Celebrating a person's Life by celebrating their Death.
Last night practically all the residents of Prabhupada village came together to celebrate the life and passing of our friend and former community member, Nirguna Krishna Prabhu. We joined together at the straw bale house that he built for an evening of singing, shared remembrances, and incredible prasad (spiritual food).
What a contrast to some religious or cultural traditions where everyone is in black, the women veiled, speaking in hushed tones, somber, in the mood of mourning, where to laugh is like sacrilegious.
This is already a festive time of year where we chant Damodarastaka prayers during this holy month of Kartika, increasing our mood of service. Add to this a joyful celebration for a devotee's life of Bhakti, of giving--their successful struggles, difficult trails--and then, graduation to the next plane, which we pray is a spiritual one. It did seem like he was here, as we felt his presence, yet really the celebration was not only for him, but in general for the life of all those who are endeavoring to be devotees.
The implication of the evening was that we are all in queue or in a line leading to death. It will come, though we don't know when. When it comes, what will people say about us if they gather together? More importantly, how will we view our own life, and how will our gurus and Lord Krishna Chaitanya view it?
In the mood of Shri Chaitanya and our Prabhupada we want to touch as many souls as possible with the mercy of the holy name and service of Krishna. However, in doing so we must be touched also. We can only really give what we have or what we are in fact. There should be come effect on our heart from our "outreach"--not that we "save the world" but loose our self.
Nirguna was a good example of someone who was dedicated to sharing Krishna consciousness, and with his own spiritual practices and advancement. One part of the focus on outreach is that it can be a very absorbing way to remember Krishna. We can't chant all day, but we can tell people about Krishna for hours. Someway to be Krishna conscious. When we forget the goal, then we loose the benefit.
So the perfection of our life is to remember Krishna by really taking shelter of him---ideally by loving him, though at least endeavoring to, so that at we can do what is most natural for us at death. Last night we celebrated Nirguna's life, death, and the whole process of Bhakti, or hearing, chanting, and remembering Krishna. Now that is something to celebrate at every stage of life!