janma karma ca me divyam
evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
naiti mām eti so ’rjuna
One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna. – Verse, 4.9, The Bhagavad Gita
“One can attain the perfect stage of liberation from birth and death simply by knowing the Lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and there is no other way to achieve this perfection.” (Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 3.8)
What comes to your mind when you think of form? Matter, isn’t it? In our world, form without matter is not possible. In the spiritual world, Goloka, matter itself is impossible. So does this mean the spiritual world is formless? NO. Goloka is replete with beautiful beings, birds, trees, mountains made up of pure energy. It’s full of divinely beautiful forms. Krishna descends in His original form from Goloka to our material planet. He doesn’t need a material body to come here. Only those who He bestows with His special mercy can see Him the way He is.
Let me diverge. But, don’t worry, I won’t lose track of this verse.
This happened in Pietermaritzburg, 70km from Durban, sometime in 2003, at the City Funeral Home’s office. A man was absorbed reading a book. A Vaishnava swami entered the office hoping to get some donation for his missionary work. He sat opposite this man, waiting patiently for a few moments of attention. Swami, after waiting for a few minutes, said that it must be an important book that this man was reading. The man replied that it was the most important book he had ever read. He said that he started reading this book one year ago – after his son died in a traffic accident. His son died young; at the age of 22. The man said to the swami, “A year before his death he came in contact with your movement. He became a vegetarian, started chanting and visiting your temple. He tried his best to get me involved, but I had no interest. I was concerned only with making money and enjoying life. As a result, sometimes we would quarrel about his new-found faith. I was hoping it was just a temporary phase.”
The boy made his father sell his shoe shop because selling leather shoes was a bad karma. The man sold the shop he had been running for 20 years. He did it for his son. Leather and bad karmas didn’t scare him. He decided to retire. And with the money he earned from the sale he decide to start a new business for his son. This funeral home was a bargain. The son had managed it for only a week, and then one day on his way to work he was killed. A friend who survived told the father that he called out Hare Krishna at the last moment.
The man was devastated. His only son had perished. It was too much for him … One morning he came down to the funeral home to collect his things and close the business. When he walked in to his son’s office, he saw this book open. There were none of the usual things on the desk – no papers, files, or pens – just this Bhagavad-gita open at this very page that the man was reading. The man said he was irresistibly drawn to read it, and as he did, the words acted as a soothing balm to his distraught soul. He discovered that his son had not actually perished – only his body had. The man learned that his son was an eternal soul, and having chanted the name of God at the moment of his death may well have gone back to the spiritual world.
The man said that he no longer lamented the tragedy that took his son. But he was sorry that he didn’t take up to practice spiritual life with his son while he was alive. Being an undertaker is an unusual occupation. He didn’t have to advertise, there was always work in this profession. But many of his customers were in the same position he was, distraught and suffering. So he started sharing with them the knowledge in this book. He said “My real business, therefore, is reading Bhagavad-gita – and chanting Hare Krishna, like my son.”
With that, he opened the Bhagavad-gita and began reading again. Swami got up to take the leave. However, as he walked to the door the man looked up and extended his hand. “Here, take this [money],” he said. “You can use it to get this knowledge to others who are suffering.” As the swami turned and accepted his offering, his eyes fell on the open page of the Bhagavad-gita. It was the last verse his son had read, and a source of great solace to his father. It was the verse, 4.9 of the Bhagavad Gita: “One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.”
In the purport of this verse, Srila Prabhupada says, “One who can understand the truth of the appearance of the Personality of Godhead is already liberated from material bondage, and therefore he returns to the kingdom of God immediately after quitting this present material body. Such liberation of the living entity from material bondage is not at all easy. The impersonalists and the yogīs attain liberation only after much trouble and many, many births. Even then, the liberation they achieve – merging into the impersonal brahma-jyotirof the Lord – is only partial, and there is the risk of returning to this material world. But the devotee, simply by understanding the transcendental nature of the body and activities of the Lord, attains the abode of the Lord after ending this body and does not run the risk of returning to this material world.”
Before meeting the life-taking accident, the 22 year boy had read this purport and left the book open. And, when that soul was leaving the body, he must have been aware how special he was that Krishna made him read this verse at the time of death. Krishna Himself refreshed the boy’s consciousness. And, He made him Krishna conscious.
*The incident I’ve shared with you in this post happened with Indradyumna Swami, a disciple of Srila Prabhuapda. He documents his experiences in his diaries that are also published on the web. The Diaries of a Traveling Monk have been a constant and major source of spiritual inspiration to me. His diaries are case studies that prove the authenticity of the teachings of The Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, and other bhakti scriptures. You don’t have to be a devotee to be able to understand and absorb the content of his dairies. They amaze every reader. The incidents documented in his diaries give me goosebumps, bring tears to my eyes, and increase my faith. Krishna talks to me on the pages of Indradyumna maharaj’s diaries. Take a leap of faith and read his diaries here: http://www.travelingmonk.com/diaries/.