Death: Unpredictable yet certain
kālo ’smi loka-kṣaya-kṛt pravṛddho
lokān samāhartum iha pravṛttaḥ (Bg. 11.32)
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Time I am, the great destroyer of the worlds, and I have come here to destroy all people.
As Krishna states in Bhagavad Gita, death in the form of time can devour us anytime. This body we all are carrying is ultimately meant for destruction. Whatever efforts we take to protect it will be futile. But we all hardly seem to care about death and are thus peacefully carrying out our duties and endeavouring for a mundane prosperous life. We all are completely clueless of this unpredictable yet most certain event of our lives, called death. Because the nature of the material consciousness is that despite reading and hearing about death, seeing it all around us, still, we do not experience a molecule of discomfort. In ignorance, we assume ourselves to be an exception to this unavoidable occurrence. It is high time we realise how precious life is and dedicate every moment to a higher purpose.
The solution to the problem of death
In the 9th Chapter, which is considered as the crest jewel of the entire Gita, Krishna reveals “Those who are not faithful in this devotional service cannot attain Me, O conqueror of enemies. Therefore they return to the path of birth and death in this material world.” Shastras repeatedly mentions that it is our desire for material enjoyment independent from the Supreme Lord that has brought us to this material world wherein repeated birth and death takes place. But our inherent position as spirit souls is to eternally serve the Lord with love.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead has three primary energies or potencies. They are antaranga śakti or Internal potency, tatastha śakti or marginal potency and bahiranga śakti or external potency. As Jivātmā, we fall under the category of his marginal potency being susceptible to either side of the spectrum. If we desire our sense gratification, we are controlled by his external potency and function within the framework of temporary material nature. Whereas, once we take to Krishna Consciousness submitting our desires in performing devotional service of the Lord, we come under the shelter of his divine internal potency and that obtains us our original eternal spiritual bodies that transcend beyond birth and death.
Desires can never be fulfilled
Even though philosophically convinced of this truth, material desires within our hearts are so powerful that they propel us to continue pursuing sense enjoyment. It is compared to a volcano erupting from within at every moment. It is foolish to assume that we may take to Krishna Consciousness after enjoying all our senses to its maximum. This is never possible. As stated before, material desires never get satiated and that’s how the Laws of material nature are designed to keep us bound to this world.
Krishna warns in Gita, “My dear Arjuna, as far as these lusty desires are concerned, do not think that these desires will decrease. The more we try to fulfil our desires, the more they will increase.” The majority of us think, if we satisfy those desires, they may go away. But in actuality, if we pour the gasoline of sense gratification, it will turn into a blazing inferno. Such a conflagration of desires will be beyond our capacity to control. And with all the resources at our disposal, we will not be able to extinguish it. It will be too late to call the fire brigade.
How to control our uncontrollable desires?
Once a disciple of Srila Prabhupada asked him, “In our youth, we find that we are being tossed up and down by material desires. It’s like being in the midst of an ocean. How should we control ourselves?” And Prabhupada replied, “Human body is like a boat. The boat is given, and you are in the ocean. Do not think the nature of the ocean is going to change. The ocean will remain the same. What can change? The boatman’s expertise may change.”
So, initially, a boatman is not an expert. He is immature and is unable to control the boat. The boat rocks to and fro, and he is thrown around inside the boat due to a lack of control. That is precisely our condition now. Because of the influence of the waves of desires we are thrown about, tossed around and feel nauseous.
If we become expert boatmen, we will be able to manoeuvre this boat to smoothly ply through the turbulent tempest waters of this material existence and reach the cool serene shores of the spiritual sky. That is how we shall overcome death.