Monday Morning Greetings 2018 #40 – Life’s Two Greatest Challenges

October 1st, 2018

Last week two thunderbolts of realization fell in my lap. I was challenged to rise in my own spiritual commitment to meet them. I realize them as two of life’s greatest challenges.

 

  1. To dissolve the subtle body before we die.

 

I just read in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam that death usually means only the dissolution of the gross body. However, it can also mean that in addition to the dissolution of the subtle body if one is free of material desires at the time of death then one attains a spiritual identity never to take birth again. I felt Śrīla Prabhupāda’s words deeply. Keeping one’s petty desires only nourishes the subtle body, exacerbates the pain of leaving this world, and keeps one in this world of birth and death. If I don’t dissolve the subtle body by reasonable detachment, I shudder to think of a next birth where one will again suffer the challenges of growing up and the myriad of other countless frustrations and humiliations one must endure simply to satisfy one’s desire to be separate from God. The challenge? Surrender now!

 

These thoughts hit me hard, especially since the week before I watched the passing of my friend Gunagrahi dasa Goswami. I watched his last days and even his last moments live streamed throughout the world. I also was with him in Vṛndāvana much of the last year. I thus witnessed not only the physical pain of one giving up the material body, but also the pain endured, as the process of dying robs one step by step of everything one has ever cherished, except the holy name. It’s no joke. Sannyāsa actually means “to die while living” by renouncing the superfluous without delay. I pray to take up that challenge.

 

Śrīla Prabhupāda’s description of dissolving the subtle body struck me as a life and death challenge. If I don’t surrender fully now by detaching myself from that which has no value to devotion, then when will I do it?

 

  1. To be fearless, especially at death, one must be able to draw on one’s relationship to Krishna, for that is all one really has left.

 

Ghanashyam dasa, a former brahmacārī at the Bhakti Center, is now the Hindu chaplain at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, one of the most prestigious hospitals in America. In his Bhāgavatam class he described his encounters with people dying. He described that although he is trained to comfort them in many ways, which he does, ultimately without being able to go within the heart and draw on one’s relationship with God there is not much for a dying person to hold on to. He stressed how important it is, especially as devotees, to develop that relationship now. He related a story that he heard from a devotee to illustrate that point.

 

The devotee described how the ocean riptide carried him out in a way that no matter how hard he tried to swim back to shore, the current kept pushing him further and further away. He was sure he would die and thus reached into his heart to call out to Krishna for help, but he was shocked by how little substance his cry held. He realized that he had not really yet developed his relationship with Krishna and his voice reflected that. Shaken, he vowed on the spot that if he was saved he would dedicate the rest of his life to truly develop his relationship with Krishna. His cry at least carried that sincerity. Obviously, he lived to share his realizations.

 

Ghanashyam’s point struck me. Developing our relationship with Krishna is such serious business. Perfunctory devotional service will just not do. In everything we do we must find and give a heart to it, which means our love and relationship with Krishna. If I can’t find that now, what will I have left to hang on to when everything else is being ripped way? The same point arises again and again in my life in different ways. The time to fully surrender and awaken one’s relationship with Krishna is now, for trust no future however pleasant.[1]

 


[1] The phrase “Trust no future however pleasant” is from A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

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