Blessed are they who always think of Lord Sri Krishna
by Vishoka dasa
I stood like a statue, thinking to myself, "I knew this would happen." My premonition bore true, as I gazed with fascination at this person who lay motionless on the bed.
Devotees entered and soon left, after looking at the man lying there. They didn't seem to notice me standing there by the headboard. They seemed to look right through me, as if I wasn't there, like I didn't exist. Some stood outside the door, looking sad, looking at the floor.
I remember when I was a kid, and the horrible realization finally hit me ... it suddenly crashed down on my head ... we all have to die, and there was no way out of it! Death was when you went to bed and never woke up again. I couldn't accept it, and I lamented to my mother, asking her as to why this has to be? Can we sidestep it, somehow? She said that it was unavoidable, and didn't know why.
There had to be a way out. I refused to surrender to the endless sleep, there must be some escape, and I was going to find it. The world shouldn't be this way, life and flowers and song and laughter, and then ... nothing? I had to find a way to skip the final plummet into the big empty. Although countless trillions of men and animals failed before me, I aspired to beat the odds and cheat death somehow or another.
Monkeys were swinging flippantly in the trees, right outside the window, not showing the slightest bit of respect for what just happened in this room. As usual, they jeered at us, showing their teeth with utmost irreverence. The noise of life was bustling everywhere, in and outside the building. Life is everywhere, except on the bed, where a stream of visitors filed by, looking at the person, expressing some grief and sadness. "But life goes on, you don't have to be sad, it doesn't end in a bed, it goes on and on," I pleaded ... but no one seemed to hear me.
I stood there by the bed, looking at the person lying there, thinking to myself, "I knew this would happen, But why the surprise? And why the tinge of disbelief?" I didn't think it would happen like this, or this soon. But I guess that nothing happens in this material world the way we think it should, which proves once again ... that we are not the one in control. Krishna is the supreme director of all life and death ... and even more insignificant events, like the movement of a single blade of grass. Who am I to protest?
Do I hear kartals playing and conch shells blowing?, ... is there a brilliant light streaming from the sky? Is that the sounds of a golden chariot, coming to whisk me away? No, the kartals are ringing in some nearby temple, and the conch is signaling the beginning of the Lord's arotik. As usual, my impertinence is unsurpassed again, as my illusory mind has jumped to a haughty assumption.
Still, in defense of my insolent mind, I plaintively made the point that I had made it to Vrndavana, and there was a kirtan going on in the room, or at least playing on the tape recorder, and I had Tulsi mala adorning my neck, and Tulsi leaves and manjaris, and this is Vrndavana, so ... there must be some special mercy, uh. How arrogant of me! As if I deserve?
Actually, when looking back on my whole sordid life, I'm thinking it might be more fitting to see some fierce, copper-haired Yamaduttas suddenly jumping out of the wall, to forcefully drag me down a long hot road, to a well-deserved punishment.
But no one is coming, there are no dogs barking, and there are no conch shells heralding my carriage from the heavens. Why no one comes? Do they still ponder on my fate? Perhaps they are giving me time to think about it all ... think about this body, what I did with it, and what it was really meant for. Perhaps I'm supposed to remember what I was thinking about ... at the time of ... the big one.
What's that I hear? Maybe someone is coming and it doesn't sound so good, I hear horrible screeching, perhaps the seeds of my sins have fructified. It seems that fearful forms have crowded the sky, as I see hordes of furious visages, with fierce curved teeth, and reddish glowing eyes, fearsome demonish personages who seem to be so powerful as to annihilate the universe. Are the Yamaduttas now coming? Wielding razor sharp swords and hooks and knives, they appear about to whisk me away, and bind me like a sacrificial animal for offering to Goddess Kali. Now they appear to be dacoits intent upon worshipping the Goddess with a man-animal?
No, no, it's not the Yamaduttas, nor is it some dacoits coming. Now I remember, I'm recollecting a fraction of the many visions that filed before my inner sight, like movie reels, during the last moments of inhabitation in my mortal frame. It's the pastime of one of my favorite heros of the Bhagavatam, Jada Bharata, of how Goddess Kali killed the dacoits who tried to offer him as a man-animal.
Goddess Kali and she-demons were decapitating the dacoits and drinking their blood as if it were intoxicating liquor, which made them dance and sing in madness. What a sight to behold. Not the best movie reel to watch at the time of one's demise, and yes, Krishna's pastimes would have been more auspicious.
But this scene leads into Jada Bharata's meeting with King Rahugana, and how Jada Bharata expounded the deep philosophy of the soul, how we are not the body, which is something I would have done well to remember at the final moments. But that's something I should have done while living, not at the end. Krishna visions are what I should have seen on the movie reel of final contemplations.
Why did it happen so soon? Why such a sudden drop off the cliff? I thought I had more good to do ... in this world, I had more plans to fulfill, things that might help others. This ending abruptly, that only happens to other people, not me. Well, finally I understand I'm not important. There's nothing I can do, that can't be done by others. My utter insignificance is laid bare ... the last laugh is on me ... truth has exposed my unmitigated self importance.
Life is just full of surprises, little unexpected events, which we do not welcome. This is the ultimate event, the big one, which normally confronts us unprepared. It often arrives unheralded, unscheduled, unwanted, and that is that.
Blessed is the devotee who prepares for this event every waking minute of his life. Opposed to this ideal mentality, are the foolish persons, like myself, who carelessly follows Yudhisthira Maharaja's most wonderful edict of thinking it will not happen, at least not so soon, and procrastinates. It will not happen now, not this day, not this month or year, this is how some of us think.
You often hear devotees say, "Such person died, and we got to remember, it's going to happen to all of us." Why do we hear the obvious so often? We already know that we're going to die, so why do we keep reminding each other? Perhaps it's because we all know that we are spirit soul, and so we know we will never die. But somehow, in illusion, we tend to include our body in the deal, because of our habitual nature of identifying with the body, and so we think this life and body will go on. Since our soul is living this life, in this body, and we are living with Krishna and Srila Prabhupada, we tend think this life and body will go on because of the eternality of our soul, because of the eternal nature of devotional service. This is the strange and wonderful mode of thinking that Yudhisthira Maharaja warned us about.
Suddenly a peacock crowed nearby, and I saw a most bizarre sight out the window, there loomed a hooded snake hovering over a woman, following her down a path in a lush and heavenly park. What's happening now? Looking again, I find no snake or woman, but it seems I was in some kind of maya, some illusion. Ah, it's the old flashback at the end. Now I remember that cinematic reel that flashed before my mind's eye, flashing before my mind at the final check-out time. This is where I envisioned that I entered the city of Puranjana with its nine gates.
This was a favorite story of mine, but again, a good memory for the living, not particularly for the last exit. It's for understanding the futility of serving the nine gates, or the senses, something meant to be practiced in life, not put off till it's too late. Our real rasa is supposed to be with Krishna, not a ghastly rasa of snakes and dacoits, or a walk in a park, or decapitated heads!
I certainly hope the memory banks had improved, like with more meditation on the form of Krishna, before the big plunge! Still, all these things are related to Bhagavatam, but I hope the images got more transcendental and directly related to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and His pure devotees while I was in final consciousness.
I had observed myself in the mirror thousands of times, but this person in the bed, he is not the same person that I saw in the mirror so many times before. But I am told he is the same person. He is empty ... something is gone. That something ... it is me, spirit soul.
All the times Srila Prabhupada told us "we're not these bodies," and I just didn't seem to fully grasp it ... and now it rings so true at last. He hammered it into our skulls to the point of redundancy, only because we were so dull headed, we didn't fully get it. Now I get it. Before, it was theory, and now it's so ... so real.
I think of the devotees who taught me detachment from the body. I think of my master, Srila Prabhupada, who was ever detached even while surrounded by great opulence, which he only used for Lord Krishna. He lived simply, accepting only two chapatis a day, and sleeping only four hours, and serving Lord Krishna day and night.
Then there is the memory of my wonderful friend, Jayananda, who used his body only for service to Srila Prabhupada, never for his own enjoyment. He refused to spend God's money even to replace his raggedy pants. They were at the point of rotting off, when Adi-kesava insisted that he buy some new ones. But being his frugal self, he went to the store and attempted to steal them, to save Krishna's money, and was apprehended, and then the policemen were so astounded by his saintliness that they paid for his pants. Jayananda was frugal but he wasn't cheap when it came to serving Krishna. He had a mystic power of taking ordinary materials, free and donated bits and pieces, and transformed them into such gorgeous and majestic carts for Lord Jagannatha.
The big question is ... how much did I try to enjoy this dead body? How much did I identify with it? Even after getting knowledge from the Bhagavad-gita and Srila Prabhupada, my wonderful spiritual master, even with the knowledge ... how much illusion was still there? What was my consciousness at the end?
Did I remember this mantra of Isopanishad? Did I pray to Krishna to remove His glowing effulgence, so that I might see His face? Did I ask Him to please remember all my sacrifices, and He was the ultimate beneficiary, and ask Him to please remember all that I have done for Him?
What did I do with my rare opportunity to transcend the illusory world? Did my good acts outweigh the sinful ones? I hope for good points to outweigh the bad. Srila Prabhupada said it's like our spiritual bank account, and the deposits remain unfettered, the balance is undiminished, despite all my foolish withdrawals for the sake of temporary pleasures. I did so many bad things in my life. Surely I will have to pay.
Right then I heard a voice, saying, "Everyone has done bad things. The good you have done, for Lord Caitanya's sankirtan movement, will outweigh all the tons of bad activities done, do not worry." As Lord Krishna says, "One who does good, My friend, is never overcome by evil." Well, I certainly hope that's true in my case, which would be extreme mercy.
Also, Srila Prabhupada gave his famous discount one day, saying if we were only 90% Krishna consciousness, then we will be taken back to godhead, then he said 80%, then 70%. Did he go down to 60%? I am certainly in need of such an ocean of mercy.
I remembered that Visnujana Swami once said that, "a little bit of light can dispel a whole lot of darkness." He said that no one can estimate how valuable it is just to sit in the temple, to take the charanamrita, just to see the arati ceremony, just to offer obeisances & bow down. When the soul leaves his body, he sees his life's activities, and those predominant acts of devotion will appear in his consciousness as the brightest acts, and will dominate his thoughts.
This gave me great hope, and then a wonderful stream of visions came before my mind's eye. There were countless paintings and photographs of Krishna, a transcendental slide show before my eyes. It was like when I would gaze at pictures on temple walls while chanting japa, so many pictures of Lord Krishna, so many forms of deities I saw in so many temples, now they were all parading before my eyes.
Krishna was so kind to me to send me to so many temples in the world, to see so many walls and paintings, so many beautifully dressed deities, Whom are now appearing in my final slide show. He inspired so many great artists to paint His pictures, to adorn our homes and temples, He appeared in so many deity forms in so many Iskcon temples to give us visual mercy. All His wonderful iconography reappeared on my spiritual television screen, filling my eyes with wonder and tears.
Along with many paintings from the books and walls of temples came the chanting of Hare Krishna, and the golden voice of Srila Prabhupada, my divine father's voice which I heard so many thousands of times, it all came back to me like a crash of thunder, and soft as a rose ... and I heard the many hundreds of narrations of the Bhagavatam, pouring into my inner ear....
.... how Krishna has appeared on this earth in His transcendental body, which resembles the bluish color of the tamala tree. How His body attracts everyone in the three planetary systems, how His glittering yellow dress and His lotus face is covered with paintings of sandalwood pulp,
..... how He's seen leaning favorably towards His loving servitors, how His very sight is intoxicating and attractive, how He appears to be very much satisfied. How His smiling face is decorated with an enchanting reddish hue. How He is dressed in yellow robes and wares earrings and a glittering helmet on his head....
... how His chest was marked with the lines of the goddess of fortune. The descriptions augmented the endless reel of His images and the songs and chanting filled my soul ... up until the end of this brief existence.
It is done. You can burn that body now, it's not me, and it's only a combination of transient material elements, let it merge back into the total material world. Let me be free of it, it served it's purpose, now I go on.
If I could send a message to all devotees right now, I would give the most important advice I could ever give. Under the circumstances, it's hard to tell anybody anything. But if I could, I would advise all devotees to think of Lord Sri Krishna as much as you can, throughout the day.
If you can't think of Krishna that much, then try to think of precarious predicament you are in, that you can die at anytime, wishing you had done more, wishing you had thought of Krishna more. Perhaps the fear will motivate you to desire more chanting, hearing, to absorb yourself in the paintings of Lord Krishna while chanting japa, and to read Krishna Book more, and hear Krishna katha more, and stock up your memory banks, so you will get the best slide show, the best movie reel at the end of your allotted time. In this way you will link up in yoga with the original Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna, and think of Him often, especially at the crucial moments of your last hours in this transitory world.
So if I was able to communicate to all devotees right now, this is the message I would send, "Blessed is he who always thinks of Lord Sri Krishna, and His pure devotees. His reward will be great. Hare Krishna."
Begging to remain your servant,