July 2019
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Collected words from talks of Swami Tirtha

green door

(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, May 2012, Sofia)

Question of Yadunath: We all have to face death. And we all have to face the death of our beloved ones. Sometimes we have to bury our parents or ancestors, and sometimes our children; sometimes our spiritual brothers and sisters. So can you please tell us, as we are all involved in this, how to treat them in the best possible way? Thank you!

Swami Tirtha: Well, this is the law of nature that the elders should go first. Even that breaks our heart. What to speak of such a situation when there is a mistake of the general way of things and the younger go first and we stay! That’s unacceptable, because that is against the predestined order of things.

Even in spiritual life it is part of the game that our spiritual master will pass away. Is it painful? It is very painful. But acceptable – because this is the natural order. When I lost my spiritual master, I thought that I experienced the ultimate and the topmost suffering in life. But I was wrong. When I had to say good-bye to some of my disciples, then I experienced a higher level of pain and separation. Because that is against the natural order.

But anyway, as we all came, we all will pass away. It’s not a secret, it’s not a taboo. We have to face it, we have to tolerate it and we have to celebrate it. I don’t propagate a death cult here. But I want to impress you with the cult of eternal life: because we don’t believe in the bodies, but we believe in the soul. Therefore we don’t believe in death. We believe in eternal life.

Whatever you obtain in this life, you will lose it, anyway. But whatever you collect spiritually, you will never lose it! This is the basis of our faith. And therefore we should come to that platform. Collect eternal things, not insignificant pearls.

So death of our beloved ones is a chance for happiness. Why? Because then we can celebrate the victory of life, of eternal life over death. Everything is a question of approach, of level of consciousness. What do we see in death? Some imminent danger or a gate to eternity? Of course there is a little-little prerequisite and it is called purification or achieving perfection. But otherwise for those who are on the path, death is the end of one chapter and beginning of a second one.

But usually in Indian tradition they say good-bye and they organize a farewell for the body also after death. They wrap the body in a harinam-chadar, in a cloth on which the names of God are written, because that will purify the body. Otherwise death and a dead body are considered impure. But the holy names of God – Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare – they will purify the body. Then they bring the body to some holy water – lake or river. They give a final bath, and then all the relatives bring one log of wood to make a funeral pyre. Then the eldest son shaves up – removes all the hair and beard as a sign of remorse – and his duty is to light the fire of the funeral pyre. All the relatives are coming together, there are some priests… And then you see the matter to be burned on this fire. Therefore they say that cremation is an education – to impress upon us that we are not the bodies. There are certain steps of the ritual, but this is the essence – to help the soul on his eternal path.

Here in our countries it is a little more difficult to organize a public cremation on the bank of a river, because here the tradition is a little different. But you can provide the same sacred objects for the body – like a few drops of Ganges water that will purify it. Even before death it’s very good to give something sacred to the person – for example maha-prasadam, sanctified food. Or we can give a garland that was offered on the altar to the body after death.

But otherwise if you stand by the dead body of your friend, relative, brother, mother – what can you offer? Then it’s too late. Only a few words, a little prayer, a song can be offered. So please, until your beloved ones are here, try to serve and love them! Now, today, not tomorrow! If we miss a chance, it will never return.

And we should try to become nice, as much as possible pure devotees and help others in their respective progressive stage of spiritual growth. Why? Because it is said: “He reasons ill who says that a vaishnava dies!”[1] Because the vaishnavas never die, they live eternally on the spiritual platform, under the protection of the holy name.

[1] A line from Bhaktivinot Thakur’s poem ‘Haridas’

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