“Those who know Me as the Supreme Lord, as the governing principle of the material manifestation, who know Me as the one underlying all the demigods and as the one sustaining all sacrifices, can, with steadfast mind, understand and know Me even at the time of death.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.30)
साधिभूताधिदैवं मां साधियज्ञं च ये विदु: ।
प्रयाणकालेऽपि च मां ते विदुर्युक्तचेतस: ॥
sādhiyajñaṁ ca ye viduḥ
prayāṇa-kāle ’pi ca māṁ
te vidur yukta-cetasaḥ
1. The governing principle of the material manifestation
“The world is always changing. Have you noticed that? Scientists study this period and that. They speculate as to what life was like a million years ago, for instance. They have no evidence. Even if they had video or audio recordings, who would be able to validate the authenticity?
“The change we can see, however. That is obvious to everyone. It does not matter into which time period you are born. The change is always there. It would be great to decipher the exact cause. There must be something responsible for both the living beings and the playing field upon which they operate.”
2. The one underlying all the demigods
“In the Vedic tradition we see so many gods. That is why the term Hinduism does not do justice to that tradition of spirituality. There is so much variety. Within one geographic area, for instance, the people can be seen worshiping so many gods.
“Is one any better than the other? Is it just a matter of choice? If gods are all the same, does that mean the people worshiping are in the same category, as well? How does one become a god? Is there a leader? Does leadership change?”
3. The one sustaining all sacrifices
“The Sanskrit word is yajna. This means sacrifice. If you grow up within the Vedic tradition, you are accustomed to such ceremonies. Passed down to the modern day, people make do with their situation. They conduct the yajnas inside the home, for instance, filling it with smoke and inadvertently setting off alarms.
“I have heard the various justifications. Someone wants their children to do well in school. Someone wants to bless the new vehicle they recently purchased. Another person is getting married, and another one is taking birth.
“Who is responsible for all of this? Who is being satisfied? Is there a personality on the other side? What is the ultimate purpose? We see so many people live without a culture of yajna, and they seem to be going about life the same way.”
A person may argue that it is too difficult. While the promise is certainly there, who can actually live up to the reality? The case of Bhishmadeva was extraordinary. Life does not ordinarily end in that manner, at the time of one’s choosing, where they can meditate on the Supreme Personality of Godhead standing before them.
कृष्ण एवं भगवति
आत्मन्य् आत्मानम् आवेश्य
सो ऽन्तःश्वास उपारमत्
kṛṣṇa evaṁ bhagavati
ātmany ātmānam āveśya
so ‘ntaḥśvāsa upāramat
“Suta Gosvami said: Thus Bhishmadeva merged himself in the Supersoul, Lord Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, with his mind, speech, sight and actions, and thus he became silent, and his breathing stopped.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.9.43)
Death is both the known and the unknown. Also known as time, kala operates in a reliable manner. Kala was the cause of our birth. Kala is the reason we have friends and family. Kala is the cause of every good change in life.
But kala also brings about separation. Kala can topple the mightiest of heroes. Kala is thus also known as death, since it deals the final blow, separating the living entity from the body. This is the body in which they have most recently lived, with vivid memories of the experience.
The exact moment of this strike from kala is not known. Therefore, how can a person guarantee that they will think of Shri Krishna at the time of death? How can they be sure to have the proper consciousness? That consciousness will determine the nature of the next state of being. In this sense, nothing can be more important than consciousness.
यं यं वापि स्मरन् भावं
त्यजत्य् अन्ते कलेवरम्
तं तम् एवैति कौन्तेय
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)
Because of both the uncertainty and the urgency, the acharya recommends changing consciousness immediately. Do not put it off until later. Do not wait for a future date, when circumstances might be more favorable.
We have to plan. We have to forecast the changing trajectory, assessing the landscape at different times. These are best guesses, however. No outcome is ever assured. The only guarantees in life are death and taxes, as the saying goes.
गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः
कर्ताहम् इति मन्यते
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
kartāham iti manyate
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
To help change consciousness today, there are endless ways to contemplate the Absolute. Always be thinking of Him. Since we are always thinking, we can simply transition the current object of focus to a higher realm.
Shri Krishna provides helpful hints in this direction. We already witness the factor of a changing material manifestation. We already acknowledge higher forces in terms of operating the universe. We already pay tribute to controlling authorities, in the hopes that they will be favorable to us.
Simply complete the understanding. Take stock of the missing piece of the puzzle. The material manifestation is due to a single source. There is one authority who is above all others. There is one person who is the ultimate benefactor. Shri Krishna is the one, and a person who is aware of these connections can maintain consciousness of Him even at the moment of quitting the body.
Consciousness at that time seeing,
To determine next state of being.
Because guaranteed the end,
Life not infinitely to extend.
Better to remember Krishna then,
But how with difficulties when?
As person behind everything sustaining,
Behind sacrifice and the gods maintaining.
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