Monday Morning Greetings 2023 #45 – I Don’t Want to Die!

November 6th, 2023

Within the last week, two people sought counsel expressing a sudden preoccupation, almost panic, with death. I discussed the matter with them. Some further thoughts:


Everyone fears death. Fear of death is one of the five kleśas, the psychological underpinnings of all troubling material thoughts, described in the Yoga-sūtras as the basis of ignorance, or identification with the body as the self.


The experience of death, being ripped of all one’s attachments at once, is so traumatic and leaves such an aversion to that experience in the subconscious that even a baby, who has no experience in this life of what is death, fears it terribly. That a child fears death, even though they have no experience of it in the present life, is a good argument for reincarnation, otherwise where does such fear come from but a previous life?


For one in the bodily concept of life, death, the impending and inevitable threat of non-existence, stains all material enjoyment with duality, for whatever attachment one maintains and enjoys is mixed with the reality that death will eventually take it away. In that sense, enjoyment in material life is somewhat analogous to the pleasure one gets from the last meal on death row.[1] Can you really enjoy each bite facing impending doom? In the same way, how much can you enjoy life while faced with imminent death?


Everyone on the bodily platform therefore tries to avoid death in two ways: by psychologically blocking it from the conscious mind and doing things that have a sense of eternality, such as producing and investing in offspring to carry on one’s legacy or by seeking lasting fame.


Despite our denial of death, the subject is still so consuming that fear always lies just below the surface. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam thus offers a solution:


“My dear King, if you want to be fearless in meeting your death next week (for actually everyone is afraid at the point of death), then you must immediately begin the process of hearing and chanting and remembering God.”[2]


But exactly how does that work—that chanting and hearing about Krishna makes us fearless at death? A personal experience to illustrate at least one way how:


Did you ever have your world rapidly move in the opposite direction of your ambitions and desires? I did. That was about twenty-five years ago. I had no recourse but to take complete shelter of the holy name. I went to Gītā-nagarī and stayed in that quaint cabin by the side of the river where Satsvarūpa Mahārāja wrote Śrīla Prabhupāda-līlāmṛta, and I chanted a lot, day after day. In fact, there wasn’t much opportunity for me to do much else. After a few days, I had an epiphany: the activity I am doing—chanting God’s names—and the person who is doing it—the devotee of Krishna—will not end with the body, while most all other activities and ambitions, and the designation I embraced doing them—a male, ISKCON, sannyāsī—will be finished at death. I remember feeling such a strong spark of eternality, hope, and fearlessness knowing that the activities of devotion—chanting God’s names—and I—the soul who is chanting God’s names—do not end with the body.


Final reflection: The world is on fire! Death is in our face at every step! Our only solace: the holy name!


“This temporary material world is full of suffering. Take shelter of the holy name of Krishna as your only business.”[3]



[1] Hearing me speak in this way, a devotee expressed that it depressed them. They asked how could they even enjoy their family? The point here is that the problem is not the enjoyment. We need some enjoyment to keep the body and soul together for the service of God. The problem is the duality we face to the extent that we are not conscious of our eternal nature. So, enjoy what you need, but become fearless by the process of devotion.

[2] I couldn’t find the exact verse. This is a paraphrase of a Bhāgavatam verse found in chapter two of The Nectar of Devotion.

[3] Arunodaya kīrtan Song 1 verse 6, by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura


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