We are all expendable
I wake the Deities 5 days a week in "the Village" as we sometimes call Prabhupada village . I have been doing this for a year and half. On occasion, like this morning, I don't make it for some reason. Usually (this makes 3 times I have missed my service) I forget to pull the plug for the alarm, and sleep in blissful ignorance that I have missed my service.
I like doing this service, yet it is an austerity. I have to be very conscious of getting to bed by 8:30 PM, so I can get enough sleep to properly function in the morning. I often say that "tomorrow begins tonight", because if you want to get up early, you have to go to bed early (or as devotees say, "take rest". My brother in-law used joke with me, "Take it where?)
When we lived in the ashrama most of thought 6 hours of sleep was the magic number for everyone, forever (since Prabhupada recommended it for those in the mode of goodness). However, many of us have had to make adjustments through our experience. I need 7+, my wife 9.
So when I woke up this morning, and lay in the sack sighing, I reflected that no matter how important our service, or how important we think our service is, we are expendable. We can be replaced, and in fact our life may end at any moment. I know personally 27 devotees who have passed on, or as we say, "left their bodies." (since only the bodies dies) And now my good friend Nirguna is in Mayapura getting ready to leave his body. It is very likely that I may follow these other devotees. :-)) Many of us know that Maharaja Yudhisthira, when asked by Shri Yamaraja what the most wonderful thing was, replied that "The most wonderful thing is that although everyone is dying around us, we live like we won't die."
So death is certain, and it is certain that the longer we live the more likely we will die soon. This is not meant to be a morbid preoccupation, but a sobering reminder of one of the truths of the material world. Rather than think that we better get in as much material enjoyment as possible, devotees take the notice of death as an impetus for their spiritual practice.
How we live our present life will determine our future life. Birth and death though a fact of material existence, are a problem to be solved. It is an unnatural state for us, the eternal soul. We have to become convinced of this truth by hearing from and associating with saintly devotees (sadhus), reading scripture, and from realizing it through the purification of our spiritual practices. And in this mix must be a liberal sprinkling of mercy from Guru, Sadhus, and Shri Krishna Chaitanya (the form of God for this age).
Although we must do our part, we won't be successful just by effort alone, without the mercy from above.
In Krishna's pastimes or Lila, when his mother Yasoda tried to bind him she kept finding after the final knot, her rope was 2 inches too short. Those 2 inches represent, effort and mercy, which are both required for success in any undertaking.
However, of the two, mercy is the more important.
At the same time we can't live our life thinking we will get the mercy without doing anything. Though we don't encourage it, even people who win the lottery have to buy a ticket. And people who don't do any thing with their lives thinking they will win the lottery some day, don't really live. They have a "near life experience"!!!
So death is sure, while life in our current body is temporary. While we are here we have to understand the urgency of Krishna consciousness in the face of the predicament of material life. We have to do what Prabhupada recommended:
"Give this one life to Krishna."