by purujit dasa
FEAR OF DEATH
A very common viewpoint about life after death is that well…that it simply does not exist. You are born, you live, have fun and then one day you just die and that’s it. No questions asked. After death, there’s nothing. This is not a new idea though. Such conception of nothingness has been proposed in the teachings of Lord Buddha some 2600 years ago. Moreover, from the Bhagavad-gita, we understand that the theory was present even before and was propounded by philosophers known as Lokāyatikas and Vaibhāṣikas. Krsna has however addressed it in the following way:
atha cainaṁ nitya-jātaṁ
nityaṁ vā manyase mṛtam
tathāpi tvaṁ mahā-bāho
nainaṁ śocitum arhasi
If, however, you think that the soul is perpetually born and always dies, still you have no reason to lament, O mighty-armed.
Srila Prabhupada in his commentary on this verse writes:
Even if Arjuna did not believe in the existence of the soul—as in the Vaibhāṣika philosophy—there would still have been no cause for lamentation. No one laments the loss of a certain bulk of chemicals and stops discharging his prescribed duty. On the other hand, in modern science and scientific warfare, so many tons of chemicals are wasted for achieving victory over the enemy. According to the Vaibhāṣika philosophy, the so-called soul or ātmā vanishes along with the deterioration of the body. So, in any case, whether Arjuna accepted the Vedic conclusion that there is an atomic soul, or whether he did not believe in the existence of the soul, he had no reason to lament.
Bg 2.26 purport
In other words, if we’re just matter without soul, the question we need to answer is that why we are afraid of death? Why is death uncomfortable? And why are we lamenting?
The modern trend is that people like to pretend to be detached from death and proclaim: Death is just part of life. Accept it and be peaceful. Be positive. However, their very life is based on fear of death. They are spending so much time working in order to get money so they can keep the body going by supplying food, giving it shelter, clothes to protect it from cold and so on. If death is ok, why are they spending so much time for protection of the body? Neither they can explain, why do we need to give up fear of death in the first place. If death is just a part of life, a peaceful process, where is this so-called illusion of “being afraid” of death coming from? How come we’re not born with such “detachment” from the very beginning of our lives?
Rāmeśvara: They say it is impossible for any man to know what will happen to him after death. It is not possible, so why think about it?
Prabhupāda: But after all, there is death. So why you are afraid of death? Why you do not die peacefully? Why you protest against death? Huh? If I want to kill you, will you peacefully die?
Prabhupāda: Why you scream? Why don't you want to die?
Rāmeśvara: Give up my life, my body?
Prabhupāda: Why you are so much attached to live? That is the question. Now die, "I'm dying, let me die." Why you protest? That means your nature is that you shall live. But you are being interrupted by death. That is the...
Morning Walk -- July 11, 1976, New York
Therefore if anyone says that he does not mind death, let him first of all explain why he is spending so much time protecting the body from discomfort. Why he just does not let go of all care for the body and die peacefully?
Bahulāśva: I was speaking with Professor Stahl about this point in Berkeley. And he also had no answers for this question. He thought that there was no such thing as eternal life.
Prabhupāda: Well, then, therefore you are a rascal. Then why you are struggling to live? Why, when you are sick, why do you call doctor, physician? Why this tendency? Why you are making research in medical science, opening hospital? Die. Why you are not willing to die? Then what is the answer? He says, "There is no such thing as eternity," but why you are struggling for eternity? Then what is the answer? Hmm?
Bahulāśva: Well, when we tell them your philosophy, Śrīla Prabhupāda, he became silent. The one... We were having a debate, and the one chairman of the debate, he then he turned to Mr. Stahl. He said, "So what do you think of this answer, Mr. Philosopher?" And Mr. Stahl just sat there very quiet. He couldn't say anything.
Prabhupāda: (chuckles) Everyone is trying to live. That is Darwin's theory also, "struggle for existence." So why you are trying to exist if there is no such thing?
Satsvarūpa: Well, they say, "We don't mind if we're not eternal, but we want to live as long as possible."
Prabhupāda: Why? That is my question. Why? Why this tendency?
Morning Walk -- June 21, 1975, Los Angeles
The tendency is here, because we’re eternal. Just like a fish taken out of water is trying to swim on the beach, a conditioned soul in the material existence is struggling to live for eternity.
Not only Arjuna, but every one of us is full of anxieties because of this material existence. Our very existence is in the atmosphere of nonexistence. Actually we are not meant to be threatened by nonexistence. Our existence is eternal. But somehow or other we are put into asat. Asat refers to that which does not exist.
(to be continued...)