Consciousness at the Time of Death


Question: As per Bhagavad Gītā 8.6, “Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kuntī, that state he will attain without fail.” If one thinks about dead matter like a building, money etc., when he quits his body, then what is his destination?

Answer: Such a question arises from not understanding the true meaning of the verse. If you do not study the original verse and only study a translation, then it can be confusing or misleading. The word used in the verse is “bhāva.” Bhāvadoes not mean only a specific object but also a mood, consciousness, or awareness. When you think of an object, you don’t just think of the object. You also have some emotion behind the thought. So, what was the consciousness behind the thought of dead matter? The basic material emotions are only two, rāga and dveśa. Therefore, assuming that the person was thinking of the building or money out of deep rāga, then he may be born in that building as a living being according that his karma. He may come again as a human being and live in that building. He may become a dog and guard it. He may become a mosquito or a fly and take revenge upon its residents.

Question: If one thinks about Gurudeva when he quits his body, then what is his destination? Would it depend upon the destination of his Gurudeva?

Answer: Again, it is not the thought that matters—it is the consciousness (bhāva) behind the thought which is important. You have to know the difference between a thought and consciousness. The verse talks of bhāva and not of thought. If the disciple is materially attached to the guru, then he can come again as a disciple. If he is fully surrendered to the guru and knows him to be the manifestation of Kṛṣṇa, then the disciple would go to Kṛṣṇa’s abode. King Bharata died thinking of the deer cub. He was materially attached to the deer, so he became a deer in his next life. But if he had thought of the deer as a creation of Kṛṣṇa and then died, he would have gone to Vaikuntha.

Question: What if a chaste wife remembers her husband when she quits her body; what is her destination? Does it depend upon the spiritual advancement of her husband or she will get a male body as per her past karma? Likewise, if one thinks about the dhāma like Vṛndāvana, Jagannāth Purī etc., or about a Vaiṣṇava, then what is his destination?

Answer: By understanding my reply to your first question, you will know the answer to all these questions. The main point is that the verse is speaking about bhāva (smaraa-bhāvam) at the time of death and not of some object. The other point to be understood is that this bhāva is dependent upon the dominant bhāva in one’s life (sadā tad-bhāva-bhāvitaḥ). The word bhāva is used twice in this verse, and this is the key point.  

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Comments ( 1 )
  1. Kubara dasa

    “The verse talks of bhāva and not of thought. If the disciple is materially attached to the guru, then he can come again as a disciple”. – Thank you for explaining the difference.

    I think such questions appear out of from a basic need to control our destiny. I often thought like, “okey, so I need to live in a way that at the moment of death my attachments will generate a thought of Krsna. This way I’m safe”.

    But such control is close to impossible, having in mind how suddenly death may arrive. And bhava is like this background mood, when our mind is in the neutral gear. So it makes sense why japa, meditation and kirtan (of various moods) are so important to engage with. Haribol

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    If you forget your goal, then you will become deviated. It happens many times to people when they come to spiritual life – they get into other things and they forget why they came. If someone asks you why you are doing it?  Is this behavior you are doing helping serve the purpose you came for?  Often times the answer is no.

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