Destination After Death
mano hṛdi nirudhya ca
mūrdhny ādhāyātmanaḥ prāṇam
“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.” (Bhagavad-gītā 8.12)
One translation of the word yoga is “plus” – that is, just the opposite of minus. At the present moment, due to our materially contaminated consciousness, we are minus God. When we add God to our lives, when we connect with Him, life is perfected. This process has to be finished at the time of death; therefore as long as we are alive, we have to practice approaching that point of perfection so that at the time of death, when we give up this material body, we can realize the Supreme.
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, by the strength of yoga, with an undeviating mind, engages himself in remembering the Supreme Lord in full devotion, will certainly attain to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Bhagavad-gītā 8.10) The words prayāṇa-kāle mean “at the time of death.” Life is kind of a preparation for the final examination, which is death. If we pass that examination, we are transferred to the spiritual world. According to a very common Bengali proverb, “Whatever you do for perfection will be tested at the time of your death.”
This process by which the yogi closes the doors of the senses is technically called pratyāhāra, meaning “just the opposite.” Presently, our senses are engaged in seeing worldly beauty. “Just the opposite” means retracting the senses from that beauty and seeing the beauty inside. Hearing is concentrated on the oṁ-kāra sound that is within. Similarly, all the other senses are withdrawn from external activity. The mind is then concentrated on the viṣṇu-mūrti within the heart (manaḥ hṛdi nirudhya). The word nirudhya means “confining” the mind within the heart. When the yogi has thus withdrawn his senses and concentrated his mind, he transfers the life air to the top of the head and decides where he should go. There are innumerable planets, and beyond these planets is the spiritual world. The yogis obtain information of these planets from the Vedic literatures, just as, before coming to the United States, I obtained information about this country from books. Since all the higher planets in the spiritual world are described in the Vedic literatures, the yogi knows everything and can transfer himself to any planet he likes. He does not need a material spaceship.
Scientists have been trying for many years to reach other planets with spaceships, but this is not the process. Maybe by this means one or two men can reach a planet, but that is not the general process. It is not possible for everyone. Generally, if one wants to transfer himself to a higher planet, he practices this jñāna-yoga system. Not the bhakti-yoga system. The system of bhakti-yoga is not used for attaining any material planet.
The devotees of Kṛṣṇa are not interested in any planet within this material universe, because they know that on all planets the four basic miseries exist – birth, old age, disease, and death. In the higher planets, one’s lifespan may be much greater than on this earth, but death is ultimately there. Therefore those who are in Kṛṣṇa consciousness are not interested in material life but spiritual life, which means relief from these fourfold miseries. Those who are intelligent do not try to elevate themselves to any planet within this material world. To attain a higher planet, one has to prepare a particular type of body to enable one to live on that planet. We cannot attain these planets by artificial, materialistic means, because a suitable body is necessary to live there. We can stay within water only a short while, but fish are living there their entire lives. But the fish does not have a body suitable for living on the land. Similarly, to enter a higher planet, one has to prepare a suitable body.
In the higher planets, six of our months are equal to one of their days, and the inhabitants of these planets live ten thousand years. This is all described in the Vedic literatures. Although the lifespan on these planets is very long, there is ultimately death. After ten thousand years, twenty thousand years, or millions of years – it doesn’t matter – death is ultimately there.
In the very beginning of Bhagavad-gītā, however, we learn that we are not subject to death.
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ’yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre
“For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Bhagavad-gītā 2.20) Kṛṣṇa thus instructs us that we are spirit soul and eternal; therefore why should we subject ourselves to birth and death? One who utilizes his intelligence can understand this. One who is situated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not interested in promotion to any planet where death exists; rather, being promoted to the spiritual sky, he receives a body just like God’s. Īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahaḥ. God’s body is sac-cid-ānanda – eternal, full of knowledge, and full of pleasure. Therefore Kṛṣṇa is called the reservoir of all pleasure. If, upon leaving this body, we transfer ourselves to the spiritual world – to Kṛṣṇa’s planet or any other spiritual planet – we attain a similar body full of sac-cid-ānanda.
The spirit soul is a very minute particle within the body. It cannot be seen like the external body, but it is sustaining the external body. The object of the ṣaṭ-cakra system is to locate the soul at the topmost part of the head. From there, one who is perfect in dhyāna-yoga can transfer himself to a higher planet at will. That is the perfection of this type of yoga. The dhyāna-yogī is somewhat like a traveler who thinks, “Oh, let me see what the moon is like, then I will transfer myself to higher planets.” He goes from here to there in the universe, just as on earth travelers go from New York to California or Canada. But a Kṛṣṇa conscious person is not interested in such interplanetary travel within the material universe. His goal is service to Kṛṣṇa and transferral to the spiritual sky.
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.” (Bhagavad-gītā 8.13) Oṁ, or oṁ-kāra, is the concise form, or impersonal form, of the transcendental vibration. The dhyāna-yogī should vibrate oṁ while remembering Kṛṣṇa, or Viṣṇu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The impersonal sound of Kṛṣṇa is oṁ, but the sound Hare Kṛṣṇa contains oṁ. Whatever the case, the entire yoga system aims at concentration on Viṣṇu. Impersonalists may imagine a form of Viṣṇu, but the personalists do not imagine; they actually see the form of the Supreme Lord. Whether one imagines or factually sees, one has to concentrate his mind on the Viṣṇu form. Here the word mām means “unto the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu.” If one can remember Viṣṇu upon quitting this body, he can enter into the spiritual kingdom.
One who is intelligent naturally thinks, “I am permanent and eternal. Why should I be interested in things that are not permanent?” Actually, no one wants an existence that is temporary. If we are living in an apartment and the landlord asks us to vacate, we have to do so, whether we want to leave or not. However, if we move to a better apartment, we are not sorry. It is our nature, however, to want to remain wherever we live. That is because we are permanent and want a permanent residence. Our inclination is to remain. Therefore we don’t want to die. We don’t want the miseries of birth, old age, disease, and death. These are external miseries inflicted by material nature, and they attack us like some fever. In order to extricate ourselves, we have to take certain precautions. To get rid of these miseries, it is necessary to get rid of the material body, because these miseries are inherent in material existence.
Thus by vibrating oṁ and leaving the material body thinking of the Supreme Lord, the yogi is transferred to the spiritual world. Those who are not personalists, however, cannot enter into the spiritual planet of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. They remain outside, in the brahmajyoti effulgence. Just as the sunshine is not different from the sun globe, the brahmajyoti effulgence of the Supreme Lord is not different from the Supreme Lord. The impersonalists are placed in that brahmajyoti as minute particles. We are all spiritual sparks, and the brahmajyoti is full of these spiritual sparks. In this way, the impersonalists merge into the spiritual existence; however, individuality is retained, because the spirit soul is constitutionally an individual. Because the impersonalists don’t want a personal form, they are placed and held in the impersonal brahmajyoti. There they exist just as atoms exist within the sunshine. The individual spiritual spark remains within the brahmajyoti as if homogeneous.
As living entities, we all want enjoyment. We do not simply want existence. We are constitutionally sac-cid-ānanda-eternal (sat), full of knowledge (cit), and full of bliss (ānanda). Those who enter the impersonal brahmajyoti cannot remain there eternally with the knowledge that “Now I am merged. I am now one with Brahman.” Although there is eternality and knowledge, bliss (ānanda) is lacking. Who can remain alone in a room year after year reading some book and trying to enjoy himself? We cannot remain alone forever. Eventually we will leave that room and look for some association. It is our nature to want some recreation with others. The impersonalists, dissatisfied with the loneliness of their position in the impersonal effulgence of the Lord, therefore return again to this material world. This is stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.2.32):
tvayy asta-bhāvād a viśuddha-buddhayaḥ
āruhya kṛcchreṇa paraṁ padaṁ tataḥ
patanty adho ’nādṛta-yuṣmad-aṅghrayaḥ
“O lotus-eyed Lord, although nondevotees who accept severe austerities and penances to achieve the highest position may think themselves liberated, their intelligence is impure. They fall down from their position of imagined superiority because they have no regard for Your lotus feet.”
The impersonalists are like astronauts in search of a planet. If they cannot rest in some planet, they have to return to earth. It is herein stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (anādṛta-yuṣmad-aṅghrayaḥ) that the impersonalist must return to the material world because he has neglected to serve the Supreme Lord with love and devotion. As long as we are on this earth, we should practice to love and serve Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Lord; then we can enter His spiritual planet. If we are not trained up in this way, we can enter the brahmajyoti as an impersonalist, but there is every risk that we will again fall down into material existence. Out of loneliness, we will search out some association and therefore return to the material world. What we actually want is the eternal association of the Supreme Lord. This is our constitutional position of eternality, knowledge, and pleasure. If we are alone, if we do not associate with the Supreme Lord, that pleasure is lacking. For want of pleasure, we feel uncomfortable. For want of pleasure, we will accept any kind of association, any kind of pleasure. Therefore, out of a kind of desperation, we will say, “All right, then let me have material pleasure again.” That is the risk the impersonalists take.
In the material world, the highest pleasure is found in sex. That is but a perverted reflection of the pleasure experienced with Kṛṣṇa in the spiritual world. Unless there is sex present in the spiritual world, it cannot be reflected here. However, we should understand that here the reflection is perverted. Actual life is there in Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa is full of pleasure, and if we train ourselves to serve Him in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, it will be possible at the time of death to transfer ourselves to the spiritual world and enter into Kṛṣṇaloka, Kṛṣṇa’s planet, and enjoy ourselves in the association of Kṛṣṇa, the reservoir of all pleasure.
Kṛṣṇa’s planet is described in the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.29) in this way:
lakṣāvṛteṣu surabhīr abhipālayantam
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, the first progenitor, who is tending the surabhi cows that fulfill all desires, who is surrounded by millions of purpose (wish-fulfilling) trees and abodes built with spiritual gems, and who is always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds and thousands of goddesses of fortune.” In this way Kṛṣṇaloka is described. There the houses are made of touchstone (cintāmaṇi). If a small particle of touchstone touches an iron rod, that rod will immediately turn to gold. Of course, in this material world we have no experience with such a thing as touchstone, but according to the Brahma-saṁhitā all the abodes in Kṛṣṇaloka are composed of touchstone. Similarly, the trees there are called desire trees (kalpa-vṛkṣa) because one can get whatever he desires from them. Here we can get only mangoes from a mango tree, but in Kṛṣṇaloka we can get whatever we desire from any tree because the trees are kalpa-vṛkṣa. This is just a partial description of Kṛṣṇaloka, Kṛṣṇa’s eternal abode in the spiritual sky.
The conclusion, therefore, is not to try to elevate ourselves to any material planet, because the same miserable conditions of birth, old age, disease, and death exist in all of them. Scientists are very proud of “scientific” advancement, but they have not been able to check old age, disease, and death. They can manufacture something to accelerate death, but nothing that can stop death. That is not within their power.
Those who are intelligent are interested in putting an end to birth, old age, disease, and death and entering into a spiritual life full of eternality, bliss, and knowledge. The bhakti-yogī knows that such a life is possible through practice of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and remembrance of Kṛṣṇa at the time of death.
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.” (Bhagavad-gītā 8.14) In this verse, the word nitya-yukta means “continuously in trance.” Such a person who is continuously thinking of Kṛṣṇa and always engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the highest yogi. His attention is not diverted to jñāna-yoga, dhyāna-yoga, or any other system. For him, there is only one system – Kṛṣṇa. Ananya-cetāḥ means “without deviation.” A Kṛṣṇa conscious devotee is not disturbed by anything, because his mind is always concentrated on Kṛṣṇa. The word satatam means that he is thinking of Kṛṣṇa at all places and at all times. When Kṛṣṇa descended onto this earth, He appeared in Vṛndāvana. Although I am presently living in America, my residence is in Vṛndāvana because I am always thinking of Kṛṣṇa. Although I may be in a New York apartment, my consciousness is there, and this is as good as being there.
Kṛṣṇa consciousness means always living with Kṛṣṇa in His spiritual planet. Because we are conscious of Kṛṣṇa, we are already living with Him. We simply have to wait to give up this material body to go there. For one who remembers Kṛṣṇa without deviation, He is easy to obtain. Tasyāhaṁ sulabhaḥ pārtha: “I become very cheap for them.” For one who takes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the most valuable thing becomes very easy to obtain. Because one is engaged in bhakti-yoga, Kṛṣṇa becomes easily available. Why should we try so hard to attain Kṛṣṇa, when Kṛṣṇa Himself says, “I am easy to obtain”? We have only to chant Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare twenty-four hours daily. There is no fast rule and regulation. We can chant in the street or on the subway, in our home or in our office. There is neither expenditure nor tax.
Actually Kṛṣṇa, being omnipotent, is unconquerable, but it is said that He is not only obtained but conquered through pure devotional service. As stated before, it is generally very difficult to realize the Supreme Personality of Godhead; therefore one of His names is Ajita, meaning, “He whom no one can conquer.” In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.14.3), Lord Brahmā prays to Ajita,
jīvanti san-mukharitāṁ bhavadīya-vārtām
sthāne sthitāḥ śruti-gatāṁ tanu-vāṅ-manobhir
ye prāyaśo ’jita jito ’py asi tais tri-lokyām
“O my dear Lord Ajita, those devotees who have thrown away the impersonal conceptions of the Absolute Truth and have therefore abandoned discussing empiric philosophical truths should hear from self-realized devotees about Your holy name, form, pastimes, and qualities. They should completely follow the principles of devotional service and remain free from illicit sex, gambling, intoxication, and animal slaughter. Surrendering themselves fully with body, words, and mind, they can live in any āśrama or social status. Indeed, You are conquered by such persons, although You are always unconquerable.”
In this verse, the words jñāne prayāsam refer to theosophists and philosophers who are trying year after year and life after life to understand God, or the Absolute Truth. Their attempts are like those of the frog in a well trying to comprehend the vastness of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Even our attempts to measure outer space are futile, to say nothing of the attempt to measure God. Such attempts are doomed to failure; therefore Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam recommends that we abandon all attempts to measure the Supreme. It is completely useless to try to understand God by our limited knowledge, and an intelligent man understands this. We should become submissive and try to understand that our position is that of a very insignificant segment in this creation. The words namanta eva indicate that we are just to become submissive in order to understand the Supreme from a reliable source. And what is that source? San-mukharitām: from the lips of realized souls. Arjuna is understanding God directly from the lips of Kṛṣṇa, and we have to understand God through the lips of Arjuna or his bona fide representative. We can understand the transcendental nature of God only from a reliable source. That source may be Indian, European, American, Japanese, Hindu, Muslim, or whatever. The circumstances are not important. We just have to try to understand by hearing and then try to put the process to practice in our daily lives. By becoming submissive, hearing from the right source, and trying to apply the teachings in our daily lives, we can become conquerors of the Supreme. For one who does this, Lord Kṛṣṇa becomes easily available. Ordinarily, God realization is very difficult, but it is very easy for one who submissively hears (śruti-gatām).
There are two processes by which we can acquire knowledge: one is the ascending process (āroha-panthā), and the other is the descending process (avaroha-panthā). By the ascending process, one attempts to understand God by his own efforts – by philosophizing, meditating, or speculating. According to the descending process, one acquires knowledge simply by hearing from an authority, from the bona fide spiritual master and the scriptures. As far as the ascending process is concerned, it is stated in the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.34),
vāyor athāpi manaso muni-puṅgavānām
so ’py asti yat-prapada-sīmny a vicintya-tattve
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, only the tips of the toes of whose lotus feet are approached by the yogis and jñānīs, who travel for billions of years at the speed of the wind or mind.” We can all understand how great the speed of mind is. Although sitting in New York City, I can immediately think of India, which is thousands and thousands of miles away. It is herein stated that even if one travels at this speed for billions of years, Kṛṣṇa will still remain inconceivable. The word muni-puṅgavānām refers to a great thinker, not an ordinary man. Even if such a great thinker travels for millions of years at the speed of mind, he will still find the Supreme Person unknowable. Yet for one who takes undeviatingly to this path of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, Kṛṣṇa is easy to obtain. Why is this? Nitya-yuktasya yoginaḥ: “Because such a person is constantly engaged in My devotional service, and I cannot forget him.” So this is the process. We have only to become submissive to attract the attention of God. My Guru Mahārāja used to say, “Don’t try to see God, but work in such a way that God will see you. God will take care of you. You don’t have to try to see Him.”
This should be our attitude. We should not think, “I want to see God. O God, please come and stand before me. Be like my servant.” But since God is no one’s servant, we have to oblige Him by our love and service. We all know how difficult it is to see the king or president of a country. It is practically impossible for an ordinary man to get an interview with such an important person, to say nothing of having this important person come and stand before him. Yet people are demanding that the Supreme Personality of Godhead come and stand before them. It is our nature to hanker after Kṛṣṇa, because He is the most attractive, most beautiful, most opulent, most powerful, most learned, and most famous person in the universe. Everyone hankers after these qualities, and Kṛṣṇa is the reservoir of all these qualities, and He possesses them in full. Kṛṣṇa is the reservoir of everything (raso vai saḥ); therefore when we hanker after beauty or power or knowledge or fame, we should just turn our attention to Kṛṣṇa. Then we will automatically get whatever our hearts desire.