“The highest perfection of human life, achieved either by complete knowledge of matter and spirit, by practice of mystic powers, or by perfect discharge of occupational duty, is to remember the Personality of Godhead at the end of life.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.1.6)
जन्म-लाभः परः पुंसाम्
janma-lābhaḥ paraḥ puṁsām
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada gives the reminder. The best completion to this lifetime, of everything we have done, in preparation for the next life, is to remember the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
The Sanskrit is ante narayana-smritih. Ante refers to time. It is actually infinite in both directions. Move backwards, tracing out the past lives, and it is impossible to find a firm beginning. Some will say that the conditioned souls, the jivas, were part of the brahmajyoti, or the light of the spiritual energy. As if by random, like mustard seeds dropped on the blade of a sword, some souls fell to the material world, while others stayed in the spiritual realm.
Another analogy is to the shore at the beach. Sometimes the waves creep over, meaning that the area is underwater. Sometimes the waves fail to reach; so the area stays dry. The living entity thus toggles; it is in the marginal position, though originally spiritual in nature.
Yet since time is infinite, we can never say with certitude that the individual was at one place forever at a fixed moment in the infinite past. There is a beginning to a beginning and an end to an end. Ante here refers to the completion of the present lifetime, which is all we know. As Shri Krishna confirms in the Bhagavad-gita, only He can remember the past lives.
बहूनि मे व्यतीतानि
जन्मानि तव चार्जुन
तान्य् अहं वेद सर्वाणि
न त्वं वेत्थ परन्तप
bahūni me vyatītāni
janmāni tava cārjuna
tāny ahaṁ veda sarvāṇi
na tvaṁ vettha parantapa
“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.5)
Narayana refers to the same Krishna. It is a reference to the personal side of God. He is more than Brahman. The conditioned souls in the brahmajyoti have the vulnerability to fall on the wrong side of the sword, but Narayana never falls. When He appears in this world, it is as if He descends from a higher realm. The identification is as avatara, such as with Krishna, Rama, and Narasimha.
Smriti is remembrance. At the end of this lifetime, which is certainly not the end of everything, keep Narayana in mind. This is the best way to move on to the next life. What we remember at the end determines the next kind of existence, the state of being.
यं यं वापि स्मरन् भावं
त्यजत्य् अन्ते कलेवरम्
तं तम् एवैति कौन्तेय
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)
The process to remember is not difficult, but to make a firm decision in that direction is. Shastra provides this education, the sadhu is a living embodiment of it, and the guru gives the personal recommendations. Three pillars of strength, travelling on parallel lines, guiding the wayward souls towards the transcendental light.
1. Memorize a shloka
To remember a verse from Bhagavad-gita is a way to remember Narayana. He is the one speaking to Arjuna, after all. He provides the visual confirmation during that conversation, by first displaying the universal form [virata-rupa] and then the vision of Narayana.
2. Visualize the guru and their life in devotion
To remember the guru and their steadfast worship is another way to remember Narayana. They are the Supreme Lord’s representative, after all. They are identical in the sense of interest. This is one way to validate, to prove authenticity, within the sacred teacher.
3. Chant the maha-mantra
To chant the holy names is the easiest way to remember Narayana. The guru passes down the formula, authorized within the important texts. This shabda-brahman, the non-different sound representation of the Absolute, is like being next to Narayana. Though we think He is far away, He is always close by, especially prepared to provide safe passage to the life in liberation when this one completes. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Destined for the end,
But where next to send?
Determined by memory at hand,
In material or spiritual to land.
Remembering Narayana the best,
Towards reincarnation the rest.
Sadhu, shastra and guru showing,
Way toward liberation going.
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