The Death of a Loved One
How should devotees react when a loved one dies? For the last two days I have been haunted by the thought “How will I live if my mother dies?”
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Our reply: In the Bhagavad-gita, Second Chapter, Lord Krishna speaks about death: Just as a person discards old clothes and gets new ones, so the soul gives up the body at death and gets a new one after death. Our actions in this life determine what that new body will be. Even though we may know this philosophy, however, the loss of contact with a loved one is difficult. And it is natural to lament and feel sad that their association is no longer available to us.
That said, our own life must go on, and we can take solace in the fact that the eternal soul is making spiritual progress, especially if we have helped the person by giving him or her prasada, the holy name, and transcendental knowledge. All these things help the soul move forward on the journey toward Krishna’s eternal abode.
Please understand that anyone, young or old, can die at any moment. Our death is born along with our birth. Keeping a clear mind and remembering the ultimate goal of the soul can give us solace when we lose someone we love.
I understand that God is ultimately Bhagavan (personal) and that his spiritual effulgence is Brahman (impersonal). My question is this:
To my knowledge, you believe Krishna to be the ultimate, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. But do you agree that what He specifically looks like can be interpreted a little? I know that God is far beyond our limited understanding and that different sages and rishis over time have seen His form in many different ways. I personally love this concept, for it gives the devotee the freedom to view God in the way that suits him or her best.
So even though you prefer to view God as Krishna, I like to think that while His ultimate bodily form may look similar to what we imagine, it is ultimately beyond our full understanding, and as long as one is seeing the divine in some way, then that is what is important.
I feel that I can see the divine in life all around me, and in other people’s eyes even. I know you must agree with this concept as we are all within God even though He is greater.
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Our reply: The Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu explains that with the material senses one cannot perceive the spiritual name, form, qualities, and pastimes of the Supreme Lord; one must purify one’s existence by spiritual practice in order to enter into the mystery of the Lord’s transcendental nature. This purification begins with the tongue, which can vibrate the holy name of the Lord and taste the remnants of food offered to Him in sacrifice. However, in the revealed scriptures those who have directly realized God through spiritual qualification give us some insight into His unlimited transcendental forms. All advanced devotees accept these descriptions as authoritative and helpful for those still under the influence of the Lord’s illusory material potency.
Pure devotees do not try to approach an understanding of the Supreme Lord as you state, “in the way that suits him or her best,” but rather they accept the words of the authorized transcendentalists.
Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.3.28), the mature commentary on the Vedanta-sutra, states:
“All of the above-mentioned incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord, but Lord Sri Krishna is the original Personality of Godhead. All of them appear on planets whenever there is a disturbance created by the atheists. The Lord incarnates to protect the theists.”
So, of all the Lords various manifestations, the form of Lord Sri Krishna is the original form and the form most relished by His most intimate associates. We aspire to follow in their footsteps and also experience this original form of the Lord.
You are correct when you state, “It is ultimately beyond our full understanding,” but with good guidance under advanced devotees, we can purify our existence and ultimately experience the Lord in His original form by spiritual revelation.
How does Krishna explain enthusiasm in Bhagavad-gita?
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Our reply: Although Lord Krishna does not explain enthusiasm, in the Eighteenth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita He lists it as a necessary ingredient for the practice of bhakti-yoga:
“One who performs his duty without association with the modes of material nature, without false ego, with great determination and enthusiasm, and without wavering in success or failure is said to be a worker in the mode of goodness.” (Bg. 18.26)
Considering the context, it appears that Srila Prabhupada is speaking of enthusiasm in his Purport to text 26 of the Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita As It Is:
“The yoga practitioner should be determined and should patiently prosecute the practice without deviation. One should be sure of success at the end and pursue this course with great perseverance, not becoming discouraged if there is any delay in the attainment of success. Success is sure for the rigid practitioner.”