“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)
Friend1: Do you ever get angry when someone dies?
Friend2: What do you mean by angry? I’m upset sometimes, for sure.
Friend1: Do you look up to the heavens and show a clenched fist to the man upstairs? I’ve done this a few times.
Friend2: Everyone has, I think. Yeah, when the death happens unexpectedly, to someone we care about, we’re bound to run through a whole range of emotions.
Friend1: Yeah, I was thinking over this the other day. It seems irrational, though.
Friend2: What does? Death or the anger?
Friend1: Being angry. Because what is the alternative?
Friend2: The person who died stays with you? They don’t die?
Friend1: Right, but for how long? Say that they didn’t die and they are back with me. Does that mean that they will never die?
Friend1: Of course not. Exactly. So what justification do I have for being angry? I thought of the alternative and it seems even more scary.
Friend2: What is that?
Friend1: Oh okay, this is a good game to play. Imagine if God, the all-powerful, gave you the boon of everything staying the same. The house that you live in, the people around you, the job that you work at – everything would remain that way forever. There would never be a change.
Friend1: So no one would willingly accept that, would they? They would feel trapped.
Friend2: Of course. If you don’t have some kind of change to look forward to, you’ll go nuts. It’s like you’re stuck in prison.
Friend1: Exactly. That’s the conclusion I reached. This means that we can’t really be mad at God for death. He’s kind of doing us a favor. We don’t realize it at the time, but it’s true.
Friend2: You know, this makes for a good segue into the issue of liberation.
Friend1: The end of birth and death?
Friend2: Right. In the school of impersonalism, the belief is that when there is liberation, you get nothingness. You merge into the truth of Brahman. You lose your identity, essentially. No more activity, no more variety, no more anything.
Friend1: That doesn’t seem like it would be fun.
Friend2: Exactly. They’ll tell you that fun is a concept in duality. There is no such thing as “fun” in liberation. There is no anything; just the light of Brahman. Of course that’s not really true. Why would you seek out liberation if it wasn’t a better situation than the one you’re in now?
Friend1: I totally agree with you. So does that mean that liberation is inferior to reincarnation?
Friend2: No, it just shows that their definition is incomplete. Liberation must have variety. Otherwise, it would be a punishment. Real liberation is service to God, known as bhakti-yoga. You’re always serving, doing this thing and that. Your conditions will change for sure, but the changes don’t have a negative influence.
Friend1: Hmm, that’s a little tough to follow. Can you explain further?
Friend2: Consider the spiritual land of Goloka Vrindavana. In the school of personalism, we’re told that this is the highest destination in liberation. Only the person who purely desires to be with the Supreme Lord in His personal form of Krishna gets to go there.
Friend2: The place doesn’t look all that different on the surface. There is a variety of living entities. There are houses. There are the same seasons, so time exists. The difference is that none of these bear any influence in the service to Krishna. Everyone there is happily engaged in serving Him, so much so that they don’t even know that He is God.
Friend1: Why wouldn’t they know that?
Friend2: It’s the influence of yoga-maya, the direct energy of Krishna. Here we are under the influence of maha-maya, where we forget Krishna and it ends up hurting us. Under yoga-maya, Krishna directly takes control, meaning that the energy helps us out.
Friend1: How would forgetting that Krishna is God be helpful?
Friend2: If you’re constantly aware that the darling child of mother Yashoda is the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, your service might not be so pure. You might be tempted to sit back and take from Krishna instead of give to Him. Taking won’t make you as happy, so the forgetfulness here is a great thing.
Friend1: And so life there is considered liberation?
Friend2: Absolutely. You’re not stuck in a single setting. You have endless variety. Even if you are a tree, you get to witness so much. Things are always changing, but there is the constant of Krishna’s presence and service to Him. You can create the same here through practicing bhakti-yoga. You’ll see that in chanting the holy names, that the pleasure increases more and more as time passes.
Friend1: That’s pretty cool. There’s nothing to be angry about then. Just like I was thinking, who would want to stay in this land devoid of Krishna’s company forever and ever? Why not go for the higher living?
Friend2: And it is indeed living. The soul is eternal, so it can never not exist. Vrindavana is the land that forgets time and space and remembers only the sweetness of Krishna and the sounds from His flute, a sweetness that can be matched through the sound of His names chanted in special sequence: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
At loss of a loved one to see,
Angry at Supreme Lord to be.
But at death what alternatively?
At the same setting living miserably.
Liberation meant to bring activity,
Not to be stateless in perpetuity.
In Vrindavana blissful changing scene,
With bhakti in this world also can be seen.