>And whosoever, leaving the body, goes forth remembering Me alone at the time of death, he attains My Being; there is no doubt about this.
Whosoever at the end leaves the body, thinking upon any being, to that being only he goes, O Kaunteya, because of his constant thought of that being!
(VIII-5 & 6)
Only the most prominent thought of one’s life occupies the mind of a person at the time of death. The predominant thought at the time of death is what in normal life had occupied the person’s attention most.
The last thought of a licentious man will be the thought of his woman. The last thought of an inveterate drunkard will be that of his peg of liquor. The last thought of a greedy moneylender will be that of his money. The last thought of a fighting soldier will be that of killing his enemy. The last thought of a mother who has been intensely attached to her only son will be that of her son only.
I once saw a dying man who had been having the habit of using snuff. When he was in an unconscious state, he used to move his fingers towards the nose very often and do imaginary sniffing. Obviously he was having the thought of snuff in his last moments. A medical officer of a hospital used all sorts of abusive and obscene terms when he was in a dying condition.
The last and most powerful thought that occupies the mind of a man in his dying moment determines the nature of his next birth. The last thought determines the nature or character of the body to be attained next. The last thought of a man governs his future destiny. As a man thinketh, so shall he become.
If the thought of tea comes into your mind at the moment of death, you may become the manager of a tea estate in your next birth, provided you had done virtuous actions. You may be born as a labourer in the tea estate if you had not done any meritorious actions.
Desire is endless. Therefore, man cannot gratify all his desires in just one birth. At the time of death, the whole storehouse of impressions and desires is churned and the strongest and most cherished desire comes to the surface of the mind or the field of mental consciousness. Thus the churned-up cream of cherished desires arrests the attention of the dying man for immediate gratification.
He thinks of that only at the time of death. Just as the most vital mango plant shoots up prominently in the nursery, so also the strongest desire shoots up to the surface of the mind. If the desire is not gratified, the mind gets saturated with that desire and it is gratified in his next birth. This desire will become very prominent in his next birth.
King Bharata, the son of Rishaba, renounced his kingdom and took to the life of an ascetic. One day he observed a small motherless deer in distress. He took pity on the poor creature and loved it so passionately that his thoughts were mainly centred on it, with the result that he completely forgot about God.
At the time of his death the thought of the little deer harassed him much and he had to take the birth of a deer in his subsequent incarnation.
King Bharata had been well versed in all the scriptures, in the Vedas
and in the Puranas.
He had performed very rigorous austerities and had meditated on the Lotus Feet of the glorious Vasudeva. But the inordinate attachment to the animal gave him the birth of a deer. Bharata recognised his folly during his life as a deer and remembered every detail of his past life as King Bharata. As a deer he ever meditated on the Lord, ate but little and never mixed with the other deer. He was actually counting the number of his days on earth to get freedom from the low birth.
After departing from its body, the deer again took birth, this time as a Brahmin by the name Jada Bharata. Now Jada Bharata grew wise enough not to commit the same mistake once again, and from his very boyhood kept himself aloof. He had a mind free from attraction and repulsion. Thus, he escaped the clutches of Maya and, at the dissolution of his mortal sheath, attained oneness with Brahman.
I shall tell you another story. Ajamila lost his pious conduct and led a detestable life. He fell into the evil depths of sinful habits and resorted to theft and robbery. He became the slave of a public woman.
He had ten children, the last of whom was called Narayana.
When Ajamila was about to die, he was absorbed in the thought of his last son, whom he loved dearly. Three fearful messengers of the God of Death advanced towards him. In great distress, Ajamila cried out aloud for his son Narayana. On the mere mention of the name of Narayana, the attendants of Lord Narayana came speedily along and obstructed the messengers of death.
They took Ajamila to the abode of Lord Narayana.
Ordinarily, a dying man is haunted by various horrible thoughts.
He cannot concentrate his mind on God. His mind will be clouded by innumerable thoughts. He will be thinking: “Who will look after my young wife and children if I die? What will become of my property? Who will realise the outstanding dues from the debtors? I have not finished such and such work. The second son is not married. The work is half finished; many law-suits are pending judgment.” Thus reviewing the actions of his whole life and thinking of the future, he will feel miserable.
It is very difficult to keep up God-consciousness
at the time of death when diseases torment the body, when the consciousness begins to fade. Some people think: “Why should a man become a Sadhu and spend his life in the Himalayas? What is wanted is that one should think of God at the time of death. This can be done even at home.” This is a mistake. The last thought will be that of God only in the case of the man who has disciplined his mind all throughout his life and has tried to fix his mind on the Lord through constant practice.
This last thought of God cannot come through stray practice of a day or two. It cannot come in a week or a month. It is a lifelong endeavour and struggle.
The thought of God comes to a man at the time of death only through the Grace of the Lord. You have to keep up the practice of remembrance through repetition of the Divine Name. This has to be carried on every hour, every second, for days and months. When a strong habit is formed by means of unceasing practice through the period of one’s life then it will be easy for one to remember God at the time of death.
Pursuing worldly activities throughout the day and sleeping at night, you will find no time to think of God at all. Even if you do Japa and prayer for ten or fifteen minutes daily but spend the rest of the time in worldly activities, you cannot make very great spiritual advancement. Therefore, the remembrance of God should be constant so that the thought of Him may come automatically at the time of death as well.
A devotee says to the Lord, “O Lord, let me enter the cool shade of your Lotus Feet this very day, when my senses are strong, when my memory is good! When the intellect is perturbed and perverted at the time of death, it may be carried away by the threefold diseases of the body.” Even the most devout aspirant may fail to think of the Lord at the time of death due to the weakness of the physical body.
That is the reason why the Gita, Bhagavata, Vishnu Sahasranamam
and other holy scriptures are recited at the deathbed of a sick person. Even though he may not be able to speak, he may hear what is read out to him. This will help him to forget the body and his ailment and enable him to think of God.
Man always desires to die a peaceful death, with his mind fixed on God. When his memory fails, these sacred sentences of the scriptures will remind him of his real nature.
If holy books are read and his interest in the glory of God is aroused, there will be every possibility of the dying man forgetting his worldly attachments. The relatives gathered around him should not begin to weep. If they do so, his mind will be afflicted all the more. On the other hand, they should encourage him to think of God alone. When the mind of the sick person is thus gradually turned away from the network of worldly matters and centred on the picture of the Lord or on His glories and teachings, all favourable conditions are thereby created for the passing of his life-breath. The mind also peacefully alights on the thought of God.
The dying man will then repent for his follies and pray to God sincerely. Sincere prayers can undo the evil effects of bad Karmas. Discrimination and dispassion will dawn in him instantly. If real discrimination and dispassion dawn in him at the time of death, it will be enough to give him the solace which the soul strives for.
May you all realise God in this very birth by constant remembrance of Him! May He appear before you at the time of your departure from this body!
(pgs. 81-85, Kingly Science, Kingly Secret )