Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day

PRESIDENT Francois Mitterrand of France has been taking "professional advice on death and the afterlife," according to today's Guardian. Apparently the doctors have told the President, who is undergoing treatment for cancer, that he will be dead by April, soon after this issue of Back to Godhead goes to press.

He has sought the advice of the eminent Catholic philosopher Jean Guitton, asking him to "shed light on the mysteries of mortality." Professor Guitton praised the President for "giving everyone a marvelous example by his courageous attitude."

Monsieur Mitterrand's actions are indeed most praiseworthy. One should certainly enquire into the afterlife, especially when served notice of impending death. I am reminded of another famous leader, King Pariksit, the grandson of Arjuna. Given one week's notice of death, he too engaged a great philosopher, Sukadeva Gosvami, in giving him the final teaching. As a result, of course, we now have the book known as Srimad-Bhagavatam.

King Yudhisthira, a grandfather of Pariksit, marked as the greatest wonder of the world that although every day so many people die, one rarely thinks, "I too shall soon have to die."

The first instruction of Vedanta-sutra, the essence of the Vedas, is athatho brahma-jijnasa: "Now [that is, now that you have a human body] you should enquire into the Absolute." At least enquire. If we can find accurate answers, so much the better. But surely there can be no more important business than to make such enquiries.

At best we live only for a hundred years. But we die, at least from our present body, for an eternity. Should not our endeavors in this life take account of that ratio of time? A minimal effort for the sake of the body, and maximum for the sake of eternity.

Monsieur Mitterrand has clearly realized something important. He is fortunate that death has served him notice. For us death may come entirely without warning. Hardly ever does one wake up thinking "This shall be my last day on earth." But surely the day of death will come. So why not take notice now?

What should one do on the verge of death? The entire Srimad-Bhagavatam is a response to that most important question. So don't wait to be told. Get a copy of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and dive deeply into its immortal nectar.