“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.54)
“Sure, pal, pour me another one. I’ve got nothing pressing right now. I’m in no rush to get anywhere. In fact, I’m trying my best to forget everything that has just happened. Why me, you know? I don’t think I deserve all this. I’ve been a standup guy my whole life. I don’t think I’ve bothered too many people. And now all of this happens. It’s not fair.
“I’ve heard the old adage, ‘Live like there’s no tomorrow.’ Well, let’s put that to use right now. In computer programming, which I have some proficiency in, there is the concept of a class, which is like an abstract representation of some real world thing. But the class isn’t really anything; it’s a description, a concept. You have to instantiate the class, create an object of it, in order to get any use from it. In the same vein, I’m going to make use of the ‘living like there’s no tomorrow’ motto. I’m going to drink until I drop. I’m going to party with different women as if there are no consequences. No worries. I’m going to pretend like tonight is the last night of my life.”
Indeed, there is a benefit to dropping worries. In the Bhagavad-gita, it is said that the self-realized soul no longer hankers nor laments. Gone is kankshati, the constant hankering for things. “I want this, I want that.” Also gone is the constant worry, shochati. “I don’t have this or that. How am I going to survive? What if I lose this thing that is most precious to me?” The key, however, is to jump to the next logical step. Otherwise, when tomorrow does come, it is quite painful.
What do we mean by this? In the above hypothetical scenario, if the person does wake up the next morning, they won’t find a pleasant situation. The tomorrow that he tried to ignore came anyway. Now he’s left to pick up the pieces. He has to get rid of the headache from the hangover. He has to deal with whatever person he randomly met and forged a relationship with. He has to mend the relationships he may have broken out of haste, erroneously considering that he no longer needed them.
From this example we see that if you live with the motto of “forget about tomorrow,” then continued living is a punishment. It is better to die immediately than to have to deal with the consequences. Another example to think of is the patient who gets the diagnosis that their illness is terminal:
Sir, you have only a few months to live. I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do.
Doctor, are you sure? I’m definitely going to die?
Again, I’m sorry, but there is really no chance that you will live much longer than that.
The patient then decides to go on a spending spree, maxing out every credit card they have. After they have bought everything under the sun using credit, and after they have quit their job, cursed our their landlord, and done some unspeakable things, they get a call from the doctor:
I’m sorry, sir, but it looks like there was a paperwork mix-up. You are going to live in fact. These things happen from time to time. I’m sure the news is a relief to you.
Ah, but it can’t be a relief. Here continued living is a punishment. The flaw is the mentality that the individual ever ceases to live on. With death only the visible manifestation disappears. The consequences to the actions are still due as well. The thief thinks they have escaped from their latest heist, but the laws of nature are not so easily bypassed. Eventually, at the appropriate time and place, the just punishment will be handed out.
In the life of bhakti-yoga, continued living is not a punishment. Death is not needed to escape responsibility. This is because the bhakta lives a pious life. He is free of the burden of speculating on how to please God. Without information of the personal aspect to the Supreme Deity, the best one can do is come up with the motto of “service to man is the best way to please God.” The idea is to do “good works” instead of relying on blind faith.
The problem is that “good” is not easily defined. I think that I am doing good for myself by letting go of my troubles and worries, but in fact that does me harm later on. The thief thinks they are doing good work by taking someone else’s money for their personal benefit. The philanthropist thinks they are helping someone else, while they in fact may be creating an excuse for idleness, thereby supporting a life without purpose.
Bhakti-yoga is equivalent with God. It is non-different from Him because it brings His association. It is all-encompassing. The right thing to do in any situation is to follow whatever keeps the bond of love with the Supreme Lord, remaining within the bounds of propriety established by authorities in the line of disciplic succession that started ages ago with the Supreme Lord Himself.
The “live like there’s no tomorrow” motto can actually be successfully implemented in bhakti-yoga if one so chooses:
I don’t know where I will be tomorrow. By some luck I have found this human body. We are a reasonable creature, so if we want, we can find a reason to do whatever the mind desires. This mind desires transcendence, that which goes beyond the dualities of attachment and aversion. This mind wants that transcendence now, for who knows what tomorrow will bring? Therefore this fortunate soul today has resolved to chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” and think of the Supreme Lord as often as possible, throughout the night.
In this choice, there is no harm to continued living. The devotional consciousness only strengthens, which makes tomorrow very bright. Even if the next day is birth in another body, the consciousness carries over, which is the benediction of the Supreme Deity, whose presence makes every tomorrow bright.
Like there’s no tomorrow I will live,
No attention to responsibility will I give.
But if tomorrow does indeed come,
So much pain from what previously done.
From consequences to work never are we free,
And continued living punishment should not be.
Can seize the moment now when bhakti to try,
Bright tomorrow, whether in birth low or high.