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THE VALUE OF LIFE AND HOW WE DIE

5
Author: 
Karnamrita Das

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Yesterday I had another PET or full body scan. I rose around my usual time but had to be especially focused on finishing my morning duties before I had to leave at 7: 15 AM. Thus I chanted my japa, or my morning meditation on the names of God, first thing, read for a few minutes, and jumped into the shower. Donning devotional attire and tilak I went downstairs to wake the Deities with official prayers, and then offering my prayers for the day and my life—to offer it for the best service possible and to benefit as many people as possible.

I began my morning worship of my shilas and all our Deities. Preparing their breakfast and then offering my Lords their bath, arotik, and food offering, I removed the worship paraphernalia and offering trays from the altar and washed everything. I packed up what was now Prasad, or sanctified food, since I had to fast from food and drink. Then I packed all the herbal remedies, potions and pills, and changed into my regular dress. I packed my computer, iPod for listening to lectures, and books to read and distribute. Saying goodbye to my wife and making my last prayers to our Deities that they may accompany and guide me, I was out the door and on the road, on time.

Driving can be a time for listening to lectures and contemplate what I hear, and also a time for deep thought about my life, and life and death in general. We are bombarded with reminders of the four fold miseries (re-birth, old age, disease, and death) on the Net and throughout our day. I am supposed to be happy that the US Air-force killed 250 ISIS fighters, and sad with the unfortunate death of 50 persons at a night club in Florida.

What about all the bugs my car kills on my windshield or grill, or the many animals or “roadkill” splattered on the side or in the middle of the road? Down the road GMO corn is grown, while the bee, song bird and frog populations are diminishing as Roundup poisons go into the groundwater and forests are made into paper. Problems are everywhere.Then there is my family and those I know, and my own life. What is the value of any life, and particularly my own? Perhaps the closer to home we see death, birth, disease, and old age, the more we can be affected by it? In any case, in the face of untold suffering, what is my proper response, and what should I do about it? Many opinions compete for our attention in the market place of ideas.
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Arriving at the hospital, I put on my backpack and walk in the beautiful sunny day to the Radiology wing of the cancer ward. Checking in at the front desk I take in the scene full of more human misery and despair. Everyone is a walking story, and while they began life full of promise, now the unexpected disease and the attempt to recover—but for what purpose? Actually, even without the Internet, roadkill, or being at the hospital, there is no shortage of observable human misery—it is abundantly perceivable whether in Wholefoods or in Walmart.

Mind you, I am a positive person, who believes that life is a great opportunity for spiritual awakening, and that whatever situation we encounter is meant for our highest good. And yet, when I see people who don’t know this, shuffling around in all types of bodies, whether grotesque, super overweight, old folks barely walking, or the young and wild strutting their stuff, I am saddened by it. What is the use of a life for no higher purpose then to stay alive and be relatively free from suffering for a few short years, and then to take another birth helplessly to begin again in ignorance?

These are my thoughts, a tiny covered soul, trying to spiritually wake up, and also make a different in the world of death. I go through the radiology process, have an IV of nuclear Kool-Aid, joke with the hospital workers, read spiritually uplifting passages while I wait, go through the PET scanner, and give out one of my books. I leave the hospital, back into the warm sunshine, to go to the library and go shopping. Life is full of dualities.
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Rising this morning I am inspired to share the above, with the prayer that we may all be benefited by becoming compassionate persons who live by prayer and giving. Personally I pray for my spiritual advancement, to be better equipped to help others, and that my life may be of supreme value through service to God, and in pointing to the ultimate spiritual purpose of life to be free of the material perplexities and misery. I do this through prayer, writing, speaking, and whatever example I can show.

We live in a strange and complicated time. Our own life can be a struggle and full of difficulties, anxiety, and pain. Still, in spite of our own life trials and tests, or perhaps become of them, we are challenged to become thoughtful, caring persons, to make the best contribution we can to save ourselves and help others. Exactly how we do this, and to what extent, rests with us. That is our personal mission and offering.
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Krsna is just like the brilliant sun

Here is a rendering of a verse I was just reminded of. It seemed appropriate, as in all circumstances we want to remember Krishna:

krsna -- surya sama, maya haya andhakara
yahan krsna, tahan nahi mayara adhikara
(Cc. Madhya 22.31)

"Krsna is just like the brilliant sun, and maya, ignorance, is just like darkness. When the sun is present, there cannot be darkness. So if we keep ourselves in Krsna consciousness always, we cannot be influenced by the darkness of ignorance; rather, we shall always walk very freely in the bright sunshine of Krsna. Kuntidevi therefore prays that Krsna continue to be present with her and the Pandavas." [From Teachings of Queen Kunti, chapter 22: Beauty in Krsna's Presence]