“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.8)
शरीरं यद् अवाप्नोति
यच् चाप्य् उत्क्रामतीश्वरः
वायुर् गन्धान् इवाशयात्
śarīraṁ yad avāpnoti
yac cāpy utkrāmatīśvaraḥ
vāyur gandhān ivāśayāt
1. Where will I go?
This has to be the biggest fear, as it is the area of greatest importance relating to uncertainty. This fear arises already through so many issues in life:
“What will occur after graduation? Will I be able to find employment? That massive student loan debt has to be paid off eventually. I’ve heard that it takes decades to come out from under it. Will I be able to survive that long in an office environment?”
“What will happen if I lose my job? Will I be able to support my family? I don’t want to have to move to a new place just so I can earn enough to put food on the table.”
Known as jara in Sanskrit, old age is one of the guaranteed miseries of life. Once that hits, it is only natural to contemplate the future. I have seen people before me pass on. To where they have gone I am unsure. The same level of uncertainty applies to me, as well.
From Bhagavad-gita we learn that the living entity carries their conception of life moving forward. The physical transfer relates to subtle elements. Namely, the mind, intelligence and ego, which form the subtle body, break apart from the gross body, which consists of earth, water, fire, air and ether.
Though no one has definitive proof of the future, the present provides some indication. I have a conception of life at the moment. The nature started from birth, where parents notice different patterns and behaviors in their children. That is not a random occurrence. From a past life the tendencies carry over due to the factor of consciousness.
The potential destinations are many. A pious person ascends to the heavenly region. The sinner suffers in hell. The person in the middle remains in the earthly region. Everything is commensurate with deeds. Action and reaction.
अक्षरं ब्रह्म परमं
स्वभावो ऽध्यात्मम् उच्यते
akṣaraṁ brahma paramaṁ
svabhāvo ‘dhyātmam ucyate
“The Supreme Lord said, The indestructible, transcendental living entity is called Brahman, and his eternal nature is called the self. Action pertaining to the development of these material bodies is called karma, or fruitive activities.” (Bhagavad-gita, 8.3)
2. What will happen to me?
This fear relates to existence itself. I am afraid to live on because I am not exactly sure when my suffering will end. Will I continue to worry? Maybe it is better to end everything right now, where I have some control over the outcome.
The Bhagavad-gita says that the individual can never be killed. This is the meaning to sanatana. Without beginning and without end. I have no real date of birth because spirit is infinite in its existence. The soul can never be killed.
न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचिन्
नायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूयः
अजो नित्यः शाश्वतो ऽयं पुराणो
न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे
na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ‘yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre
“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)
The concern is unfounded, when there is knowledge of the reality. Arjuna had a similar worry on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, but with a focus on the other combatants. What would happen to them if he showed his amazing prowess in battle and defeated them? Would not everything finish? This is the premise for the Bhagavad-gita conversation, which is led by Shri Krishna.
3. Will I remember the past?
This is often an ancillary concern, especially for someone who knows that they will continue to exist. Will they have the same relationships? Will everything around them be the same?
One easy way to get resolution is to look to the present life. Are experiences from past lives remembered? Do we recall everything that occurred during the first two years of life? Actually, I have a difficult time remembering what I did a week ago.
From Vedic literature we see that in special circumstances sometimes people do remember, such as with Bharata and the deer. King Nriga remembered the offense from his past life that led to the birth as a lizard. The two sons of the demigod Kuvera held the memory of the curse they received previously from Narada Muni, despite standing as trees for a long time.
There is so much uncertainty in an existence, and Shri Krishna and His Vedic culture help to alleviate as much of the tension as possible. As they say, knowledge is power, and the Supreme Lord is the reservoir of all knowledge. He empowers the surrendered souls to be able to liberate both themselves and others. He gives hints and tips appropriate for the times, such as with the chanting of the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Will I remember the past?
After from this life to pass.
Where exactly to go?
Anyone with certainty to know?
Vedic teachings addressing the fear,
Misunderstandings to awareness clear.
That the soul always to exist,
Through time’s continuum to persist.
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