Death is only one of the incidents in human existence. Tomorrow has no accidental or arbitrary beginning, but it is merely a perfect continuation of today. —Swami Chinmayananda
Life does not end when the body dies. Life is eternal and at the soul level, we exist eternally.
There is a verse from the ancient writings of the Bhagavad Geeta that says: Whatever one remembers upon giving up the body at the time of death, one attains that state.*
What this means is that the last thought that we hold before leaving the body will decide where we will go next. So, to prepare for the next leg of our soul’s journey, we must know how to live and die happily.
What exactly does it mean that the last thought will determine where the soul goes after leaving the body? Here’s a simple example: Let’s say someone is very attached to a family member, a pet or a personal business. The last thought entertained by the individual before dying would naturally be about those beings or concerns.
That last thought will lay down subtle tendencies that would draw the energy of those beings and concerns into the individual soul’s next life. The soul will then take on a suitable body to fulfil those pressing tendencies.
This is how the universe ensures that we find ourselves surrounded by people and circumstances that are most conducive to our innate tendencies. It is really quite logical as nothing happens randomly.
The goal is spiritual evolution
The goal is spiritual evolution and if the soul requires more experiences with particular beings, things and circumstances before it can move on, the universe will keep providing them. And so, the soul will have to take on new bodies to gain those experiences.
The unfortunate thing is, with every embodiment, the soul acquires new attachments and desires. As a result of this, it is caught in a continuous cycle of births and deaths.
Therefore, the spiritual masters tell us not to form strong worldly attachments but cultivate an attachment to our Source instead.
This Source is the Creator or God. It is the reality behind the changing world, our bodies, things and circumstances.
In fact, it is our own true nature.
Rediscovering our own true nature as being one with the Source or God is the real purpose of our lives.
Not knowing this, we take our human identity and roles as real, and thereby get perpetually attached to the impermanent world.
Gaining the right spiritual knowledge of life will ensure that we live and die happily.
To live and die happily, cultivate a relationship with Source
If our last thought before dying is about people, things and circumstances and we will have to take on new worldly bodies to express those pressing desires, then thinking about Source or God will take us to It.
According to the spiritual masters of Vedanta, being able to maintain thoughts about God at the end of our lives is the greatest gain in life. We won’t have to take on a new body to experience our worldly desires but find permanent peace and bliss in our oneness with our source.
Now, you may say that you will simply remember this fact and think about God when you leave your body.
While it may sound doable, it is not. Our last thoughts will continue expressing the flow and momentum of the thoughts we were carrying throughout our lives.
We won’t be able to abruptly change the course of our thoughts as the life flows out of our bodies. In that dwindling state, the thoughts will effortlessly flow only in the direction they were habituated to throughout our lives.
And so, to live and die happily, we must cultivate a deeper relationship with, and love for God.
This must be where we gain our happiness because the mind will readily go to where it feels happy. This will ensure that our last thoughts will be God-centred. So long as we depend on the world for our happiness, we will not be able to form a deeper relationship with our source.
To live and die happily, develop love for God
Now the next logical question would be—how do we develop a relationship and love for God?
The first step would be to establish a relatable connection with God. You can see God as your father, mother, sister, big brother, good friend or master.
Having decided on the relationship, you would then talk to, and share common experiences and concerns with God. This is similar to talking with and sharing common experiences with someone whom you trust.
As you bring in the remembrance of God in your daily interactions and experiences and talk to Him often, a relationship of love will grow.
As your relationship develops, you will come to rely on God to help you with your life and to alleviate your worries and concerns.
That divine presence is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. There is nothing that it cannot do, know or accomplish.
But the catch is, you must reach out to It. The divine will not interfere in your life. It will graciously give you the freedom to choose who you want to turn to for help, and how you want to solve your problems.
For example, the sun is always present, providing us with warmth and energy. But if you choose to sit inside your room, keeping the doors and blinds closed, you will shut it out. As soon as you open the door though, the sun will come streaming in.
Similarly, God is like the sun. Its benevolent grace, infinite blessings, support, wisdom and expertise are ever available to us. But we must ask for it before it can flow into our lives.
How to continuously stay connected to the divine
Since we are always doing something, the easiest way to stay connected to the divine is to dedicate our actions to It.
See your primary role in life to be a devotee of the divine who is always in Its service.
And so, you are a devotee who is playing the role of a father, mother, son, daughter, employer or employee. These other roles are subservient to your primary role as a devotee.
When you dedicate your duties and all other actions to the divine, your work becomes worship. Your love and connection to the divine grows deeper and deeper.
At first, it will be challenging to always remember the divine as you perform your actions. But with patience, determination and perseverance, you will be able to think about God more and more.
Your tomorrow will be a perfect continuation of today
Eventually, like a river that can carve out deep channels even in hard rock, you will carve out new tendencies—divine tendencies that will enable you to live and die with thoughts of God.
To ensure a happy life, we must form the habit of always feeding the mind positive inputs. We must maintain a cheerful, peaceful mind that is kept positive and uplifted with noble thoughts and desires.
A life well-lived centred in the divine will take care of these concerns.
As tomorrow is a perfect continuation of today, a divinely positive life will not only ensure that we live and die peacefully, it will also ensure a smooth transition to the next leg on the soul’s journey.
*Bhagavad Geeta Chapter 8, verse 6.
You can listen to Swami Aparajitananda talk on the content of this article here: Bhagavad Geeta chapter 8 talk 2 and Bhagavad Geeta chapter 8 talk 3
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