“Driven by a virtuous or evil purpose, each living entity performs some work, which has consequences associated with it. After death, the same person steadily reaps all those auspicious and inauspicious results.” (Hanuman speaking to Tara, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 21.2)
गुणदोषकृतं जन्तुस्स्वकर्म फलहेतुकम्।
अव्यग्रस्तदवाप्नोति सर्वं प्रेत्य शुभाशुभम्
guṇadoṣakṛtaṃ jantussvakarma phalahetukam।
avyagrastadavāpnoti sarvaṃ pretya śubhāśubham
“One of the things I appreciate about Vedic literature is how voluminous it is. You are not limited to a single work. Sure, a person can attain perfection by studying Bhagavad-gita on a daily basis. If they came across nothing else, they would have everything needed to succeed in life.
“Through the grace of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, we learn the amazing truth that not even literacy is a requirement for deriving the highest benefit. The golden avatara once met a brahmana who could not read but who was drawn to and inspired by Bhagavad-gita.
“Since that brahmana always kept Shri Krishna and the warrior Arjuna in mind, his understanding of that sacred Sanskrit text was perfect. He did not necessarily have to open the book or turn to a specific page. He always remembered the kindness and compassion of God towards His devotee.
“I am not so advanced that I can stay on a single work, though maybe in the future I will be able to. My mind is chanchala, as you would say. Unintentionally, my consumption of the works is both voracious and voluminous, as a famous radio talk show host would often say.
“Within the reading, it is easy to notice a pattern. No matter which book you pick up, there is the ever-present theme of death. Mahabharata talks about coming and going, how certain people take multiple births in the material world. Bhagavad-gita talks about the cycle of birth and death and how the individual is really unchanged throughout the shifts to the body.
“In the Ramayana, we have Hanuman’s instructions on how the results to activity continue in the afterlife. Death stops the development of the current body, but this does not necessarily signal the end. There is a continuation in terms of action and reaction.
“I guess a complaint would be over the focus. Why bring up death so much? Why keep it at the forefront? Alright, so every person eventually perishes. That isn’t really breaking news. Why keep everyone aware of it, through thousands of Sanskrit verses?”
A teacher emphasizes a particular instruction due to its importance. In addition, if the subject matter is difficult to understand, it warrants extra time. In the case of death mentioned in Vedic literature, one of the obvious causes for the relatively high occurrence is the ease with which something that important gets forgotten.
If every person kept the inevitable end on their mind for sufficient enough time, you would not see the widespread lamentation at the instances of passing on. Condolences would not include the phrase, “Rest in peace.”
This is because no one is resting. The body stays behind, but that is not in a finished state. The elements that are part of prakriti start shifting almost immediately after the departure of the individual previously residing inside.
For anyone familiar with television crime shows, there is a way for the investigators doing their post-mortem analysis to guess with a high degree of accuracy when the murder victim was actually killed. This is based on observation of the body left behind. If it is constantly changing, there is no permanent rest.
न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचिन्
नायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूयः
अजो नित्यः शाश्वतो ऽयं पुराणो
न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे
na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ‘yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre
“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)
There is no rest for the soul, as it continues on to another life. Without a previous departure, there would not have been an arrival in the first place. The newborn emerging from the womb is the same individual who later on will leave. They were alive before, during, and after.
Understanding death is necessary for understanding the nature of the individual. The human birth is for understanding the individual. It is not for enjoying the senses, attempting to prolong temporary living, or remaining in ignorance as to the nature of the universe.
Forgetfulness of the true identity of the individual is at the foundation of lamentation upon the demise of another. I think that such and such person is gone forever, not realizing that I have the same return ticket stamped and checked in. I merely have to wait for my boarding group to be called.
As there is continuation of existence after the end of the current lifetime, the nature of activity takes on added significance. I should work in a way that satisfies paramartha. Svartha is easy. Every person tries to satisfy the immediate interest, to be happy at the moment and the ensuing future.
Paramartha is a little more difficult, as the results are not expected until after death. Everything is on a hope and a prayer, on extending trust to authority figures, who speak as if they are knowledgeable on the subject.
From saints like Prahlada Maharaja and Goswami Tulsidas, we learn of a hidden secret. The way to be happy in life, both the current and the next, is to merge svartha and paramartha. Both are simultaneously satisfied in the exercise of devotion to the original person. Serving Him in a mood of love will make me happy today, tomorrow, and to wherever the next journey takes me. Knowing such, I have no reason to fear the inevitable end so often referenced in the Vedic literature I joyfully consume.
In great volume to consume,
Never for granted to assume.
That of death’s nature knowing,
Vedas into great detail going.
But secret from devotees taking,
That way for merged end making.
Such that good later and also now,
Taking paramartha as svartha how.