Next to our school, there is an area where we have a couple of Vaishnava Samadhi Mandirs, tombs of departed saints. Gunagrahi Maharaja’s body was buried here just a couple of weeks ago. While I was offering my obeisances and a few prayers to Maharaja I remembered a promise that I made. After I had written my blog on Maharaja’s disappearance, one of my old friends, whom I just recently reconnected with through Facebook, sent me a question `Why are you guys so much into preparing for death?`. I answered with `A good Question, maybe a topic for another Blog. ` So here it is:
A spiritualist tries to find a solution to the real problems of life which are birth, disease, old age and death. In order to free one’s self from the cycle of birth and death one has to reawaken one`s original spiritual identity and develop one`s loving relationship with God.
Of course, If one does not believe in a life after death, in the existence of God, in a deeper meaning in life, or if one believes that after death everything is just over and the goal of life is to simply enjoy as much one can — then preparing for death does seem to be a strange endeavor.
But if this life is understood as a kind of training, in which we strive for self-realization then death means the final test to examine how much we have progressed on our journey. Anyone who wants to be successful in any kind of study will definitely prepare for an important exam, so why not for this one?
Maharaja Pariksit, the emperor of the world, asked Sukadeva Goswami, a great saint, about the duty of a man who’s about to die. Sukadeva Goswami's answer was that one should hear about, glorify and remember God, and that the highest perfection of human life is to remember the Personality of Godhead at the time of death. 1
Why is that so? That's explained by Sri Krishna Himself in the Gita: „Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail. Whoever, at the end of his life, quits his body remembering Me alone at once attains My nature. Of this, there is no doubt.“ 2
In modern science, there is a study called Thanatology which tries to understand what happens at the time of death. They have analyzed that many people who have had a near-death experience describe the same sequence of events. The first thing a dying person goes through is a moment of complete darkness, then a light can be seen somewhere in the distance and the person is leaving the body by sliding with high-speed through a long tunnel. Ancient Vedic scripture, such as the Brhad-aranya Upanisad, confirm this and explain how at the time of death, the life force that is pervading the entire body is brought back into the heart. The soul, therefore, is no longer able to perceive anything because the connection to the body has been severed. This darkness, however, lasts only a few seconds, because the Supersoul, God in the heart, opens a certain canal for us to leave the body. Ayurveda describes 118 different canals, called nadis, through which the soul may leave the body at the end of his life.
Most significant for our discussion is the next stage: Before actually leaving the body, the dying person goes through his own `Life Movie`, that means he not only sees but also experiences the most important scenes of his life. In other words, he simultaneously becomes the main actor and the observer of his own life. In this observer role one becomes really aware of how one spent his life and how one dealt with other people. As in modern day film industry, there are many genres of movies such as drama, comedy, thriller, action or horror. Similarly, our life movie will belong to a certain genre according to our consciousness and activities. What movie will we see at the time of death? An interesting question indeed! Because whatever `movie` we have created will determine our next birth.
To always remember Krishna is not only a preparation for death but a very blissful lifestyle in a consciousness full of love and gratitude. Those who have perfected this do not return to the cycle of birth and death but return home, back to Godhead.
1 - Srimad Bhagavatam 2.1.5-6
2 - Bhagavad Gita 8.6 / 8.5