A publication by Sri Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa
Once an old man was travelling by train on a pilgrimage to Brindavan. At night, whilst he was asleep, his wallet fell from his pocket. A co-passenger found it the next morning and enquired as to whom the wallet belonged. The old man said it was his. A picture of Sri Krishna inside the wallet was proof that the wallet really belonged to him.
The old man then began to relate the story of the wallet. He soon had a group of eager listeners around him. Lifting up the purse for all to see, the old man said: This purse has a long history behind it. My father gave it to me years ago when I was a mere schoolboy. I kept my little pocket money in it and also a photograph of my parents.
Years passed. I grew up and began studying at university. Like every youth, I became conscious of my appearance. I replaced my parents’ photograph with that of my own and I would look at it often. I had become my own admirer.
Then came marriage. Self-admiration gave way to the consciousness of a family. Out went my own picture and I replaced it with that of my wife’s. During the day I would open the wallet many times and gaze at the picture. All tiredness vanished and I would resume my work with enthusiasm.
Then came the birth of my first child. What a joy I experienced when I became a father! I would eagerly rush home after work to play with my little baby. Needless to say, my wife’s picture had already made way for the child’s.
The old man paused. Wiping his tearful eyes, he looked around and said in a sad voice: Friends, my parents passed away long ago. My wife too died five years ago. My son- my only son- is now married. He is too busy with his career and his family. He has no time for me. I now stand on the brink of death. I do not know what awaits me in future. Everything I loved, everything I considered my own, has left me.
A picture of Lord Krishna now occupies the place in my wallet. I know He will never leave me. I wish now that I had kept HIS picture with me right from the beginning! He alone is true; all others are just passing shadows.
Sri Sarada Devi, the holy mother, says: Don’t be afraid my child, these earthly ties are transitory. Today they seem to be the be-all and end-all of life, and tomorrow they vanish. Your real tie is with God. God is one’s very own. It is the eternal relationship. He is ever looking after you. Call on the Lord who pervades the entire universe. He will shower His blessings upon you.
From other sources:
Your wealth will remain on earth; your cattle will remain in the stables, Your wife will come till the entrance door, your relatives and friends will come till the cremation ground, your body will accompany you till the funeral pyre, but on the way beyond this life only your Karmas will accompany you.
Dhanaani Bhoomau Pashvascha Goshthe
Bharyaa Gruh Dwaare Swajan Smashaane
Karmaanu Go Gacchati Jeev Ek
Paraphrased from the writings ofThe assembly of gods once met and decided to appoint a man to the position of Lord of Death, the official title being Lord Yama. They selected the most righteous man for this post. His duty was to take (escort) man at the proper time (upon death) to the celestial regions.
Swami Shivananda, The Divine Life Society, Rishikesh
Swami Shivananda, The Divine Life Society, Rishikesh
A man by the name of Amrita, living on earth, thought to himself that the one thing he feared most was death. He hit upon a bright idea that if he befriended the Lord of Death, then may be death can be kept at a distance. Amrita practised austerities and concentrated his mind upon Lord Yama, the Lord of Death. Lord Yama was pleased and granted a vision to Amrita.
Lord Yama said: I know, by the aid of my divine powers, that you seek to befriend me. Your wish has come true. My presence is only available to those upon whose deaths my messengers or I take their souls to my domain. Those that are born must die and those who die will be born again. This is the eternal law. No one can escape death. Yet I grant you my vision while you are still living.
Amrita said: As a token of our friendship, I ask this favour of you. If death is inevitable, I ask that if I am to die, then at least let me know beforehand of the time when my end is to come so that I can make proper provision for my family before departure.
Lord Yama said: Sure, this is a simple matter. I shall certainly inform you beforehand. But as soon as you get the message, please set about making the preparations.
With these words Lord Yama, the Lord of Death, vanished.
Many years passed. Amrita’s hair began gradually to turn grey, but he was living happily with not a thought about the fear of death. His life was full of sensual pleasures and enjoyments. He did not look forward to receiving any correspondence from his friend, Lord Yama, and he was pleased that so far no letters had arrived from the Lord of Death.
Some more years passed by. By this time Amrita had lost most of his teeth. But he was living without any worries about death or dying. Still no letters had arrived from his friend, the Lord of Death.
As the years rolled by, Amrita’s eyesight became dimmer. Old age is catching up with me, he thought. But I am thankful that my friend has still not sent any letter addressed to me. I know that my friend, Lord Yama, always keeps his promise. He will surely send a message beforehand.
Some more years passed by. Amrita was now an old man who could not stand straight up. With his back bent forward, he could not walk without the support of a walking stick. His skin was all wrinkled. One day he suffered a stroke and became paralysed. People said his condition was very critical. But Amrita was still in a happy frame of mind. As long as his friend Lord Yama had not sent any letter, the thought of death and dying never entered his mind.
Then the inevitable happened. Lord Yama, the god of death, entered the room. Amrita was startled and his mind was seized with fear.
Lord Yama said: My friend, come now, you have suffered greatly. Today I have come to take you with me.
Amrita was trembling with extreme fear. He said: Alas, you have betrayed me. You have not kept your word. You did not send any letter to me. You have now come with your fearful form to take me away. Are you not ashamed to thus deceive a friend?
Lord Yama said: O man! You spent all your life in shameless sense indulgence. Now you cast aspersions on me, the Lord of justice. Pleasures and enjoyments made you blind. How then could you know the letters I sent you? Not one, but four letters did I send to you. But you heeded them not.
Amrita was greatly puzzled: Four letters did you say? But not one reached me. It is just possible that they may have gone astray in the post.
Lord Yama said: With all your cleverness you were fool enough to think that I would take up pen and paper to write letters to you. O deluded mortal! Time is my messenger who brought my messages to you. Now take your mind back in time and recollect, years ago, your hair turned grey. That was my first letter. You did not heed my message but blackened your hair with dye.
My second letter reached you when your teeth began to fall out. Then too, you took no warning, but got yourself a set of false teeth.
My third letter was sent to you when your eyesight failed.
The fourth message was when your body became paralysed.
Amrita said: Oh no! I have grievously erred. Unforgivable is my error. Yet once more I crave your indulgence, Lord Yama.
Lord Yama replied: Indulgence! What more indulgence is there for me to give? What use did you make of the priceless opportunity bestowed on you of the gift of this human birth? Sensual indulgence and drunkenness- with these you wasted your life. Wasting this precious human life, fie on you! Now you shamelessly ask for more time. Time for what?
Amrita said: O friend, remember our past friendship? Please recall those days now and bestow on me one more chance.
Lord Yama said: That friendship was of that time. Now it’s done. I come neither as friend nor as foe. I come as the dispenser of the granite law. This law is above love and above hatred. This law is just, true and impartial. No human servitor am I who for gifts or money would from duty’s path swerve. My course is straight and true to the end. I carry out the stern dictates of destiny. All mortals have to bend to my final mandate. This is the divine law. Now let us go.
Lord Yama, the god of death, puts the noose over the dying man’s neck. The man begins to gasp and then chokes. An agonised expression fills his face.
People said: Amrita is dead
From the writings of Swami Shivananda
The Divine Life Society, Rishikesh
Old age like the dreaded tiger stands threatening at your door. Beauty fades, wrinkles appear on the face and mar the beauty, hairs become grey, teeth become shaky and fall, body bends forward. Knowledge of God is the only remedy to destroy birth, old age, death and disease.
From The Mahabharata
"The wheel of life moves on. It is overwhelmed by decrepitude and grief, and it has diseases and calamities for its progeny. That wheel relates in time and place. Day and night are the rotations of that wheel. It is characterised by production and destruction going on ceaselessly. When one’s time comes, one cannot escape. There is none dear or hateful to time. Youth, beauty, life, possessions, health and the companionship of friends, all are unstable." -The Mahabharata, Santi Parva
From The MahabharataAddressing Yudhishthira, Bhishma relates the conversation between a Brahmana and his son.
Santi Parva, Section CLXXV
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli
Santi Parva, Section CLXXV
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli
The Son said: What should a wise man do, seeing that the period of human life is passing away so very quickly? Death is that by which the world is assailed. Decrepitude encompasses it. Those irresistible things that come and go away are the nights that are continually lessening the period of human life. When I know that Death tarries for none (but approaches steadily towards every creature), how can I pass my time without covering myself with the garb of knowledge?
When each succeeding night, passing away lessens the allotted period of one’s existence, the man of wisdom should regard the day to be fruitless. When death is approaching steadily who is there that would, like a fish in a shallow water, feel happy? Death comes to a man before his desires have been gratified. Death snatches away a person when he is engaged in plucking flowers and when his heart is otherwise set, like a tigress bearing away a ram. Do thou, this very day, accomplish that which is for thy good. Let not this Death come to thee.
Death drags its victims before their acts are accomplished. The acts of tomorrow should be done today, those of the afternoon in the forenoon. Death does not wait to see whether the acts of its victim have all been accomplished or not. Who knows that Death will not come to him even today? In prime of age one should betake oneself to the practice of virtue. Life is transitory. If virtue be practised, fame here and felicity hereafter will be the consequences.
Overwhelmed by ignorance, one is ready to exert oneself for sons and wives. Achieving virtuous or vicious acts, one brings them up and aggrandises them. Like a tiger bearing away a sleeping deer, Death snatches away a man addicted to the gratification of desires and engaged in the enjoyment of sons and animals. Before he has been able to pluck the flowers upon which he has set his heart, before he has been gratified by the acquisition of the objects of his desire, Death bears him away like a tiger bearing away its prey. Death overpowers a man while the latter is still in the midst of the happiness that accrues from the gratification of desire, and while still thinking ‘This has been done; this is to be done; this has been half-done.’ Death bears away the man, however designed according to his profession, attached to his field, his shop, or his home, before he has obtained the fruit of his acts
Death bears away the weak, the strong, the brave, the timid, the idiotic and the learned, before any of these obtains the fruits of his acts. When death, decrepitude, disease, and sorrow arising from diverse causes, are all residing in thy body, how is it that thou livest as if thou art perfectly hale? As soon as a creature is born, Decrepitude and Death pursue him for (effecting) his destruction. All living things, mobile and immobile, are affected by these two. The attachment that one feels for dwelling in villages and towns (in the midst of fellow men) is said to be the very mouth of Death. The forest, on the other hand, is regarded as the fold within which the senses may be penned. This is declared by the Srutis (scriptures). The attachment a person feels for dwelling in a village or town (in the midst of men) is like a cord that binds him effectually. They that are good break that cord and attain to emancipation, while they that are wicked do not succeed in breaking them. He who never injures living creatures by thought, word or deed, is never injured by such agencies as are destructive of life and property. Nothing can resist the messengers (Disease and Decrepitude) of Death when they advance except Truth which devour Untruth. In Truth is immortality.
For these reasons one should practise the vow of Truth; one should devote oneself to a union with Truth; one should accept Truth for one’s Veda; and restraining one’s senses, one should vanquish the Destroyer by Truth. Both immortality and Death are planted in the body. One comes to Death through ignorance and loss of judgment; while Immortality is achieved through Truth. I shall therefore, abstain from injury and seek to achieve Truth, and transgressing the sway of desire and wrath, regard pleasure and pain with an equal eye, and attaining tranquillity, avoid Death like an immortal. Upon the advent of that season when the sun will progress towards the north, I shall restraining my senses, set to the performance of the Santi-sacrifice, the Brahma-sacrifice, the Mind-sacrifice and the Work-sacrifice. How can one like me worship his Maker in animal-sacrifices involving cruelty, or sacrifices of the body, such as Pisachas only can perform and such as produce fruits that are transitory?
[Note: Santi is tranquillity. The Santi-sacrifice is the endeavour to practise self-denial in everything; in other words, to restrain all sorts of propensities or inclinations. The Brahma-sacrifice is reflection on truths laid down in the Upanishads. The Word-sacrifice consists in the silent recitation (japa) of the Pranava or Om (AUM), the initial mantra. The Mind-sacrifice is contemplation of the Supreme Soul. The Work-sacrifice consists in baths, cleanliness, and waiting upon preceptor.]
That person whose words, thoughts, penances, renunciation, and yoga meditation, all rest on Brahma, succeeds in earning the highest good. There is no eye that is equal to the eye of knowledge. There is no penance like that involved in Truth. There is no sorrow equal to (that involved in) attachment. There is no happiness (that which is obtainable from) renunciation.
In the Divine plan, one day each union must end with separation.
In the Mahabharata, Bhishma said:
Develop this attitude based on wisdom:
I am alone. There is no one who is mine; nor do I belong to anyone. Even this body does not belong to me. These objects of the world are not mine; nor do they belong to others. Or, all things belong equally to all beings. Therefore there is no need for any mind to grieve over these.
He who, restraining the organs of action, sits
thinking of the sense objects in mind, he of
deluded understanding is called a hypocrite.
- Bhagavad Gita Ch. 3, Verse 6
The five organs of action known as Karma Indriyas, are Vak (organ of speech), Pani (hands), Padam (feet), Upastha (genital), and Guda (anus). They are born of the Rajasic portion of the five tanmatras or subtle elements. Vak (speech) from the akasha tanmatra (space), Pani (hands) from the vayu tanmatra (air), Padam (feet) from the agni tanmatra (fire), Upasthan (genital) from Aapas tanmatra (water), and Guda (anus) from the prithivi tanmatra (earth). That man who, restraining the organs of action, sits revolving in his mind, thoughts regarding the objects of the senses is a man of sinful conduct. He is self-deluded. He is a veritable hypocrite.
The organs of action must be controlled. The thoughts should also be controlled. The mind should be firmly fixed on the Lord. Only then will you become a true Yogi. Only then will you attain to Self-realisation.
-Swami Shivananda, The Divine Life Society, Rishikesh
Vivekananda Kendra Patrika
Vivekananda Kendra Patrika
Why do we do good work? Because it is a blessing to ourselves. Swami Vivekananda calls upon us to serve God in man, and gives the key to blessedness in the following words:
“We may all be perfectly sure that it will go on beautifully well without us, and we need not bother our heads wishing to help it. Yet, we must do good; the desire to do good is the highest motive power we have, if we know all the time that it is a privilege to help others. Do not stand on a high pedestal, and take five cents in your hand and say, ‘Here, my poor man,’ but be grateful that the poor man is there, so that by making a gift to him you are able to help yourself. It is not the receiver that is blessed, but it is the giver. Be thankful that you are allowed to exercise your power of benevolence and mercy in the world and thus become pure and perfect….
“No beggar whom we have helped has ever owed a single cent to us: we owe everything to him because he has allowed us to exercise our charity on him. It is entirely wrong to think that we have done, or can do, good to the world, to think that we have helped such and such people. It is a foolish thought, and all foolish thoughts bring misery. We think that we have helped some man and expect him to thank us, and because he does not, unhappiness comes to us. Why should we expect anything in return for what we do? Be grateful to the man you help, think of him as God. Is it not a great privilege to be allowed to worship God by helping our fellow men? If we were really unattached, we should escape all this vain expectation, and could cheerfully do good work in the world.”
Om Tat Sat
My humble salutations to Swamy Sri Sivananda Saraswati ji, Philosophers and vedawikidot com for the collection) )