“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)
भूत-ग्रामः स एवायं
भूत्वा भूत्वा प्रलीयते
रात्र्य्-आगमे ऽवशः पार्थ
bhūta-grāmaḥ sa evāyaṁ
bhūtvā bhūtvā pralīyate
rātry-āgame ‘vaśaḥ pārtha
1. People are coming
“We have some big news to share with you. Meet our latest addition to the family. They surprised us this morning, with an arrival earlier than anticipated. We are overjoyed, nonetheless. We can’t wait to see what life has in store for our little one. We will never forget this moment, and we are grateful for your well-wishes and prayers.”
2. People are going
“I got the worst news last night. A family friend passed away. Suddenly, at that. This seems to be happening more frequently lately. I am just devastated by the loss. They were the embodiment of strength and resilience. They were like an older brother to me, even though we didn’t share many moments together.
“The loss must be particularly difficult for those left behind. The young children. The wife. The parents are still alive, too. How can such tragedy strike such a good person? What kind of world is this? What are we living for if this can happen at any moment?”
Birth and death are the two bookends between which the many individual sets of dualities occur. Birth and death represent the full range, in terms of the individual’s timeline. There is happiness and sadness. There is gain and loss. There is heat and cold. There is elation and sadness.
A single event can have a dual nature. Rain is falling from the sky. The farmers are happy. The homeowners with a backyard garden welcome the news of sufficient water for their plants. Children are happy that they might get the day off from school.
The construction planner is not too pleased. They must postpone their paving project in the neighborhood. The residents will have to maneuver around the obstructions on another day. Those people who forgot to bring an umbrella to work are out of luck.
Not only do the dualities exist, but they are constant. Coming and going take place as if on schedule. Every day the local hospital has mothers giving birth. The same hospital deals with passing, whether timely or not.
The countdown to death begins as soon as there is birth. When a person celebrates their birthday, it is something like a miracle that they have survived for so long. There is no guarantee of a person living to a certain age. There is danger at every step in the material world, represented by the three prongs in the trident held by Durga Devi.
Bhagavad-gita reveals that the cycle continues not only on a daily basis, but for as far as the mind can conceive in terms of time. A person who actually knows time, kala, understands the day of Brahma, who is the creator.
Brahma’s single day is billions of years. He lives for a certain number of years, in his calculation, and then there is a dissolution of the cosmic manifestation. The living beings come and go within Brahma’s life, but they appear again afterwards.
It is like they are helpless to the situation. They are being tossed around in the ocean of time. They arrive, remain for some time, and then go. Whether one lives for one hundred years or fifty makes no difference in the long term.
The reason for sharing this information is not to depress. It is a sobering reality check, to remind us of the proper priorities in this life, which is temporary. There is the chance to leave the cycle of birth and death. There is hope. There is a place to which we can go that does not involve forced removal.
पुनर् आवर्तिनो ऽर्जुन
माम् उपेत्य तु कौन्तेय
पुनर् जन्म न विद्यते
punar āvartino ‘rjuna
mām upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate
“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)
To reach that destination is the aim of life. It is the meaning to religion. It is the long-term goal to the many individual practices, regulations, and philosophical truths. Otherwise, no extra effort is needed. We will be helplessly dissolved anyway, whether we climb to the heights of achievement or remain in a lower standard.
Two truths of world knowing,
That people coming and going.
Birth arriving one day,
News of death another to say.
Helplessly in cycle to spin,
Until unmanifest realm to win.
Purpose of our living so,
Towards Krishna to go.
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