“Let us see this life in the context of eternity.”
Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Prabhupada dasa, a name that means I am a servant of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder and spiritual guide of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. This Society is a unique worldwide federation of temples, farms, schools, and asramas dedicated to the constant remembrance of Lord Sri Krsna, the Absolute Truth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.’ I myself have been a full-time member of the Hare Krsna movement for more than six years, and I am increasingly satisfied with my decision to become a devotee of Krsna. Every day I follow the schedule of devotional activities that all members of the movement follow, and I have no separate, “private” life outside my service to the Lord.
You might be surprised to learn, then, that I am feeling a deep sense of sadness, a sadness that pertains to all of you. Kindly allow me to explain.
I am sad because I see that many millions of you are continuing to spend your most precious human lives without trying to come in touch with the Soul of souls, Lord Krsna. I understand something of your mentality, for I used to think as you do and relish the same sensations you now place at the center of your life. But I am worried about how you will cope with death, the time when everyone has to leave the bodily vehicle. Will you be satisfied that you have loved enough? Will your loved ones follow you to your next destination, dark and unknown?
Now, perhaps you’re just not interested in all this sort of talk. After all, you’re probably working hard just to maintain your family in this era of inflation and recession. You see devotees like me with our robes and strangely shaven heads, our arms upraised as we dance in the streets or in front of the lavishly decorated Deity forms in the temple, always chanting the same prayer—Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—and you can’t even imagine becoming like us. It’s all so strange!
But did it ever occur to you that we devotees are motivated in much the same way that you are? We are also hankering for blissful loving exchanges. But we are loving Krsna, the eternal, all-attractive Personality of Godhead, and we are urging you to learn the art of loving Him as well. Unlike us pathetically limited human beings. He possesses infinite beauty, strength, wealth, fame, knowledge, and renunciation. But please, before you discount this description as some fantastic exaggeration, remember that we are talking about God. Krsna is simply a most lovely name for God, a name that means “the all-attractive one.” So Krsna consciousness means God consciousness, the revival of our dormant love for God. What more valuable asset do we have than our ability to love? So don’t be fooled; don’t squander your love on someone or something that will be destroyed by the inexorable force of time.
Mundane romance, based on the sex impulse, is going on even among the squirrels and pigeons in the park. The science of the soul, explained in books like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, teaches that such creatures have gotten where they are by remaining overly absorbed in sex during their previous human incarnation. Now that we have achieved the human form, we should apply our reason. We should not merely rationalize our inappropriate absorption in sense pleasure. Because our intelligence is greater than the animals’, we have the responsibility to use it properly. In human life we know, for instance, that our term in the body is limited; we know death is coming. Therefore, societies guided by spiritual values have always had some program for gradually renouncing mundane attachments as death approaches. The total lack of such a program in our present society indicates a profound ignorance about spiritual matters. But individually we do not have to allow ourselves to become victims of such wasteful ignorance. If we do, our fate will merely be increased ignorance. Natural law, the law of karma, will compel us to become embodied as drastically limited creatures, akin to those that are now buzzing around our patios, crawling along the wall, flitting across the sky, or licking our fingers.
Krsna, God, who is in our very heart, is simply waiting and watching, seeing what decision we will make in this highly responsible human form. While the beasts may absorb themselves wholly in looking .for food or a mate, in fighting, fleeing, or sleeping, we are meant for much more important tasks. We must inquire, “What am I, beyond this temporary, changing body? What is the ultimate reality, in which I am an eternal participant?” Our God-given, natural gift of advanced intelligence includes the unique privilege to ask and understand on this level. An ancient Vedic text called the Brhad-aranyaka Upanisad declares, “That man is a miser who quits his body like the cats and dogs, without understanding the science of self-realization and solving the problems of life [birth, old age, disease, and death].”
If we simply peer into the clear night sky, we can understand that much of reality must lie totally beyond our range of perception. We know that the animals’ range of perception is minute, but then again, so is ours. Yet we are granted a broader perspective. We see the grand, natural order and can fathom, “There must be a supremely intelligent being who has created all of this.” It is only the insidious preoccupation with superficial bodily sensations that makes us feel as if we are permanently at home in our bodies. It is this bodily fixation that dulls our sense of wonder, even to the point where we just brush aside as “chance occurrences” the miracles of nature, which irrefutably point to the existence of God. Then again the dumb complacency sets in, robbing our hours and years. Billion-dollar questions get pushed aside in favor of piddling concerns.
Let us snap out of all such complacent slumbers and meet the awesome challenge of knowing how tenuous, and at the same time how crucial, is the human span of life. Let us see this life in the context of eternity and resolve that we must not die without sufficiently understanding our eternal nature, our spiritual status in the eternal kingdom of God. No one can help us in this regard but Krsna or His representative, the pure devotee. Krsna advises that we become yogis, controllers and transcenders of our senses. But we can do this only by His mercy. He is our guide toward Himself, and He is indeed the ultimate goal of our myriad lifetimes. Now that we have human life we can finally give Him our love; this is all He wants. As soon as we cease loving the phantom shapes formed by temporary configurations of dead matter, as soon as we earnestly begin directing our love toward Krsna, He will be most pleased to swiftly deliver us from the ocean of birth and death.
I am therefore urging all of you to take up the responsibility and opportunity granted you by the vastly significant yet fragile human life. Please do not carelessly cultivate inappropriate “loves” of the kind that occupy our finny, feathered, or four-footed friends. I also request that you take up the simple process of chanting the holy names of the Lord. Why not try it? Krsna has arranged this most sublime process of self-realization specifically for the suffering souls in the present, difficult age. When we vibrate the Hare Krsna mantra, we are calling out to Krsna, “O my Lord, before I lose this valuable human life, please engage me in Your service and let me remain with You eternally. I don’t want to forget You and have to enter another body to suffer in this material world.” Such an earnest supplication at once invokes the full mercy of the Lord.
So, my dear fellow human beings, kindly relieve my sadness. When I see you continuing to direct your lives toward fleeting sensory contacts, despite countless frustrations, I deeply regret that you are remaining caught up in such illusory, wasteful pursuits. Therefore I vow that I will keep trying to induce you to serve Krsna and obtain His mercy. You may engross yourselves in serving so many people, so many things, but I will still beg you to give even one percent of your time for serving Krsna, for remembering Him as the Supreme Lord of everyone and everything, the Supreme Enjoyer, the Supreme Friend. I will keep begging you to take part in the chanting of the holy names of God, the only effective religious practice for this age, for I know it is the only way you can be eternally happy.