Elevation at Death
There are different kinds of transcendentalists who are called yogīs – haṭha-yogīs, jñāna-yogīs, dhyāna-yogīs, and bhakti-yogīs – and all of them are eligible to be transferred to the spiritual world. The word yoga means “to link up,” and the yoga systems are meant to enable us to link with the transcendental world. As mentioned in the previous chapter, originally we are all connected to the Supreme Lord, but now we have been affected by material contamination. The process is that we have to return to the spiritual world, and that process of linking up is called yoga. Another meaning of the word yoga is “plus.” At the present moment we are minus God, or minus the Supreme. When we add Kṛṣṇa – or God – to our lives, this human form of life becomes perfect.
At the time of death we have to finish that process of perfection. During our lifetime we have to practice the method of approaching that perfection so that at the time of death, when we have to give up this material body, that perfection can be realized.
bhaktyā yukto yoga-balena caiva
bhruvor madhye prāṇam āveśya samyak
sa taṁ paraṁ puruṣam upaiti divyam
“One who, at the time of death, fixes his life air between the eyebrows and in full devotion engages himself in remembering the Supreme Lord, will certainly attain to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Gītā 8.10)
Just as a student studies a subject for four or five years and then takes his examination and receives a degree, similarly, with the subject of life, if we practice during our lives for the examination at the time of death, and if we pass the examination, we are transferred to the spiritual world. Our whole life is examined at the time of death.
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.” (Gītā 8.6)
There is a Bengali proverb that says that whatever one does for perfection will be tested at the time of his death. In the Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa describes what one should do when giving up the body. For the dhyāna-yogī (meditator) Śrī Kṛṣṇa speaks the following verses:
yad akṣaraṁ veda-vido vadanti
viśanti yad yatayo vīta-rāgāḥ
yad icchanto brahmacaryaṁ caranti
tat te padaṁ saṅgraheṇa pravakṣye
mano hṛdi nirudhya ca
mūrdhny ādhāyātmanaḥ prāṇam
“Persons learned in the Vedas, who utter oṁ-kāra and who are great sages in the renounced order, enter into Brahman. Desiring such perfection, one practices celibacy. I shall now explain to you this process by which one may attain salvation. The yogic situation is that of detachment from all sensual engagements. Closing all the doors of the senses and fixing the mind on the heart and the life air at the top of the head, one establishes himself in yoga.” (Gītā 8.11–12)
In the yoga system this process is called pratyāhāra, which means “just the opposite.” Although during life the eyes are engaged in seeing worldly beauty, at death one has to retract the senses from their objects and see the beauty within. Similarly, the ears are accustomed to hearing so many sounds in the world, but at the moment of death one has to hear the transcendental oṁkāra from within.
oṁ ity ekākṣaraṁ brahma
vyāharan mām anusmaran
yaḥ prayāti tyajan dehaṁ
sa yāti paramāṁ gatim
“After being situated in this yoga practice and vibrating the sacred syllable oṁ, the supreme combination of letters, if one thinks of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and quits his body, he will certainly reach the spiritual planets.” (Gītā 8.13)
In this way, all the senses have to be stopped in their external activities and concentrated on the form of viṣṇu-mūrti, the form of God. The mind is very turbulent, but it has to be fixed on the Lord in the heart. When the mind is fixed within the heart and the life air is transferred to the top of the head, one can attain perfection in yoga.
At this point the yogī determines where he is to go. In the material universe there are innumerable planets, and beyond this universe there is the spiritual universe. The yogīs have information of these places from Vedic literatures. Just as one going to America can get some idea what the country is like by reading books, one can also have knowledge of the spiritual planets by reading Vedic literatures. The yogī knows all these descriptions, and he can transfer himself to any planet he likes without the help of spaceships. Space travel by mechanical means is not the accepted process for elevation to other planets. Perhaps with a great deal of time, effort, and money a few men may be able to reach other planets by material means – spaceships, spacesuits, etc. – but this is a very cumbersome and impractical method. In any case, it is not possible to go beyond the material universe by mechanical means.
The generally accepted method for transferral to higher planets is the practice of the meditational yoga system, or jñāna system. The bhakti-yoga system, however, is not to be practiced for transferral to any material planet, for those who are servants of Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Lord, are not interested in any planets in this material world because they know that on whatever planet one enters in the material sky, the four principles of birth, old age, disease, and death are present. On higher planets, the duration of life may be longer than on this earth, but death is there nonetheless. By “material universe” we refer to those planets where birth, old age, disease, and death reside, and by “spiritual universe” we refer to those planets where there is no birth, old age, disease, and death. Those who are intelligent do not try to elevate themselves to any planet within the material universe.
If one tries to enter higher planets by mechanical means, instant death is assured, for the body cannot stand the radical changes in atmosphere. But if one attempts to go to higher planets by means of the yoga system, he will acquire a suitable body for entrance. We can see this demonstrated on this earth, for we know it is not possible for us to live in the sea, in a watery atmosphere, nor is it possible for aquatics to live on the earth. As we understand that even on this planet one has to have a particular type of body to live in a particular place, so a particular type of body is required for other planets. On the higher planets, bodies live much longer than on earth, for six months on earth is equal to one day on the higher planets. Thus the Vedas describe that those who live on higher planets live upward to ten thousand earth years. Yet despite such a long life span, death awaits everyone. Even if one lives twenty thousand or fifty thousand or even millions of years, in the material world the years are all counted, and death is there. How can we escape this subjugation by death? That is the lesson of the Bhagavad-gītā.
na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ’yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre
“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, once having been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying, and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Gītā 2.20)
We are spirit soul, and as such we are eternal. Why, then, should we subject ourselves to birth and death? One who asks this question is to be considered intelligent. Those who are Kṛṣṇa conscious are very intelligent, because they are not interested in gaining entrance to any planet where there is death. They will reject a long duration of life in order to attain a body like God’s. Īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahaḥ. Sat means “eternal,” cit means “full of knowledge,” and ānanda means “full of pleasure.” Kṛṣṇa is the reservoir of all pleasure. If we transfer ourselves from this body into the spiritual world – either to Kṛṣṇaloka (Kṛṣṇa’s planet) or any other spiritual planet – we will receive a similar sac-cid-ānanda body. Thus the aim of those who are in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is different from those who are trying to promote themselves to higher planets within this material world.
The self, or soul, of the individual is a minute spiritual spark. The perfection of yoga lies in the transferral of this spiritual spark to the top of the head. Having attained this, the yogī can transfer himself to any planet in the material world according to his desire. If the yogī is curious to know what the moon is like, he can transfer himself there, or if he is interested in higher planets, he can transfer himself there, just as travelers go to New York, Canada, or other cities on the earth. Wherever one goes on earth, he finds the same visa and customs systems operating, and on all the material planets one can similarly see the principles of birth, old age, disease, and death operating.
Oṁ ity ekākṣaraṁ brahma: at the point of death the yogī can pronounce oṁ, oṁkāra, the concise form of transcendental sound vibration. If the yogī can vibrate this sound and at the same time remember Kṛṣṇa, or Viṣṇu (mām anusmaran), he attains the highest goal. It is the process of yoga to concentrate the mind on Viṣṇu. The impersonalists imagine some form of the Supreme Lord, but the personalists do not imagine this; they actually see. Whether one imagines Him or actually sees Him, one has to concentrate his mind on the personal form of Kṛṣṇa.
yo māṁ smarati nityaśaḥ
tasyāhaṁ sulabhaḥ pārtha
“For one who remembers Me without deviation, I am easy to obtain, O son of Pṛthā, because of his constant engagement in devotional service.” (Gītā 8.14)
Those who are satisfied with temporary life, temporary pleasure, and temporary facilities are not to be considered intelligent, at least not according to the Bhagavad-gītā. According to the Gītā, one whose brain substance is very small is interested in temporary things. We are eternal, so why should we be interested in temporary things? No one wants a nonpermanent situation. If we are living in an apartment and the landlord asks us to vacate, we are sorry, but we are not sorry if we move into a better apartment. It is our nature, because we are permanent, to want a permanent residence. We don’t wish to die, because in actuality we are permanent. Nor do we want to grow old or be diseased, because these are all external or nonpermanent states. Although we are not meant to suffer from fever, sometimes fever comes, and we have to take precautions and remedies to get well again. The fourfold miseries are like a fever, and they are all due to the material body. If somehow we can get out of the material body, we can escape the miseries that are integral with it.
For the impersonalists to get out of this temporary body, Kṛṣṇa here advises that they vibrate the syllable oṁ. In this way they can be assured of transmigration into the spiritual world. However, although they may enter the spiritual world, they cannot enter into any of the planets there. They remain outside, in the brahmajyoti. The brahmajyoti may be compared to the sunshine, and the spiritual planets may be compared to the sun itself. In the spiritual sky the impersonalists remain in the effulgence of the Supreme Lord, the brahmajyoti. The impersonalists are placed in the brahmajyoti as spiritual sparks, and in this way the brahmajyoti is filled with spiritual sparks. This is what is meant by merging into the spiritual existence. It should not be considered that one merges into the brahmajyoti in the sense of becoming one with it; the individuality of the spiritual spark is retained, but because the impersonalist does not want to take a personal form, he is found as a spiritual spark in that effulgence. Just as the sunshine is composed of so many atomic particles, so the brahmajyoti is composed of so many spiritual sparks.
However, as living entities we want enjoyment. Being, in itself, is not enough. We want bliss (ānanda) as well as being (sat). In his entirety, the living entity is composed of three qualities – eternality, knowledge, and bliss. Those who enter impersonally into the brahmajyoti can remain there for some time in full knowledge that they are now merged homogeneously with Brahman, but they cannot have that eternal ānanda, bliss, because that part is wanting. One may remain alone in a room for some time and may enjoy himself by reading a book or engaging in some thought, but it is not possible to remain in that room for years and years at a time, and certainly not for all eternity. Therefore, for one who merges impersonally into the existence of the Supreme, there is every chance of falling down again into the material world in order to acquire some association. This is the verdict of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Astronauts may travel thousands and thousands of miles, but if they do not find rest on some planet, they have to return again to earth. In any case, rest is required. In the impersonal form, rest is uncertain. Therefore Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam says that even after so much endeavor, if the impersonalist enters into the spiritual world and acquires an impersonal form, he returns again into the material world because of neglecting to serve the Supreme Lord in love and devotion. As long as we are here on earth, we must learn to practice to love and serve Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Lord. If we learn this, we can enter into those spiritual planets. The impersonalist’s position in the spiritual world is nonpermanent, for out of loneliness he will attempt to acquire some association. Because he does not associate personally with the Supreme Lord, he has to return again to the world and associate with conditioned living entities there.
It is of utmost importance, therefore, that we know the nature of our constitutional position: we want eternity, complete knowledge, and also pleasure. When we are left alone for a long time in the impersonal brahmajyoti, we cannot have pleasure, and therefore we accept the pleasure given by the material world. But in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, real pleasure is enjoyed. In the material world it is generally accepted that the highest pleasure is sex. This is a perverted reflection of the sex pleasure in the spiritual world, the pleasure of association with Kṛṣṇa. But we should not think that the pleasure there is like the sex pleasure in the material world. No, it is different. But unless sex life is there in the spiritual world, it cannot be reflected here. Here it is simply a perverted reflection, but the actual life is there in Kṛṣṇa, who is full of all pleasure. Therefore, the best process is to train ourselves now, so that at the time of death we may transfer ourselves to the spiritual universe, to Kṛṣṇaloka, and there associate with Kṛṣṇa. In Brahma-saṁhitā (5.29) Śrī Kṛṣṇa and His abode are described thus:
lakṣāvṛteṣu surabhīr abhipālayantam
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, the first progenitor, who is tending the cows, fulfilling all desire, in abodes built with spiritual gems, surrounded by millions of wish-fulfilling trees, always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds and thousands of lakṣmīs, or gopīs.”
This is a description of Kṛṣṇaloka. The houses are made of what is called “touchstone.” Whatever touchstone touches immediately turns into gold. The trees are wish-fulfilling trees, or “desire trees,” for one can receive from them whatever he wishes. In this world we get mangoes from mango trees and apples from apple trees, but there from any tree one can get whatever he desires. Similarly, the cows are called surabhi, and they yield an endless supply of milk. These are descriptions of the spiritual planets found in Vedic scriptures.
In this material world we have become acclimatized to birth, death, and all sorts of suffering. Material scientists have discovered many facilities for sense enjoyment and destruction, but they have discovered no solution to the problems of old age, disease, and death. They cannot make any machine that will check death, old age, or disease. We can manufacture something that will accelerate death, but nothing that will stop death. Those who are intelligent, however, are not concerned with the fourfold miseries of material life, but with elevation to the spiritual planets. One who is continuously in trance (nitya-yuktasya yoginaḥ) does not divert his attention to anything else. He is always situated in trance. His mind is always filled with the thought of Kṛṣṇa, without deviation (ananya-cetāḥ satatam). Satatam refers to anywhere and any time.
In India I lived in Vṛndāvana, and now I am in America, but this does not mean that I am out of Vṛndāvana, because if I think of Kṛṣṇa always, then I’m always in Vṛndāvana, regardless of the material designation. Kṛṣṇa consciousness means that one always lives with Kṛṣṇa on that spiritual planet, Goloka Vṛndāvana, and that one is simply waiting to give up this material body. Smarati nityaśaḥ means “continuously remembering,” and for one who is continuously remembering Kṛṣṇa, the Lord becomes tasyāhaṁ sulabhaḥ – easily purchased. Kṛṣṇa Himself says that He is easily purchased by this bhakti-yoga process. Then why should we take to any other process? We can chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare twenty-four hours daily. There are no rules and regulations. One can chant in the street, in the subway, or at his home or office. There is no tax and no expense. So why not take to it?