It took a life-threatening accident to make a devotee appreciate the great value of life.
It was December 16, 2011. I was driving on National Highway No. 4 toward Satara, Maharashtra.  By the time I had passed Pune it was 7:30 pm. I usually avoid driving long distances at night, but this time I had no choice my family and I had to attend a wedding the next morning. My mother, wife, daughter, sister, niece, and nephew were all cramped in the car. Earlier that day my daughter had won a running race as well as an obstacle race at school. We were all happily celebrating her success during the journey, and everyone in the car was enjoying the small family get-together. 
The Accident 
At 10 pm we were just 30 km from Satara. Suddenly I saw something lying in the middle of the road. It appeared like a dead body covered in cloth. I thought there must have been some accident on the road, so I turned the wheel to avoid hitting whatever was lying there. Suddenly, the car swung out of control, spinning on the road. It was a horrendous experience. My wife and sister immediately started very loudly chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Gradually the car came to a stop, but now it was sitting in the middle of the road, facing the shoulder and directly in the path of oncoming traffic. I could see a huge truck speeding directly toward our car. By now not just my wife and sister were chanting, and the intensity of the chanting had increased. Some brief moments later, the speeding truck collided with our car and threw it off the road. Once the car had again come to a standstill, I looked around and, to my surprise, all my family members were completely unhurt not one of us had sustained even a single scratch! Fortunately, the truck had hit only the front portion of our car and we had been saved from certain death. By that time, several vehicles had stopped and people gathered around our car, fearing that we had been killed. They were all amazed to find us completely unharmed. We thanked the Lord over and over again and tried to restart the car. There was no other way for us to get safely to our destination by the next morning. By Krishna’s mercy, the car started in spite of the damage, and we managed to reach our destination later that night without further incident.
The Site of the Accident
The next day we heard that the spot at which the accident had occurred was well known for being the site of frequent car wrecks and collisions. Many accidents had occurred there, and accidents often result in sudden and violent death, which means that the souls of accident victims sometimes linger around the spot where they were forced from their bodies. Some of these spirits are malevolent and, anguished at their unexpected misfortune, haunt the site of the accident, trying to cause more accidents. The day after our accident I went back to the spot to check for the dead body I had seen lying in the road. But there was nothing there, and no one but me had seen anything on the road the night before. Was it an illusion created by one of the many spirits that had been violently forced to leave their bodies there? In all the previous accidents, nearly everyone involved had died. Only rarely had someone survived an accident at that spot. It’s possible that ours was the first instance in which an accident at that particular spot resulted in neither injury nor death.
The Holy Name, Our Savior
All of us in the car realized that it was the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra that had savedus from this disaster, which could have wiped out our entire family. As the acaryas inform us, the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is not different from Krishna, who personally controls the movements of the cosmos just by His will. What is a small car compared to huge planets and heavenly bodies, which stay in their preordained orbits for millions and billions of years without ever deviating from their paths? Rakhe Krishna mare ke/ mare Krishna rakhe ke. If Krishna protects His aspiring devotees, who can kill them? 
The Power of the Maha-mantra 
The Deity of Krishna may not be present at all times and in all places, but Krishna is still personally present everywhere at any time, in any place, to any one in the form of His Holy Name. By taking shelter of His name, we can avail ourselves of Krishna and His protection. Many times I have been asked, “You are a Hare Krishna devotee. Have you seen Krishna?” “I have not seen Krishna,” I tell them. “But I know Krishna. I feel His presence and His benediction, and so I have experienced Him personally.” When we feel something like this it fortifies our faith and propels us forward on the path of devotional service, until such time as we can meet Krishna face to face.
Life Is a Bonus for All of Us
When I woke up the next day my mind was very perturbed. What horrible things could have happened to us the night before? Most likely, my family would have been in the ICU, struggling for life, or perhaps some of us would have died on the spot. The very fact that, at this moment, I am still alive means that this life is now a bonus awarded to me by Krishna. And if I face miseries in life, I should tolerate them thinking that my life and the lives of my family members could have ended that night. Whatever misery I face is tolerable in comparison to the sudden and painful death that Krishna prevented out of His causeless mercy. Now that this life is a bonus, my body, mind, and soul should be engaged in serving the Lord, without complaint, without regret. 
Many people pass away in their sleep. Some who leave for office in the morning never return home. Many die in freak accidents every day. Anything can happen to any one of us, on any day, at any time, and without any warning. With these sobering thoughts in mind, we must treat our every breath, our every heartbeat, as a bonus and use the remaining part of our lives in the service of Krishna.
Yugavatara Dasa is an associate professor in Anatomy in a medical college in Mumbai. He is a frequent contributor to BTG.