Is there anyone of us who doesn’t have to worry about dying? No. Death is certain for every one of us. An ancient saying goes that only two things are certain in this world—death and taxes. The government will tax you and mother nature will kill you. That’s a fact. These bodies will not remain forever. So the art of dying is of significance to each and every human being.
Unfortunately, when we mention ‘The Art of Dying’ most people think, “That doesn’t really apply to me. I don’t have to worry about that.” Maybe if someone has cancer then they might be interested, but the average, healthy person will not be interested, even though the Art of Dying is the most important art or science or technique or methodology that one should study. The fact is that at any moment we can be snuffed out by the laws of material nature. Any minute, in a traffic accident, or even a heart attack. Some criminal could attack us to rob us of our money and shoot us. Since we can never know when death is coming, we have to be prepared at every minute.
What is that preparation? The first step is to realise, ‘I am not the body. I don’t die.’ As long as we continue to identify with this material body we remain within the clutches of karma chakra—or the wheel of karma. When we perform an activity, we get the result. That result binds us. We perform another activity under the influence of the first activity, which further binds us. This just goes on for action after action, for millions and millions of lifetimes. As long as we remain in bodily consciousness we remain caught up in the cycle of ‘Janma mrtyu jara vyadhi—birth, death, old age and disease’. We continue to experience death again and again in different bodies as we travel from one species to another—living life out as a tree, a mosquito, an ant, a rat, a cat, a dog, a hog, a monkey, a human and innumerable such situations.
Who is this traveller—changing bodies as one changes clothes during the day? This traveller is the spirit soul. We are not this body, but the driver within the car like machine of the body—an eternal, ever blissful individual. When one realises ‘I am not this body. I am an eternal spiritual being’—then one becomes a candidate for liberation. I say candidate because this understanding that you are not the body is not enough. To have a theoretical spiritual understanding is not enough. You have to actually become solidly situated in and manifest your spiritual identification.
If I say, “I am a spiritual being; I am not the body,” but yet I am still addicted to satisfying the needs of my senses then I am not liberated. Even though I know better, as long as I am caught up in gratifying the body and all its needs, I am a conditioned soul. I am trapped and I am subjected to the laws of death, under which I must suffer, again and again.
So what is the solution to unlimited death and suffering?
We have to embrace our really identity—‘jivera swarup hoye Krishnera nitya das’. We are the eternal servants, of the Supreme Absolute truth, the Supreme Soul, Sri Krishna. All our activities must be dovetailed to Him, keeping Him in the centre. When we practise remembering and meditating on Sri Krishna throughout our life—we can remember Him at the time of death. Our consciousness, or whom we think of, at the time of our death, determines which body we will get in the next life. Hence, we prepare ourselves for the ‘Art of Dying’—dying while thinking of Sri Krishna.
How hard is this preparation?
This process is fun. It requires work, yes. But the work is fun. If one is very greedy to achieve a certain goal, then one does not mind working hard to get it. That work automatically becomes fun. Just like a successful businessman, he is becoming a millionaire and then a billionaire. He loves going to the office every day. He is fired up. He only sleeps four hours. He gets up early in the morning. These successful businessmen they don’t sleep very much because they are excited to make more money. So the serious spiritual practitioner is the same. Just like the businessman is greedy for more money, the devotee is greedy for bhakti—or devotional service to Sri Krishna. He wants to make as much spiritual advancement every day at every minute as much as he possibly can. He does not want to waste his time in philosophies or bodily engagements. He simply wants to focus on awakening the dormant love of God within the heart because once one achieves that state of consciousness, his happiness surpasses even that of the richest and most powerful beings in the Universe.
This article is an excerpt from a talk by Sriman Sankarshan Das Adhikari, a practitioner and teacher of the science of Bhakti Yoga for over 36 years. He is an initiated disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder/Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Well known for his Internet based training program, the Ultimate Self Realisation Course, he has garnered more than 12,000 subscribers from over 100 different countries who receive a daily inspirational message and personal answers to their questions regarding how to become perfect in Krishna consciousness. Those who are interested can join his course at: www.backtohome.com