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Facing the Final Exam of Death

While reading the first canto of Srimad Bhagavatam today I felt very nourished and also sheltered.Srila Prabhupada has put his heart and soul into these transcendental purports of the first canto.While reading chapter 18 on how Parikshit Maharaj was cursed to die by a brahmana boy I found the initial few verses very enlightening.Sukadeva Goswami reveals that Parikshit Maharaj was saved by Krishna both during his birth as well as during his death.

Saved during birth and death

During his birth he was saved from the brahmastra, a deadly, unstoppable arrow released by Ashwatthama, and during his death a curse of a young boy could not bewilder or confuse the emperor.During his birth, King Parikshit was saved from sure death and during his death he was saved from a sure rebirth. It’s during the point of death that most people succumb to the pressure and confusion. All our Krishna conscious claims and material attachments are tested at the time of death. Only rare few are equipoised and serene as they welcome death. Since most people live in denial of this inevitable reality of our lives, when death does strike, it becomes very painful for the person.

But Parikshit Maharaj was one such rare soul who was in complete control of his thoughts and feelings. During his birth, the Lord saved him but during his death which was due to an untimely and unreasonable curse of a young, inexperienced boy, the king could have easily been bewildered and asked the question which most people usually ask at the time of a crisis, “Why me?” But Emperor Parikshit was unfazed as he was absorbed in remembering the Supreme Lord happily. So fixed was he on the Supreme Lord that he easily relinquished his unrivalled kingdom and the unparalleled opulence that he possessed.

Most of us fumble in our spiritual journey even when our senses are strong. Even with a healthy body, we find it difficult to remember Krishna favourably. And at the time of death when the bodily membranes are deranged, it’s all the more difficult. However Maharaj Parikshit is a beacon light for all aspiring to face this test of death bravely.

What did the king do that helped him during his final moments?

Hearing and chanting in the association of devotees

The Srimad Bhagavatam reveals that during his life he took shelter of the process of hearing and chanting of Krishna’s holy names and also his shelter of Srila Sukadeva Goswami who is a pure devotee of Krishna helped him. Sukadeva Goswami was always absorbed in hearing and chanting and association of such a devotee infused the king with a similar taste.

Just as if we eat foodstuffs from the plate of a person infected with tuberculosis, we too would be infected, similarly if we associate with devotees who are ‘infected’ with love for Krishna, we too would get that ‘disease’. During his birth, Parikshit was connected to Pandavas, as he was the son of Abhimanyu and grandson of Arjuna. And the Pandavas and Abhimanyu were pure devotees of Krishna, and thus Parikshit was a fortunate recipient of the Lord’s mercy due to being connected to the pure devotees of the Lord. And during his death, he was connected to Sukadeva Goswami, yet another mahajana, or the stalwart, chosen devotee recognized by the Lord as one of the twelve great devotees of Krishna.

Therefore if we are connected to devotees during our lifetime, and in their association we take shelter of the process of hearing and chanting of Krishna’s Holy Names, we will surely face the difficult moment of death happily. Srila Prabhupada writes in this section of Srimad Bhagavatam that it is very difficult to find Krishna in the Vedic literature but if we get blessings of devotees, we can easily experience His love in our lives.  And it’s only by blessings of those who are dear to Krishna that we too could become dear to the Lord. By mere study of Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, we’d at best learn what maya is and what is favourable for Krishna consciousness. We may even figure out what to avoid and what to do in our spiritual life. Our sense of discrimination may become strong, but the experience or taste of Bhakti and loving remembrance of Krishna may still elude us. For the taste, we need the intervention of devotees; their loving wishes and blessings attract Krishna to reside in our hearts. Therefore service to devotees and hearing and chanting of Krishna’s activities in their association is the real remedy for conquering the illusions of life and death.

And if we are finding it difficult to remember Krishna now when we are healthy, it’s an indication to intensify our devotional practises. If the distractions lure us away from Krishna now, what would be our fate at the time of death? Therefore let’s now get serious about hearing and chanting, and then as we resist maya’s proposals in favour of sweet service to Krishna, we’d grow to be strong in Krishna consciousness. And then when the inevitable death strikes, we’d be prepared.

Therefore Srila Prabhupada said life is a preparation, and death is an examination. Let’s prepare well now so that we could pass the final exam with flying colours.

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