(Click to enlarge photo of changing bodies diorama)
"So nobody wants to leave this body, but the distress is so strong that one is forced to leave this body. That is called death. In the Bhagavad-gītā you will find that mṛtyuḥ sarva-haraś ca aham (BG 10.34). Kṛṣṇa says that 'I am death.' And what is the meaning of death? Death means 'I take everything from him. Finished. I take his body, I take his association, I take his country, I take his society, I take his bank balance, and everything finished.' Sarva-haraḥ. Sarva means 'everything.' Everyone is trying to accumulate big bank balance and big house, big family, big motorcar... But with the death, everything is finished. So that is great distress. Sometimes one cries. You will find at the time of death, in coma, his eye drops are coming out. He is thinking, 'I made so many things so nicely to live comfortably, and now I am losing everything.' Great distress. I know one friend in Allahabad. He was very rich man. So he was only fifty-four years old. So he was requesting, crying, doctor, 'Doctor, can you not give me at least four years to live? I had a plan. I wanted to finish it.' What the doctor can do? 'That is not possible, sir. You must get out.'"
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Germany, June 21, 1974)
"By the mind, intelligence and ego. At the time of death, you think of what you have done all through your life. So the mental situation at the time of death will carry you to the different form of life as your mental situation. We do not see the mind, intelligence, although we say that 'I have got mind. You have got mind. You have got intelligence. I have got intelligence.' So but we do not see it. It is very subtle thing. But after the destruction of this gross body, the subtle body carries me to another gross body. we have got practical experience. The mind is so forceful that you are sitting here, and within a second, you can go to your home or homeland, which may be ten thousand miles away, immediately. The example is given: just like from a garden, rose garden, the flavor is carried by the air, and it is transferred to another place. So in this life, whatever mental creation we are doing or creating, that will be carried in the next life, and according to that, nature will give us a body. So if we think of dog, maybe we are transferred to the dog's body. If I think of God, then I shall be transferred to a god's body. So we have scattered our love for so many things in the material world. We have to collect everything and transfer everything for loving God. That is successful life. So if we think of God, then how we become purified, and next we become transferred to the kingdom of God. And if we think of material things, then again we shall be transferred to another material body."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Caracas, February 23, 1975)
"Just like the painter. He knows how to mix the three original color, namely blue, yellow and red. The red color represents passion, and the yellow color represents ignorance, and the blue color represents goodness. So as the color painter, er, painter knows how to mix and make varieties of colors, similarly, the three modes of material nature being mixed up, they are represented in so many different forms of body. So at the present moment, in your human form of body, you are also mixing the same qualities in your different desires. That means you are creating your next body. So at the time of death the thoughts and the activities which will be prominent within your mind, you will get a similar body in next life. Therefore the intelligent man should be very cautious to get the next body. We can get the body like God; we can get the body like the dog. Therefore the best intelligent person should try to endeavor to get the next body like God. That is Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, that you endeavor in this life so long you are alive to get a body like God. That will solve your all problems, namely birth, death, old age and disease."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Mexico City, February 16, 1975)
"At the time of death, fire burns the gross body, and if there is no more desire for material enjoyment the subtle body is also ended, and in this way a pure soul remains. This is confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti). If one is free from the bondage of both the gross and subtle material bodies and remains a pure soul, he returns home, back to Godhead, to be engaged in the service of the Lord. Tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti mām eti: he goes back home, back to Godhead."
(Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 9.6.54, Purport)
"According to a Bengali proverb, whatever spiritual progress one makes in life will be tested at the time of death. In Bhagavad-gītā (BG 8.6) it is also confirmed: yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ tyajaty ante kalevaram/ taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya sadā tad-bhāva-bhāvitaḥ. Those who are practicing Kṛṣṇa consciousness know that their examination will be held at the time of death. If one can remember Kṛṣṇa at death, he is immediately transferred to Goloka Vṛndāvana, or Kṛṣṇaloka, and thus his life becomes successful. Pṛthu Mahārāja, by the grace of Kṛṣṇa, could understand that the end of his life was near, and thus he became very jubilant and proceeded to completely give up his body on the brahma-bhūta (SB 4.30.20) stage by practicing the yogic process. It is thoroughly described in the following verses how one can voluntarily give up this body and return home, back to Godhead. The yogic process practiced by Pṛthu Mahārāja at the time of death accelerates the giving up of this body while one is in sound health physically and mentally. Every devotee desires to give up the body while it is sound physically and mentally."
(Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 4.23.13, Purport)
"Now the word prayāṇa-kāle in this verse is very significant because whatever we do in life will be tested at the time of death. Arjuna is very anxious to know of those who are constantly engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. What should be their position at that final moment? At the time of death all the bodily functions are disrupted, and the mind is not in a proper condition. Thus disturbed by the bodily situation, one may not be able to remember the Supreme Lord. Mahārāja Kulaśekhara, a great devotee, prays, 'My dear Lord, just now I am quite healthy, and it is better that I die immediately so that the swan of my mind can seek entrance at the stem of Your lotus feet.' The metaphor is used because the swan, a bird of the water, takes pleasure in digging into the lotus flowers; its sporting proclivity is to enter the lotus flower. Mahārāja Kulaśekhara says to the Lord, 'Now my mind is undisturbed, and I am quite healthy. If I die immediately, thinking of Your lotus feet, then I am sure that my performance of Your devotional service will become perfect. But if I have to wait for my natural death, then I do not know what will happen, because at that time the bodily functions will be disrupted, my throat will be choked up, and I do not know whether I shall be able to chant Your name. Better let me die immediately.' Arjuna questions how a person can fix his mind on Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet at such a time."
(Bhagavad-gītā As It Is 8.2, Purport)
"It is not infrequent for a person overly attached to the material body to request a physician to prolong his life at least for some time. If the so-called scientific physician is able to prolong one's life for a few minutes through the use of oxygen or other medicines, he thinks that he is very successful in his attempts, although ultimately the patient will die. This is called the struggle for existence. At the time of death both patient and physician still think of prolonging life, although all the constituents of the body are practically dead and gone."
(Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 4.28.16, Purport)
"Regarding thinking of Krishna at the time of death. It is stated in Bhagavad gita 8th chapter as follows; abhyasa yoga yuktena/ cetasa nanya gamina/ paramam purusam divyam/ yati parthanucintyan (BG 8.8). He who meditates on the Supreme Personality of Godhead his mind constantly engaged in remembering me, undeviated from the path, He oh Partha is sure to reach Me. The proccess for remembering Krishna is very easily done by chanting Hare Krishna Maha mantra. How one should think of Krishna, that is given in the next verse: 'One should meditate upon the Supreme Person as the one who knows everything, Who is the oldest, Who is the controller, Who is smaller than the smallest, Maintainer of everything, and Who is beyond all material conception, Who is inconceivable, Who is always a person and luminous like the sun, and Being transcendental, beyond this material nature.' So Krishna is not something impersonal or void. So you should read my books and try to understand the nature of Krishna the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then it will be easy for you to think of Him."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, August 20, 1974)
"So you have done you duty at the last moments of your wife's life so that she could hear them chanting. As to where she has gone, that depends on what she was thinking of at the time of her passing away. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gita: anta-kale ca mam eva/ smaran muktva kalevaram/ yah prayati sa mad bhavam/ yati nasty atra samsayah (BG 8.5). 'And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.' To remember Krishna requires practice, and this is most easily done by chanting Hare Krishna mantra. I have told Nitai to spread the ashes here in the sea. The maha mantra is the only mantra that need be chanted. Do not neglect this."
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, November 6, 1974)
"So if you don't serve God, then you have to serve dog. But you have to serve. You see practically: so many godless persons, they have no family, no affection, no position, no home, nothing, but still he keeps a dog to serve. This is the characteristic. Because he has nothing to serve, he has no wife, no children, no, nothing, so he must have somebody -- keep a dog. Just see practically. He cannot avoid service. That is your characteristic. If you don't serve God, then you have to serve dog. Now make your choice, whether you shall spoil your life by serving dog and become next life a dog, or by serving God, you, next life you become a god. Make your choice. This is Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. If you want to become a dog next life, that is... Must, yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ tyajaty ante kalevaram (BG 8.6). At the time of death, if you are affectionate to the dog, naturally you'll think of dog, and your soul will be transferred in the womb of a dog. This is nature's way. And similarly, if you practice to love God in this life, at the time of death naturally you'll think of God. Then next life, tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti mām eti kaunteya (BG 4.9). It is explained in the... Tyaktvā deham, everyone has to give up this body, but if, at the time of quitting this body, you think of Kṛṣṇa, immediately you go back to home, back to Godhead, Kṛṣṇa. This is opportunity."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Los Angeles, June 5, 1976)
"This science is unknown to the rascals. Yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ tyajaty ante kalevaram (BG 8.6). At the time of death, your position of the mind will create the next body. This is the science. So if you create your the position of the mind, Kṛṣṇa conscious, then you will get a body like Kṛṣṇa, sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha (Bs. 5.1). This is Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, that 'Why you shall love dog and cats? Love God, Kṛṣṇa, and you get the next body like a Kṛṣṇa.' Sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha. Anādir ādir govindaḥ sarva-kāraṇa-kāraṇam (Bs. 5.1). This is Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, how to think of Kṛṣṇa at the time of death. Then your life is successful.
So that has to be practiced. Sadā tad-bhāva-bhāvitaḥ (BG 8.6). If you always chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare, that means you remember Kṛṣṇa always. So there is chance, ninety-nine percent chance, that at the time of your death you will think of Kṛṣṇa and your life is successful. Very simple method. Make always your mind absorbed in Kṛṣṇa; naturally at the time of death you will think of Kṛṣṇa. Mad-yājino 'pi yānti mām (BG 9.25). That is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā. Tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti mām iti kaunteya (BG 4.9). Such person, Kṛṣṇa conscious person, who knows Kṛṣṇa... If you think of Kṛṣṇa, naturally you know of Kṛṣṇa. You know of Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa is within your heart. So if you think of Kṛṣṇa, then gradually you become Kṛṣṇa-ized. Just like you put the iron rod in the fire. Gradually it becomes fire -- warm, warmer, warmer, then red-hot. When it is red-hot it is fire. Whenever you touch, it will burn immediately. Similarly, if you think of Kṛṣṇa, the same example, touching fire. So Kṛṣṇa will purify you. Śṛṇvatāṁ sva-kathāḥ kṛṣṇaḥ puṇya-śravaṇa-kīrtanaḥ (SB 1.2.17). Just like you are being purified by hearing about Kṛṣṇa daily. Otherwise, why you are coming here? We have no money to bribe you to come here. You are feeling, becoming Kṛṣṇa-ized; therefore you are coming.
So this is the process, simple process. You simply be engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Then you become Kṛṣṇa-ized, purified. And as soon as you become purified, you understand Kṛṣṇa. Sevonmukhe hi jihvādau svayam (Brs. 1.2.234). 'You understand Kṛṣṇa' means Kṛṣṇa becomes revealed. Just like something is covered, you try to move the covering, you see the goal. Similarly, by your constant endeavor to become Kṛṣṇa conscious, Kṛṣṇa will reveal to you, 'Yes. You are so anxious to see Me? Here I am. Here I am. Yes.' You will see Kṛṣṇa. So how this is possible? Premāñjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti (Bs. 5.38). By thinking of Kṛṣṇa, naturally you become attached."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Los Angeles, December 31, 1973)
"Anyone who has forgotten Kṛṣṇa, he is anādi bahir mukha: he is enamored by this external energy, material world. Just like in Bombay city everyone is working hard, very hard. Their mission is, 'How I shall be able to construct a skyscraper building?' That's all. Why they are working so hard? Their mission is that 'I must have a skyscraper house and good apartment and nice wife, nice children and bank balance, then happy.' But he does not know how long these things will continue. Ten years, twenty years, fifty years, hundred years, then finished. Your skyscraper building, your nice wife, your apartment, your friends, everything that you have made, you do not know where you are going. That you do not know. There is risk.
Yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran loke tyajaty (BG 8.6). At the time of death everything will be examined. What are you going to be next? You have to accept another body. So that body will be created in this life, yaṁ yaṁ vāpi, and that bodily structure will be formed at the time of your death. Just like if you leave this apartment, you'll have to go another apartment. So you have to select another apartment, good or bad. That will depend on your capacity, how much rent you are able to pay. Then you leave this apartment. Similarly, at the time of death, by the superior arrangement, another apartment will be given to you, and immediately that is settled up, you leave this body and enter into that body. Daiva-netreṇa, karmaṇā daiva-netreṇa (SB 3.31.1). That will be considered by your work."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Bombay, March 17, 1971)
"The devotee, a great devotee, King Kulaśekhara. He has a nice book, Mukunda-mālā-stotra. I began translating, commenting, this line in Vṛndāvana. So the first verse is he's comparing his mind with the swan. I think you have seen, Jayānanda, when we were walking in Seattle in that park, in a lake the swan were diving near the lotus. You have seen? Yes. That is the practice. The swan takes pleasure where there is, I mean to say, what is called, lotus or lily, lilies. There's a stem. They dive and they entangle their long neck with the... That is their sporting. So Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet, we call, lotus feet. So he says that 'My mind may be entangled with the stem of Your lotus feet just like the swan. Immediately. I can do that now because I am in healthy state. Otherwise at the time of death, kapha-vāta-pittaiḥ, when mucus, bile, everything will be disordered, and my throat will be choked up, I will not be able to speak or chant. So why shall I wait for that time? Now I am fit. Let my mind be absorbed with Your thought and let me die.' That is the technique. That our mind should be always absorbed in Kṛṣṇa thought. So if by Kṛṣṇa's grace, at the time of that last moment of quitting this body, when every function of the body will be disordered we can remember Kṛṣṇa, then our life is successful. So we have to practice this. This, everything, whatever we are doing, it is practicing for the last moment. There is a Bengali proverb, bhajana kara sādhana kara matte janle haya... How you are advancing in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, that will be tested at the time of your death. The examination will be at that time. So if that technique becomes perfect, then our life is perfect. At once you are transferred to the Kṛṣṇaloka. Tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti mām eti kaunteya (BG 4.9). 'My dear Kaunteya, My dear Arjuna, that person, after quitting this body, he never comes back again to this nonsense material world, but he comes to Me.' That is perfection. People have no knowledge who is transferred, where it is transferred, what is God, what is... No, nothing of the sort. Simply eat, drink, be merry and enjoy, and die like cats and dogs. That's all."
(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Los Angeles, November 25, 1968)