What To Say To A Grieving Friend

[Krishna's lotus feet]“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)

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Friend1: Alright, tough situation time.

Friend2: For you or me?

Friend1: For someone else, and now extending to both of us.

Friend2: What did you do now?

Friend1: A friend of mine suffered a loss in the family.

Friend2: Oh no, that’s terrible. Unexpected?

Friend1: Not entirely, but somewhat. The loss is still a loss; it’s hitting them that they won’t see this person ever again.

Friend2: Yeah, nothing can prepare you for something like that.

Friend1: So now the problem comes to me, because I want to know what to say. It extends to you, as well, since you have to help me figure it out.

Friend2: What do you mean? There is nothing you can say.

Friend1: I understand that, but how should I act? Is there a way to console them?

Friend2: You do realize that the Bhagavad-gita deals with this very situation? Arjuna was grieving already, before anything had happened. The war hadn’t even started yet.

[Arjuna grief]Friend1: Okay, but Krishna wasn’t necessarily a grief counselor. They talked about higher topics, birth and death, the science of self-realization, and the like.

Friend2: And? What is your point? You don’t think that is the most important message to bring to someone? It is especially relevant when death is on the table, when there is a loss plainly visible.

Friend1: As opposed to the potential down the road?

Friend2: Everyone understands that death is inevitable. What has taken birth must die, and vice versa. That is one of the truths Krishna told Arjuna, as a way to encourage him to proceed in the fight, which was the warrior’s duty.

“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: I have no problem quoting Bhagavad-gita verses here, starting with the one that explains how for the soul there is no death, that having once been he never ceases to be. It makes sense. There is relevance. Here’s the thing. Won’t others think I am preaching to them, that I am imposing my religious views on them?

Friend2: Who is talking about religion? Does Krishna say that only Hindus go through reincarnation? Does He explain that people who follow a certain religion have a soul that is imperishable?

Friend1: No; that would sound ridiculous.

Friend2: Then?

Friend1: I’m just saying, they hear “Bhagavad-gita” and they hear “Krishna” and they might relegate the words to some mystic faith practiced by people from the East.

Friend2: Fine, then just present the words in your own way. You can say, “Hey listen, I know it’s a tough time right now, but know for sure that the soul lives on. It is never destroyed. That soul came into your life, did some good, and has now moved on. The thing you saw was merely a body, which each of us is destined to give up at some point.”

Friend1: Oh, that’s pretty good.

Friend2: And if they have more questions, you can continue speaking from the Bhagavad-gita. This is an example of how guru-parampara works.

Friend1: Right, but typically we equate the guru with a person wearing the garb of a mendicant and speaking to an assembled gathering of many people.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Friend2: Sure, but it doesn’t have to be limited to that situation. Just tell everyone you meet about Krishna-upadesha, the instructions flowing directly from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Lord Chaitanya says that on His order such a person becomes a guru.

In Closing:

Sudden loss in stunning disbelief,

Friend dealing with unexpected grief.

Trouble finding right words to say,

Timeless wisdom from Gita’s way.

That for soul never death to be,

Ever since only the body to see.

That again to find something to cover,

Such truths from Krishna discover.



Categories: conversations

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