. In the younger years, the infant is unable to understand who is a parent and what their duties are. They may see people every now and then, but there is no thought given to the importance of having protectors, nor is there appreciation for the kind and devoted efforts of the mother and father. Yet regardless of the angle of vision of the infant, the parents’ presence is still there.

In a similar manner, Bhagavan – which is a very nice name that describes God’s mastery over every opulence – is always around us; we just don’t always realize His presence. The purpose of any system of spirituality is to not only identify the Superior Person, but to also understand and realize the relationship that can be forged with Him. If someone presents us a high-end technological device that we don’t know how to use, we gain no benefit whatsoever. We may be told that God is great and that we should be devoted to Him, but if we don’t know how to offer Him service, how to make Him happy, or more importantly, how to derive pleasure from His association, the pledges of allegiance to a divine figure and the acknowledgments of a higher power are practically meaningless.

Krishna pastimesTo provide tangible information in each of these areas, the Vedas go into great detail about Bhagavan’s names, pastimes, forms and attributes. Without a form, God cannot be worshiped. An object such as wood or stone is inanimate and devoid of any spiritual injection; therefore it cannot be considered a valid candidate for attention or worship. The Divine pastimes speak to the sportive tendencies of the Personality of Godhead and the full variety that is present in a purely spiritual existence. No two human beings are completely alike, not even those who are born as twins. The spirit soul is the essence of individuality, and there is no way to accurately predict how its independence will manifest. If such variety exists in the mundane world, it will surely be present to an even greater extent in the spiritual land.

Since He has a spiritual form and enjoys variety in activity, the Supreme Lord must also have qualities. Again, this may be a little difficult to understand, for as soon as we identify an attribute we automatically introduce a corresponding limitation. For instance, if I say that my eyes are blue, this automatically means that I don’t have green eyes or eyes of any other color. If a person is a man, it means that they are not a woman. There is a defect attached to every attribute, a limitation on opulence. Therefore it is not surprising to see mental speculators and those with a poor fund of spiritual knowledge imagine the Absolute Truth to be formless, or an entity who is not to be outwardly worshiped through prostration or service offered to a deity representation.

“The Lord is personal although impersonal, He is atomic although great, and He is blackish and has red eyes although He is colorless.” (Kurma Purana)

KrishnaYet the Vedas kindly account for these issues by wholly acknowledging Bhagavan’s possession of mutually contradictory attributes. He has no hands and legs, but He can travel faster than the wind and accept every offering made to Him, even if it is as insignificant as a tiny leaf. He is without eyes, yet He can see everything. He doesn’t have ears, but every single sincere prayer offered by the surrendered soul is heard and noted. In this way we understand that God has spiritual attributes, qualities that can never be understood by those who are embodied.

Through collecting all of the relevant pieces of information, we get innumerable names that can apply to God. His most complete and concise name is Krishna, which describes His all-attractive nature. Indeed, everyone is worshiping Krishna, though not always directly. The devotees worship Krishna by regularly chanting His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, reading about His pastimes found in Vedic literature, offering Him prayers, worshiping the deity and so many other acts that fall under the umbrella of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. The mental speculators worship Krishna by studying Vedanta and trying to understand Brahman, or the impersonal effulgence, the effusive light beaming off of the inconceivably large and potent transcendental body of the Supreme Lord. The fruitive workers worship Krishna by operating within the laws of nature to seek out temporary gains at the cost of great pain and effort. Even the grossly foolish atheists, those who vehemently deny the existence of God and the worthiness of any spiritual practice, worship Krishna by remaining firmly dedicated to His external energy expansion of maya, or material nature.

“Whether one is without desire [the condition of the devotees], or is desirous of all fruitive results, or is after liberation, one should with all efforts try to worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead for complete perfection, culminating in Krishna consciousness.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.3.10)

Lord KrishnaThough everyone is worshiping Krishna in some way or another, not all methods carry the same result. As the Bhagavad-gita, the song of God sung by Krishna Himself, so nicely states that “whatever state of being one remembers at the time of death, that state they will attain without fail”, the central object of focus during one’s lifetime leads to their future destination. Again, this may seem like a dogmatic principle subscribed to by the Hindus or those who follow Vedic teachings, but we can see the effects of consciousness in everyday affairs. Those who are driven by a passion to gamble or enjoy intoxication then take to activities that lead to troubling situations. It was the consciousness that actually drove them to their destination. Consciousness drives the activities of the personal self, and at the end of life, it is the catalyst for the body-creating actions performed by the higher authorities in charge of managing nature. We can deny nature’s supremacy all we want, but we are forced to live under her stringent laws at all times. If we weren’t, there would never be any discomfort from excessive heat or cold or even disease. Death represents nature’s most powerful force, as it takes away all gains acquired during a particular lifetime without asking for permission.

“When they have thus enjoyed heavenly sense pleasure, they return to this mortal planet again. Thus, through the Vedic principles, they achieve only flickering happiness.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.21)

Direct worship of Krishna or one of His numerous non-different forms that are equally as potent and given to variegated spiritual activity brings emancipation of the soul, and more importantly, association with the Supreme Spirit in the afterlife. Any other type of worship must bring inferior results, as nothing can top God’s personal association. Allegiance to the exalted figures in charge of nature leads to a temporary residence in the heavenly planets. Upon expiry of the time accumulated from past pious deeds, the soul falls back down to earth to continue the cycle of reincarnation. Those in the mode of passion, taking to temporary fruitive activities that eventually only lead to a neutral position, in the next life remain in an earthly body, most likely that of a human being again. Those who outwardly deny Krishna’s existence and take to worshiping matter are demoted to a lower species in the next life. The wise will certainly view this last result as a punishment, but for the grossly foolish an animal body is much more beneficial towards meeting the target demands. If the predominant desire is to enjoy eating, sleeping, mating and defense to the fullest extent, the animals are much better equipped. The pig has no worries over divorce, the mortgage payment, fluctuations in the economy, or even death. Under a consciousness fully devoted to lifeless matter, the animal form becomes the most advanced lifestyle.

Radha and KrishnaSince bhakti requires a drastic shift in consciousness, , a revelation of sorts, furthered by regulative activities, the discipline is very difficult to adopt. Though in theory it is easy to love Krishna and devote your life to chanting His names and thinking about Him at all times, the aversion to divine love gradually strengthened over many lifetimes makes it very difficult to adopt the bhakti lifestyle with any level of sincerity. Indeed, the Vedas have many layers of presentation which serve to further insulate the sacred practice of bhakti from the dangerous influence of the pretenders. Bhakti is not a cheap or flimsy practice aimed at attracting just anyone. Just as we can’t say we love our significant other and then cheat on them with other members of the opposite sex, we can’t just declare that we love God and then spend all our time worshiping an aspect of His creation that has no direct relation to His personal self. There are certain hurdles that must be overcome in order for the spiritualist’s level of sincerity to be properly situated.

The first level of protection is the large gap between the time of inquiry and the time of the Vedas’ composition. Though scholars try to date the original compilation of Vedic texts like the Ramayana, Shrimad Bhagavatam and Mahabharata, there is really no scientific way to correctly ascertain these dates. For starters, all Vedic information was first transmitted through an oral tradition, one where sound vibrations in the Sanskrit language were passed down from generation to generation. The hearing process is the most effective in terms of information transfer, and because of their heightened mental acuity the Vedic seers like Lord Brahma, Maharishi Valmiki and Vyasadeva could retain all vital information after hearing it only once. Anytime something old is presented to us, its authenticity will be questioned. There is really no need for such skepticism, as even the sense observations that we make today will one day be considered ancient. If I see that the sky today is blue and I note down my observation in a book, will that perception lose its validity as time goes on? If in one hundred years someone reads my observation, will they be justified in thinking that I made it up or that I didn’t properly look at the sky? Yet the descriptions of Krishna’s activities found in the sacred texts are doubted precisely because of their age and their magnificence. But the Vedic seers were simply noting down what they saw and heard. They had no reason to make anything up.

Krishna lifting Govardhana HillFlying monkeys, a child lifting an entire hill with His finger and holding it up for seven days, celestial figures patrolling the sky and showering down rain and flowers on command, the sun and the moon being controlled by deities who roam around…these descriptions found in the Vedas add another layer of protection from undesirable influences. Based on our personal experience, we have no way of believing that any of these events could occur; therefore the Vedas are often taken to be mythological or simply traditions of faith. As soon as one element gets misidentified, then the validity of the entire presentation can be called into question. The Vedas certainly do include metaphorical statements and fables, but these aspects are always properly identified. But the descriptions of Krishna and His pastimes are never presented in such a way, as they are to be accepted as historical accounts witnessed by exalted individuals.

It is the presence and behavior of these exalted individuals that serves as visible proof to the claims of Krishna’s grand nature and the properties of the soul. If we have trouble believing in God or the descriptions of His features and activities, we can still get substantiation by studying the behavior of the Lord’s dearmost servants. Devotees like Prahlada Maharaja and Shri Hanuman show that dedication to God through a mood of loving service brings about every good quality and serves as the source of true happiness. Prahlada withstood the devilish attacks of his father, and Hanuman braved every obstacle thrown his way while serving Lord Rama, an incarnation of the Supreme Lord. Their exploits, which are also detailed in the Vedic texts, provide a proof to the claims made by the Supreme Lord Himself of the superiority of bhakti.

Prahlada MaharajaNevertheless, the accounts of the lives of the devotees found in Vedic texts can still be put into question based on the time gap and the wondrous nature of their activities. We’re told that Prahlada, as a five year old boy, withstood being put into a fire pit, being thrown off a mountaintop, and being attacked with deadly weapons. We’re also told that Hanuman, in the form of a monkey, flew across a massive ocean to the island of Lanka. Indeed, he also adjusted his stature on a whim, sometimes becoming extraordinary large and sometimes tiny. We don’t know any individuals capable of such behavior, so it becomes easier to just lump the devotee activities into the mythological pile.

Ah, but there is more than one way to display amazing feats. The devotees of recent times, the saints who risked everything to spread the bhakti cult, give even more proof of the claims made by Krishna and His Vedas. The saints of the past five hundred years coming from Bengal, especially those following the lead of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Krishna’s golden avatara and supremely merciful devotee incarnation, exhibit an unheard of level of devotion. The books, songs and teachings compiled by bhakti giants like Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Shrila Sanatana Gosvami, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura and most recently His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada show that followers of devotional service are capable of amazing things. No ordinary human being could write so prolifically or speak so regularly about devotion to the Supreme Lord and the benefits of being Krishna conscious. Indeed, it wouldn’t be surprising to see future generations deny the very existence of these saints, as who could ever imagine writing around one hundred books in a lifetime, with each work being completely original in its presentation and brilliant in its import? Goswami Tulsidas, another celebrated Vaishnava poet of the recent past, exudes his unreal level of kindness, compassion, sweetness and dedication in every word of his poems and songs. The same level of brilliance and genuineness is found in the original Vedic texts, but since these works are considered ancient, they are difficult to believe. Yet due to the kind mercy of the devotees of every generation, tangible proof of God’s existence remains always around us.

Shrila PrabhupadaIf we can’t bring ourselves to believe in the Vedic tenets as originally compiled, then we should at least take shelter of the modern day saints, those whose greatness and worthiness of attention we have no logical basis for denying. Attachment to the lotus feet of a saint following Vishnu-bhakti is the only life raft for the fallen souls swimming in the ocean of nescience. The saints know Krishna very well, and if they see that someone else is eager to take to devotional service, they will go out of their way to ensure the success of the devoted individual. As such, the glory of the Vaishnava saints knows no bounds. Their stature only increases with time, as they continue to rescue souls long after they physically depart this world.

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In The End

Posted by krishnasmercy on March 29, 2011

Krishna and Arjuna “While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.62)

In the realm of sports, the rules of the game dictate that there will be winners and losers. In other words, by the very definition of the game, there are guaranteed to be both favorable and unfavorable outcomes. The allure for the players and even for the spectators is the potential for victory, the ultimate triumph over difficult circumstances and insurmountable odds. Under ideal circumstances, however, the rules of the game are implemented quite fairly, so there is every chance of all possible outcomes occurring. This means that the same level of excitement that exists for the potential for success should also be measured against the potential for the dejection that will arise from the most unfavorable of future circumstances. Therefore those who do overly lament over the temporary losses, which are by definition guaranteed to manifest for at least half the participants, indicate with their behavior that they have failed to reach the highest platform of intelligence. The most inclusive sport of all, the game of life, incorporates rules and regulations implemented by the higher authorities. Whether one is abiding by these rules, rebelling against them, or remaining completely defiant in even acknowledging the existence of higher powers, the possible outcomes themselves must manifest. Thus there is every possibility of both positive and negative results, with life itself culminating in the complete destruction of the uniform [the body] that one assumes prior to entering the playing field of activities. When these factors are taken into consideration, along with the fact that the objects of the senses don’t originally belong to the individual, the justification for the innate fear of death vanishes.

“Just as the ripened fruit has no other fear than falling, the man who has taken birth has no other fear than death.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 105.17)

Lord RamaShri Rama, the beautiful, sweet, kind and knowledgeable incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, accurately notes that for the mature human being there is no other fear than its impending death. He compares this predicament with the disposition faced by the ripened fruit, which after it has reached full maturity, has nothing left to do but fall. A fruit starts off as a seed, a tiny autonomous entity that has no substantial visible covering. Through constant nourishment and care from external sources, the seed eventually develops an outer dress, culminating with the formation of a full grown fruit. But once maturation is reached, there is nothing left for the fruit to do except fall, which signals its death, i.e. the time when it is eligible to be eaten by others. Though we don’t generally equate a fruit with a living entity, bananas, apples, pears, etc. most certainly have the essence of life inside of them; otherwise they would not be able to grow. All forms of life, irrespective of their body type, large or small, are spirit souls, direct emanations from the Supreme Lord, who is known as the Supreme Energetic. The properties of the spiritual sparks expanding from the original fire of energy do not ever change, irrespective of perceptible growth and decay cycles.

“Know that which pervades the entire body is indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.17)

The human being, though deemed the most intelligent of all species, goes through a cycle similar to that of the fruit. Though we have no memory of our initial experiences in life, we all started out as tiny pea-shaped bodies living within the womb of our mother. Only through careful nurturing and protection offered by our guardians did we mature into what we are today: human beings capable of acquiring the highest intelligence. Due to the workings of nature, the human being is not only forgetful of his true nature, but he also has trepidations about his future fortunes. The greatest anxiety relates to the impending event signaling complete loss, the ultimate destruction of the body. For the wise man, one whose angle of vision has been cleared through the corrective lenses of divine wisdom, the fear of death is unfounded. Surely the unknown brings trepidation to the mind and thoughts of uncertainty, but fear over losing something that doesn’t belong to the individual in the first place makes absolutely no sense.

NFLIn the sports world the rules of the various games are put into place to be implemented fairly and evenly. Nevertheless, the full breadth of possible outcomes often times goes ignored. To take a simple example, in the National Football League, the highest professional rank of American football, there is a regular season currently consisting of sixteen games. Each team plays their games in the season, and the teams with the best records then move on to the playoffs, a single-elimination tournament to decide the season’s champion. The NFL has two conferences consisting of sixteen teams each, which are divided into four separate divisions of four teams each. The teams with the best record in their respective divisions make it to the playoffs and get the highest seeds in the tournament bracket. Then the next two teams with the best records make it to the playoffs as the lowest seeds. Having a higher seed means that you get to host the respective playoff round matchup at your home stadium. In the 2010 season, the Seattle Seahawks franchise won their division despite having lost more games than they won. In the first round of the playoffs they played a team, the Saints, who had a better record, one almost good enough to qualify for the number one seed in the conference. But since another team ended up winning their division, the Saints, the defending champions of the NFL, had to settle for a wild card berth, where they played at the Seahawks in the first round.

The precedence rules relating to playoff seedings has been in place for many years in the NFL, but it wasn’t until the Seahawks won their division with such an abysmal record that talk started to surface about changing the rules. The reaction is ironic because the possibility of a losing team winning their division was present from the very beginning. Indeed, there is every possibility of a team with an unrespectable record winning their division and then going on to win the Super Bowl. If certain outcomes are not preferred, they should be eliminated from the very beginning of competition. Otherwise, what is the point to having rules if the outcomes are tightly controlled?

seahawksIn the more expansive game of life, the possibilities of every outcome, good or bad, are present. Death can happen at any moment, for even one who is supposedly safely residing within the womb of the mother can be killed through the abortion process. On the other side of the equation, one who regularly takes to smoking, drinking and eating fatty foods can live to a very old age. Unlike with ordinary games and sports leagues, the rules governing the workings of nature cannot be changed. Nor do they need to be. Simply operating within the established guidelines can provide unmatched happiness and bliss. The first step is to acquire knowledge, becoming familiar with that proper set of information that will allow the individual to see clearly.

In the Vedic tradition the first instruction taught to aspiring transcendentalists is aham brahmasmi, which means “I am Brahman.” The Supreme Absolute Truth, an entity who is beyond duality, loss, gain, birth, death, disease and old age, is considered Brahman. Every individual spirit soul is constitutionally the same as the Supreme Truth; hence they are Brahman. Therefore aham brahmasmi can also mean “I am a spirit soul.” This instruction is very important to hear and understand because in the absence of such information, the varieties of identities adopted by the innumerable living entities will be plentiful and all faulty. One person takes their identity as being Indian, another thinks they are American, while another identifies solely with race. What we saw happen with the seed that turned into a fruit was that the outer covering eventually got discarded. Every one of us started off as a tiny seed in the form of a pure spirit soul assuming the smallest of bodies, so any features we acquire subsequent to birth must be considered temporary and thus not worthy of being used for identification purposes.

The fearing mentality is a product of animal life, which is driven exclusively by the tendencies to eat, sleep, mate and defend. Obviously these activities are required to some degree or another, but in the human form of body one can transcend them. The fearing aspect is a product of the other three activities. We take to eating sumptuous foods and enjoying the satisfaction they provide. Sleeping is a great way to relax and gain relief from the daily pressures brought on by work, school and family. Sex life is the height of material enjoyment, something seen as the most important activity for those seeking pleasure in the phenomenal world. But when these engagements are represented at an above satisfactory level in one’s daily life, there will naturally be fear of loss. “What if I lose my ability to put food on the table? What if I starve to death? What if I won’t be able to sleep tonight due to my mattress being uncomfortable? What will happen if my wife leaves me and I have to live the rest of my life alone? What will happen if I lose everything at the time of death?”

The sunThese fears are actually well founded to some extent and indicative of a progressive level of consciousness. Certainly it is better to fear the loss of important aspects of life than to be ignorant of their temporary nature. Those who understand that they are Brahman, or part of the Absolute Truth, can take the necessary steps to transcend these fears, taking the comings and goings of material life to be on the same level as the rising and setting of the sun. The sun is the most splendorous object, a direct manifestation of the Supreme Lord’s kind mercy. The sun is not only beautiful to behold, but it is the giver of life. The heat and light provided by the fiery star in the sky are unmatched in potency, thus it is a very good sign whenever we can directly perceive of the sun’s presence. But is the sun setting at night any cause of fear? Is there any reason to be worried that life will end at night or that we will be forever without sunlight? Obviously these fears are not present in those who have wisely ascertained that the sun will simply rise again the next morning.

In a similar manner, those whose eyes have been trained through transcendental knowledge and the practice of bona fide religious principles see the temporary manifestations and disintegrations of gross bodies as periodic as the rising and setting of the sun. Sometimes an individual is in a position of prominence, and other times he is in a distressful situation. Sometimes a living entity is taking birth from the womb of a mother, while at other times he is being buried or cremated to signal the end of life. Irrespective of the specific event, the properties of Brahman, or Truth, do not change. Brahman is eternal; it can never be cut up, dried, made wet or diminished in any capacity.

“The total material substance, called Brahman, is the source of birth, and it is that Brahman that I impregnate, making possible the births of all living beings, O son of Bharata.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 14.3)

Lord KrishnaIf Brahman is Truth, why are there even temporary changes? Why is there birth, and why is there impending death? Brahman is one aspect of Truth, but there is an even more powerful spiritual entity: Parabrahman. Brahman can be thought of as the giant light of spiritual energy that emanates from the transcendental and inconceivably large body of Parabrahman. Similar to how the sun exudes sunshine, the Supreme Truth, whose glories are well established in the Vedas and the Puranas, radiates brilliance in spiritual energy which is known as Brahman. The individual spiritual entities roaming the phenomenal world are sparks of Brahman. Thus there is a similarity in quality between Brahman and Parabrahman, but at the same time there is always a difference.

Lord Chaitanya, an incarnation of Godhead and the most merciful authority figure to ever roam this earth, as a divine preacher and well-wisher of every single soul, visible or not, described the simultaneous oneness and difference between Brahman and Parabrahman as achintya-bhedabheda-tattva. That the living entity can be the same as Parabrahman and yet different from Him at the same time is inconceivable to the human mind, which means that no amount of empirical evidence or logical deduction can lead the conditioned entity, i.e. us poor souls transmigrating from one body to another in the material world, or even one on the Brahman platform, to truly understand the nature of the relationship between Parabrahman and Brahman. Since we can’t understand the relationship, should we just sit on our knowledge of Brahman? From Lord Chaitanya’s teachings and personal example, we learn that it is more important to take tangible actions off the achintya-bhedabheda-tattva concept than to actually try to understand it through mental exercise. We may not understand why fire burns, but we will still use it for proper purposes. We may not understand why we were stricken with a certain disease, but we will surely take the necessary steps to get cured. Similarly, we may not understand the nature of the relationship between the individual souls and the Supreme Absolute Truth, whose most beautiful and complete name is Krishna, but we should indeed take the necessary steps to ensure that the relationship remains vibrant.

Lord ChaitanyaOnly one who behaves according to the simultaneous oneness and difference philosophy will be able to properly understand the workings of nature. Only one who knows that Krishna, or God, is the Supreme Object of Pleasure can take the necessary steps to remain always connected with Him. Brahman has tremendous potency, but when the tendency is to act against the interests of Parabrahman, the natural properties of knowledge, bliss and eternality are covered up by material elements, which work to delude the knowledgeable entities into assuming a fearful mindset. Only when the individual acts against the interests of the Supreme Lord as stipulated by the eternal law codes known as dharma is there a fear of losing objects which have no relation to the soul. The potency of Brahman is intended for the pleasure of Krishna, who, as the best friend of every living entity, subsequently provides unmatched happiness to those offering Him kind service. God’s worthiness of being worshiped is not based simply off of His superiority in the area of providing benefits. Rather, His worshipable status is acquired through His unique ability to enjoy at the highest level, a trait which He eternally exudes. Irrespective of the workings of Brahman, the mercy of the Supreme Lord and His open offer of a blissful, eternal life always remain on the table.

Radha Krishna Lord Chaitanya stressed that for the people of this age the most important and effective way to remove the cloud of nescience brought on by material contact is to regularly chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This sacred formula, which is known as the maha-mantra, emanates from the spiritual world. Unlike the features of our gross body and all the objects we claim to possess, the holy name of the Lord is something we never lose. Since it is non-different from the entity it addresses, the name of God always stays with us, just as the Supersoul, the localized representation of Parabrahman, accompanies the individual spirit in all its journeys through various bodies. One who holds on to the holy name with firm attachment and takes the chanting of it to be their life and soul will never be fearful of losing objects which originally belong to nature. The soul is the essence of identity. A famous philosopher once said, “I think, therefore I am”, but the more accurate assertion is, “I am Brahman, a lover of Krishna; therefore I will never cease to be.” Those who adopt the proper mindset through regular chanting and adherence to the dictates of bhagavata-dharma, or devotional service, will certainly be blissful all the way until the end, the time when the soul will be transported back into the direct company of the spiritual reservoir of pleasure and energy.

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Bucket List

Posted by krishnasmercy on December 18, 2010

Lord Krishna “Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)

There are different gradations of the mid-life crisis, the time in one’s life where the future path remains uncertain due to the majority of life’s main objectives having already been reached. To keep the spark of life going, the fire in the belly so to speak, it is not uncommon for a middle-aged individual to make a list of the things they want to do, or accomplish, by the end of their life. Though the list goes by different names such as the “life list” or the “bucket list”, a reference to the “kick the bucket” euphemism for death, the objectives are still the same. When analyzed by one who is spiritually inclined, the bucket list can be viewed both positively and negatively. When viewed in the negative light, the compiler of the bucket list is deemed to be quite ignorant of the natures of time, space, and spirit. Under the positive light, the desire to experience something before one’s impending death brings the necessary urgency required to achieve life’s foremost mission, that of becoming purely spiritually aware and active at all times, including the time when the body is ultimately renounced.

A simple review of the typical life cycle proves helpfulLord Krishna as a child in understanding how the point of creating the bucket list is reached. In the early years, a human being is simply interested in playing. The child has no concern for anything pertaining to romantic relationships, careers, paying bills, or even studying higher knowledge. A young child will simply play all day if not told otherwise. Through regulation and discipline offered by the parents and preceptors, a child can gradually mature into a young adult, and then eventually into a human being. In the young adult years, goals and objectives start to form, namely those pertaining to the occupation one will take up when they reach full blown adulthood. The purpose behind identifying an ideal occupation is fairly straightforward: to provide for life’s necessities. Parents would surely love to take care of their children throughout their lifetime, but due to the age difference, the parents are likely to pass on before the children. Therefore a good parent is one who can raise their children to be self-sufficient adults.

After receiving a formal education, the aim of life shifts to the career area, concerns pertaining to landing a job that provides a salary sufficient to meet one’s basic obligations such as food, clothing, and shelter. The next goal is to have a stable family life, where a compatible spouse and beautiful children are required. By no means are any of these objectives easy to meet, for there is great struggle involved in securing a decent job, especially due to the fluctuating natures of economies. In industrialized nations, the agriculture sector of the economy is very small; therefore the primary occupations adopted service the passions of others. Companies produce goods and services and offer them to the general public. Depending on the mood of the public and their affinity, or lack thereof, for a particular product, a company will either earn a profit or slowly lose money. Since the mode of passion, which is one of the three modes governing this world, is ultimately incapable of providing any lasting satisfaction, the buying and selling habits of a population at large tend to fluctuate. Therefore there is little job security, even though in a system where goods and services are traded peaceably and voluntarily, there will always be jobs to be had, stable or otherwise.

“The mode of passion is born of unlimited desires and longings, O son of Kunti, and because of this one is bound to material fruitive activities.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.7)

Lord KrishnaRomantic relationships, which serve as the next step in the ascension towards greater and more intense experiences in material life, are even more difficult to secure and maintain. Men will always complain about women and women will always complain about men, for the sense interests of an individual can never be met to complete satisfaction. Finding a suitable match is difficult enough, but then maintaining the relationship is an even greater task. In any situation where two independent individuals are closely paired with one another, there will be friction and tension. If a unifying force is absent, a common purpose holding the personal interests of both parties in check, there will be great friction. Add children to the mix and what you’re left with is a lifetime of unsteadiness, concern, and obligation.

So let’s say we are fortunate enough to achieve all of our goals that we outlined after our education was completed. Where does that leave us? Is life over? Do we not still have the life force inside of us? It is the nature of every living entity to seek out pleasure. This means that no matter what stage of life one finds themselves in, the desire for thrill and excitement will always remain active. For one who has achieved all of life’s primary objectives, the next aim is to find new thrills, experiences that aren’t necessarily so important but are still appealing enough to take up.

Since there are obligations pertaining to work and family, the limiting factor is time. There may be many thrills that one wants to experience, but the guaranteed nature of death puts a constraint on these desires. Therefore it is not uncommon for one in their thirties or forties to make a “bucket list”, an itemized rundown of all the things they want to do/accomplish before they die. The experiences listed can surely run the gamut of material activities, but they often include things like writing an autobiography, visiting a certain landmark, performing a daredevil stunt such as skydiving or bungee jumping, eating a certain type of food, and even meeting a specific personality. The idea is that if one can achieve all of the items on their list before the time they die, their life will have been worth living.

This is certainly an interesting mindset, for it is based off the assumption that experiencing an enumerated list of thrills can bring complete satisfaction. Yet what gets overlooked is that the person compiling such a list has already experienced many thrills in life. Regardless of how lucky or unlucky a person is, there are moments in their life when they feel supreme pleasure, extreme bliss. In the middle age years, memory of these past experiences may be lost, but the events nevertheless occurred. Using a little intelligence, it becomes obvious that if we already experienced thrills that were later forgotten, what’s to say that we’ll remember any of the future thrills that are on our life list. The point of the bucket list is to be able to lie on our deathbed and look back on our life with complete satisfaction. Yet if the experiences of every thrill remain distant in the mind, what would the difference be if we never actually get to experience any of our desired thrills?

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.20)

Lord Krishna Based on this quick review, we can see that the key to satisfaction is not necessarily a thrilling experience here or there, but rather a permanent shift in consciousness. Consciousness is eternal, something that never goes away or stops functioning. According to the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, consciousness is tied to our identity, which comes from the spirit soul. This brings us to the negative review of the bucket list mindset. The spirit soul, which is the anatomical functioning unit of any life form, never takes birth, nor does it ever die. What we refer to as death is simply the shedding of the outer garment of the soul. There is never a time that the soul stops functioning, and there is never a time when the spiritual spark loses its natural properties. And what are these properties? The soul’s qualities are inherited from the original father, the Supreme Soul.

“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.61)

The individual soul, which is known as the jivatma, resides in one body at a particular time. There have been instances in the past where great mystic yogis divided their souls and travelled through space in different ways, but their identities were still the same. They couldn’t perform different activities with the different divisions of their original soul. The Supreme Soul, or Paramatma, is different in this regard. Since it is a direct expansion of God, it is not a division. The Supersoul resides within the heart of every living entity, thereby making God the only entity who is conscious of the thoughts, desires, and hankerings of every living entity, past, present, and future.

Since the Supersoul is non-different from God, it has natural, eternally existing properties. The Supersoul is knowledgeable, blissful, and imperishable. The individual soul, which represents our identity, is a derivative of the Supreme Soul, similar to God in quality but subordinate to Him in quantitative powers. Thus the individual soul is also imperishable, ever-knowledgeable, and prone to a blissful state. The difference in quantitative powers manifests in the form of the jivatma’s fall down from the spiritual sky. The Supreme Lord is always blissful, regardless of His particular form or appearance. This is not the case with the individual. When brought to the material world, the soul must put on a particular suit. This is similar to how astronauts must don proper attire when travelling through outer space. For the soul to survive in the material world, it needs a dress, an outer covering.

Changing of bodies The influences of this outer covering are quite powerful. The primary effect it has on the individual is that it causes him to forget his natural relationship to the Supreme Lord. As a result, identity is taken from the gross body, a collection of material elements which constantly goes through changes, culminating with ultimate destruction at the time of death. Thus the bucket list mentality is simply a byproduct of the false identification adopted at the time of birth, when the soul is placed into a material body. One who is in the know, however, understands that the soul never perishes. The term “lifetime” is simply a demarcation of time, a unit of measure similar to a second, minute, day, year, etc. Just as it would be silly to say there can only be one instance of a second or a year, the viewpoint that we only get one life to live is similarly invalid. The soul is not subject to the influences of time; only the body is. Therefore there is nothing to be lost in terms of opportunity for thrills once death comes. In fact, God is so nice that if one wants to remain tagged to a material body in the next life, they are allowed to do so. At the time of death, a moment of great turmoil and panic, the individual’s desires and reactions to work are measured by the higher authorities of the universe. Based on this assessment, a commensurate body is crafted for the individual’s next life.

“Those who know Me as the Supreme Lord, as the governing principle of the material manifestation, who know Me as the one underlying all the demigods and as the one sustaining all sacrifices, can, with steadfast mind, understand and know Me even at the time of death.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 7.30)

This brings us to the positive review of the bucket list mentality. Though the soul is eternal and never dies, the time of death is still of critical importance. Though ignorance envelops the individual when they are trapped in a material body, there is no requirement that one remain a devotee of matter perpetually. Rather, if one’s consciousness, which is driven by work and desire, is purified at the time of death, a spiritual body is crafted for the next life. Moreover, this spiritual form roams free in the imperishable realm where the original Personality of Godhead resides alongside His eternal, loving associates. Thus one who achieves a spiritual body and residence in God’s realm never has to worry about descending to the material world again. In this way, the purification of consciousness is actually what brings the greatest thrill.

Though the soul will continue to exist irrespective of outer covering or place of residence, the time of death represents the complete change of dress. This means that if one’s consciousness is not purified at the end of life, they have to start the knowledge-acquiring process all over again in the next life. Thus the same struggles pertaining to occupation, family, and romance will have to be endured again. In addition, there is no guarantee that the next form of body will be a human one. The laws of karma, or fruitive activity, are quite fair, so if one is overly sinful in this life, they will surely have to suffer in the next. The body of an animal brings great opportunities for sense gratification, but nothing beyond that. The animal is not cognizant of impending death, spirit, or matter. Only in the human form of life can one take the necessary steps to understand who they are, why they are where they are, and what they can do to reach the Supreme Destination.

“That supreme abode is called unmanifested and infallible, and it is the supreme destination. When one goes there, he never comes back. That is My supreme abode.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.21)

Radha and Krishna in Vrindavana So how do we purify our consciousness to the point that we’ll get a spiritual body at the time of death? Moreover, should this goal be the only item on our bucket list? The process for achieving purification is quite simple. In fact, though the required discipline can be formally classified as yoga, the associated activities are completely natural and intimately matched with the soul’s intrinsic properties. The discipline of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, not only brings about a permanent shift in consciousness, but it also secures thrills at every moment. Obviously, in the initial stages these thrills will be difficult to realize, but for one who steadily practices the ancient art of the religion of love, there is no question of the lasting benefits to the mind and the psyche.

So what constitutes bhakti? In reality, activities in bhakti are no different than those we already take up, with the only difference being the object of worship. Currently we sing different songs to ourselves, read various books, visit restaurants and nightclubs, and hear about the exploits of celebrities and politicians. Taking these same activities, we can spiritualize them by reading books about Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, or one of His numerous non-different expansions. We can visit His temples and holy pilgrimage sites. We can hear about His glorious activities and of the steep resolve shown by His faithful servants, the exalted Vaishnavas. But the most effective process of bhakti is the chanting of the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

Japa mala The Vaishnava authorities, the spiritual masters and expert practitioners of bhakti, recommend that one chant this mantra on a set of japa beads, sixteen rounds daily. A japa mala, or rosary set, consists of 108 beads, with the mantra chanted one time on each bead; thus one round of japa equates to 108 recitations of the mantra. If we multiply this number times sixteen, we get the minimum number of mantra recitations per day. Obviously this is quite time consuming, especially in the beginning stages for those whose tongues aren’t familiar with pronouncing Krishna and Rama, the greatest names ascribed to the Supreme Lord of all humanity. Yet simply through this chanting routine, the most potent of religious practices, liberation can be achieved in this very life.

“Real love of God is ahaituky apratihata: it cannot be checked by any material cause. It is unconditional. If one actually wants to love God, there is no impediment. One can love Him whether one is poor or rich, young or old, black or white.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Science of Self-Realization, Ch 1b)

With the bucket list mentality, and even the desire to achieve a purified consciousness at the time of death, there is an end-goal in mind, a disposition where all of one’s accomplishments have been met satisfactorily . With any endeavor, there is an intended state of interruption, wherein the initial motivation for the undertaking of the activity ceases. These properties are observed in virtually all endeavors. There is an initial motivation for the activity, a desired end-goal. Subsequently, when the aim is reached, the activities cease and the motivation goes away. With bhakti, however, the opposite effects are seen. Since chanting Hare Krishna, reading books about the Lord, and associating with fellow devotees bring thrills to the soul at every moment, there is no motivation and no interruption for those in the heightened state of Krishna consciousness. In this way, a pure bhakta automatically achieves liberation, for they are no longer hampered by the negative influences of the material body, a form which acts as a holding cell for those who are spiritually unconscious. For the devotee, the body serves their spiritual needs instead of inhibiting them. This is a role reversal of sorts, wherein the slave becomes the master.

“Oh Rama, for as long as You shall stand before me, even if it be for one hundred years, I will always remain Your servant. Therefore You should be the one to choose a beautiful and appropriate place for the cottage. After You have selected a spot, please then command me to start building.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 15.7)

Shri Lakshmana These ideas sure make for a nice practice in theory, but there is also great tangible evidence available to substantiate the claims. The properties of the soul were not mythically conjured up or devised through some legislative body. Rather, the soul has always bore the property of being a lover of God. When an individual transcends the effects of material nature and takes bhakti to be their life and soul, there is nothing that can stop them from loving God. Similar to the sentiment sung in a line from a famous song, “if loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right”, the bhakta will continue their service to the Lord no matter the opposition or impediments thrown their way. Shri Lakshmana, the younger brother of Lord Rama, exhibited this property beautifully. Many thousands of years ago, the Supreme Lord descended to earth, as He likes to do from time to time, in an eternal form visible to the human eye. As a pious and courageous prince named Rama, God roamed the earth and gave His darshana to those deserving of it. A notable portion of His life was spent in the forests of India, where He lived as a recluse alongside His younger brother Lakshmana and wife Sita Devi. On one occasion, Rama, the eldest brother of the family, asked Lakshmana to find a nice spot to erect a cottage for the group. Lakshmana very nicely replied that if he had the pleasure of being with Rama for one hundred years, he would always stand by His side and do whatever He asked him to do. This shows the ideal mood of devotion. Who could ever imagine working at the same job for one hundred years, wherein every day at the office was eagerly anticipated and every moment brought supreme bliss? Yet Shri Lakshmana always felt this way while serving Rama.

Lord Chaitanya and associates Similarly, those sincere souls who chant the maha-mantra for sixteen rounds a day will never give up the practice. One could offer the dedicated devotee millions and millions of dollars to stop their chanting, but they would never accept such an offer. If there is anything we should aim to strive for by the time we leave our current body, it should be the adoption of this mindset, wherein the interests of the Supreme Lord take precedent over all else. The chanting tradition passed on by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, His disciples, and those following their example, carries with it the secret that unlocks the door to eternal bliss, a level of consciousness where every second is thrilling. One who swims in the nectarean waters of the sound vibrations of the holy names of the Supreme Lord never has to worry about past, present, future, or the potential loss of thrill. The waves of transcendental bliss secure the sincere devotee all the happiness they require.

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Unbreakable

Posted by krishnasmercy on September 21, 2010

Lord Krishna “The conditioned soul may have one kind of body in the present birth, but he has a different body in the next birth. In the material world, the living entity has no fixed body but transmigrates from one body to another. The Lord, however, does not do so. Whenever He appears, He does so in the same original body, by His internal potency.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 4.6 Purport)

The common misconception posited by neophyte transcendentalists and enemies of the Supreme Lord is that Krishna and His various expansions appear on earth in material bodies. Material refers to matter, and body refers to the outer covering of the soul. For the individual conditioned living entity, there is a difference between matter and spirit, body and soul. For the Supreme Absolute Truth, there is no such difference. While our bodies constantly change, with the soul repeatedly appearing and disappearing through the processes of birth and death, such changes do not take place for the Supreme Lord. Everything attached to the Lord is always transcendental, so if we are to give any attention to vanity and outward appearance, it should be directed towards Him.

Lord Krishna The desire to look beautiful results in the purchase of makeup products, fancy clothes, and facial ornaments. In this respect, vanity certainly can play a beneficial role, especially when it comes to beautification. If our outward appearance is pleasing, then other things often fall into place. If we’re going on a job interview, we will surely dress ourselves very nicely, in a professional sort of way. If an employer sees that we are appropriately dressed, it shows that we have taken the time to give a positive appearance. If we hadn’t taken this time, the employer may be led to think that we are lazy and that we’re not concerned with detail. A lazy employee is a bad employee, so slovenliness is not the idea we’re trying to convey when seeking employment.

While beautification is also important in other aspects of life, if we were to study every area where vanity plays a role, we’d see that the ultimate objective usually relates to sex life. The woman wants to attract the attention of the man, so she makes sure to wear nice clothing, makeup, and jewelry. Similarly, the man wants to attract the woman, so he pays special attention to his hair, shirt, and cologne. The objective is to connect with an attractive partner and enjoy the resulting relationship.

Radha Krishna This desire for sexual relations through a committed partnership certainly isn’t a bad thing, but it falls short of meeting the ultimate objective in life. Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, tells us definitively what the ultimate purpose in life is. His teachings are found in the Bhagavad-gita, a book which chronicles a discussion that took place five thousand years ago between Krishna and His cousin Arjuna. Krishna is not a mythological figure, but rather a historical personality who appeared on earth and enacted wonderful pastimes a long, long time ago. His teachings to Arjuna make no mention of the Hindu faith, nor are they directed towards any particular class of men. His instructions touch on issues relating to the soul, its relationship with matter, and its highest occupational duty. In this way, we see that Krishna is not merely a Hindu God, but rather the Supreme Godhead and greatest teacher, a person who is meant to be everyone’s friend and ultimate reservoir of pleasure.

Krishna’s teachings, which are based on the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India emanating from Krishna Himself, touch on a wide range of topics, but the first instruction imparted to the new student, an opening salvo if you will, is the difference between the body and the soul. Individuality comes from the spiritual spark residing within the body. The soul can be thought of as the owner, the chief resident of the material dress. The body can be thought of as the house. This house is composed of material elements, so it cannot be taken as superior. We may reside in a giant high-rise building, but we could never say that the building is superior to the human beings who constructed it or those who reside within it. If not for their tireless efforts and expert planning, the building would have remained in the form of scrap metal and raw materials. The living entity, whose actions are driven by the internal spirit soul, is the master of matter.

Reincarnation The house known as the body is constantly changing, as is obvious to the sober person. The changing of houses, or moving day if you will, occurs at the time of death. At this time, the soul leaves its current home and immediately enters a new one. This new home is located in one of two places: the material world or the spiritual world. If the soul is placed in the material world, its home is again subject to creation, maintenance, and destruction. The opposite is true if the home is in the spiritual world. A spiritual body is unchanging, unbreakable, and full of knowledge. When a person enters their spiritual abode, both their soul and body take on the same qualities. Therefore the ultimate aim of life is to accumulate enough spiritual credits to be able to purchase a spiritual home.

Even if one is unaware of the difference between the material and spiritual worlds, the changing of the bodies should still be evident to them. We see that famous movie and television stars of the past look completely different when we see them in newer movies and shows. Since the activities of their youth were recorded on tape and DVD, it becomes easier to see the difference in the appearances of their bodies. The aging process takes hold and it causes the facial features to lose their beauty. This is only natural since everyone is working their way towards death, a time when the body is completely discarded.

Lord Krishna Armed with this knowledge, the wise don’t pay as much attention to outward appearance. If the body is going to be discarded, how important can it be? The secret to success in life is not to simply reject attention to appearance outright, but rather to direct this concern towards something worth beautifying. No entity in this world is more worthy of our attention than the Supreme Spirit, and thanks to the teachings of Krishna and His devotees, we know that the Supreme Lord has an ever-existing form, a transcendental body which never deteriorates. Since His body is completely spiritual and unchanging, it would make sense that all items of beauty should be directed towards Him.

“Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.24)

How can Krishna’s body be unchanging? While the rules of material nature affect all living entities equally, they don’t apply to God. When Krishna was on the battlefield of Kurukshetra and delivering His spiritual discourse to Arjuna, He was over one hundred years of age. In reality, Krishna doesn’t have an age, but in terms of the amount of time that had elapsed since His appearance in the womb of Mother Devaki, Krishna was over one hundred years old. Though He was old enough to have great-grandchildren, He didn’t look aged at all. You will never see any paintings or pictures of Krishna depicted as an old man. Though He is the oldest person, adyam-purusham, He is always youthful and blissful. The non-devotees have a hard time understanding this fact. They take the laws of nature to be absolute, so even if they think of Krishna as a manifestation of the Supreme Truth, they take His body to be material.

“Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all sentient beings, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 4.6)

Krishna and Arjuna Okay, so Krishna’s body is spiritual, but how does this information help us? Where is this spiritual body? How are we supposed to go about decorating it? Luckily for us, Krishna takes other forms which are identical in nature to His original. One such form is His name. While Krishna is the fountainhead of all forms of the Divine, He has many non-different expansions which people can worship with just as much faith and still receive the same result of going back to the spiritual world. One of Krishna’s most celebrated expansions is Lord Rama, the handsome and pious prince who appeared on earth long before Krishna did. While both of these forms of Godhead aren’t directly present on earth today, one can still associate with them through their names found in the famous maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

The name is the best way to connect with God, especially for the people of this age. But again, we have material elements all around us, so it would be nice to find a way to use them to serve the Lord’s transcendental body. This is where the archa-vigraha, or deity, comes in. Though the earthly elements such as wood, stone, and resin are considered dull matter, when used in the construction of a deity, they become spiritualized. This is a little difficult to understand at first, since we are basically introducing an exception to the rules of nature. We can think of it this way: matter is inferior and the cause of bondage only as long as it is not used for Krishna’s service. When matter is used for our own beautification or for purposes of sense gratification, it has no relation to Krishna. In one sense, matter can never be separated from Krishna since it is something that He created, but when we say that it has no relation to God, this is according to the vision of the living entity. After all, Krishna is not looking for salvation or release from the cycle of birth and death. Separation and association are important concepts only for the conditioned living entities.

Radha Krishna deities So when we construct a nice deity of Krishna, Rama, Vishnu, Narasimha, Chaitanya, and other vishnu-tattva expansions of God, we are purifying the material elements. Since these elements are reconnected with their Creator, they are no longer subordinate or inferior. The lesson here is that we should certainly take the time to clean ourselves up and make our outward appearances presentable, but the primary focus should be on Krishna. The Lord is eternally situated in knowledge, and a person who sees that Krishna’s body is always transcendental is one who truly sees. By decorating the deity, offering prayers to and worshiping it, and chanting the non-different names of the Personality of Godhead in front of it, we can close the deal on the purchase of our spiritual body, the non-changing sublime dress of the liberated soul.

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The Influence of Time

Posted by krishnasmercy on July 16, 2010

Sita Devi “When the time for the destruction of living entities arrives, people are seen to perform activities that endanger themselves due to the influence of that all-devouring time.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 56.16)

This is a beautiful cause-and-effect explanation given by Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama. The statement itself is a little complicated to comprehend at first, but if we understand the context, we can see that it is indeed a profound explanation of how time works and how the living entities behave at or around the time of death. This statement served as a slick way of reminding the demon Ravana that his days were numbered.

Sita Devi If we analyze the verse, we see that there are two parts to it. The first part says that there is a set time when the living entities are bound to be destroyed. This is the influence of time, which is considered a divine energy created by God. No one can check the power of time no matter how hard they try. It has long been man’s fantasy to travel either back in time or into the future, but there is actually no possible way to do it. The second part of the statement says that when this all-devouring time, or death, arrives, human beings start behaving in ways that cause danger to themselves. Usually, we understand this concept in the reverse order. It is understood that we first take harmful actions, which then lead to death. Here, Sita Devi is saying that it is actually the opposite, meaning that death arrives first. Death then influences the living entities to act in harmful ways so that it appears that they are killing themselves. The harmful activities are merely instruments of death which the living entity has no control over.

Upon first glance, this logic seems a little strange. If a person jumps off a bridge or overdoses on drugs, are they not the cause of their own death? The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, tell us that we certainly do have a tiny amount of independence in how our senses will react with material nature. However, we have no control over the time of our birth or the time of our death. These are both determined by destiny, or the influence of the divine energy known as time.

If we apply these principles to some common situations, we can gain a better understanding of how time works. Drug and alcohol addicts often act in ways that give the impression that they are trying to kill themselves. Many famous rock stars tried their hardest to kick their drug and alcohol addictions, but they were never able to do so. Eventually, they succumbed to death. In reality though, death had already arrived, and their harmful actions were merely the instruments of death.

The influence of all-devouring time, or death, can be seen in people who are terminally ill. Alzheimer’s patients slowly lose their brain power as time goes by. They become so out of it that they soon fail to recognize their own friends and family. This is all due to time’s influence. Death is usually not a welcomed event, so it is not surprising to see sick people act in strange ways when they are just about to die. Death means that the soul is preparing to exit the body, a body which it has become attached to during its lifetime. Extracting the soul from the body can be a very painful experience, and as we all know, when we are in pain, we lose rationality and our grasp of the proper code of conduct.

Lord Rama Sita Devi directed these words to the Rakshasa demon Ravana, so as to inform him that death was on the horizon. Sita Devi was the wife of Lord Rama, an incarnation of God who appeared on earth many thousands of years ago. Lord Rama is one of Krishna’s primary incarnations, the complete list of which is provided in the celebrated Vedic texts such as the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Mahabharata, and Puranas. Rama appeared on earth to give Maharaja Dasharatha of Ayodhya a son, to give protection to His devotees, and to kill Ravana. The demon race known as the Rakshasas was steadily ascending to power in the world at the time. Their leader was the ten-headed Ravana who lived with his fellow Rakshasas on the island kingdom of Lanka.

Lord Rama There is a detailed history of the origin of the Rakshasa race given in the Ramayana, but what is most important to know about them is that they are sinful by nature. They may outwardly appear to be religious since they engage in many sacrifices and austerities, but their motives are all nefarious. They adhere to religion as a tit-for-tat system, where they perform certain activities for the express purpose of receiving some material reward. On the surface this isn’t a bad thing since we all possess material desires to some degree. However, these Rakshasas didn’t just want ordinary material boons; they wanted extraordinary powers so they could rule the world. A hostile takeover of the world requires the terrorizing of the innocent, something which Ravana had no problem doing. He and his associates would regularly harass the harmless sages living in the forests of India at the time.

Lord Rama was a great warrior prince. Being God Himself, He could easily defeat anyone in battle simply by using His bow and arrows. His excellent fighting prowess was on full display during one occasion when He defeated 14,000 members of Ravana’s Rakshasa army in the forest of Janasthana. In retaliation, Ravana devised a plan which allowed him to kidnap Sita while Rama was not by her side. Taking her back to Lanka, Ravana thought he could win Sita over by showing her his grand opulence. He even tried to flatter her by saying that she would become his chief queen. Ravana had hundreds of beautiful wives, so by saying that Sita was superior to them in beauty, Ravana was paying her a high compliment.

Sita Devi Sita was having none of this though. Being a pure devotee of God, her mind never once swayed from the lotus feet of her husband and supreme deity of the world, Shri Rama. Sita was also very intelligent, for that is a byproduct of performing devotional service to God. Mundane scholarship has its limits, but possessing knowledge of God enables one to become the smartest person in the world. Sita informed Ravana that his days were numbered. She knew that Rama would come for her and that when He did, Ravana would be easily defeated. In the above referenced statement, Sita is essentially telling Ravana, “Death surely must be coming for you, for why else would you have done something as stupid as kidnapping me? Due to the influence of impending death, people act in ways that cause harm to themselves. This is why you have kidnapped me, for death is coming to you very soon through the arrows released by my husband.”

Sita’s words would hold true as Rama would eventually come to rescue her. Ravana was soundly defeated in battle, dying as a result of the wounds inflicted by Rama. The lesson here is that once death approaches, we have no control over our actions. Therefore it is important that we take the necessary steps to make our lives perfect right now, while we still have our wits about us. And how do we achieve perfection in life? The Vedas tell us that the meaning of life is to think about Krishna, or God, at the time of death. Those who do so will be liberated from the repeated cycle of birth and death.

“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)

Valmiki thinking of Rama This point may seem contradictory to Sita’s statement. If we have no control over our actions at the time of death, how can we guarantee that we’ll think of Krishna? The answer is that it is our consciousness at the time of death which determines our next body. Consciousness is something that is developed over this lifetime and previous ones as well. It is similar to the concept of a person’s life flashing before their very eyes when they have a near-death experience. All the activities of this life are a preparation for the next.

Knowing this, we should act in such a way that our consciousness is fixed on God at all times. This will increase the likelihood that our consciousness will be pure at the time of death. To achieve this aim, we simply need to regularly chant the holy names of God, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Chanting is one of the exercises that makes up bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. All the great devotees of the past, such as Sita Devi, Lakshmana, and Hanuman were expert performers of devotional service. They never feared death, for they knew that their minds were always fixed on God.

Lord Rama with Sita, brothers, and Hanuman Chanting is not the only method of devotional service. We can hear about Krishna, read books about Him, talk about Him with others, worship His deity, etc. There are so many avenues available to us. We don’t know when death will come, but we do know that we have every opportunity to perform devotional service right now. If we achieve perfection in this process, time’s influence over us can be negated.

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Tidal Wave

Posted by krishnasmercy on June 28, 2010

Lord Rama “The arrows decorated with gold released from His [Rama’s] bowstring will eradicate your body, just as the waves of the River Ganga strike against her banks.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 56.7)

Death is like an ocean current that cannot be stopped. For one who takes birth, death is guaranteed; there is nothing anyone can do to stop it from happening. The human being is intelligent enough to eventually realize this fact, and thus finds different ways to deal with it. Of all the different strategies employed, the Vedas tell us that the best one is that used by Vishnu bhaktas, or devotees of God. The aim of human life is to seek out one’s best friend, the supreme object of pleasure, and original proprietor of everything. The devotees understand that God fits all of these qualifications, thus they use everything in their power to remain attached to Him.

People usually deal with their mortality in one of two ways. The first class chooses to ignore the imminent nature of death and simply goes about their daily lives. By default, we human beings are born into ignorance. We walk around in diapers for the first few years of our lives, being completely dependent on our parents for everything. We would actually die if it were not for the care given to us by our elders in the early stages of our lives. Due to the inherent ignorance of the jiva soul, it doesn’t realize its mortality until later on in life. Because of this, most of us grow up to be worshipers of matter.

The Vedas tell us that there is one God for all of mankind. He takes many different forms, but His original form is that of Lord Shri Krishna, who is also known as Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Krishna, being the energetic, takes two direct expansions, or energies. One of the energies is known as prakriti, or the inferior energy. Prakriti is matter. Krishna’s other expansion is that of purusha, or spirit. Spirit is known as the superior energy because it controls matter. We can see this principle in action in our daily lives. Our hands, legs, feet, etc. are all composed of gross material elements. They are essentially useless without the spirit soul residing within us. It is the presence of the soul that gives something life. The event that we know to be death is actually the exiting of the soul from the material body.

Radha Krishna The jiva souls are technically part of Krishna’s marginal energy. Constitutionally we are the same as Krishna, meaning we are spirit souls at the core. Yet, unlike Krishna, we have the propensity to associate with matter, or God’s inferior energy. For Lord Krishna and all His personal expansions, there is no difference between matter and spirit. For example, Lord Krishna’s hands, legs, and arms are all completely spiritual and non-different from His identity. The same can’t be said for the living entities. As spirit souls, we are meant to associate exclusively with the spiritual energy, but due to our subordinate nature, we can fall victim to association with matter, or the inferior energy. God is the energetic and we are His energy. When the energy and the energetic meet, there is peace, harmony, and bliss. The embodiment of this union can be seen on the planet of Krishnaloka, where the Lord directly associates with His pleasure potency expansions, the gopis. The greatest gopi, and the perfect representation of God’s energy, is Shrimati Radharani. Radha and Krishna are always worshiped together because they are the symbol of perfection in life. They symbolize what our goal in life should be: the union of the soul with God. At the same time, Radha and Krishna are more than just symbols; they factually exist and constantly enjoy with each other in the spiritual world.

The living entities have a choice as to which energy they associate with. The jiva souls, those of us who take birth in this material world, had some past desire to associate with matter. That is the reason for our birth. While our current body is perishable, the soul is eternal, so this means that we have suffered or enjoyed through many previous births. The work we performed and the desires we accumulated from our previous births determined the circumstances of our current life. In this way, nothing is an accident. Since we have a desire to associate with the inferior energy, it is not surprising to see that most of us end up being worshipers of matter.

What does this mean precisely? How does someone worship matter? Sex life serves as a nice example. Sex is considered the highest material pleasure, thus it also serves as the greatest hindrance to the cultivation of spiritual knowledge. Sex life is based on physical attraction. We see a beautiful man or woman and we desire to associate with them intimately. In this way, we are essentially worshiping a person’s bodily attributes, features which are nothing more than matter. The body is composed of all sorts of disgusting elements like blood, pus, mucus, and urine. Yet it is precisely this body that we find attractive. Not only is the body material, but it is ever changing. It is subject to old age, disease, and death. So in this way, we see that exclusive worship of matter is a flawed engagement.

There are other ways to worship matter, namely the acquisition of material wealth, strength, and fame. The news media provides a great example of this. They chronicle the day-to-day lives of famous celebrities, movie stars, and athletes. These people are famous because they have succeeded in some material venture. They garner great attention from the general public because most of us wish we were like them. Having a high paying job, a beautiful wife, nice children, and a big house are seen as the goals of life. High schools and colleges hold reunions every year where students who graduated together ten or more years prior meet up with each other and catch up. At these reunions, we find out what our fellow classmates have done with their lives, and then we use that as a barometer for measuring our own success. The Vedas tell us that this is a flawed mindset because while acquiring material perfections is certainly nice, death will eventually take everything away.

There are others who deal with death in a different way. They become angry with God and material nature in general. They understand how fleeting material happiness is and how gross matter fails to provide any happiness. As a result, they take to the negation of activity. Being frustrated with material life, they hope to stop all activity through deep philosophical study and meditation. They want to make everything zero, shunyavada. This is the cornerstone of the Buddhist and Mayavada philosophies. Buddhists aim to cancel out the effects of the senses and hopefully reach a state of complete void. This type of liberation is known as nirvana, an end to material life but no engagement in spiritual life. The Mayavadis are similar, except that they believe in God, but a God who has no form. Thus their aim is the same, the cessation of all activity, but their hope is to merge into Brahman, or God’s impersonal effulgence.

The Vedas tell us that both the worshipers and haters of matter are missing the point in their ultimate conclusion. Worshiping matter is flawed because one is still required to take birth again after the current life. This means that one will have to start the whole process again. The haters of matter are also flawed because it is the inherent nature of the soul to be active. We crave individuality. Thus if we achieve liberation through the cessation of all activity, we lose our identities. This in essence represents a form of spiritual suicide. Eventually, we will crave our identity again, which will result in us being thrown back into the material world.

Hanuman - a great devotee of God If both of these philosophies are flawed, what is the right way to deal with death? For the answer, we simply have to look to the example set by the great Vaishnava saints and devotees of the past. Perfection in life comes when we achieve pure Krishna, or God, consciousness. The discipline to achieve this mindset is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. As mentioned before, the soul is happiest when it is associating with God in a loving way; when the energy and the energetic are combined. God resides in the spiritual world, and He certainly can never associate with matter. However, He appears on earth from time to time in a spiritual body to enact pastimes and give protection to the devotees. Not only does He appear in His avatara form, but the Lord also incarnates in other ways, such as through His names, stories about Him detailed in the Vedic literatures, and His deity form.

It is through the mercy of the incarnations that the spirit souls are allowed to directly associate with the Lord during their current lifetime. The secret to success comes from using matter to our benefit. Matter is certainly inferior, but if we use it for Krishna’s service, it becomes spiritualized. The deity is a great example of this. We can take something as simple as stone or wood and use it to construct a statue representation of the Lord. Some people mistakenly believe that Hindus take part in idol worship, but there is no similarity between an idol and a deity of an authorized form of the Lord. Krishna’s body factually exists, for it is eternal and full of bliss and knowledge, sach-chid-ananda-vigraha. The deity is known as the archa-vigraha because it is a spiritual body that can be worshiped by the devotees.

Lord Chaitanya chanting Hare Krishna There are many other ways to practice this same principle of using matter for one’s spiritual pursuits. The tongue and the stomach are also products of nature, but we can spiritualize both by regularly chanting the Lord’s name, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and by eating Krishna prasadam [vegetarian food offered with love and devotion to the deity]. The mind is considered a subtle material element, but we can also purify it by regularly thinking of God. Devotees use everything at their disposal to increase their God consciousness. Once they develop pure love for the Lord, they can never forget Him.

One such great devotee is Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama. Sita represents the perfection of God’s energy, for she never thinks of anyone except Rama. For this reason, Lord Rama is always worshiped together with His wife as Sita-Rama. During her pastimes on earth, Sita was unfortunately kidnapped by the Rakshasa demon Ravana. This was preordained since Lord Rama needed an excuse to take on the demon in battle. In the above referenced statement, Sita is informing Ravana that his death is coming very soon at the hands of Rama. Ravana had just kidnapped Sita and taken her to his island kingdom of Lanka. He tried his best to persuade her into giving in to his amorous desires, but she was having none of it.

Sita Rama Ravana was a devotee of matter. He was extremely wealthy and possessed tremendous fighting skills. He propitiated Lord Brahma and Shiva and was rewarded with great material boons. Yet his wealth and fame weren’t enough; his lust drove him to chase after another man’s wife. Sita knew Ravana’s nature, so she made sure to remind him that Rama’s arrows were plated with gold. Ravana thought that Rama was a pauper since the Lord was roaming the forests as an exile from His kingdom of Ayodhya. Ravana couldn’t understand what Sita saw in her husband. Sita reminded Ravana that everything associated with Rama was brilliant, including the weapons He used.

Sita also mentions that the force of Rama’s arrows would be just like the force of the River Ganga hitting her banks. In the Vedic tradition, the Ganges River is considered sacred because she is known as the demigod Ganga Devi, who emanates from the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu is God’s four-handed form. By using this comparison to Ganga Devi, Sita is reaffirming Lord Rama’s divinity. Since Lord Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, is the source of Ganga Devi, it would make sense that His weapons would have the same power as the sacred river.

Death is just like a tidal wave, sucking up everything in its path. It plays no favorites; it will affect all of us at some point. Though we have no control over when the river known as death will swallow us up, we do have a choice as to where it will take us. Ganga Devi is completely spiritual, and those who give up their bodies while on her banks receive liberation from the repeated cycle of birth and death. She takes the soul back to the spiritual world wherefrom it never returns. Those who are washed up by the material ocean, however, are forced to take birth again.

“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.9)

Ganga Devi We should use the knowledge of our impending death as a wakeup call to take to devotional service. This way we can guarantee that our soul can cross over the ocean of nescience at the time of death. Sita’s words would hold true as Ravana, even for all his heinous crimes, was eventually washed up by the sacred river, for he thought of Lord Rama, or God, at the time of death. If we can think of God in a loving way at the time of quitting our body, our reward will be even greater.

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