The Art of Dying: A Journey towards Self-Discovery

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Although the media are generally obsessed with violence and death, our perception of death and dying is superficial. Śrīla Prabhupāda observes, “As long as a man is in the full vigor of life, he forgets the naked truth of death, which he has to meet.” How can we effectively deal with our own death? 
Art Of Dying
A small child walking with his father goes on inquiring constantly. He asks his father so many odd things and the father has to satisfy him with proper answers. When I was a young father in my householder life, I was overflooded with hundreds of questions from my second son, who was my constant companion. One day it so happened that a bridegroom’s party was passing our tramcar and the four-year-old boy, as usual, inquired what the big procession was. He was given all possible answers to his thousand and one questions regarding the marriage party and finally he asked whether his own father was married!

This question gave rise to loud laughter from all the elderly gentlemen present, although the boy was perplexed as to why we were laughing. Anyway, the boy was somehow satisfied by his married father. The lesson from this incident is that since a human being is a rational animal, he is born to make inquiries. The greater the number of questions, the greater the advancement of knowledge and science. The whole of material civilization is based on this originally large volume of questions put by young men to their elders. When elderly persons give the proper answers to the questions of the youngsters, civilization makes progress, one step after another.

The most intelligent man, however, inquires about what happens after death. The less intelligent make lesser inquiries, but the questions of those who are more intelligent go higher and still higher.
Among the most intelligent of men was Mahārāja Pariksit, the great king of the entire world, who was accidentally cursed by a brahmana to meet death from the bite of a serpent within seven days. The brahmana who cursed him was only a boy, yet he was very powerful and because he did not know the importance of the great king, the boy foolishly cursed him to meet death within seven days. This was later lamented by the boy’s father, whom the king had offended. When the king was informed of the unfortunate curse, he at once left his palatial home and went to the bank of the Ganges, which was near his capital, to prepare for his impending death. Because he was a great king, almost all the great sages and learned scholars assembled at the place where the king was fasting prior to leaving his mortal body.

At last, Sukadeva Gosvāmī, the youngest contemporary saint, also arrived there and he was unanimously accepted to preside at that meeting, although his great father was also present. The king respectfully offered Śukadeva Gosvāmī the principal seat of esteem and asked him relevant questions regarding his passing from the mortal world, which was to take place on the seventh day henceforward.
The great king, as a worthy descendant of the Pandavas, who were all great devotees, placed the following relevant inquiries before the great sage Šukadeva. “My dear sir, you are the greatest of the great transcendentalists and therefore I submissively beg to ask you about my duties at this moment. I am just on the verge of my death. Therefore, what should I do at this critical hour? Please tell me, my lord-what should I hear, what should I worship or whom should I remember now?
A great sage like you does not stay at the home of a householder more than necessary and therefore it is my good fortune that you have kindly come here at the time of my death.

Please, therefore, give me your directions at this critical hour.”
The great sage, having thus been pleasingly requested by the king, answered his questions authoritatively, for the sage was a great transcendental scholar and was also well equipped with godly qualities, since he was the worthy son of Bādarayana or Vyāsadeva, the original compiler of the Vedic literature.

Šukadeva Gosvāmī said, “My dear king, your inquiry is very much relevant and it is also beneficial for all people of all times. Such inquiries, which are the highest of all, are relevant because they are confirmed by the teachings of the vedänta-darśana, the conclusion of the Vedic knowledge and are ātmavit-sammatah; in other words, liberated souls, who have full knowledge of their spiritual identity, put forward such relevant inquiries in order to elucidate further information about the Transcendence.”

The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is the natural commentary upon the great Vedanta (or Śārīraka) sūtras, which were compiled by Śrīla Vyāsadeva. The Vedānta-sūtras are the topmost Vedic literature and they contain the nucleus of basic inquiries about the transcendental subject of spiritual knowledge. Yet although Śrīla Vyāsadeva compiled this great treatise, his mind was not satisfied. Then he happened to meet Śrī Nārada, his spiritual master, who advised him to describe the identity of the Personality of Godhead. Upon receiving this advice, Vyāsadeva meditated on the principle of bhakti-yoga, which showed him distinctly what is the Absolute and what is the relativity or māyā.

Having achieved perfect realization of these facts, he compiled the great narration of the Śrīmad-Bhagavatam or beautiful Bhāgavatam, which begins with actual historical facts concerning the life of Mahārāja Parīkşit.The Vedānta-sūtra begins with the key inquiry about the Transcendence, athāto brahma jijñāsā: “One should now inquire about Brahman or the Transcendence”.

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