Process of Dying
Death in Three Gunas
SB 5.26.6 - Yama and Pitriloka
Quote from Hindu Dictionary by Manurishi Foundation
How to become a Yamaduta
Avoiding Yamaraja: Ajamila's story
The Greatness of Tulasi
They came in through the open window!
Encounter with Yamadutas
Encounter in a Dream
Terminal Restlessness - Yamaduta time
Related links - Yamaduttas - Terminal Restlessness - NDE etc
At the moment of death the following things take place. If the person is impious and quite sinful, the messengers of Yamaraja, called the Yamadutas, fierce, horrible looking persons with twisted features, copper red flaming hairs that stand on end, black in complexion and frightening to behold, appear at the deathbed of the person in question and drag him forcibly from his body with ropes and chains. This scene so frightens the person that he literally dies of fright. They then pack up the subtle body of the person in a bag, where they take the soul, now covered only by the subtle body of mind, intelligence and false ego, to the abode of Yamaraja for judgement. He is taken over long stretches of hot, dry sands, and along the way he is insulted in various ways by other horrible creatures and bitten by dogs. He is suffering terribly on this journey and he wishes it would end.
(The movie "Ghost" presented a world that included ghosts, psychic powers, Yamaduta-like evil spirits, and an effulgent heavenly realm. See also the real-life stories below.)
However, when it does end he is taken before Yamaraja, the fierce demigod in charge of death and punishing the sinful. He is forced to accept a position of suffering according to his sins in one of the hells which exist at the bottom of the universe, just above the Garbhodaka Ocean. In this hellish region called the Naraka, there are approximately 27 hellish places.
As an example of this a person who has engaged in the slaughter and eating of other innocent animals will enter into Krimibhojana, wherein he will exist as a worm who is eating the tail of another worm as that worm is eating his tail. There are many such hells just according to the crimes committed. One may find the complete description in the last chapters of the 5th canto of the SB.
After such intense and horrible forms of suffering the living being is thrown again into the lower species of life just suited according to his sinful desires in his human life.
However, most persons are not quite that sinful and therefore they may expect a more normal departure from the body. At the time of death, death is denoted as the moment when the spirit soul departs from the material gross body. At that time the soul, covered by the subtle body of mind, intelligence and false ego, leaves the body. The subtle body always travels with the soul wherever he goes within this material world and therefore the living entity has a continuity of material experience throughout his different lifetimes.
Death may come from a variety of causes, but when it actually happens the first thing that a person experiences is total blackness. All is dark, but this lasts only for a moment. The Supersoul, situated right next to the soul, illuminates a hole which appears to the soul to be a light at the end of a tunnel. In fact the darkness which appears is the body but now that it is dead it is devoid of consciousness and now we are seeing it from the inside for the first time.
There are some 118 different passageways through which one might depart from the body. One may only go through one of these at the time of death. These passageways are called nadis, or channels of consciousness. According to Garuda Purana 1.67 death occurs when both main (spine) nadis, Ida and Pingala, are at work. Under normal conditions they switch. One might understand them to be the major nerve channels of channels of energy flow within the body, but the exact medical synonym is not available to us at this time. In any case one will depart from one of these nadis to his next destination. We do know that one who departs from the anus or genital goes to the lower regions, wherein one who departs from the upper portion of the body goes to the higher regions. Those who depart from the top of their skulls, from the hole known as the brahma randhra, the place where the three bones in the skull meet, will attain the regions of Brahman.
The Supersoul illuminates only one of these passageways according to the karma of the soul. He selects the passageway just according to the previous activities of the living entity and as soon as it is illuminated the soul naturally wants to move towards the light. As soon as he is out of the body, he feels relieved of the burden of the material frame and starts to move, naturally drawn towards his next form. At that time he will experience the world from the point of view of the subtle body and will see things much clearer than they are seen through the present body. Just try to imagine how much more beautiful the world must be when seen through spiritual eyes!
He then enters into the womb of a new mother as it is being impregnated by the father and awaits the time until the new body develops itself sufficiently to maintain consciousness. When the embryo is about seven months of age it is sufficiently developed to support consciousness and the baby awakens in his new body and immediately moves, sometimes kicking the mother from within in a vain attempt to get out of the horrible entanglement that he has found himself in.
If he is pious, this horrible condition of having the arms and legs jammed into the chest as one is bent over in the foetal position, causes the soul to pray to the Lord as follows, "O Lord, this condition is terrible. Please save me from this situation and get me out of this womb immediately and I promise to serve You in this lifetime for sure." However, as soon as he takes his birth he becomes too much attached to all the attention and service being rendered him by mother and family members and he forgets all about serving the Lord and falls totally into maya again.
Avoid the process of rebirth, it is not auspicious in any way.
Death in Three Gunas
BG 14.14-15 lists three destinations according to three gunas: goodness - heaven, passion - earth, ignorance - hell. SB 11.25.22 confirms it.
An example for death in the mode of passion would be king Puranjana who had to take birth as a woman in his next life. Ajamila was practically enroute to hell and his condition was a good example of ignorance. In the Gita-mahatmya of the Padma Purana there are many examples, like the story of one brahmana who had to go to hell after death and then had to accept an animal birth.
The example of a person who went to heaven is Maharaja Pururava. After he had somewhat cooled down from his excessive attachment to Urvasi, he became absorbed in performing sacrifices which the Gandharvas had taught him. At the end of his life he went to heaven. There are also all sorts of jnanis and yogis and brahmacaris who go to the planet of Brahma.
SB 5.26.6 - Yama and Pitriloka
yatra ha vava bhagavan pitr-rajo vaivasvatah sva-visayam prapitesu sva-purusairjantusu samparetesu yatha-karmavadyam dosam evanullanghita-bhagavac-chasanah sagano damam dharayati.
yatra - where; ha vava - indeed; bhagavan - the most powerful; pitr-rajah - Yamaraja, the king of the pitas; vaivasvatah - the son of the sun-god; sva-visayam - his own kingdom; prapitesu - when caused to reach; sva-purusaih - by his own messengers; jantusu - the human beings; samparetesu - dead; yatha-karma-avadyam - according to how much they have violated the rules and regulations of conditional life; dosam - the fault; eva - certainly; anullanghita-bhagavat-sasanah - who never oversteps the Supreme Personality of Godhead's order; saganah - along with his followers; damam - punishment; dharayati - executes.
"The King of the pitas is Yamaraja, the very powerful son of the sun-god. He resides in Pitrloka with his personal assistants and, while abiding by the rules and regulations set down by the Supreme Lord, has his agents, the Yamadutas, bring all the sinful men to him immediately upon their death. After bringing them within his jurisdiction, he properly judges them according to their specific sinful activities and sends them to one of the many hellish planets for suitable punishments."
Q: Could you please explain the status of Pitrloka and where is it actually situated? In most SB verses it is differentiated from heavenly planets but in SB 5.2.2 p. it is equated with a heavenly planet. Pitrloka should be Yamaraja's abode (SB 1.15.49, 5.26.6) where Yamadutas bring the sinners. There are three possibilites of its location:
1. moon, heavenly level:
Pitr-yana path of BG 8.25 leads to the moon. But below SP says it's different:
760809mw.teh (Aug. 9, 1976, Tehran):
Pradyumna: But does moon planet have something to do with Pitrs? Does the Pitr..., Pitrloka is different? Prabhupada: Pitr? Pradyumna: Pita, Pitr? Prabhupada: No, Pitrloka is different. That is downwards.
2. Samyamani, abode of Yamaraja on Mt. Manasottara (SB 5.21.7,10), earthly level:
Here according to SB 10.45.42-43 and 10.64.22 p. Yamadutas bring the sinners.
3. Near Naraka (SB 5.26.5,37), subterranean level (bottom of the universe):
In SB 6.2.31 Ajamila said he was saved from being carried to hellish regions (adhah bhuvah).
A: (Ekanath Das) From briefly looking into various reference books I gathered that there are at least three different classes of divine or semi-divine beings that go under the name 'pitr', and their lokas differ accordingly. Even MMW writes:
"...they inhabit a peculiar region, which, according to some, is the Bhuvas or region of the air, according to others, the orbit of the moon, and are considered as the regents of the Nakshatras Maghaā and Mula."
Quote from Hindu Dictionary by Manurishi Foundation
Yama - Restrainer. Pluto, etc. In the Vedas Yama is god of the dead, with whom the spirits of the departed dwell. He was the son of Vivasvat (the Sun) and had a twin-sister named Yami or Yamuna. These are by some looked upon as the first human pair, the originators of the race; and there is a remarkable hymn, in the form of a dialogue, in which the female urges their cohabitation for the purpose of perpetuating the species. Another hymn says that Yama "was the first of men that died, and the first that departed to the (celestial) world." It was Yama who found the way to the home which cannot be taken away. "Those who are now born follow) by their own paths to the place where our ancient fathers have departed." "But," says Muir, "Yama is nowhere represented in the Rigveda as having anything to do with the punishment of the wicked." So far as is yet known, "the hymn of that Veda contain no prominent mention of any such penal retribution... Yama is still to some extent an object of terror. He is represented as having two insatiable dogs with four eyes and wide nostrils, which guard the road to his abode, and which the departed are advised to hurry past with all possible speed. These dogs are said to wander about among men as his messengers, no doubt for the purpose of summoning them to their master, who is in another place identified with death, and is described as sending a bird as the herald of doom." In the epic poems Yama is the son of the Sun by Sanjna (conscience) and brother of Vaivasvata (Manu). He was the father of Yudhishthira. He is the god of departed spirits and judge of the dead. A soul when it quits its mortal form goes to his abode in the lower regions; there the recorder, Citragupta, reads out his account from the great register called Agrasandhani, and a just sentence follows, when the soul either ascends to the abodes of the Pitris (Manes), or is sent to one of the twenty-one hells according to its guilt, or it is born again on earth in another form. Yama is regent of the south quarter, and as such is called Dakshinashapati. He is represented as having a green color and clothed with red. He rides upon a buffalo, and is armed with a ponderous mace and a noose to secure his victims. In the Puranas a legend is told of Yama having lifted his foot to kick Chaya, the handmaid of his father. She cursed him to have his leg affected with sores and worms, but his father gave him a cock which picked off the worms and cured the discharge. Through this incident he is called Shirnapada, "Shrivelled foot." Yama had several wives, as Hemamala, Sushila, and Vijaya. He dwells in the lower world, in his city Yamapura. There, in his palace called Kalichi, he sits upon his throne of judgment, Vicharabhu. He is assisted by his recorder and councillor, Citragupta, and waited upon by his two chief attendants and custodians, Canda or Mahacanda, and Kalapurusha. His messengers, Yamadutas, bring in the souls of the dead, and the door of his judgment-hall is kept by his porter, Vaidhyata. Yama has many names descriptive of his office. He is Mrityu, Kala, and Antaka, "death"; Kritanta, "the finisher"; Shamana "the settler"; Dandi or Dandadhara, "the rod-bearer"; Bhimashasana, "of terrible decrees"; Pashi, "the noose-carrier"; Pitripati, "lord of the manes"; Pretaraja, "king of the ghosts"; Shraddhadeva, "god of the exequial offerings"; and especially Dharmaraja, "king of justice." He is Audumbara, from Udumbara, "the fig-tree," and from his parentage he is Vaivasvata. There is a Dharmashastra which bears the name of Yama.
How to become a Yamaduta
"Those who have passed several years in the dreadful hell and have no descendants (to offer gifts) in their favor become messengers of Yama." (Garuda Purana 2.18.34)
Avoiding Yamaraja: Ajamila's story
Ajamila's story is given in the Bhagavata Purana (6th book, chapter 1) as an example to illustrate that even the most wicked person can attain Visnupada (salvation).
Ajamila was a brahmana who was once sent by his father to the jungle to fetch samit (leaves and twigs to make the sacrificial fire). Ajamila met there a beautiful sudra woman. Forgetting everything, the brahmana made her his wife and children were born to them. When that brahmana, who was the very embodiment of all vices, reached the age of eighty-seven, the time came for him to die. Yamadutas (agents of Yama, the god of death) had arrived. The frightened Ajamila shouted loudly the name of his eldest son, "Narayana". Hearing the repeated call of his name "Narayana", servants of Visnu appeared there and dismissed the agents of Yama. From that day Ajamila became a devotee of Visnu and did penance on the bank of the Ganges and after some years attained salvation.
Ajamila was saved from hell because he chanted "Narayana" as the Yamadutas approached him. Afterwards Yamaraja forbade his servants from touching devotees who "even if by mistake or because of bewilderment or illusion... sometimes commit sinful acts," because "they are protected from sinful reactions because they always chant the Hare Krsna mantra."
Yamaraja then told the Yamadutas:
"Paramahamsas are exalted persons who have no taste for material enjoyment and who drink the honey of the Lord's lotus feet. My dear servants, bring to me for punishment only persons who are averse to the taste of that honey, who do not associate with paramahamsas and who are attached to family life and worldly enjoyment, which form the path to hell.
"My dear servants, please bring to me only those sinful persons who do not use their tongues to chant the holy name and qualities of Krsna, whose hearts do not remember the lotus feet of Krsna even once, and whose heads do not bow down even once before Lord Krsna. Send me those who do not perform their duties toward Visnu, which are the only duties in human life. Please bring me all such fools and rascals."
The Greatness of Tulasi (from Padma Purana)
Everything of the Tulasi plant, leaves, flowers, fruits, roots, twigs, skin and even the soil around is holy. The soul of a dead one whose dead body is cremated using Tulasi twigs for firewood would attain a permanent place in Visnuloka. Even great sinners would be absolved of their sins if their dead bodies are cremated with Tulasi twigs. If at the time of death one thinks of God and mutters His name and if his dead body is later cremated with Tulasi twigs, he would have no rebirths. Even he who has done a crore of sins would attain moksa if at the time of cremating his dead body a piece of Tulasi twig is placed at the bottom of the funeral pyre. Just as all waters become pure by the union with. Ganga water, all firewood is made pure by the addition of a small piece of Tulasi twig. If the dead body of one is cremated using Tulasi twigs alone, one's sins for a crore of kalpa years would be washed away. Yamadutas would keep away from one whose dead body is cremated with Tulasi twigs and servants of Visnu would come near. If a light is burnt for Visnu with a Tulasi stick it would be equal to burning several lakhs of lights for Visnu. If one makes the Tulasi leaves into a paste and smears it on one's body and then worships Visnu for one day, one would be getting the benefit of a hundred ordinary worships and also the benefit of doing a hundred go-danas (gifts of cows). (Chapter 24, Padma Purana).
They came in through the open window!
By Tribhuvannatha Das
A devotee named Jeremy was with us on our Festival 98' tour of East & Central Africa. Jeremy is more of a congregational member of ISKCON and is just starting to understand the commitment that there is in Krsna Consciousness. He caught malaria and had to come back early.
Upon his return I spoke to him on the phone. I mentioned how he should be careful not to fall down from the process of KC. Two weeks later he was back to his 'old ways' but still a devotee - not as strict as before though.
He'd been out with his girlfriend, and while admiring some waterfalls in the mountains of Wicklow, Ireland, he slipped and fell 60 ft down the side of the mountain - lucky for him he chanted at the top of his voice Krsna! Krsna! as he went tumbling down the side of the mountain, the bushes slowed his pace, but then over the edge... another 160 ft sheer drop to death! He screamed "Krsna" and suddenly he stopped... 'smack' he had landed on the only rock jutting out from the side of the mountain. He was damaged - broken pelvis, leg, etc. but still alive.
The rock had an unusual inward curve, just the right size to cushion his body. If it had been a normal rock he would have simply bounced off it, to his death!
The rescue team said that they could not believe his fortune. Ten others before him had fallen from the same spot, nine died, one crippled. Then in hospital (where he is making a full recovery) in comes Michael who has just fallen off a crane. His head hit a steel girder on the way down (his luck was he had a hard hat on), the whole top of his head, peeled like an orange. Miraculously his heavy coat had got caught on the way down and saved his life.
He came over to see Jerry - by this time in his life he has gone from been one of the most debauched personality to almost a saint, even setting up his own alter at the hospital!
He had heard that Jerry was a 'Hare Krsna' and was intrigued to meet him. After some conversation Jerry complained about the 'nightmares' he was getting.
"Nightmares!" says Michael. "I was attacked by five horrible-looking monsters that came in through the window. They said they had come to get me." (While in intensive care Michael was 'dead' three times, in the same night). He described them in detail. He was so frightened at their appearance that he threw a chair at the window, four nurses had to restrain him! They had come to get him, he even mentioned that one appeared to have a rope.
"They came back again, and said they were coming to get me very soon. "Was it just a nightmare?" asked Jerry. "No!" said Michael, "these guys were as real as you or me... These guys were very real!"
Encounter with Yamadutas
By Vaidyanatha Das
One day a very freakish artist came to old "steel wagon" Sochi temple with Sri Isopanisad in his hand and told devotees his story:
"I was looking for you, people, for three days and I am unbelievably glad I have finally found you. One day I bought this book (he couldn't even name its name and author, Srila Prabhupada, but only stammered something) and tried to read it. But it was very difficult to understand, so many strange words. Therefore I put it on the shelf and cared no more about it. I was drinking lot of alcohol. One day while lying drunk in my bed I heard strange voices nearby. It was something absolutely new. I was looking for the source and saw two persons indistinctly. They were speaking about me - about my life and how sinful it was. They were recounting all my sins in great detail which I even didn't remember and also a few good things. Finally they came to conclusion: "He must go to hell!" I was screaming in protest: "I don't want to hell and don't know what is going on at all." But anyway, at once one of them put a stringent rope on my neck. I tried to get rid of it and run away but to no avail - the rope was very tight. I was almost finished but suddenly a cover picture of this book (Sri Isopanisad with Lord Kesava and Sesa Naga) appeared before my eyes. It was actually not picture but reality. The snake was moving and out of sudden a flame emanated from his many mouths. Totally bewildered about it I asked those persons - what does it all mean? They answered: "This is just the hell where you are going to go." But all of sudden everything disappeared and I awoke in my bed, completely shocked. Immediately I stopped drinking and smoking and tried to find you, devotees, to find explanation about all of this. I beg on my knees, let me stay here somewhere!"
(This story refutes the scientists' theory that one's NDE is influenced by his/her cultural background - Easterners are supposed to have different experiences than Westerners. There are more stories of Westerners who "met" the servants of lord of death, Yamaraja.)
Encounter in a Dream
"Before I joined the temple I have been reading Prabhupada's books like anything - sometimes for hours a day - and I developed a deep appreciation for them. At that time I still lived in my rented flat whose owner was one woman living together with her daughter. This girl was a heavy drug addict and often when she had nightmares her screams would wake me up. One night I was awaken by her particularly horrible screaming. I looked at my watch - it was 0:30 AM. Knowing that this time is notorious for its inauspiciousness I was a bit afraid and confused. But then I fell asleep again and in my dream I saw coming to me a strange figure looking like a devil - dark, with big ears and carrying a stick or something similar in its hand. It was looking at me and laughing, "Oh, you read these books! Ho, ho, ho!" and pointed at my Bhagavatam lying beside my bed on a table. At once I realized that I cannot do anything but if Krsna is in the hearts of all the living beings He can protect me. Thus I got a feeling of security. At that moment the dream stopped and I slept peacefully for the rest of the night. This incident even deepened my faith in Prabhupada's books."
Terminal Restlessness - Yamaduta time
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Please read this. Its a great example of what Srila Prabhupada was trying
to save us from. Amazing stuff.
Hari Sauri Das
The Yamadutas at the Time of Death (Terminal Restlessness)
By Subhangi Devi Dasi
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupad! All glories to all of the Vaishnavas, especially the preachers who are saving the world from hell! All glories to your service!
Have you ever heard of terminal restlessness? Probably not, unless you are a doctor or a nurse. But although the name is new, the condition is described in Srimad Bhagavatam. Srila Prabhupada says:
"And similarly, miserable condition of death. When one is lying in coma, so many sufferings is going on, so many dreaming, the Yamaduta is coming. Sometimes the man on the deathbed cries, he's so much suffering but there is no remedy. Everyone is helpless. So that is the miserable condition of death..." Srila Prabhupad, Gorakhpur Feb 18, 1971
I will tell you how I found out about it, and this story is a classic example of the dreadful reality faced by all the suffering souls of this material world. It also shows clearly what Srila Prabhupad has saved us from and why we should feel eternally indebted to him.
It all started when I received a phone call from my parents saying that Dad was sick with cancer. I believe in omens, and my right eye started twitching profusely, so I knew that the outcome wouldn't be good. That was in the beginning of November.
But Dad was optimistic. He was sure he could overcome everything, as he had always been the controller in every situation and had faced many trials in life and overcome them all. Until now he seemed to be a lucky guy, enjoying good facilities and good karma in every respect. Little did he know that his good karma had come to a grinding halt. If Krsna wants to save you no one can kill you, but if Krsna wants to kill you no one can save you.
Dad had prostate cancer, and it had spread into his bones. He was having chemotherapy, but it failed twice. I rang one day, and he literally wept. "I'm dying," he said.
I felt compassion for him. He was helpless in the hands of cruel fate. I tried to help. "Well don't worry," I said. "There is reincarnation. You will be okay. Just pray. God is kind."
But it was little comfort to someone who was bewildered and didn't know God.
After that I felt that I was somehow connected to his suffering. I could feel all of his fear and anxiety. I would pray all the time. I didn't want to experience any of it, but I guess I was karmically connected to him, so there was no escape no matter how far away I was. The physical suffering was nothing compared to the mental torture he was experiencing. He became humble, and I dropped everything a couple of times and flew from Vrindavan to be with him.
In the past he had never wanted to hear anything about Krishna, so I had given up trying years ago. We never discussed the subject. I would just feed him prasad (he loved my cooking) and talk about other things. I had Vrindavan dust with me and some Yamuna water mixed with Ganga. There were also some small Jagannatha Deities. I deposited all these things in the house, hoping they would have an effect and using them whenever possible, in Dad's food and so on.
I kept praying and hoping that somehow I could convince him about Krishna before he died. He was so bewildered and humbled by his lack of control over the situation that he was willing to listen to some degree. He was clutching at straws.
I read him some Bhagavad Gita, and he said that it was comforting. I also read to him from Coming Back. He liked that because the idea of reincarnation was something positive to look for in the future, and he was desperate for that. I saw in there the chapter about Ajamila and felt I should read it to him, but thought maybe it was too much to thrust upon him. Besides, I was there, and because I was chanting everything it would be okay, or so I thought.
I really believed you could just chant Hare Krishna and all bad things would go away. I guess this is a superficial and neophyte viewpoint. The material world is such a heavy place, and with my great ego I, was overestimating my own purity. I realized later that I'm really not even a devotee. If you are incapable of saving yourself, how can you possibly save anyone else?
I had to fly back to Vrindavan several times, as I had family and business commitments, but the whole time I could feel him pulling me. I had zero mental peace during this time. I think he really wanted me there and was emotionally dependant on me, as I was the only one offering any tangible solutions.
People are basically not sympathetic either, and he needed a lot of understanding. I am not good at handling suffering, so this was difficult to bear seeing someone you care for suffering so much anxiety. I left my Jagannatha Deities there and asked them to forgive any offense but to please protect my father while I went back to India on business just for a couple of weeks.
Then my mother rang. She was at her wits' end. "Please come," she said. "He is in hospital now, and we need you here." I jumped on the first flight, and as soon as I arrived, I moved into the hospital with Dad. It was incredible how Krishna seemed to arrange it. They gave us a private room and let me sleep there and care for him. Nobody questioned my authority, and my mother just backed off and let me do anything. She is a Roman Catholic and doesn't usually allow me to speak about Krishna.
I realized that the karmis are so far into denial that they try to avoid the reality of death as much as possible, so it was a way out for her if I took the burden. She could go home and pretend nothing was happening, yet still know that Dad was being taken care of by me. Or maybe deep down she also felt desperate for his spiritual welfare, and I was the best solution they had. I'm not really sure. Once it all goes beyond their material perception and control, they become completely bewildered. I only know that I was able to fully take over the care of my father. Many people must suffer and die alone in hospitals going through what I am about to tell...
I slept next to Dad and tended to his every need. I managed to get Tulasi beads on him, which one demoniac nurse kept taking off. I got mental about it. Oh no, I thought, he is so sinful, he can't wear Tulasi. Then I just got in this mindset that I was going to be aggressive and keep those beads on him no matter what. She would take them off, and I would just smile sweetly and put them right back on.
I read some Bhagavad Gita to him. He didn't eat at all for the twelve days leading up to his death. For eight of those days he had only Ganga and Yamuna water and nothing else. I controlled everything that went into his mouth. I even started sprinkling Vrindavan dust in his water as well.
Toward the end, he was on another level, not of this world. He seemed to be perceiving things that other people couldn't. For example, every night I would put on a Shiva T-Shirt to wear to bed. There was a large picture of Lord Shiva on the front of it. My habit was to wait till he was asleep and in a subtle manner, sprinkle a little bit of Vrindavan dust on his head in case he died while I was asleep.
One night I had just sprinkled the dust, and he sprang up with a wide-eyed look of amazement. "Oh, you're all surrounded by dust," he said.
Another night, in the same way, he sprang awake and looked at my Lord Shiva shirt. "Careful!" he said. "There's fire coming out of your shirt." The day before he died, he said there were big dogs in the room and an ugly person floating outside the window.
The evening before his death he began to feel disturbed. "Untie my legs," he was saying to I don't know whom, and he was visibly distressed. My mother and my daughter decided to stay overnight at the hospital, which they didn't normally do. I drifted off to sleep and so did Mum.
At about 9.30 pm my daughter woke me up. "Mum," she said, "come quickly! Something's happening to Grand-dad."
I raced over to the bed and Dad was moaning. "Please, please," he was saying, "I beg you, let me loose, please let me loose." His tone was humble and terrified, and his eyes were lowered. He was to say these words many, many times over the next six hours. He was trying to jump off the bed and hide under his pillow. You have to understand that he was skin and bones. He couldn't even urinate without help, and here he was suddenly trying to get up and run off.
He was thrashing around like a mad man. This is really inauspicious, I thought. I grabbed him by the shoulders. "Dad," I said, "what's happening? You okay?"
He was terrified. "Oh Sue," he cried out, "I tried to get away, I really did, but they got me." His voice went up to a shout. "She's got me!" he yelled out.
At that time I should have realized what was happening, but the fact that he said, "She's got me" put me off, and somehow I got covered over, and for the next six hours I just tried to comfort him.
He cried out again and again. "Oh, for God's sake," he would shout, "just let me rest, just ten minutes. Please, I beg you." His tone of voice was terrified and all the while humble and begging. I would chant and he would relax a little. Then a nurse would come and distract me, and he would start again, thrashing and begging.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
He seemed exasperated. "I'm trying to tell you," he said, "but I just can't."
Then at 3 am it suddenly dawned on me that the Yamadutas had him. It was so obvious, and I felt so foolish for not realizing it until now. I turned to my 13-year-old daughter and told her I thought the Yamadutas had him.
"Yes," she said. "I know. I woke you up because I saw three of them floating above his bed, and he was cowering and looking up."
She had actually seen them. She described later how they looked, with boar-like tusks coming upward out of their mouths and glaring eyes. She had thought they were some kind of ghosts trying to steal his soul from his body. Of course, by Krishna's arrangement, my mother was sleeping, oblivious the whole time.
What to do? I thought. I started to pray to Krishna: "Oh, please let him go, Krishna." I was begging.
Then Supersoul would answer. "Why?" He would say. "He will only offend again."
Then I was really upset. I started praying to Yamaraja" "Please, Yamaraja..." And all the while, I was chanting. I told Dad I was sorry I hadn't realized sooner that they had hold of him. He nodded, traumatized. His whole death experience was hellish. I'm sorry that any souls have to experience such a thing and understand now why Srila Prabhupad felt such urgency to save everyone.
"Dad," I said, "do you want me to hold you and chant?" "Yes, yes," he said. "Have they still got you?" "No, they let me go."
Then I held him tight for the next three hours, and he slowly gave up his life, through his mouth, peacefully with me chanting right in his ear and dripping Ganga and Yamuna water into his mouth. I stayed fully focused on chanting very close to his ear until he breathed his last, at 6 am. He went straight out of his mouth and his eyes just closed.
Poor him! Cruel, cruel, hellish material world! It had been only seven months from the start of his illness, and the seventy-one-year story of his life was forcibly ended.
While he would be thrashing and crying out "Let me loose!" I'd ask the nurses what was happening.
"Oh, it's normal," they'd say. "He's just fighting it, and it happens to everyone. There's even a term for it. It's called terminal restlessness. And they give nurses' seminars about how to deal with it."
Well I've got news for you, folks. It's actually terminal Yamadutaness. Of course they are advised to just pump them full of morphine and ignore all their ramblings.
Another thing is that no one is meant to know about it. It was purely Krishna's mercy that we were able to realize it, and even then I almost missed it. For six hours I was confused and yet Dad was telling me quite clearly and begging for help, so some sort of maya is covering the whole thing and people aren't aware of it. Only the person who is going through it knows.
Mention is made of the dogs. A devotee told me afterwards that they were reading Yamaraja scriptures, which give detailed descriptions, and it is said that the hounds of hell come ahead several days before and sniff out where the rascals are dying.
There was also the fact that he said, "She's got me." Apparently the Yamadutas have their own society with wives, kids and everything. Since they are also living entities in this material world, they are born into that society.
I don't usually put pen to paper, as I don't feel at all qualified to do so, but mother Radha Kunda Devi Dasi encouraged me and said that this experience should be shared with all the devotees. So please excuse my shortcomings. I am not very philosophical or academic. Here are some of Srila Prabhupada's comments on the subject:
"To see the Yamadutas, or the carriers of order of Yamaraja, superintendent of death, to see face to face... At the time of death, when one very sinful man is dying, he sees the Yamaraja or the order carriers of Yamaraja. They are very fierce looking. Sometimes the man on the deathbed becomes very much fearful, cries, 'Save me, save me.'" Srimad Bhagavatam lecture, Denver, July 2, 1975
"But you take this mission and go everywhere, in every corner. I am thankful to you. You are already doing that, in Europe and America, [people are] deep asleep. Because people are sleeping under misguidance, and they are becoming candidate for being carried away by the Yamaduta. This is the position of the whole world, Yamaduta. Yamaduta will not excuse you, however you may be very proud of becoming independent. This is not possible. To save the human civilization, the rascal civilization, that 'There is no life after death, and you go on enjoying as much as you like,' this wrong civilization is [a] killing civilization. So you save them. You save them. Otherwise the Yamaduta is there." Vrindavan, September 5, 1975
"This man was like this, and he must be carried to Yamaraja for punishment..." Why punishment? No, to make him purified, it is said, 'Punishment required.' This is nature's law. Just like if you have infected some disease, the punishment is you must suffer for it. The punishment is good. If you have infected some disease, and when you suffer, that means you become purified from the disease. Suffering is not bad, to become purified. Therefore when a devotee suffers, he does not take it ill. He thinks that, 'I am being purified. I am being purified.'" Vrindavan, September 5, 1975
So I suppose that even though Dad had Tulasi beads on, he was a good man by ordinary standards, but he liked to hunt, and he had been a drinker, womanizer, and cow eater. And even though he had had all facilities for the last 28 years, he didn't surrender to Krishna. Even at the time of death, he didn't seem able to think of Krishna as the solution to his woes.
Srila Prabhupad sums it up in the purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 6.2.49: "At the time of death one is certainly bewildered because his bodily functions are in disorder. At that time, even one who throughout his life has practiced chanting the holy name of the Lord may not be able to chant the Hare Krsna mantra very distinctly. Nevertheless, such a person receives all the benefits of chanting the holy name. While the body is fit therefore, why should we not chant the holy name of the Lord loudly and distinctly? If one does so, it is quite possible that even at the time of death he will be properly able to chant the holy name of the Lord with love and faith."
Purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 6.2.15:
"Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail. If one practices chanting the Hare Krsna mantra, he is naturally expected to chant Hare Krsna when he meets with some accident. Even without such practice, however, if one somehow or other chants the holy name of the Lord (Hare Krsna) when he meets with an accident and dies, he will be saved from hellish life after death. One is immediately absolved from having to enter hellish life, even though he is sinful."
In the purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 6.2.7:
"The Yamadutas had considered only the external situation of Ajamila. Since he was extremely sinful throughout his life, they thought he should be taken to Yamaraja and did not know that he had become free from the reactions of all his sins. The Visnudutas therefore instructed that because he had chanted the four syllables of the name Narayana at the time of his death, he was freed from all sinful reactions."
In the same purport, Srila Prabhupada quotes the following verses:
"Simply by chanting one holy name of Hari, a sinful man can counteract the reactions to more sins than he is able to commit." Brhad-Visnu Purana
"If one chants the holy name of the Lord, even in a helpless condition or without desiring to do so, all the reactions of his sinful life depart, just as when a lion roars, all the small animals flee in fear." Garuda Purana
"By once chanting the holy name of the Lord, which consists of the two syllables ha-ri, one guarantees his path to liberation." Skanda Purana
I can only hope and pray that somehow my father had a small thought of Krishna because of my feeble efforts and the causeless mercy of Guru and Gauranga.
Anyway, I would like the feedback of all the devotees. Do others have similar experiences to tell? What do you all think about this topic?
Please all of you Vaishnavas pray for my father that he may have an opportunity to serve Krishna. I was thinking myself to be the big hero, going to save my father, only to find that I'm just a big bag of hot air zero. I am such a fallen rascal that I couldn't help him in his hour of need, and I hope this story helps others to advance their efforts in Krishna consciousness so that we can all help Srila Prabhupada in his mission to relieve all the sufferings of the fallen conditioned souls.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada, savior of the whole world!
Your fallen servant, Subhangi Devi Dasi
Description of hells (SB 5.26)
Near-Death Experiences and the Afterlife
R.L. Thompson on OBE and NDE (A Journal of Alternative News)
NDE and dying from Jewish perspective
NDE and dying from Christian perspective
Near-Death Experiences in Thailand with illustrations.
NDE - from Brahma Sutra
Medical references to terminal restlessness:
"Some patients may insist that the police be called ... that someone
unseen is trying to harm them."
Terminal Agitation in the Dying
Terminal restlessness by Dr Andrew Binns
Terminal restlessness in the nursing facility: assessment, palliation, and symptom management. Travis SS, Conway J, Daly M, Larsen P. (Medline abstract)
Palliative Care Victoria
Agitation & confusion
(c) 2001 - 2004 VEDA - Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, authors and Jan Mares
Confusion and Terminal Restlessness
Confusion and Terminal Restlessness
Information for those caring for a terminally ill person at home
What is confusion?
Confusion is limited awareness or the clouding of consciousness. A personís capacity to think clearly and respond appropriately may be reduced. Speech may be rambling or incoherent. The person may be unaware of where they are or what is happening. They may misinterpret sights, sounds or experiences. They may be anxious, restless or agitated, or express other emotions that are difficult to understand or that seem excessive in the circumstances.
Sometimes carers and relatives think that the person is mentally ill or is becoming demented. This is rarely the case. Confusion is far more likely to be due to physical causes.
Confusion can be caused by:
raised temperature (eg fever from infection)
medications (new or higher dose)
anything that affects the amount of oxygen reaching the brain (eg diseases of heart or lungs)
disease processes that affect the brain directly (eg brain tumour, stroke)
pain or other physical discomfort
chemical imbalances within the body due to disease processes or the failure of vital organs.
Issues such as conflict with loved ones or Ďunfinished businessí donít cause confusion, but may feature in the confused personís thinking.
What makes confusion worse?
Confusion may be worse in the evening, at night, or when the ill person experiences changes in routine, the site of care, or care staff. Irritants such as excess or uncomfortable bedding or clothes or unfamiliar sounds can add to confusion. Nightmares or night terrors may accompany confusion or may be the only or first symptoms of confusion.
What should the carer do?
Tell the nurse and doctor about the ill personís changed behaviour immediately. They will check for, and treat, any conditions that may be contributing to the patientís confused state. Confusion can clear up rapidly if its cause can be treated. It could be as straightforward as a full bladder or rectum, which can be readily fixed. The doctor will review the medication, and look for any other medical causes or contributions. Sometimes confusion due to medication clears as the personís body adapts. Sometimes a change of medication is needed.
General care measures are helpful. Even if these do not eliminate
the problem, they will lessen its severity and make it less distressing.
It is pointless to argue with the person about a delusion.
Gently remind the person where they are and who you are. Sit with the person, taking their hand and talking to them, even if they seem unaware of you. Relatives, friends and volunteer support workers can assist with this.
Avoid sudden demands, or any feeling of haste. Try to create a feeling of peace and safety. Talk reassuringly about what you are about to do while you are tending them, even if you think that they do not hear or understand you.
Avoid changing the personís surroundings, the position of the bed in the room etc.
Check that the person is not too hot. An ill person does not require an electric blanket.
Check the bed and clothes for anything that may be causing irritation.
At night, try using a night-light (low watt lamp) or leave the hall light on and the door open.
Keep the environment free of distracting or distressing noise. Music helps some, but not all, people to settle. If a windy night or intermittent noise increases the confusion, try masking the noise with familiar sounds such as the radio or TV.
What is terminal restlessness?
Terminal restlessness is a variant of confusion that occurs in the last days or hours of life. It is less common than confusion, but the signs and symptoms can be particularly distressing for carers and relatives.
In addition to the usual symptoms of confusion, there may be increased physical restlessness or agitation, muscle twitches, or unusual patterns of muscular contraction. The person may pick at or continuously handle the bedclothes.
The person may moan or call out. Sometimes they make a noise each time they breathe out. These vocal symptoms can be particularly worrying for carers, but do not mean that the patient is distressed. Supporting the person in a more upright position, turned slightly to one side, can reduce or eliminate this. Sometimes the ill person, even if apparently unconscious, may react with distress to sudden stimulation.
Let the doctor and nurse know straight away if the patient shows signs of terminal restlessness. They will assess the problem and decide which measures to take. The same factors that lead to confusion can cause terminal restlessness or make it worse. Toxins in the body due to the slowing in function of organs such as the liver and kidneys are usually the cause. Specific drug treatment can stop twitches or muscle contractions. Sedation is needed when terminal restlessness is severe. Explanation to carers and family, and medication for agitation or other physical symptoms are the basis of treatment.
As well as seeking treatment for the ill person, carers need to share their feelings of distress or concern with team members, family and friends.