Today, over my lunch break, I was listening to my friend who had just returned from attending a funeral at a church. There, they mourned the very unfortunate death of 2 young and beautiful, 19 year old couples in a tragic road accident. She recounted the various talks given by family members, friends and teachers, expressions and signs of sorrow, the non-acceptance of loss by parents and the general bewildering questions –
How could this happen to such really nice people?
Why would God do such a thing?
They were so young and had such a long life to live…how can they die now?
It seemed that most of the young, who had assembled there, were asking this to each other, their parents and possibly to the church father.
Another friend : What did they reply?
She : Oh..what can you say? It’s just life, isn’t it? Fate, I suppose.
I had just finished reading through the little booklet, which she brought with her, that was distributed to all those who had gathered there. It contained photos of the deceased when they were young and at social get together. It also contained prayers and holy statements. Some of them were :
May it now lead them into eternal life
Lord, in our grief we turn to you. Are you not the God of love, always ready to hear our cries? Listen to our prayers for your servants, whom you have called out of this world:lead them into your kingdom of light and peace and count them among the saints of glory.
The Lord is my light and my salvation
You, Lord are the light that keeps me safe. I am not afraid of anyone. You protect me, and I have no fears. I ask only one thing, Lord. Let me live in your house everyday of my life to see how wonderful you are,and to pray in your temple. I know that I will live to see how kind you are. Trust the Lord ! Be brave and strong, and trust the Lord.
Death is nothing at all-we have only slipped away into the next room
Lord hear our prayer
Receive their souls and present them to God, the most high
As I returned the booklet, staring at the smiling faces of the couple on the front cover, I continued to hear what my friends were saying about those questions, the people at the church were pondering over.
Me : Shall I throw some light into that matter?
She : Yeah, sure…
Me : In our scriptures, it is said that we have Isvara, Jiva, Prakriti, Kala and Karma. In English, they are translated as God, living entity, nature, time and activity. I think you know about the word, Karma.
She : Somewhat…its getting back the result of what you do, right?
Me : Something like that, Reap what you sow, action and reaction….
She : Yeah…
Me : God, living entity, nature and time are all eternal. They have always existed and will continue to exist. But karma is not eternal. The activity of the living entity is temporary. This activity is what is keeping us here. And they stem from our desires to get this or get that. We are enjoying or suffering the results of our activities from time immemorial. For every action a living entity makes, there generates 2 results. One is immediate and the other long term. This long term result is again divided into two – results seen in this life time and those seen in the next life time.
Science has recorded that we are changing our body every 7 years. Everything changes. We were not the same, 7 years ago. If you show a picture of a new born baby, a teenage and a 90 year old man, we will not realize that its the same person, unless someone known to him tells us. So, within the same life, you can see how the body is changing, yet you know that as a person on the inside, you are still there. Just continually accepting new versions of the body with the influence of time. Similarly, the living entity in order to exhaust its various desires, it has accumulated during its presence in a body, continues to accept bodies, life after life.
Once all these desires begin to diminish or fulfilled, then the soul begins to remember its true constitutional position – to be with and to serve the Lord. You can see some sentences referring to this phenomenon in these prayers in the church booklet. So, we can say in a way that these young individuals had this 19 years of their life to fulfill certain desires they had in their past life. As well as meet the reactions of their past actions. And now their soul, is ready to accept another body based on whatever other desires it has to fulfill. So, it doesn’t matter whether you are nice or bad and young or old, this birth and death are based on one’s karma. You could say that God is aloof from this important process. His job is not to save your best friend or your favourite cousin, lest you may be saved from remorse. But He is aware. He is present in the region of the heart, waiting and watching for the soul to recognize Him. Once the connection is established, the soul is free from repeated births and deaths.
Our sadness is based on the fact that we won’t be able to experience the pleasant things we had with the person when they were alive. And also, that they won’t be around, to experience more on what life has to offer. This is thinking about our body and its senses. But we need to raise from this platform and understand this subtle science, which the scriptures talk about. This gives peace of mind for humans under all adverse and pleasant situations.
She : Oh Wow….no one mentioned it that way before…
Another friend : That is very interesting…
Me : Usually, at someone’s deathbed or at a funeral, people generally begin to ponder over the nature of life, workings of God and how they themselves would go through such a fate. Its a time when people get very philosophical. Such questions are actually the right questions that humans must ask, not just during such tragic events but throughout one’s life. This helps, one attain true knowledge and freedom from confusion and anxiety.
She and the other friend : Its so true…we must talk more on this concept after lunch. I learnt something today…
When a relative dies one certainly becomes very much interested in philosophy, but when the funeral ceremony is over one again becomes attentive to materialism. Even Daityas, who are materialistic persons, sometimes think of philosophy when some relative meets death. The technical term for this attitude of the materialistic person is smasanavairagya, or detachment in a cemetery or place of cremation. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gita, four classes of men receive an understanding of spiritual life and God–arta (the distressed), jijnasu (the inquisitive), artharthi (one who desires material gains) and jnani (one who is
searching for knowledge). Especially when one is very much distressed by material conditions, one becomes interested in God.
(Srimad Bhagavatham, Canto 7 (Science of God), Text 61 purport by Srila Prabhupada)