“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)
Girish: Hey, I just visited the swami in the hospital.
Shankar: How’s he doing?
Girish: Not good. He’s saying that he’s ready to leave the planet. He doesn’t want any more treatment.
Shankar: Oh no. What happened? Were they able to figure out what’s wrong? I don’t understand this.
Girish: No, nothing. He just keeps getting worse and worse. He says that he’s in too much pain and he knows his current body has become useless. He’s ready to go back.
Shankar: He’s a true sannyasi. He doesn’t just preach renunciation. What is the situation like over there?
Girish: Well, there’s the maha-mantra playing in the background the entire time. There are kids in front of him reading from the Krishna book.
Shankar: You know why that’s happening, right?
Girish: Yeah, like you’re supposed to remember God at the time of death, no? Whatever state of being you have while quitting your body that state you attain in the next life without fail.
Shankar: Right. So in his condition there is no guarantee of when he’ll pass. It could be today or in a week. You want to make sure there is every opportunity to hear the holy name, which is non-different from God. But the situation over there right now is intentional; he’s doing it to teach others.
Girish: What do you mean?
Shankar: Think about it. He’s spent his whole life in service to Krishna and the guru. They say that service to each runs along parallel lines. You can’t just pick one. He’s not like us. He didn’t have it easy.
Girish: How so?
Shankar: If we give up eating meat, people expect it. When you tell people that you’re going to a temple to bow down before a statue, sing songs and then eat holy food, they don’t oppose you so much. They think it’s part of your religion.
Girish: That’s true.
Shankar: But it’s not the same with him. Understandably, his family will wonder why he’s abandoning their “faith.” They don’t see the difference between faith and a way of life, that self-realization is a science and not just some magic that you believe in. To give up eating meat is a big deal for him. To live in a temple and dedicate your whole life to serving a religious tradition that is foreign to his culture requires full surrender.
Girish: Yeah. I’m so amazed at these people who are able to fight through everything. They must be so confident of the path they’ve chosen.
Shankar: So that surrender gets rewarded. He’s already liberated. He’s creating that atmosphere in the room to teach others. Those kids who are reading from the Krishna book are getting the benefit. The swami already thinks of the pastimes of the personal form of God. He never forgets Krishna. He’s showing others the right way to die.
Girish: Yeah, and to me he’s also proving that he really isn’t attached to the body. But why does Krishna take people like this? Why is the swami in so much pain? I know I shouldn’t think these things, but I’m puzzled by it.
Shankar: You can compare it to changing scenes in a play. One second the lead actor is wearing clothes for sleeping and after a while they change into something else for a different scene. We see the swami in his present body, but he is actually spirit soul. Krishna will simply send him to a different field for working. He is actually Krishna’s child; he does not determine his own fate anymore.
Girish: I see. And what about others?
Shankar: They are under the control of the material energy. God is the seed-giving father and the material nature is the mother. So both combine to give the individual a place to live for a temporary period. When Krishna consciousness is lacking, the laws of the material energy dictate where the next birth will take place. For the swami, it is Krishna Himself who will determine.
Girish: That’s pretty powerful.
Shankar: Yeah, to us the swami looks frail and weak. Ever since I’ve known him he’s been of poor health. Yet his disposition never changed. He was always the same. This means that he was liberated in this very life. He already belongs to Krishna, and so the Lord is simply getting ready to take Him somewhere else, where the field will be better.
Girish: Sort of like the parents taking the children off the playground when it starts raining?
Shankar: Exactly. Like I said, he has long since relinquished control. It is a very kind act on the part of Krishna. We are seeing His mercy right now in the situation there at the hospital. Through the swami’s passing, we are getting to see God. It is a rare opportunity, providing invaluable lessons.
Girish: I’m going to miss him. He was such a nice person.
Shankar: Yeah, he taught me so much, in ways that I never fully grasped. All the theory behind bhakti-yoga, on how it should be the eternal occupation, how it gives the bliss that has long since eluded us – he put that into practice. He showed exactly why the chanting of the holy names is the way to spend your days living, and hearing those names is the way to go out. In that temple when I hear the holy names, I will always think of him: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Dying soul on his way out,
But not Krishna consciousness without.
Pastimes of the Lord to hear,
To leave world without fear.
To others valuable lesson giving,
On how time best spent while living.
Under Krishna’s control, fate sealed,
For bhakti onto better playing field.