Consciousness at The Time of Death

Hare Krishna Prabhujis and Matajis,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudeva.

When the elephant king Gajendra, is caught by the crocodile he tries his very best to relieve himself from its clutches. But inspite of fighting for 1000 years, neither he nor his family members could help him in that precarious situation. But because of his past pious credits and sincere devotional practices in previous life and causeless mercy of Supreme Lord,  he could remember the Lord and offer wonderful prayers which he had learnt in his previous birth.

Srimad Bhagavatam verse 8.3.2 

śrī-gajendra uvāca
oṁ namo bhagavate tasmai yata etac cid-ātmakam
puruṣāyādi-bījāya pareśāyābhidhīmahi

The King of the elephants, Gajendra, said: I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Person, Vaasudeva [om namo bhagavate vaasudevaaya]. Because of Him this material body acts due to the presence of spirit, and He is therefore the root cause of everyone. He is worshipable for such exalted persons as Brahmā and Śiva, and He has entered the heart of every living being. Let me meditate upon Him.

The prayers by great devotees like Kunti Maharani, Bhishmadev, Gajendra, Prahlad Maharaj etc in Srimad Bhagavatam teach us so many lessons as to how we should approach the Supreme and also reveals to us the greatness of the Supreme Lord Krishna and our insignificant position.

With great humility and respect, Gajendra first offers his respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead by saying, "om namo bhagavate tasmai". Before the attack by the crocodile Gajendra was very powerful and even wild animals were afraid of him. But after struggling with crocodile, he realised that material body acts only due to His presence. He realised that no-one else other than the Supreme Lord could save him. Realising His supremacy, Gajendra addresses the Lord as purushaaaya - Supreme Person, Aadi beejaaya - One who is root cause of everyone, para-ishaaya who is supreme, transcendental and worshipable for such exalted persons as Brahma and Shiva

His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada is also teaching us an important lesson in his wonderful purport to the above verse - "The material body certainly consists only of material elements, but when one awakens to Krishna conscious understanding, the body is no longer material but spiritual. The material body is meant for sense enjoyment, whereas the spiritual body engages in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. Therefore, a devotee who engages in the service of the Supreme Lord and who constantly thinks of Him should never be considered to have a material body. It is therefore enjoined, gurushu nara-matih: one should stop thinking of the spiritual master as an ordinary human being with a material body"

We should never commit the offence of thinking the Deity form of the Lord as made of material ingredients. Also the body of a spiritual master is also transcendental. In "Nectar of instructions", Srila Rupa Goswami also says 

dṛṣṭaiḥ svabhāva-janitair vapuṣaś ca doṣair
na prākṛtatvam iha bhakta-janasya paśyet
gaṅgāmbhasāṁ na khalu budbuda-phena-paṅkair
brahma-dravatvam apagacchati nīra-dharmaiḥ

Being situated in his original Krishna conscious position, a pure devotee does not identify with the body. Such a devotee should not be seen from a materialistic point of view. Indeed, one should overlook a devotee's having a body born in a low family, a body with a bad complexion, a deformed body, or a diseased or infirm body. According to ordinary vision, such imperfections may seem prominent in the body of a pure devotee, but despite such seeming defects, the body of a pure devotee cannot be polluted. It is exactly like the waters of the Ganges, which sometimes during the rainy season are full of bubbles, foam and mud. The Ganges waters do not become polluted. Those who are advanced in spiritual understanding will bathe in the Ganges without considering the condition of the water.

The words "etac cid-ātmakam" is worth meditating. etat — this body and the material manifestation; cid-ātmakam — is moving due to consciousness (the spirit soul).  When our body is hale and healthy and circumstances are favourable, we easily move around and do so many activities using the body. It hardly strikes us to be thankful or greatful to the Lord for good health and for the ability to execute the day-to-day work. Infact we start believing that we are doing everything based on our strength and falsely feel proud on accomplishing any activity. It hardly strikes our dull brain that we are able to perform the activity only because of the  presence of Supersoul and due to strength provided by Him. The moment our body starts failing, then we start realising how small and insignificant we are. In a way diseases, accidents and trying situations are blessings in disguise for us to awaken us to the reality of our insignificant position. These are gentle reminders sent by the Lord, before the final exam (death), so that we give up our frivolous nature and start utilising our time and healthy body usefully in His service. Our beloved spiritual master HDG Srila Mahavishnu Goswami Maharaj says that it hardly takes a small needle prick to burst a balloon. Similarly it hardly takes any time for Lord to finish us. But each day the Lord has mercifully allowed us to live and kept us in healthy condition though we don't deserve the same. So it is important for us to understand the reason behind this existence and use our senses in His service.

In his previous birth Gajendra was none other than the pious king Indradyumna. Inspite of being born in a royal family, king Indradyumna was very devoted to the Lord and since he was regularly chanting the Holy Names of the Lord and reciting shlokas, we see that even when he was blessed with body of elephant (Gajendra) in the next life, his consciousness at the verge of death in the body of elephant is so transcendental that he is able to remember the shlokas that he had recited in previous birth. That is why Maharaj being our beloved well-wisher always insists on chanting and recitation of Bhagavad Gita and Bhagavatam.

I pray at the lotus feet of Srila Gurudeva, Srila Prabhupada that we try to abide by Their instructions and glorify the Lord to the best of our ability.
Thank you very much.
Yours in service of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudeva,
Sudarshana  devi dasi.