“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)
देहिनो ऽस्मिन् यथा देहे
कौमारं यौवनं जरा
धीरस् तत्र न मुह्यति
dehino ‘smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
“This will come off as irrational, but let me express myself for a few moments. I need to get this off my chest. It relates to death. Yes, it is entirely unfair. You are forced to leave a world, against your will, after living in it for so long.
“You plant roots. You spend time nurturing. If you are lucky, you stay around long enough to see the fruits. You may then enjoy the fruits yourself and share with others. You have to work in such a way that you plan on staying. Otherwise, you would just sleep each day away. You would be completely inactive, which is really no different than death.
“Nevertheless, one day you are gone. Everything and everyone left behind. Prior notice in some cases, but that is still a bit difficult to believe. You always think that somehow you will manage to live through the diagnosis, that you can fight against the onslaught of time.
“If I am forced to leave, why was I here to begin with? Why do we celebrate children and their happiness, since we know that they are destined for the same fate? It is so ridiculous. When I think of the pain of separation from loved ones, whose association I will never have again, I want to curse at God for creating this situation. I would rather not take birth at all.”
The lamentation and frustration are completely natural. The ultimate end is a harsh reality that every person must come to grips with eventually. There is no avoiding the subject. If you are fortunate enough to remain here for a long time, by comparison, then you certainly suffer the loss of close friends and family.
At the same time, we have already lost something important: youth. We will never again be small enough to be carried by our parents. Some of us can remember that stage of life. It was so comforting when an elder decided to pick us up and hold us in their arms. This made trips to the shopping mall much easier.
We will never have the same level of energy nor the desire to play with simple toys for hours on end. We will never fit into the same clothes and we will never have the same type of body. Everything is gone. There is no chance of a return.
Yet here we are, still alive. We are the same person. Should we curse at nature for removing us from childhood? Should we spend each morning crying in bed over the separation? Should we focus entirely on the changes brought about by time?
As Shri Krishna explains in Bhagavad-gita, in the same way that we have lost our childhood and moved on, we will separate from this experience entirely at the time of death. We will move on to someplace else, but the existence remains. Nothing can destroy the soul, which is our identity.
During our youth, when we may not have known about the intricacies of birth and death, we did not lament past failures. We were somewhere prior to birth. We existed prior to the previous lifetime, even. There is no crippling sadness over the thought; neither do we dwell on the loss.
In the same way, we should not be overly concerned with a law of nature that is unbreakable. Whether we like it or not, this is the situation we find ourselves in. Everyone else is in the same boat. If we did not have prior separation, we would never have met the people important to us in this lifetime.
If we did not take birth this time around, we would not have come into contact with sadhu, shastra and guru, which travel in parallel lines. These three lead us to the most auspicious destination of liberation, which is the end to the cycle of birth and death.
In this birth I had the chance to know about God and realize His all-attractiveness in His feature of Bhagavan, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I will be forced to leave at some time in the future, but right now I am still alive. I have the opportunity for further enlightenment and bliss through the eternal engagement of dharma. This can be practiced through something as simple as chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Time away it has tossed,
Already so much I’ve lost.
Like when to childhood bound,
But caring arms of mother found.
But alive today I am still,
With days needing to fill.
Blessed that devotion in moments fleeting,
Where opportunity with God meeting.