“The Blessed Lord said: Time I am, destroyer of the worlds, and I have come to engage all people. With the exception of you [the Pandavas], all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain.” (Bhagavad-gita, 11.32)
कालो ऽस्मि लोक-क्षय-कृत् प्रवृद्धो
लोकान् समाहर्तुम् इह प्रवृत्तः
ऋते ऽपि त्वां न भविष्यन्ति सर्वे
ये ऽवस्थिताः प्रत्यनीकेषु योधाः
kālo ‘smi loka-kṣaya-kṛt pravṛddho
lokān samāhartum iha pravṛttaḥ
ṛte ‘pi tvāṁ na bhaviṣyanti sarve
ye ‘vasthitāḥ pratyanīkeṣu yodhāḥ
“There is this strange thing we humans do when someone dies. Especially if the passing is untimely and unexpected, we look for any sort of excuse to justify the loss. Did the departed make a mistake? Were they on the wrong path in life? Was there some sort of accident involved?
“I guess the idea is to lessen the pain. You see, if the person made a mistake, then their death is understandable. We can make some sense out of what happened. Everyone makes mistakes. There is danger at every moment in this world.
“The thing is, the reason doesn’t really matter. At least to me. The person has passed. They have moved on. There is no reversing course. There is no rewind button to press. You can’t get another try at correcting the mistake.
“Do you know what I am saying? Why is the cause of death so important? Are we that selfish that our focus is only on if the same happens to us? Is that what we want to take away from the tragedy?”
The reality is that the cause of death is always the same. It does not matter what is written on a certificate. The external images give a false sense of cause and effect. Things are not actually what they seem.
The cause is always time. Known as kala in Sanskrit, time is also death. A person leaves this world because that is their time to move on. Nothing can be done to stop time. Nothing can be done to reverse the sequence of events.
यदा विनाशो भूतानां दृश्यते कालचोदितः।
तदा कार्ये प्रमाद्यन्ति नराः कालवशं गताः।।
yadā vināśo bhūtānāṃ dṛśyate kālacoditaḥ।
tadā kārye pramādyanti narāḥ kālavaśaṃ gatāḥ।।
“When the time for the destruction of living entities arrives, people are seen to perform activities that endanger themselves due to the influence of that all-devouring time.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 56.16)
Time is actually the cause of birth, as well. Every person enters this world due to kala, which works in conjunction with karma and prakriti. Fruitive activity has consequences. Those consequences manifest within prakriti, or the material energy. Kala is the agent of change.
At one moment a person is coming. This is time working in the way of arrival. That person who came remains for some time. Then they pass on. This is all the work of time. The cause is always the same.
Why did a person have to leave at a certain time? Couldn’t they remain a little longer? How could time be so cruel? Who will look after the people left behind? Why should they be forced to suffer in that way?
As time is the cause of the circumstance, time is also responsible for the association in the first place. The beloved person who departed once came into our lives. Perhaps they were the first person we knew, as a loving parent.
Rather than lament their passing, we can be grateful to have had the good fortune of their love and care. The same time which we are cursing today was responsible for the many glorious moments we enjoyed.
As soon as there is birth, death is certain. As soon as there is association, there will be separation. As soon as we are attached to someone, there will be the pain of loss in the future. As soon as they are here, they are gone.
Whether a person remains for five days or fifty years, the material world is not their true home. There is a reason His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada refers to the end-goal of bhakti-yoga as “going back home, back to Godhead.”
Souls surrendered to Him certainly leave this world, but they do not have to return. They are not forced to be under the control of kala again, in the way of suffering miseries and keeping an eye on the number of years of vitality remaining .
The individual is spirit soul, who is eternal. There is no birth for the individual. Neither is there death. The soul never ceases to be. In going back to Godhead, time essentially turns into a friend. Shri Krishna takes direct control over the individual’s fate, returning them to the original place, which is not negatively influenced by time.
This experience the worst,
Now dreaded time to curse.
For this terrible loss causing,
But different thought at pausing.
Time also responsible at start,
When coming destined to depart.
But bhakti not of nature the same,
From blessed time everything to gain.