Death, a Critical Time of Life
As mentioned above, one’s mentality at the time of death is all-important. But if we become complacent and think, “Oh, death takes place—what of it?” then we cannot advance on the spiritual path. Just as the air carries fragrances, so a person’s mentality at the time of death will carry him to his next life. If he has cultivated the mentality of a Vaisnava, a pure devotee of Krsna, then he will immediately be transferred to Vaikuntha. But if he has cultivated the mentality of an ordinary karmi, a fruitive worker, then he will have to stay in this material world to suffer the consequences of the kind of mentality he has thus created.
Suppose I am a businessman. If I simply do business up till the point of death, naturally my mentality will be business. One Calcutta businessman at the time of death asked about the management of his mill. He might have taken his next birth as a rat in his mill. This is possible. At the time of death, whatever you are thinking will carry you to your next body. Krsna is very kind, and whatever mentality one is absorbed in at the time of death, Krsna will provide an appropriate body: “All right, you are thinking like a rat? Become a rat.” “You are thinking like a tiger? Become a tiger.” “You are thinking like My devotee? Come to Me.”
By chanting Hare Krsna, we can mold our thoughts so that we are always thinking of Krsna. As Krsna recommends in the Bhagavad-gita (6.47), yoginam api sarvesam mad-gatenantaratmana: “The first-class yogi is he who always thinks of Me within his heart.” The Krsna consciousness movement is especially meant for helping the members of human society come to this state of full Krsna consciousness. Then at the end of life one will simply remember Krsna. Whatever you practice throughout your life will determine your consciousness at death. That is natural.
One who properly prepares for the time of death is really intelligent, while one who thinks he can remain at home forever and enjoy the association of his wife and children is a fool. In illusion a man thinks, “My bank balance, my nice house, and my family will protect me.” But these cannot protect anyone. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (2.1.4) declares,
dehapatya-kalatradisv
atma-sainyesv asatsv api
tesam pramatto nidhanam
pasyann api na pasyati
“One who is mad thinks, ‘My strong body, my grown-up children, my good wife, and my bank balance will save me.’ ” We are simply struggling in this material world like soldiers fighting on a battlefield. Our soldiers are our children, our wife, our bank balance, our countrymen, etc. The Srimad-Bhagavatam warns us not to take shelter of such fallible soldiers. Even though a man has seen that his father and grandfather, who were once living, are existing no more, he does not see that likewise everyone, including himself, will be destroyed. How can he protect his son? How can his son protect him? These questions do not arise for the materialist who is simply engrossed in the animal propensities of eating, sleeping, defending, and mating.

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