When a devotee is in extreme peril, facing the danger of imminent death, he has no other recourse than to pray to God for protection and shelter.
At this time, the prayer becomes the most sincere and engrossing. The devotee enters into a state of ecstasy because the devotion is so fervent. The devotee has reached a pinnacle of devotional service.
Now, contrast the mood of the devotee with the mood or a person with little or no faith in the power and will of God.
“Thy will be done.”
The non-devout face death with a sense of absolute desolation and absolutely no recourse nor hope for absolution. Time passes over the most intimate of doorsteps, ready to drag each and everyone of us over that threshold, whether we like it or not.
Let’s go a little further with this proposition without materializing death for either the devotee or the non-devotee.
By God’s hand, dumb luck or the arrival of the SWAT team in just the nick of time, both the devotee and the non-devotee walk away without a scratch.
The non-believer is traumatized and has nightmares. When he relives the experience, the same sense of fear and dread haunt and torment him over and over again in a kind of living hell.
The devotee, on the other hand, never has nightmares, nor does he suffer through anxieties when recalling the experience. He does feel a kind of anxiety, but it arises from the separation he feels in relation to God.
He recalls the experience with a sense of peace and calm and may actually long for a reoccurrence of the tribulation so he can feel the same acute intimacy over and over again. It inspires and motivates him to perform deeper and fuller service with more sincere devotion.
The reciprocation between the devotee and God makes the experience relishable. The devotee retains a sense of longing for the experience, while at the same time develops regret that he sought special favour from God.
He comes to realize the protection he asked for is only a paltry request compared to having the intimate association of that supreme person.
Material circumstances attributable to this life are part of our destiny, which, for the most part, we are unable to change or alter. That is to say whatever fortune and securities — as well as whatever misfortune and perils we experience — are allocated to us because of previous activities.
Although we cannot change inevitable consequences of past activities, God can. When he changes our destiny, he does it in a way that increases our attraction for him if we are devotees. This reciprocation is part of his mercy.
On the flip side of that blessing, if our desires are aligned in the opposite direction, God will help us cultivate the consciousness necessary for the enjoyment of matter, the enjoyment of this world.
In this way, God exhibits both equality and detachment toward all living entities.
When we are determined to develop our enjoyment of this world, we develop material senses, but when we desire the association of that supreme person, we develop spiritual senses.
So, when, in a time of distress, we touch upon his lotus feet, our own spiritual sense of happiness awakens from within the heart. In this way, we experience the feeling of absolute bliss — even at the point of imminent death.
In the normal course of our lives, God doesn’t casually take us to the gates of death, but we all constantly face various challenges through which we can experience victory or defeat.
Getting to the worksite on time, paying off the vacation to Mexico and finding an available seat at a popular restaurant are all examples of the small successes we can feel in our daily lives.
The defeats are getting caught up in rush hour traffic, further accrual of interest on a missed Visa payment or getting turned away at the door for an anniversary or birthday dinner.
We show a poor understanding of our relationship with the world and God if we are either elated and celebratory upon victory or remorseful and somber upon defeat.
If we are really successful in our spiritual lives, we are indifferent to life’s triumphs and reversals because we understand that, while in this world, our activities are controlled by the material nature.
Everything occurs by God’s sanction. We feel his touch in everything. As spirit souls, we have nothing to do with this world.
Our constitutional position lies in the spiritual world. We connect to that spiritual world and, ultimately, to the supreme through devotions and services rendered.
As we develop that connection, we stop dancing around the stage of life like marionettes that are having their strings pulled.
God enables us to step outside and see ourselves as apart from the doubts and inequities that arise in the course of our life, even up to — and including — the fear of imminent death.
Harold Meier lived in Taiwan for more than 20 years. He worked as an aircraft maintenance technical instructor and quality manager with Lufthansa technical training. During his time there, he studied Eastern religions, primarily Vedantism, and became an active member of the Hare Krishna community. Meier holds a master’s degree in educational practices. He returned to Canada with his family four years ago. Meier works in the social services sector. KTW welcomes submissions to its Faith page. Columns should be between 600 and 800 words in length and can be emailed to email@example.com. Please include a very short bio and a photo.