In the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna says one who remembers Him at the time of death attains His abode without fail. Many sincere practitioners of Bhakti Yoga desire to remember God at the final moment of death. Disciplined chanting of Hare Krishna helps one daily focus on God and increases his or her favourable remembrance of God. Then at the time of death, it becomes easy to withdraw the mind from material consciousness and focus on Krishna. Lord Krishna also reveals in the eighth chapter of Bhagavad Gita that whatever state of consciousness one has at the time of death, that state he attains on leaving this body. Therefore a Hare Krishna yogi is keen to reach the stage of exclusive remembrance of Krishna and not have any other distractions so that his path back home to the spiritual abode is guaranteed.
What if our understanding of spiritual perfection is only theoretical and we have no heart-felt aspiration to go back to the spiritual world. Chanting daily a prescribed number of rounds of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra on the chanting beads not only increases our focus on Krishna, it also purifies our aspirations and fills our heart with spiritual desires. Regular chanting helps us one day attain the desire to attain Krishna’s grace. It fills our heart with rich spiritual emotions for Krishna. Success on the path of Bhakti Yoga has more to do with our motivations becoming purer, than with our becoming a great yogi with mystical powers.
Sometimes one may think if the goal is to remember God at the time of death, I might as well engage in worldly thoughts now and at the time of death focus on God. It isn’t as easy as we imagine it to be. Radhanath Swami reveals, “Life is a preparation and death is an examination”. Whatever we have consciously cultivated throughout our lives, those thoughts preoccupy our consciousness during death. It’s virtually impossible to suddenly switch over to thoughts of God during the time of death, if during the healthy part of our lives, we have consciously avoided God. When our bodily limbs break away and we can see our near and dear ones being separated from us, the pain is intense. Radhanath Swami’s grave reminder rings in my ears, “At the time of death we have no choice of what we are going to think. As the soul is being ripped from the body, it becomes completely disoriented and you won’t be able to soberly remember God. Therefore it’s now that you make a choice and Krishna will take care of you at the time of death.”
Chanting is the best means to cultivate this remembrance of God for we can chant anywhere and at any time. It’s impossible to perform yogic asanas and pranayama in the crowded local trains of Mumbai. Chanting on the other hand can easily help us connect to God even at the most bizarre place. Radhanath Swami sums it up beautifully, “Whether you are in solitude in the quiet caves of Himalayas or at a peaceful temple early morning, or driving your car to work or being crushed in the local trains, you can always call upon the Names of Krishna; you can always unite your mind with Krishna and purify your heart by attracting His grace.”