Why does Krishna emphasise consciousness at death which is much more uncontrollable than consciousness while living?

by Chaitanya CharanAugust 10, 2014

Answer Podcast

Transcribed by: Argha Maji

Question: Why does Krishna emphasise consciousness at death which is much more uncontrollable than consciousness while living?

Answer: Krishna actually emphasises both. And in fact he uses the importance of consciousness at death to stress the importance of consciousness throughout our life. So in BG 8.5 he talks about, anta-kāle ca mām eva smaran muktvā kalevaram . He says, “If you remember me at the time of death, you will attain me.” Then he gives general principle which underlies our post mortem destination in BG 8.6, when he says, yam yam vāpi smaran bhāvam. “Whatever you will remember at the time of death, that’s what you will attain.” And then what does he say after that, in 8.7,

tasmāt sarveshu kāleshu

mām anusmara yudhya ca

mayy arpita-mano-buddhir

mām evaishyasy asamśayah.

tasmāt sarveshu kāleshu. “Therefore at all times O Arjuna remember me. If you remember me, then you will surely attain me.” So here what is happening? He is clearly saying, “If you always remember, then you will surely attain me.” And earlier in 5th verse, he has said, ” Think of me at the time of death, you will attain me.” So the point is “If you think of me throughout your life, then you think of me at the time of death also and then you will attain me.” He also gives the process of how to think of him throughout our life. By offering our mind and intelligence to him. mayy arpita-mano-buddhir. Offering mind and intelligence. Now the point comes up that yes we can to some extent control our consciousness during life when we are healthy but its more difficult to control it at time of death. So, why is death considered so important. Because it is the moment of transition. Just like if we are going on a road and then we come to crossroads. So at that time which road we choose is important because that’s the point of transition. So if I choose the left road then I will go in one direction. If I choose the right road, then I will go in another direction. Now can I make that choice earlier. No when I come to that fork, that’s when I’ll have to make the choice. Now prior to that I can do deliberation and decision. So I can decide OK where do I want to go, which is the path that will take me there therefore I will choose this. So if I decide I want to go from Kolkata to Mayapur and at this particular fork I need to turn left. Then I make that plan and when the fork comes I will go left. So the decision cannot be implemented beforehand. And when we come to the point of transition that’s when we have to implement it. We can make the decision earlier, we can plan to implement the decision but we have to execute it when we come to the fork. So similarly where we will go at the end of this life after we shed this body will be decided when we are at the point of shedding this body. That’s when we are coming to the crossing. So that cannot be literally preacted in the sense that we cannot take a particular fork at a crossroad before we come to it. Similarly we cannot go to a postmortem destination before we die. So that in the sense is the idea that that’s why the moment of death is important. But at the same time if a person plans and decides that this is the road that I am going to take then that’s the road the person will take at the junction.

Similarly if we decide to devote our life to Krishna and practice devotional service throughout our life then at the moment of death we will choose Krishna. We will remember Krishna and we will return to him. Now there are two concepts within Vedic philosophy, there is vidheya mukti and there is jivan mukti . Vidheya mukti means the soul gives up the body and becomes liberated. That may be impersonal liberation or that may be personal liberation to Vaikuntha or Goloka. Either way it is vidheya mukti. And jivan mukti which Srila Prabhupada also refers to in the Bhagavad Gita.

īhā yasya harer dāsye

karmanā manasā girā

nikhilāsv apy avasthāsu

jīvan-muktah sa ucyate (Bhakti-rasāmrita-sindhu 1.2.187)

So if we offer our whole existence to Krishna then by offering that existence to Krishna completely we are as good as liberated in material existence. And eventually when the time comes we will return back to Krishna. So jivan mukti means one is jivit, one is alive right now but one has devoted oneself to Krishna and therefore what binds us to this world is our desires to enjoy this world and if we have devoted ourselves to Krishna, we have given up the desires to enjoy separate from him then we will return to Krishna. So that’s jivan mukti. So actually if we practice devotional service seriously then we can come to a state similar to that of jivan mukti and then what specific way in which we die will become inconsequential. So, sometimes advanced devotees may die in some accidents or in some situation which may not seem very devotional but if they have devoted their lives to Krishna then it won’t matter how they depart.

Because they have already become attached to Krishna and even if they are not in an external environment which offer stimuli for remembering Krishna that means they are in a fire or car accident or something like that but still because their heart is devoted to Krishna their heart’s devotion will naturally come surfaced and they will remember Krishna. And we also know that when Ramanujacharya asked Kanchipurna about this. Kanchipurna is his worshippable deity. The question was, “What if a devotee is not able to remember Krishna at the time of his death?” Then the deity replied, “Actually Krishna will remember the devotee at the time of death. And Krishna will help that devotee to return back to him.” So Krishna will manifest himself, his own remembrance in the heart of that devotee and thereby Krishna will help that devotee to remember him and return back to him. So, is it that moment of death is so unpredictable , so much based on chance, so much out of control that it will be chaotic? No, its not like that. It is difficult to remember Krishna when the body is sickly and when the body is disintegrating but actually if we prepare throughout our life to remember Krishna then that time we will naturally take shelter of Krishna. So, we should not become fearful of the moment of death unnecessarily .

There can be healthy and unhealthy fear. Unhealthy fear is that, “O who knows what will happen at the time of death and even if I remember Krishna now, if I can’t remember Krishna at time of death, then everything will be lost.” That sort of unhealthy fear we can counter by remembering that Krishna will remember us and Krishna will help us to remember him, if somehow things become so bad that we are unable to remember him at time of death. But we can also know that it is unhealthy fear and it can be countered by remembering Krishna’s promise and assurance.

But the healthy fear is good. That at death its not easy to remember Krishna so therefore I need to practice. And now when I have the facility to remember Krishna if I take it seriously then by taking the facility to remember Krishna seriously now eventually I will be able to remember to Krishna. And by remembering Krishna I will be able to eventually return to him.

So the moment of death being a transition is important but what happens at the transition is not chaotic, it is determined by what we do in preparation for that moment of transition. And Krishna guides us, Krishna and his devotees guide us to prepare effectively and Krishna and his devotees also promise that we will help you. So there are examples of Prabhupada disciples, like say Sudama Maharaj, later Sudama Prabhu when he was dying he said, “Prabhupada you have come” and he left his body with a great sense of relief from his face. So, some agencies beyond what we can see made the arrangement for him to be Krishna Conscious at time of his death. So basically Krishna gives us the facility to prepare and Krishna gives the assurance that he will help us to remember so that’s why we don’t have to worry too much about what will happen at the time of death. We can worry enough so that we become serious in our present practice of devotion. Thank you. Hare Krishna.

About The Author
Chaitanya Charan