“If one could achieve success without the sanction of the Lord then no medical practitioner would fail to cure a patient. Despite the most advanced treatment of a suffering patient by the most up-to-date medical practitioner, there is death, and even in the most hopeless case, without medical treatment, a patient is cured astonishingly. Therefore the conclusion is that God’s sanction is the immediate cause for all happenings, good or bad.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.14.9 Purport)
For all we know, we’ve had only this one life. The memory of the experiences within this life isn’t complete either, as we don’t remember emerging from the womb nor being unable to crawl or walk. These experiences are accepted on the authority of the parents, but nevertheless, once there is conscious thought and the ability to plan the future, the natural inclination is towards protecting the vital force within the body, for maintaining the ability to live. Forgotten in this mindset, however, is the hand of the divine, by whose influence life and death take place. No adjustment in either direction can guarantee a prolonged life or an immediate death. Thus the sanction of the divine master is the primary cause for outcomes, putting Him in a superior and worshipable position.
Typically, the focus is not on bringing about death at a specific time, for we first try our best to save our life or the lives of others. But an infamous king a long time ago saw exactly how difficult it can be to force death. His five-year old son made the mistake of worshiping Lord Vishnu, the Supreme Lord in His manifestation as an opulent and beautiful four-armed figure. Vishnu is the personal aspect of God; from that feature one can stay connected in a mood of worship known as bhakti-yoga, which is devotion. For devotion to be strong, there has to be some sort of attachment to the attributes of the Personality of Godhead; hence requiring the attributes to be attractive.
“Having obtained the mercy of his spiritual master, who reveals to the disciple the injunctions of Vedic scriptures, the devotee should worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the particular personal form of the Lord the devotee finds most attractive.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.3.48)
In the gradual progression towards bhava, or transcendental ecstasy, the devoted soul finds a non-different expansion of Vishnu they prefer and then dedicates their life to worshiping Him. There are choices available because there are natural tendencies within every person. Some will be automatically attracted to Shri Krishna, who is considered the original personality, the source of even Vishnu Himself. Krishna’s name says that He is all-attractive, and both the mental and physical portraits created from the descriptions found in sacred texts like the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Mahabharata support that assertion.
Nevertheless, some devoted souls will be more attracted to Lord Rama and His entourage. Rama is the same Krishna, the same Vishnu, but in a slightly different manifestation and with a series of acts and behavioral traits discussed and documented in the famous Ramayana poem and its derivative literatures. The devotion to any one of these Vishnu forms can occur spontaneously, as it did with Goswami Tulsidas. In his entire life, he had nothing but his devotion to Lord Rama. “Rama” was the first word the famous poet said as a child and it continued to be the word he would repeat up until the time of his death. Nothing could break that devotion, and no other form of Godhead could give the poet the same pleasure, though he never treated any of the other various Vishnu forms as lesser in importance. Though a Rama-bhakta, from Tulsidas you will find heartwarming poetry praising Lord Krishna, Lord Vishnu as Bindu Madhava, and Narasimhadeva as well.
“In the course of traversing the universal creation of Brahma, some fortunate soul may receive the seed of bhakti-lata, the creeper of devotional service. This is all by the grace of guru and Krishna.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 19.151)
Narasimhadeva relates to the five-year old son of that famous king. The boy was named Prahlada, and he had spontaneous devotion to Vishnu from the time of birth. The seed of the creeper of devotional service is planted by the spiritual master, who is sent by Krishna Himself. For Prahlada, the spiritual master was Narada Muni, who strangely enough provided instruction to the boy’s mother while she was pregnant with him. If there is any doubt as to the power of the holy name and its ability to positively affect consciousness, take the example of Prahlada and know for certain that the divine message from the spiritual realm can break through any boundary and influence even those we believe to be lacking a developed consciousness.
Hiranyakashipu took Vishnu to be his number one enemy, someone only purported to be God by the foolish people of the world. Thinking himself to be the master of his fate and the fate of others, the king tried to kill Prahlada in so many ways. Should have been easy work, no? Prahlada was just a boy, so how could he protect himself? During the attacks instigated by his father the devoted soul thought of Vishnu and was thus saved each and every time. Throwing him off a cliff, placing him in a raging fire, feeding him to a pack of snakes, and leaving him at the bottom of the ocean could not kill Prahlada. The boy wasn’t a Houdini-type magician either; Vishnu just protected him every time.
In the end, it would be Hiranyakashipu to lose his life. Though he had so many boons previously granted to him that made him immune to seemingly every type of attack, Vishnu appeared on the scene at just the right time and place and in the perfect form to do away with the king; keeping the boons intact. Thus from that one series of incidents we see that with the divine sanction birth and death take place, and not otherwise. Through patterns we may appear to get a grasp on what can influence birth and death, but even then it is the laws of nature instituted by the Supreme Person which allow the predictable patterns to take effect.
With respect to protecting our own life, the natural inclination is to try our best to seek out top of the line medical treatment. Just read a newspaper or internet news site on any given day. There are always stories on how to prolong your life through eating certain foods or avoiding specific kinds of behavior. But forgotten in this analysis is the divine sanction. If someone could be successful completely without the aid of the heavenly father, then there would be a way to absolutely stop death. Yet we know that this is not possible.
We can look at it another way. There is the push by health experts and well-meaning politicians to get people to seek preventive care. That is, they urge citizens to visit the doctor regularly. And to support that practice, they insist on every person having health insurance, which is either purchased individually or provided by the government through a national health insurance system. The problem is that the underlying assumption is flawed. People that have health insurance die. In fact, it is a one hundred percent success rate in that area. Or flipping it around, there is a one hundred percent failure rate with respect to health insurance saving lives. Even when describing the effectiveness of certain treatments, the analysis is given in terms of a survival rate spanning a certain number of years. You can’t say that any treatment is one hundred percent effective because eventually every patient must die.
Surely you can be healthier if you can pay for your medical treatment when you need it, but the idea that you will automatically die if you don’t have health insurance is ludicrous, as is the idea that doctors are universally correct in their treatment methodologies. If you went to the doctor every single day for your entire life and you did whatever they said, would you live forever? The answer is ‘No’. You could detect cancer at the earliest stages, recognize illnesses and follow the proper treatment, and even keep track of your risk factors, but never will you be able to stop death. The end of life is concomitant with its beginning.
As the sanction from the Supreme Lord is required for either extending or ending life, He naturally becomes the object of appreciation. If the life we have must end anyway, why not spend it worshiping the person who is in control? From that worship followed in the highest mood of devotion you actually gain intelligence about birth and death and how it repeats in a cycle. Just from the proper type of worship you reach a point where the artificial prolonging of life is no longer desired. As the spirit soul is eternal, the devotee asks only to be allowed to continue their devotional efforts in life after life, wherever they may end up. As Narasimhadeva showed with Prahlada, the Supreme Personality of Godhead comes to the rescue of the surrendered souls and grants them that highest benediction of achieving a consciousness that is eternally pure.
So many possessions you have got,
But death to come, like it or not.
To extend stay within body you can try,
With healthy routine many days to pass by.
But without divine sanction nothing possible,
To thwart His influence is impossible.
His son Prahlada Hiranyakashipu tried to kill,
But after so many attempts the boy living still.
Then Supreme Lord to king painful death gave,
Not even Brahma’s boons the ruler could save.
From that incident most important lesson take,
Follow devotion to God for life fruitful to make.