“Shukadeva Gosvami, after citing the example of Maharaja Khatvanga, who prepared himself for the next life within a very short time, encouraged Maharaja Parikshit by saying that since he still had seven days at his disposal, he could easily take advantage of the time to prepare himself for the next life.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.1.14 Purport)
The rational human being, matured into adulthood or close to it, eventually asks themselves questions along these lines:
“What is the point to it all? Why am I here? What is the purpose of living? When I am old and gray, reflecting on the many days past, looking toward the inevitable end of death, which is quickly approaching, what will I want to have accomplished? How will I want to have lived my life?”
Religion is known to be a way of addressing these concerns, but faith alone fails to bring confidence in the nature of the future. If what lies ahead is uncertain, then everything from today cannot be guaranteed to produce the proper result.
Fortunately, the Vedas have the different potential destinations covered. That is to say a person need not speculate. They can look to historical accounts, spanning thousands of years and a variety of situations and circumstances, to see what life might be like at the end.
1. Insanely rich
We can use the case of Ravana, the Rakshasa king of Lanka from many ages back. This was an instance of genuine wealth. Not merely a bank statement attesting to the fact. Not just money in theory, potential only to be realized upon the sale of assets in a particular company. Not a vast accumulation of a paper currency, whose value sways up and down like the tides of the ocean.
Ravana had gold everywhere. There were crystals in the walls of the buildings. There were many palaces, housing many queens. Enough wine and animal flesh for ten mouths to consume and more. Ravana reached the destination that so many can only dream of. Even winning the lottery today wouldn’t come close to matching what the son of Vishrava possessed.
Nevertheless, he was not happy. He was not at peace. Kama, or lust, consumed him instead of the other way around. The rational person assesses the situation as follows:
“What need is there for worrying? Why be lusty after something when you already have everything? Why not remain satisfied?”
2. Expert ability
The specific realm here is yoga. Not the modern-day gymnastics discipline or even sitting in a hot room for hours at a time, this was the genuine art of mysticism practiced and perfected by those following the authority of Vedic instruction. There was success in the eight limbs of yoga, also known as ashtanga.
धारयन्न् अचलं स्थिरः
सम्प्रेक्ष्य नासिकाग्रं स्वं
मनः संयम्य मच्-चित्तो
युक्त आसीत मत्-परः
dhārayann acalaṁ sthiraḥ
samprekṣya nāsikāgraṁ svaṁ
manaḥ saṁyamya mac-citto
yukta āsīta mat-paraḥ
“One should hold one’s body, neck and head erect in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose. Thus with an unagitated, subdued mind, devoid of fear, completely free from sex life, one should meditate upon Me within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal of life.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.13-14)
The rewards are known as siddhis. These are perfections, which manifest as abilities. They do not come easily. More than just sitting in a certain place in a certain way, there have to be behavioral controls. Neither too much eating nor too much sleeping. Complete abstinence from sex life; the vow of brahmacharya.
The resultant abilities sound too amazing to believe. Change your shape at will. Become light or heavy at a moment’s notice. Appear and disappear on the spot. Create objects just by contemplating as such.
As with Ravana, yogis in this direction fail to find peace and contentment. They work so hard to reach the stage of siddhis, but then they need a direction for the subsequent application. If the mentality is the same as getting rich and enjoying stuff, the original purpose gets defeated.
3. Extremely knowledgeable
Know more than the answers to trivia questions on television game-shows. Know more than how to treat patients or solve complex mathematics equations. The discussion is of real knowledge, reaching the essence. Understanding anu, paramanu, purusha, prakriti, kala, karma, kama, dharma, artha, moksha and other concepts presented in ancient Sanskrit texts which have applicability to every time period and every person.
A proper assessment looks at the end result. After so much knowledge, there has to be an exercise of some sort. No person can stop working; not for a second. Even sleep is a kind of activity.
न हि कश्चित् क्षणम् अपि
जातु तिष्ठत्य् अकर्म-कृत्
कार्यते ह्य् अवशः कर्म
सर्वः प्रकृति-जैर् गुणैः
na hi kaścit kṣaṇam api
jātu tiṣṭhaty akarma-kṛt
kāryate hy avaśaḥ karma
sarvaḥ prakṛti-jair guṇaiḥ
“All men are forced to act helplessly according to the impulses born of the modes of material nature; therefore no one can refrain from doing something, not even for a moment.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.5)
Present day life provides evidence along the same lines. So many people are wealthy and still unsatisfied. Scientists have found ways to travel into space, temporarily bypassing the yoga standard, but at great expense. Awarding doctorates and other honorary titles elevates a person to the status of scholar.
The question always remains, “Now what?” Death is on the march, quickly approaching. What will the next life look like? Will the achievements from this life carry over? If not, what was the point of it all?
The ripened fruit from the tree of Vedic literature is the Shrimad Bhagavatam, and interestingly the storyline in which the teachings and transcendental descriptions are presented is a person preparing to die. Maharaja Parikshit has renounced the world and has the blessing of knowing the precise date of his exit from this world.
He decides to hear from the teacher Shukadeva about transcendental topics. More specifically, there is shravanam, or hearing, about God the person, Bhagavan, and how He manages the world, enters into it from time to time, and what to learn from such experiences. From studying Parikshit Maharaja alone there is a firm understanding of how to live life, how to make effort worthwhile at any stage, to look back on each day with a positive assessment.
So hard now to try,
But knowing one day to die.
To become insanely rich for,
Perhaps with siddhis of yoga or.
Vedas having every destination covered,
From Bhagavatam better way discovered.
Like Parikshit for imminent death to prepare,
In most crucial time of Bhagavan aware.
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