Sentimental spirituality suffocates the soul

(This article was posted in the ?Meditations? column of the Hindustan Times on 16 October 2002.) COMPLACENCY IS death. Naivete, one-sidedness, and innocence are other names for foolishness. In law breaking, ?ignnorance is no excuse?. The Bhagwat Purana instructs that ?Both by rising and by setting, the sun decreases the duration of life of everyone?, and that this holds true for all, except for those who utilise their time meditating and discussing topics of God. Meditation means fully focussing on our eternal nature and on the timeless Being Who is not subject to birth, death, disease and old age - the four unavoidable ?problems? of life. Queen Kunti credits the Supreme Lord with saving her and her sons the Pandavas from burning, and cannibalism, as her sons overcame all obstacles by fighting and intelligent action. She and the Pandavas are glorified in Vedic history, yet none of them had an easy life. Her most famous son Arjuna fought hard to obtain his desired goal. Being spiritual is not a passive affair, anymore than a strong belief in the undying nature of the soul guarantees a better future. Many pop versions of transmigration would have millions believe otherwise, but merely being convinced about re-incarnation is complacent. No one is assured of a better destination next time round. But isn?t all this a bit heavy? If death is so natural, why not just calmly accept it as inevitable? The difficulty is that dying is unpleasant. Any doctor will confirm that it means intense pain and suffocation. Medically we do all we can to prolong life. Yet complacency about passing away is so common that the finality is cast out of our day-to-day consciousness. So how to combat spiritual complacency? Well, if our lives are being shortened day by day, and - as the shastras warn- death could occur at any moment, we should be prepared. It?s not that we can expect to repair to the Himalayas, or Brindaban, when the time comes. Fortunately, we are by nature immortal. It?s the world in which we live that is temporary, with all living things characterised by birth, growth, sustenance, offspring, dwindling and lifelessness. When the Gita and many great sages assert that our consciousness at death will determine future life, they don?t expect us to wait until that frightful moment when human physiology is at its most dysfunctional. Life is time-limited, and we must be smart, always meditating to avoid a foul future. The outcome is bright for those who think right. The writer is emeritus member of the ISKCON Governing Body of Commission.