“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.9)
जन्म कर्म च मे दिव्यम्
एवं यो वेत्ति तत्त्वतः
त्यक्त्वा देहं पुनर् जन्म
नैति माम् एति सो ऽर्जुन
janma karma ca me divyam
evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
naiti mām eti so ‘rjuna
On his last day in office, the outgoing leader decides to declassify information related to several controversial investigations which took place during his term. Previously, there was the excuse of ongoing litigation holding everything back, but in truth the information would expose many bad actors within the government.
People are shocked at what is revealed, wanting to know even more about what else they have been lied to about through the years. As there is the inherent belief in God possessing omnipresence and perfect memory, there might even be the hope that in the afterlife every lie will be revealed, that the truth will finally come out to so much deception.
From Vedic literature we learn that there are more important questions to answer at the time of death. Knowing trivia will not do much for me in the long-term, especially as it relates to scandals occurring in a temporary world.
1. Do you know God?
He is the person that brought us to this world. He is the lone reality in the place otherwise governed by illusion. I mistake a snake for a rope. I take this temporary body to make my full identity, despite the many changes. I was once a student in school. I was once a flourishing athlete in a sport. I am currently a father, but perhaps in the future I will be a grandfather.
None of these identifications are permanent. They relate to the body and juxtapositions with other living entities. If I don’t know myself, how will I know God? The acharyas give the easy way; learn from outside working in. Understand who is God, how He relates to me and everyone else, and then I will also learn who I am.
2. Do you know Krishna?
This is a more specific question, relevant to information presented in Bhagavad-gita. Knowing God is important. Acknowledging His presence at the very least prevents grossly sinful behavior. This explains the concept of “God-fearing.” I will avoid dishonesty, deceit and cruelty because I know that at some time there is commensurate punishment for violating the laws of nature.
Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the detail behind the abstract. He is the same person everyone else knows or denies, but with more identifiable features. He is all-attractive, stands in a beautiful pose with His two-hands, holding a flute and wearing a peacock feather in His hair.
If we simply know the transcendental nature to Krishna’s appearance and activities, we will never take birth again. Imagine that. Answer the simple question of knowing Krishna and we get the achievement of many lifetimes, the ultimate boon of liberation.
3. Are you attached to Him?
If we have full attachment to Krishna, it will be easy to know Him at the time of death. Otherwise, we tend to forget. Even if I have been devoted for many years, a sudden wrong turn in world events might distract my attention. I am worried over temporary outcomes, to the point that when I see an image of Krishna I am not as enthralled as I used to be.
The acharyas guide the way in attachment. We simply have to remember to remember. Force our way into association, whether we are feeling it or not. Krishna is our friend from a long time back, so the relationship is natural. The more we chant the holy names, the more we will be attached: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
4. Do you want to continue to serve Him?
This question pertains to life after liberation. At the time of death, knowing Krishna is enough to escape rebirth. Yet that does not mean existence ceases. I will continue to be somewhere. The soul never takes birth and it can never be killed.
If I want to continue to serve Krishna, I will get that opportunity; simple as that. That service meets my essential characteristic, dharma. This is one of the reasons that the only analogous term to “religion” in Vedic culture is “sanatana-dharma.” This is the eternal way of living, and we can find it through Shri Krishna.
This life fleeting fast,
Seeking occupation to last.
Where first in liberation setting,
Through proper consciousness getting.
But then continue in service too,
To supreme benefactor who.
All-attractive and pleasure giving,
His happiness my reason for living.
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