Without learning to live here, there is no hereafter to hope for. – Chinmaya
What should we learn here?
We must learn to live the right way.
The right way is to perform our actions as best as we can with the God-given talents and abilities, for the welfare of all, as a worship of the Lord, in a spirit of co-operation, without ego and egocentric desires, keeping the noblest goal of moksha (liberation) in mind.
But in the case of most of us, we tend to live an animalistic selfish life.
The photo of a vulture waiting for a starving Sudanese girl to die was taken by Kevin Carter who later won the Pulitzer Prize for this picture.
He was actually savouring his feat and being celebrated on major news channels and networks worldwide. His depression started when during one of such interviews someone phoned and asked him what happened to the child. He replied, “I didn’t wait to find out after this shot as I had a plane to catch.”
And the person replied, “According to me, there were two vultures on that day. One had a camera.”
This statement led to his depression, and within a few months, his suicide.
Kevin Carter could have been alive today if he had just picked that little girl up and had taken her to the nearby United Nation’s feeding Center where she was attempting to reach.
Can suicide solve all our problems?
No. Escapism is never a solution, says the above quote.
Death is only for the physical body (sthoola shareera). Even when the physical body is gone, we continue to exist in our subtle body (sookshma shareera) and causal body (kaarana shareera).
In short, death is only for the body, not for the mind. Our mind continues to remain with us even after our physical death. So there is no escape from existence, from our mind, and from misery.
If we have cultivated a noble mind here, rest assured that our experience will be peace and joy hereafter. But if the mind is trained in unethical and immoral ways, then our experience after death cannot be anything different from misery and agitation. The mental state cultivated here continues hereafter too.
Hence the emphasis to live a righteous life here.
During the time of Guru Nanak, in the city of Emnabad, there lived a high-born man of wealth named Malik Bhago. He was the Divan, or the Chief Minister of the Pathan Governor and thus a personage of high authority.
It happened that on the anniversary of his father’s death, he prepared an elaborate feast and invited all the religious and holy men from far and wide to attend.
Coincidently, Guru Nanak was visiting Emnabad and had planned to take his meals at the house of a poor carpenter named Lalo. As a devotee, Lalo had welcomed the Guru with great reverence.
The news that a saint was staying at the house of Lalo soon reached Malik Bhago. He immediately sent a servant to invite the Guru together with his followers, but Nanak declined the invitation in spite of constant persuasion in repeated attempts. In the end, the Guru went to his house; and Lalo, unable to stay without his Guru, followed behind.
“Why didn’t you come to the meal for holy men at my house?” Malik Bhago asked Guru Nanak.
“Please bring me the food and I shall take it now,” replied Guru Nanak. He turned to Lalo and asked him to bring food from his house also. Lalo hurried away to his house and shortly returned with some coarse barley bread.
In the meantime, a great crowd had gathered around the Guru. When the food was brought before him, the Guru took the plain, dry bread from Lalo in one hand and some of Bhago’s in the other, and squeezed the two. From Lalo’s bread oozed drops of milk, but from Bhago’s bread came blood.
“Now you can see why I refused to eat your food,” said the Guru to Malik Bhago. “Your food is tainted with the blood of the poor. But in Lalo’s house, the food is pure because he earns it by his own hard work.”
Bhagavan Shankaracharya says in Vivekachoodamani:
चित्तस्य शुद्धये कर्म न तु वस्तूपलब्धये |
(Actions are meant for purification of the mind, not to attain anything of the world.)
Many don’t believe in the hereafter, i.e. life after death. For them, this body is be-all-and-end-all of life. For them life is meant to eat, to drink, and to be merry. For them, there is no punya-papa, dharma-adharma, no heaven-hell, no rebirth etc. Since they are not seen, they don’t exist. For them, life is over with the death of the body. Undoubtedly they end up living a licentious indulgent life.
There are people who believe that dying in a holy place gives liberation. So when they grow old and are sure of death, they camp in a holy place like Kashi to die!
There are others who make all the provisions to cremate their dead body in the holiest of places, wrapped up with a holy ochre cloth, to be cremated on sandalwood amidst the chantings of the holiest of mantras. According to them, the disposal of the unholy body in a holy way is the way to liberation!
There are some others, who have heard that the last thought of the dying man decides his next birth. So they chant the shlokas of some holy scriptures in the ears of the dying relative at the time of his/her departure. They are unaware of the fact that the last thought of the dying man is decided, not by what he has heard, but by how he has lived!
Again, there are others who try to take care of their after-life through right investment. They have heard that “what you give here, you get it there.” Therefore to get it there, they, as an investment, give here!
Rare are the people who have understood the mystery of death. True liberation is not the liberation from the body, but the liberation from the ego. It is this ego which forces us to take birth again and again. Unless the ego is destroyed here through right knowledge, there is no hope hereafter, meaning there is no end to the future birth-death cycle, and hence no end to the variegated miseries.
Sadhu Vaswani was on board the steamer from Europe to India. One night, as he paced up and down the deck, his thoughts moved to the bag of clippings which he carried with himself. They were newspaper reports giving an account of his triumphant march through Europe – the places he had visited, the lectures he had delivered, the receptions held in his honour, the articles he had written interpreting the wisdom of India’s rishis.
“What is this I am carrying to India?” he said to himself. “A bag of vanity! I aspire to be a servant of India’s sages and saints. I aspire to live a life of new awakening, of self- effacement and of Self-realisation. And yet…”
The decision was made. He entered his cabin and brought out the bag of clippings. Without another glance at them, he threw them all into the waters.
“Fame and name,” he said, “are the waves on the surface of the sea. They appear and disappear. True life is that which is lived in the depths. It is Life in the Self. Eliminate the ego; eliminate every personal ambition and adventure. And thus slaying the lower self, attain the wisdom of the Self. This alone is the purpose of life, and such a life alone is worth lived. All else is vanity. All else is wastage of lifetime.”
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