“Whomever you meet, instruct him on the teachings of Krishna. In this way, on My order, become a spiritual master and deliver the people of this country.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 7.128)
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यारे देख, तारे कह ऽकृष्णऽ-उपदेश
आमार आज्ञाय गुरु हञा तारऽ एइ देश
yāre dekha, tāre kaha ‘kṛṣṇa’-upadeśa
āmāra ājñāya guru hañā tāra’ ei deśa
“I recently heard of an interesting exercise. It was for college students, but I think it would apply to anyone. The idea was called ‘Legacy Day.’ Students would make a presentation before their class, pretending as if they were near the end of life.
“Imagine if you are around ninety years old. You want to tell an anonymous person about your life. Explain what you did, the journey through the different periods of time, the struggles, and what you want your legacy to be.
“It’s a good way to plan for the future, if you think about it. If you have an idea for later on, you can guide your immediate decisions along that premise. Think about what you want your legacy to be, and then work towards turning the potential into reality.
“How would such an exercise look for a person practicing bhakti-yoga? What do they want the end of life to look like? How would they want to be remembered? What are some of the goals they hope to achieve?”
The Vaishnava philosophy is one built on personalism, which acknowledges and champions the concept of individuality. Though we are equal in the sense of belonging to the singular collective spiritual energy, Brahman, we have free-will. No two individuals are alike, as evidenced by me not knowing what you are thinking at a given time and the same the other way around.
क्लेशो ऽधिकतरस् तेषाम्
अव्यक्ता हि गतिर् दुःखं
kleśo ‘dhikataras teṣām
avyaktā hi gatir duḥkhaṁ
“For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.5)
Shri Krishna explains that the impersonal path is the more difficult of the two. The hindrance is from being embodied. We tend to identify with the form we inhabit, the one we accept at the time of birth, and which goes through subsequent changes.
वासांसि जीर्णानि यथा विहाय
नवानि गृह्णाति नरो ऽपराणि
तथा शरीराणि विहाय जीर्णान्य्
अन्यानि संयाति नवानि देही
vāsāṁsi jīrṇāni yathā vihāya
navāni gṛhṇāti naro ‘parāṇi
tathā śarīrāṇi vihāya jīrṇāny
anyāni saṁyāti navāni dehī
“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.22)
From the embodied state, it is difficult to understand what body-less actually means. This is the impersonal side. The Supreme Lord pervades the entire space, in what is known as the avyakta-murtina. It is non-manifest, and yet it is still distinct.
मया ततम् इदं सर्वं
न चाहं तेष्व् अवस्थितः
mayā tatam idaṁ sarvaṁ
na cāhaṁ teṣv avasthitaḥ
“By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.4)
The path of personalism better aligns with our understanding. We see God as a different person, though He is similar to us. We worship in what is known as dharma. This is service with a corresponding object of service on the other side.
If we were to conduct the hypothetical exercise of looking back on a legacy, there might be variety. One person wants to be known for the temples they opened within communities. Another person wishes to translate ancient texts into a modern language, making the confidential wisdom more accessible to the people of the time.
Another person keeps count of how many they have shared the wisdom of Bhagavad-gita with. They wish to distribute the teachings at the widest possible reach, repaying the favor given to them at a prior time.
The other angle to consider is that the devotion of the devotee never perishes. Arjuna has the task to boldly declare this truth. The emphasis is necessary because there is always the perception that everything completes at the end of life. Death triggers the passage to another destination, leaving everything behind.
क्षिप्रं भवति धर्मात्मा
न मे भक्तः प्रणश्यति
kṣipraṁ bhavati dharmātmā
na me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati
“He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace. O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.31)
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has left the wonderful legacy of sharing the instructions, upadesha, of Shri Krishna with whomever we meet. To wherever we go, we become guru on Mahaprabhu’s order, delivering the people who are in desperate need of reality, of meaning to an otherwise fleeting existence.
There is the vow from Lakshmana in the Ramayana that acknowledges the eternal nature of living. When asked to build a suitable dwelling in the forest by his elder brother, Lakshmana promises to continue to follow such instructions, even if requested for one hundred years.
परवानस्मि काकुत्स्थ त्वयि वर्षशतं स्थिते |
स्वयं तु रुचिरे देशे क्रियतामिति मां वद ||
paravānasmi kākutstha tvayi varṣaśataṃ sthite |
svayaṃ tu rucire deśe kriyatāmiti māṃ vada ||
“O Rama, for as long as You shall stand before me, even if it be for one hundred years, I will always remain Your servant. Therefore You should be the one to choose a beautiful and appropriate place for the cottage. After You have selected a spot, please then command me to start building.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 15.7)
Death is not the end. Whether I am ninety years old or nine, I have the chance to continue in service moving forward. If time permits, I can look back on my legacy, but I always keep an eye to the future, on when I will again see the smiling face of the all-attractive one, to whom I am always tied, whether in heaven or hell.
Whether in heaven or hell,
One thing to tell.
That in devotional way,
In that path to stay.
Whether looking back,
Or the future to attack.
Serving wherever to land,
Eternal nature at hand.
Radhe Radhe ❤️ oshriRadhekrishnaBole ❤️ Hare Ram Hare Ram Ram Ram Hare Hare Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
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