Live in the light of Krishna, not the shadow of death
On hearing the scriptural directive that we should always remember that we might die at any moment, some people ask: “Won’t such morbid thinking make me paranoid?”
Yes, paranoia is possible, but only if we divorce this directive from the overall purpose of scripture. That purpose is to help us always think of Krishna, thereby kindling our love for him and elevating us to life at the immortal spiritual level with him.
When we focus on Krishna, we relish peace, purification and satisfaction. Despite such experiences of fulfillment in him, we frequently become distracted by worldly pleasures because we are attached to such pleasures.
Phrased in terms of a light metaphor, love of Krishna is like the light of home for us souls lost in the darkness of materialism and mortality, whereas worldly pleasures are like a will-o’-the-wisp that lures us into darkness. Death is like the shadow around the will-o’-the-wisp that exposes its unreality.
To see through the façade of material indulgences, we are enjoined to remember our mortality. Contemplation on death acts as a potent cerebral jolt to remind us of the temporality of material things, thereby inspiring us to seek the eternal, and seek it urgently.
But if we think of death alone, divorced from any spiritual insight or purpose, we can become paranoid. Such irrational fearfulness characterizes a self-flagellating obstinacy or, in the language of the Bhagavad-gita (18.35), determination in the mode of ignorance. And the Gita doesn’t at all recommend life in the mode of ignorance; it urges us to act for rising to the mode of goodness and beyond, to transcendence.
So, the purpose of remembering death is to get the impetus for resisting the pseudo-light of worldly pleasures and living in the light of Krishna – the light of his love, wisdom and bliss.
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