“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)
अन्त-काले च माम् एव
स्मरन् मुक्त्वा कलेवरम्
यः प्रयाति स मद्-भावं
याति नास्त्य् अत्र संशयः
anta-kāle ca mām eva
smaran muktvā kalevaram
yaḥ prayāti sa mad-bhāvaṁ
yāti nāsty atra saṁśayaḥ
“I know that Shri Krishna is the embodiment of mercy and compassion, karuna. An ocean of this mercy, if we are being honest. Without cause, since what did I really do to deserve His grace in my life? Why was I specifically chosen to receive this favor, which I needed for such a long time? Perhaps because I was the lowest of the low, that I had no one else to save me, I became the perfect candidate.
“One aspect to this limitless mercy is the interminable availability of rescue. Liberation can occur at any time. The promise is there in Bhagavad-gita. Simply remember Krishna at anta-kale, at the end of time in this specific jiva-prakriti combination. Then you will attain a nature like His, which is not vulnerable to birth and death, reincarnation, the never-ending wheel of suffering, and so forth.
“A person could make the argument that if they only have to remember Krishna at the end, what is the urgency for beginning devotional life today? Why jump in so soon, when there is ample time to rectify mistakes? If I start today, then fall off, won’t it be more difficult to try something I knew I failed at the first time around?”
The promise is true, and it is meaningful. We are eligible for the purification of consciousness at the most important time, when the consciousness from the entire lifetime gets measured. This is the end of life, so what we consider to be the most important will be what is on our mind.
This lifetime is not the only one. We have forgotten devotional service, the all-compassionate nature of the all-attractive one, since before we can remember. This means that not only do our transgressions from this life get forgiven, but also the cumulative total spanning too many years to fathom.
This makes Shri Krishna the most forgiving person. He would otherwise have sufficient justification to remain upset at everyone. The angry-god image, with the old, bearded man looking down from above would make sense if we studied only a short period of time with respect to existence.
But as God never takes birth and never dies, the same is true for us. We spin on the wheel of suffering, thinking that we arrive at the time of birth and depart at the time of death. That is not the case; though only Krishna can remember the infinite past.
The urgency for devotional life is a hedge against the unknown element of time. We can try to guess based on observation and experience, but no one truly knows when anta-kale will arrive for them. We are putting off something important until tomorrow, when tomorrow may never come.
The effort does not go to waste, either. The progress remains, even in the case of lack of complete purification. This further underscores the compassionate nature of Shri Krishna, who takes notice of even a single utterance of His names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
A watchful eye to find,
And always keeping in mind.
If even once to say,
With holy name to pray.
So that benefit lasting and extending,
Not just for life’s completion pending.
So better now the opportunity taking,
And path to clear consciousness making.