“Maharaja Parikshit, just after receiving the news of his death within seven days, at once retired from family life and shifted himself to the sacred bank of the Yamuna River.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.19.6 Purport)
“It is the striking contrast. You have the sacred wisdom of the ages, the ripened fruit of Vedic literature, the timeless teachings passed down from Shukadeva Gosvami. You could say that Bhagavata Purana embodies life itself. One who has got some life in them, they can glorify the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
“Otherwise, everything is dull and lifeless. As Prahlada Maharaja describes, it is like chewing the chewed. We try to extract taste out of something which has nothing left to it. We already went through the experience, and to try again is a useless endeavor.
“But try we certainly do, until we notice the pattern. It may take many lifetimes before a person becomes wise to the cycle. It is rare for a person to inquire into the spiritual nature, to seek perfection in that discipline. Out of those who try, hardly one will succeed.
कश्चिद् यतति सिद्धये
यतताम् अपि सिद्धानां
कश्चिन् मां वेत्ति तत्त्वतः
kaścid yatati siddhaye
yatatām api siddhānāṁ
kaścin māṁ vetti tattvataḥ
“Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.3)
“Bhagavata Purana is a great blessing in that it provides an easy way towards transcendence. Simply hear. Shravanam is the first in the list of processes falling under the category of bhakti-yoga. Devotional service can flow through hearing, which is a passive activity.
“Maharaja Parikshit hears. He sits down for seven days and takes in the glory of Bhagavata Purana from the source that is Shukadeva Gosvami. We are told that this is the best way to die. Rather than go on a partying and drinking binge, sit down in renunciation. Give up all other interests. Focus on to where you want to go, not where you have been.
“While it is nice to take comfort and inspiration from Parikshit’s example, there is an obvious disconnect. Parikshit knew he was going to die. He knew the exact mechanism and the precise moment of arrival. We praise him for the decision, because it is not easy to give up control of a kingdom.
“At the same time, our daily activities flow through the assumption of continued living. I work on that project at the office because I assume everything will be around tomorrow. I take out the loan to purchase the house with the intent of staying in that establishment for many years.
“How are we supposed to apply Parikshit’s example if we are in a different circumstance? We are destined for destruction, but we generally have no idea when that will take place.”
The solution is to apply both assumptions. I will be alive tomorrow, but I can also be swept away. There are the three primary sources of misery. The heavens, other living beings, and disease and anxiety from within. No one fully escapes these miseries, no matter how much they try.
With the assumption that we are going to live, we make plans for the future. To align with the godly principles, those plans can involve activity that will benefit us should we pass on. For instance, Parikshit’s shravanam was enough to bring perfection in living.
We can thus make plans to hear. We make a routine out of it. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has presented sacred texts like Bhagavad-gita, Bhagavata Purana, and Chaitanya Charitamrita in a readable format.
This is one of the reasons saintly people are known as travelling tirthas. Instead of having to take a seat on the banks of a sacred river, the Divine message comes to us. We can be sitting in the corner of a room, hearing the exact same message as was delivered to Arjuna, Uddhava, or Parikshit.
We can make plans to remember the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who appears as both avataras and in His original form. We can make a routine out of chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
It is not one way or the other. We can act with the knowledge of impending death, but also with the general assumption of the continuation of life in the short term. After all, the life of devotion continues into the future. The devotee never perishes, in this respect.
How with double assumption?
When continuation presumption.
Otherwise plans meaningless so,
If towards end to know.
Idea that living to both sides true,
Like Parikshit time of departure knew.
But still benefitting today that hearing,
Whether just arrived or towards end nearing.