Spirituality offers a balm during life’s greatest trauma
(This article is adapted from a letter written by the author to his bereaved sister who lost her father. Explaining death in a simple and personal manner, the author comforts her by describing the Vedic wisdom behind this crisis.)
I was deeply affected by the fact that you have to deal with such an immense, terrible, and sudden loss all alone and so far from family.
Therefore I thought to share some thoughts and realizations with you that may help. This letter might be quite long, but kindly go through it fully and very carefuly. After all, spirituality is the greatest balm (and perhaps the only one) in times like these.
SOME BASIC TRUTHS OF LIFE
The truth of the matter is that we are all spirit souls (atma) living within a body. Our soul never changes, although the body keeps changing. For example, our bodies have definitely changed over the last twenty or thirty years from infancy to adulthood. And our bodies will continue to change as we age our teeth will fall out, our hair will turn grey, etc. At death we, the soul, will leave the body altogether. But through all these external changes we remain the same person the same eternal, unchanging soul.
You can think about it like a driver with a brand new car. Initially, the car performs well, but after prolonged wear and tear, the car slowly breaks down and ultimately stops working altogether. Then the driver buys a better car. We are drivers sitting in the car of the body. As long as the body performs well we remain in the body, but the moment the body is unable to function properly, higher authorities guide the driver (soul) into a new vehicle or body.
The driver is never lost even when he disappears from our sight. Rather, the driver has simply moved to another vehicle to continue his journey towards God’s kingdom. It is simply the useless vehicle he has discarded.
DEALING WITH THE CRISIS
When somebody close to us leaves this world, we feel unimaginable pain. No words of solace can heal that loss. But if you contemplate what I said above, you can at least gain some relief knowing that your loved one has not really been lost. Rather, he has just moved onto a better destination.
Imagine that your best friend is in the next room, calling out to you to come in. To get to the other room, you have to walk through a door. You are not afraid because you love your friend and know she will protect you. Death is like that door. Our best friend, Krishna, is calling out to us. He will love and protect us. But before we approach that sweet Lord, we first have to walk through a series of doors. Prem Maman has walked through one of these doors. Sooner or later we will all have to follow suit.
Another aspect that adds to the pain is to think we can never connect with our loved one again, never engage in a relationship with him/her. This is very untrue. Although we can no longer touch that person physically, we can still have a spiritual relationship with the departed person and this is much more satisfying than a physical relationship.
How to create a spiritual relationship? We just have to intensify our lost connection with Krishna or God. When our connection with God is intensified, automatically our connection with all of God’s daughters and sons intensifies on a spiritual platform. An example: when we water the root of a tree, all parts of the tree (the leaves, the twigs, branches, etc.) get nourished. We don’t have to nourish each twig or leaf separately. Just water the root and everything is taken care of. Similarly Krishna is the root of creation. We souls all have an eternal relationship with Him. When we intensify our relationship with Krishna, ultimately, everybody who is connected with us benefits (materially and spiritually).
Therefore to continue the relationship with the departed person, we need to intensify our relationship with Krishna. How to do that? We will discuss later.
BUT WHY DOES GOD DO THESE THINGS?
This is a very important question. Many times, crises cause people to lose faith in God or to even become atheists. But Prateeksha, please have faith that nobody on earth including your dad, mom, sister, relatives, or friends loves you as much as God loves you. When you feel pain, please have faith that God feels your pain much deeper than any other person. He will always be your best friend.
We may not be able to understand right now how or why things happen in our lives the way they do. In fact, we are not supposed to understand this. If we could understand allof God’s actions, what would be the difference between us and God? God is always supreme, and we are always insignificant before Him. But if we have faith that God our best friend has a higher purpose in creating the particular scenes of our life, then it is easy to overcome any of the crises we may face.
You can think of it as a person who is irritated by a traffic jam. If you take that same person and fly him into the air where he can look down on the traffic and everything around it where he can see where the road clears and how there are places of beauty, and even places where conditions are much worse than his own he learns how insignificant his own concerns are. This is because he sees a bigger picture. Please understand that we are not seeing the big picture right now. But by adopting spiritual practices, we can learn to see it to see more of God’s will and intentions.Then we will know that today’s problems are insignificant.
Unfortunately, life will always be full of difficulties. We can never expect a smooth ride in life. Right now where I am it is raining. I cannot stop the rain, but I can carry an umbrella to protect myself from it. So whoever we are (Mr. Ambani, the president, the prime minister, or a simple housewife), we can use our spiritual practices as an umbrella to protect us from becoming overly affected by the troubles we may experience.
4) HOW TO INTENSIFY OUR SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIP
Intensifying our spiritual relationship is the easiest part. The scriptures recommend that to elevate ourselves to the spiritual platform we should simply chant God’s names. God and His names are nondifferent, so when we chant His names we immediately touch Him.There are countless names for God, but the scriptures tell us that of all of them, the following names give us the greatest benefit:
HARE KRISHNA HARE KRISHNA KRISHNA KRISHNA HARE HARE
HARE RAMA HARE RAMA RAMA RAMA HARE HARE
There are no rules for chanting. Simply chant the above names and listen to what you are chanting. That’s all that’s required. In fact, these names can be chanted anywhere (even in the bathroom!) and at any time. There is no need even to bathe before chanting. Simply chant and hear. Only two qualities are required while chanting: that you remain humble and sincere. Immediately you can feel God’s presence in your life.
So try to incorporate a daily quota of chanting (maybe 10 or 50 or 108 times)the above Hare Krishna mantra in your life and experience immediate wonderful effects.
In fact, try the following: The next time you feel unbearable pain about Maman, please chant the mantra softly, attentively, and prayerfully to yourself. You will feel immediate solace. Please trust me on this.
Please forgive me for such a long letter. But if it helps you even a little, please bless me that I can continue forever on the path of spirituality.
I do not access my email regularly, so I may not be able to keep in regular touch with you, but please be assured that I keep you, Ammu, and Ammai in my prayers.
Your loving brother,
Sadbhuja Dasa is a resident of ISKCON Mumbai and is engaged in training new devotees in Krishna consciousness.