We have heard innumerable stories of great men and women planning meticulously so that they can enjoy living like a king or queen. For them life is precious and for its safety and security they try to build invincible fortress so that life threatening formidable enemies – disease and death – could be warded off. But almost all the times without fail the enemy is too powerful to confront and all have to ultimately surrender in front of it.
When Srila Prabhupada had gone to the western countries to teach the message of Vedic literatures then one person challenged him, “Indians are poor people and so there the death rate is so high?” Srila Prabhupada promptly replied, “Death rate all over the world is hundred percent.” Anyone who is living has to die sooner or later.
So when death knocks at the door then what should be done? Should we become fearful and hide ourselves behind the curtains or should we look into its gazing eyes and say boldly, “Yes, I am ready to go with you!” Such fearlessness can be achieved only when we have thoroughly prepared ourselves for the ultimate reality of life.
Srimad Bhagavatam tells the story of a King named Parikshit who was unperturbed when he came to know that his death is inevitable. Instead of strategizing how to avoid it he decided to face it gloriously. And so he decided to approach the saintly people who could help him to face the challenge of death heroically.
King Parikshit had been cursed by a brahmana boy named Shringi to die in 7 days by the bite of a poisonous snake. Shringi was furious because the king had shown disrespect to his father. It was indeed true that the king’s action was improper but it was not so grievous that he should have been condemned to die. The scripture and the saintly people explain that the brahmana boy had misused his power and it was in fact the beginning of the fall down of brahmanas. Lord Krishna had departed from this material world and soon after Kaliyuga, the age of downfall, began. Shringi misusing his power proves that as Kaliyuga entered brahmanas started misusing their power to establish their authority leading to the decline of Vedic culture which was based on unbreakable religious principles.
Parikshit was a saintly king and he too had the power to not just nullify the curse but he could have counter cursed Shringi. But he contemplated on it and concluded that those who are born have to die. “May be as per the will of providence my time to leave this mortal world has come so why not to embrace it”, he thought. And so without delay he relinquished his kingdom, his kiths and kin and immediately approached the sages for their guidance.
In the assembly of sages was Sukhadeva Goswami, son of Ved Vyas, a highly realized soul. Approaching him, the king said, “You are the spiritual master of great saints and devotees. I am therefore begging you to show the way of perfection for all persons, and especially for one who is about to die.” Srimad Bhagavatam. 1.19.37
Here we see that the king who was about to die did not beg the sage to give him any benediction or mantra so that his life can be saved. We generally find people approaching God or saintly people for countless material benedictions – wealth, health, success, safety and a long life. But the king wanted to know the best way by which he can leave his mortal body. The king did not fear death because he was well aware that there is life after death. Death dissipates the body but does not destroy the soul because soul is eternal.
Sukhadeva Goswami was happy to hear the transcendental query. He replied, “O descendant of King Bharata, one who desires to be free from all miseries must hear about, glorify and also remember the Personality of Godhead, who is the Supersoul, the controller and the savior from all miseries. The highest perfection of human life, achieved either by complete knowledge of matter and spirit, by practice of mystic powers, or by perfect discharge of occupational duty, is to remember the Personality of Godhead at the end of life. S.B.2.1.5-6.
Death is a certainty; none of us can avoid it. So instead of fearing it we should be prepared for it. Life is a preparation and death is the final examination. How we lead our life determines our next destination. And how to lead a virtuous life has been explained in the holy books. These holy books have been given to us so that we can know about the righteous and unrighteous actions and also learn the art of dying. If we adhere to these guidelines then we can be happy in this life and can be sure of glorious destination when we bid farewell to this world.
King Parikshit was finally bitten by the poisonous snake and the saintly king’s body burned to ashes by the fire of the snake’s poison. (Srimad Bhagavatam 12.6.13). King faced the death confidently because he was confident of reaching a glorious destination after leaving his mortal body and this mortal world.
The king knew that he would die in 7 days and so he planned his last few days in a way so that he remain absorbed in remembering the Lord but we do not know when we are going to die.
So should we not be always prepared to face the ultimate truth of life?
By Purshottam Kumar