By Vaisesika Dasa
We humans have very short lives. Measured by geological time, our lifespans are not even a nanosecond. Nonetheless, the bhakti scriptures say that this brief period is enough for anyone to attain spiritual perfection. What’s more, they reprove as irresponsible and miserly those who do not utilize their lives to attain such perfection. Having so much at stake with so little time may seem daunting!
To inspire us Sukadeva Goswami tells us in Srimad-Bhagavatam the story of Maharaja Khatvanga who perfected his life within an instant. Srila Prabhupada summarizes Khatvanga’s achievement:
King Khatvanga went to assist the demigods, and he was rewarded. When asked what he wanted, he replied, “I want to know how long I shall live.” “Not very long,” they said. “A second.” He at once transferred his thoughts to Krishna and surrendered. (Srila Prabhupada; Back to Godhead Magazine #45)
Maharaja Khatvanga’s story is not meant to encourage procrastination. For example, I can just hear someone thinking, “Oh, this story means that I can do as I wish throughout my life and at the last moment remember Krishna.” However, Krishna and the great teachers of bhakti never encourage us to delay our spiritual practices in this way.
On the contrary, Sri Sukadeva tells us this story so that we may make each moment of our lives a Khatvanga moment. Though our lives are fleeting, they are made up of a series of moments, any one of which we may use to attain the supreme perfection of life by taking shelter of Krishna
Srila Prabhupada confirms this idea, thus:
“Devotional service is not a material process—it is spiritual. It involves no impediments of material conditioning. It develops in proportion to one’s seriousness; we can attain the whole thing in one second. If we sincerely take Krishna consciousness, we have it.” (ibid)