REMEMBERING A SONG TWO DECADES LATER
“I have brought medicine to awaken every living being from perpetual sleep. Please receive the holy name of the Lord, the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, and awaken.”
(Arunodaya Kirtana II, by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura)
By Vraja Bihari Dasa
Today I woke up at 3 am humming a bollywood number that I don’t remember hearing or singing even once in the last twenty years. From where did the song pop up suddenly? Even during the day, I caught myself remembering the song, and the movie in which the protagonist and the heroine romantically express their love for each other through this song. I have absolutely no emotional attachment to this song or the movie; either now or even two decades ago, I never went gaga over this song. There is no logical reason for me to remember this song. Well, I now conclude this is the invincible power of the mind. The mind has stored up all the various impressions I have gathered in all my millions of lifetimes. If even this lifetime impression is so deep rooted, little wonder then that the mind refuses to surrender to Krishna; it has unlimited memories of sense gratification spanning over a million lifetimes. What a formidable challenge indeed it is to go back home, back to Godhead in one life time!
The holy names are compared to a medicine that awakens us from our deep slumber of ignorance. Some of us may be taking this medicine for few years now, yet the ignorance may appear to have not vanished; old conditionings may still haunt us. During such times, one may doubt the efficacy of the medicine.
But I do have hope; I have hummed the Hare Krishna mahamantra thousands of times over the last fifteen years. Hopefully as I am leaving this body, I will remember this Hare Krishna song in its various melodies, and I pray I can remember to chant with feeling. If a mundane song can occupy my mind space, and the file isn’t deleted despite fifteen years of devotional service, the only hope for me now is to fill my consciousness with the Hare Krishna chant.
It is important that at the time of death, I remember Krishna, and not any mundane person or a fleeting song of this temporary material world. And that’s because Krishna has assured in the Bhagavad-gita that one who remembers Him at the time of death would reach His abode while one who remembers anything else would get a corresponding destination.
“And whoever, at the end of his life, quits his body remembering Me alone at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail.” (Gita 8.5-6)
Yes, let the mind conjure various thoughts and fantasies for enjoyment — that’s the nature of the unchaste and wicked mind; it knows no other business. I shall, however, continue to focus more on filling my mind and heart with Krishnas beautiful holy names so that as I quit my body, I lovingly remember Krishna.
Although Krishna is most merciful, and we need to have faith that He shall indeed reciprocate with a sincere devotee at the time of death, we also need to guard against complacency. I can’t foolishly assure myself that I am going back to Godhead and will certainly remember Krishna at the time of death. No! Today morning maya has gently reminded me that she hasn’t gone away; she is just round the corner, and she has unlimited baits stored up to lure me away from Krishna. This should make me more determined to chant attentively, knowing that the fight is on. It is real and will last a lifetime.
Srila Prabhupada implores us to depend on Krishna and be alert and ever cautious while executing our Krishna conscious duties:
“Kunti Devé was asking Krishna, “Do not leave us. Don’t think that we are safe now. We are not safe. Without Your protection, we are always unsafe.” This should be the position of the devotees. We are actually in a dangerous position, this material world. At any time, maya will catch, at any time. As soon as we are a little inattentive. “Now I have done my duty. Now let me take rest little.” No, there is no rest. We must be always alert…” (Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam, Los Angeles, April 29, 1973)
Therefore our only hope is that Krishna and Srila Prabhupada assures us that if we are sincere we’ll surely succeed, by Krishna’s mercy. In one lecture in December 1968, Visnujana asked Srila Prabhupada how one could chant Hare Krishna when the mind is clouded with so much thoughts and impressions. Srila Prabhupada’s answer is hope giving: “At the same time, chant. Two things will go on, and this will conquer. As maya is forcing you to drag you from this Krishna consciousness, you also force maya by chanting Hare Krishna. There is fight. And maya will go away.”
Hopefully when I near death, Krishna would be pleased with my sincere efforts, and help me remember Him. But for now, I am present with the most merciful form of His holy names, which is the real panacea and medicine for the suffering soul. I now chant with sincerity, being present, and with feeling, begging the Lord for enthusiasm and taste.
Vraja Bihari Dasa holds a masters degree in International Finance, and an MBA from Mumbai University. He is serving full time at ISKCON Chowpatty, and is an active teacher of bhakti-yoga and a prolific writer on Krishna consciousness. He blogs over a dozen websites. You can read his daily reflections on www.yogaformodernage.com