“Maharaja Parikshit, just after receiving the news of his death within seven days, at once retired from family life and shifted himself to the sacred bank of the Yamuna River.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.19.6 Purport)
The news is terrifying, but at the same time not totally unexpected. As Shri Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, for the person who has taken birth, death is certain.
जातस्य हि ध्रुवो मृत्युर्
ध्रुवं जन्म मृतस्य च
तस्माद् अपरिहार्ये ऽर्थे
न त्वं शोचितुम् अर्हसि
jātasya hi dhruvo mṛtyur
dhruvaṁ janma mṛtasya ca
tasmād aparihārye ‘rthe
na tvaṁ śocitum arhasi
“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)
As Shri Rama says in the Ramayana, for the mature human being there is no other fear than death. The comparison is to the ripened fruit, which has no other fate except to fall off the tree.
यथा फलानां पक्वानां नान्यत्र पतनाद्भयम्।
एवं नरस्य जातस्य नान्यत्र मरणाद्भयम्।।
yathā phalānāṃ pakvānāṃ nānyatra patanādbhayam।
evaṃ narasya jātasya nānyatra maraṇādbhayam।।
“As a ripe fruit has no other fear than to fall, so a man who is born has no other fear than death.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 105.17)
You only have seven days to live. That’s what people of authority tell you. The good news is that you can spend it however you wish. You are not confined to a bed in a facility. Complete freedom of motion. There are different options available.
1. Eat and drink as much as you like
No concerns about health. Whether the vital signs are good or bad, the end is near regardless. Why not take the time to enjoy your favorite dishes? Eat the same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Go out to a restaurant and spend whatever is necessary to satisfy the taste buds.
Intoxication is also a possibility. Drink as much as you like. No worries about tomorrow, since in a few days there will be no future. Actually, in the back of your mind you are aware that something must be in store, that beyond this life there is some other kind of living, but right now you don’t know for sure.
2. Binge watch your favorite television show
As intoxication brings an escape from the senses, so too watching television takes the individual to a different time and setting. Choose your favorite television show and watch it from beginning to end. Nothing else to worry about. Laugh, cry, get caught up in the drama – there are no consequences at this moment, or so it seems.
3. Spend time with family and friends
They have meant so much to you. Your parents were everything in childhood. When you were little and just starting school, you would hold your mom’s hand while walking and crossing the street. One day an onlooker said, “Young man, you are growing up. You won’t be able to hold your mother’s hand forever.” In response, your mother said, “Today he is holding my hand, and tomorrow I will hold his.”
It turned out to be true. When your parents were ill, you had to help them to walk, move around, and eat. You are forever indebted to them, along with siblings and well-wishers. Now that the time is short, you would rather spend every moment with them than do anything else.
4. Travel to different places
Because of daily responsibilities, you couldn’t do this before. Just flying away and not caring about anything else was a fantasy, an idea never given serious consideration. Though seven days isn’t much time, there is still the opportunity to see different places, to go where you have never gone. Maybe bring a different perspective on things, escape the bad climate and take in some sights.
5. Sit down and hear Hari-katha
This hypothetical exercise is inspired by a real-life experience of a saintly king several thousands of years ago. He knew the exact end based on a curse applied to him by a powerful priest-like person. Parikshit was essentially the ruler of the world, so he had everything at his disposal. He could have consumed as much wine as desired. He could have travelled to any place and spent time enjoying with friends and family.
Instead, he chose to sit down at the banks of a sacred river and completely give up food and water. He simply heard. The teacher was Shukadeva Gosvami and the subject matter Shri Hari, who is the Supreme Lord. There was question and answer mixed into a narrative. The king learned the position of God with respect to the universe and the living entities. He learned the history of the rulers on earth and how to behave piously.
At the end of life he tasted the nectar of what is known as the Bhagavata Purana. He heard about the lila, or pastimes, of the Supreme Lord in the visible manifestation of Shri Krishna. This was not only the best way to spend the end of days, but also for living in general. It was the genuine eternal life, for central to the teachings was the deathlessness of the spirit soul.
The king would move on to someplace else, just as every living entity does after death. The consciousness at that most crucial moment, of quitting the body, determines the next state of being. Therefore, Parikshit taught everyone not only how to die, but also how to live. His choice benefits every kind of person, in any stage of life. Since most don’t know the precise moment when kala will strike, to have Krishna on the consciousness, through hearing Hari-katha from a bona fide source, will provide the most auspicious passing.
In renounced spirit to sit,
After kingdom to quit.
To spiritual master coming near,
Now topics of Shri Hari to hear.
With only days remaining seven,
Parikshit on path to heaven.
Eternal, the one of Krishna so,
Best way for everyone to go.
Categories: the five