My current office is near the waterfront. Some days when I can take a walk along the waterfront, especially in summer, I see these birds diving into the water. They look like Cormorants, but I’m not a bird expert.
The birds dive into the water and surface after a little while. Sometimes, they have a writhing fish in their beaks, which they then promptly swallow.
The fish was probably happily swimming around enjoying its fish life, until, out of the blue comes death. Of course, the fish can’t really do much about this, when death comes, death comes.
One summer day a couple of years ago, early into the pandemic, we were driving west on what is one of the busiest highways in the world, the Ontario 401. Suddenly, my map instructed me to take the next exit and took me a detour, which I followed… as we re-entered the highway at another point, I saw some vehicles on the empty stretch of highway behind me, they were stopped, and covered with tarpaulins.
Later in the afternoon, on my way back, I saw the vehicles still at the same spot, still covered with tarps. Clearly it had been a bad collision.
I continued to follow the incident, and found out it was an incident involving three cars. One eastbound car, for some reason, lost control and hit another eastbound one in the fast lane, which caused this second car to jump the barrier and land in the westbound lane – resulting in a head-on collision with a westbound car travelling in the fast lane.
Three people lost their lives in that collision, and death was almost immediate. The first responders had no chance, and had to cut open the cars to extract the mortal remains. It was surely gruesome.
I read about the people, a man in his forties in one car, and a woman in her thirties and her father-in-law in his sixties in the other car. I cannot imagine any of them expected to lose their lives on the 401 that morning.
I wondered how their mornings were… did they have their breakfast their morning and say bye to their loved ones? What did they go through during those fatal moments? Did they feel a lot of pain? Did they have family members who were grieving for them? Did they have unfinished business? Maybe an incomplete project?
Death can come at any moment. No ordinary soul can predict the exact moment of their death. And when death comes, everything that was so important until the moment before ceases to matter. It’s just like when I live in an apartment with noisy neighbours and then move to another apartment, the noise in my previous apartment ceases to matter. What happens after death?
Some say that we are just a bunch of chemicals, and nothing more significant than a halt of the electrochemical reactions in the body. Or in other words, after death, there is nothingness. But that logic is faulty on so many levels, after all, a bottle of chemicals doesn’t care about itself and other bottles of chemicals don’t lament it’s loss.
The logic that some combination of material elements somehow develops consciousness is faulty, as I wrote about Descartes’ ignorance about consciousness. His “cogito ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am) should have been something like “sum ergo cogito” (I am, therefore I think).
Actually, the law of momentum applies to us all – just like my baby body is “dead”, my child body is gone too. I still have memories of when I was a baby or a child, even though every single cell of my body back then is dead, this means that I transcend my body, more about that in detail another time.
But anyways, while the fish cannot do anything about their death, us, as human beings, with our highly developed sense of consciousness, can. We can inquire into our true nature, we can inquire into the Supreme Absolute Truth, indeed, human life begins only when we reach that stage of inquiring beyond eating, sleeping, mating, and defending, or rise above the animal propensities.
This stage is called “athāto brahma-jijñāsā“.
The human form is meant for the understanding of Kṛṣṇa consciousness (athāto brahma-jijñāsā), for inquiring about the Supreme Brahman. In the human form, everyone has a chance to understand the Supreme Brahman. The so-called leaders of human society do not know the real aim of human life and are therefore busy with economic development. This is misleading. Every state and every society is busy trying to improve the quality of eating, sleeping, mating and defending. This human form of life is meant for more than these four animal principles. Eating, sleeping, mating and defending are problems found in the animal kingdom, and the animals have solved these problems without difficulty. Why should human society be so busy trying to solve these problems? The difficulty is that people are not educated to understand this simple philosophy. They think that advancement of civilization means increasing sense gratification.https://vedabase.io/en/library/cc/madhya/19/159/ purport
In fact, accidental or not, death awaits everyone who has taken birth… so, if we are sure to die, then we can at least prepare for it. How?
आयुर्हरति वै पुंसामुद्यन्नस्तं च यन्नसौ ।
तस्यर्ते यत्क्षणो नीत उत्तमश्लोकवार्तया ॥ १७ ॥
āyur harati vai puṁsām
udyann astaṁ ca yann asau
tasyarte yat-kṣaṇo nīta
Both by rising and by setting, the sun decreases the duration of life of everyone, except one who utilizes the time by discussing topics of the all-good Personality of Godhead.https://vedabase.io/en/library/sb/2/3/17/
The moment of death, in fact, is quite significant. We can reach any destination by adjusting our consciousness at the moment of death.
यं यं वापि स्मरन्भावं त्यजत्यन्ते कलेवरम् ।
तं तमेवैति कौन्तेय सदा तद्भावभावित: ॥ ६ ॥
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kuntī, that state he will attain without fail.https://vedabase.io/en/library/bg/8/6/
The moment of death is actually a great opportunity, a rare portal through which we can escape birth and death altogether!
अन्तकाले च मामेव स्मरन्मुक्त्वा कलेवरम् ।
य: प्रयाति स मद्भावं याति नास्त्यत्र संशय: ॥ ५ ॥
anta-kāle ca mām eva
smaran muktvā kalevaram
yaḥ prayāti sa mad-bhāvaṁ
yāti nāsty atra saṁśayaḥ
And whoever, at the end of his life, quits his body remembering Me alone at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.https://vedabase.io/en/library/bg/8/5/
If I were to live every moment thinking that it could be my last, then certain longer-term things could not reasonably be done, but on the other hand if I don’t think about death then it will surely take me by surprise.
So how to live? My spiritual master gave me the perfect instruction in this regard.
He said, live as if you could die in the next 80 seconds or live for the next 80 years. And his life is a living proof of his instructions, so I choose to follow in his footsteps.
I remind myself that this life of mine can end at any moment, but I work diligently in Krishna Consciousness as if I have another 80 years to go.
Would you like to learn how? Drop me a line!