Why do some religious teachers use death as a tool to scare people into taking up religious practice?
Question: I have seen that spiritualists often have a standard message: material life is temporary with death possible at any time, so we should enquire about eternal life without delay. Why do they use death as a tool to scare people into taking up religious practice? Anyway, nobody can do that to me because I am not afraid of death.
Answer: I appreciate your concern and would like to present a few thoughts for your consideration.
If you hear a spouse telling his / her partner: ‘I don’t care about our relationship ending’, what does this statement suggest? It could suggest that the spouse is not happy with the relationship, doesn’t value it much and so doesn’t care about ending it. Or if someone says, ‘I don’t care if my car is burnt in riots,’ it could mean he doesn’t value the car. Similarly, if somebody says, ’I am not afraid of losing my life,’ it could mean that he is not enjoying life, doesn’t value it much and so doesn’t care about losing it. So the bravado about being unafraid of death could indicate frustration with life.
Moreover, this bravado of being unafraid of death generally lasts only till one is face-to-face with imminent death. Then one fearfully and desperately tries everything possible to avoid death. But, by then, it’s too late.
Spiritualists feel sad to see people needlessly cut such a sorry figure at the time of death. So they tirelessly strive to share the universal truths of life that can empower one to value life and value death. What are those truths? We are all eternal, indestructible souls, beloved children of God, Krishna, and are entitled to live forever with Him in everlasting bliss. But because we are mistaking ourselves to be our mortal bodies, we are subjecting ourselves to the sufferings of death – life after life.
Spiritualists live in harmony with God by chanting His holy names and offering their love to Him and so they experience peace and joy even in this life. Consequently, they truly value life: not the illusory life wasted in pursuing temporary pleasures, but the real life led in loving harmony with God. And they value death too; death reminds them of the urgency of reclaiming their eternal lives.
Most people are so captivated by hopes of temporary pleasures that they neglect their right to eternal life. So, just as a doctor is duty-bound to alert a cancer-afflicted patient about the disease’s future course, a spiritualist feels duty-bound to alert mortality-afflicted people about their imminent deaths. This is not a scaring technique, but an alerting technique. Fear of death doesn’t spoil the joy of life; rather it points the way to the real joy of life.
Dear Caitanya Caran Prabhu,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I must compliment you on this and all the other articles that you have written and posted on this site. I would like permission to use some of your articles, like this one, to create posters taht we display in our book tent during our Ratha Yatra festivals in South Africa, particularly at the Festival in Durban. What we do is take the contents of such articles (including those from BTG or Prabhupada’s books) and create an nice graphically appealing poster around A1 in size. We use this to attract people to our book tent. Currently we have more than 50 such posters. Your articles will bring that added dimension to our poster collection.
Kindly let me know if this is possible.
Thanking you kindly,
Durban – South Africa