“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.19)
बहूनां जन्मनाम् अन्ते
ज्ञानवान् मां प्रपद्यते
वासुदेवः सर्वम् इति
स महात्मा सु-दुर्लभः
bahūnāṁ janmanām ante
jñānavān māṁ prapadyate
vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti
sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ
“What is the purpose for our existence? Precisely referring to the present, where we are conscious, where we have vibrancy, where we can make rational decisions on how to behave. What exactly should we be doing to pass the time in a meaningful way? What does ‘meaningful’ mean, anyway?
“These questions are in the context of inevitable death. Dealing with the recent passing of a loved one, I make these inquiries. The questions were just as much relevant prior to the tragic event, but the departure of that person has left such a void that it seems impossible to fill.
“If I am in line awaiting a similar fate, what is the purpose to living? Why should we make friends if we will one day have to leave them? Why should we love family members if one day they will no longer be by our side?
“It seems like everything we do is a waste. Washed away by the waves of time. No lasting meaning to it. I guess that is maya, as described in sanatana-dharma. That is the illusion of the material world, but we are experiencing it right now. Why not just abandon everything and focus on death?”
The acharyas both explain the situation and show the proper example through deeds. The idea is to be renounced to the extent that body and soul are maintained. We cannot make advancement towards the highest achievement unless we are alive in some way.
Not only is death imminent in the present situation, but the cycle repeats. Countless times, spiraling through many births and deaths. Even after the time of annihilation of the entire cosmic manifestation, there is the chance that we will appear here again.
भूत-ग्रामः स एवायं
भूत्वा भूत्वा प्रलीयते
रात्र्य्-आगमे ऽवशः पार्थ
bhūta-grāmaḥ sa evāyaṁ
bhūtvā bhūtvā pralīyate
rātry-āgame ‘vaśaḥ pārtha
“Again and again the day comes, and this host of beings is active; and again the night falls, O Partha, and they are helplessly dissolved.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.19)
As Shri Krishna describes in Bhagavad-gita, after many births a person comes to know Him in truth. This is the reason for our existence. The consciousness associated with this knowledge is permanent. It lasts beyond the present lifetime. The devotion towards the Supreme Personality of Godhead can never be destroyed.
The difficulty is that there are endless avenues of distraction. If I want to forget Krishna, I have every opportunity to do so. Like spending the entire time of a long-haul flight playing video games, I could find a way to stay occupied from the time of birth up until death.
The subsequent end will be painful, as I have not reached the proper conclusion relating to the world around me. I have not understood my true identity as spirit soul, atma. I have not put the material nature into the proper context, seeing its temporary duration and the misery accompanying association.
On the other hand, if I slowly move towards transcendence in consciousness, life within that illusion becomes easier. It will make the loss of a loved one easier to handle. It will bring enthusiasm to the renewing days, despite the ascension towards the inevitable end. It will bring a bliss never before experienced. And most importantly, it will bring the protection of the one who has final say, who is the creator of the material and spiritual worlds, and who always knows the best interests of the living entities.
Fortunate another day receiving,
That in His mercy believing.
Otherwise no possible way,
Not permanent here to stay.
Others already gone,
The loss to dwell upon.
But my devotion to sustain,
When right consciousness to retain.