No, this is not a prayer made at the moment of death. It is made at the time of the great death – samadhi means great death. I consider mortal death an ordinary death because then only the body dies; the mind does not die. I consider meditation, samadhi, the great death because there is no idea, no remembering of the body at all in that condition; the mind dies too. Hence I say that this prayer is made at the time of samadhi, because the sage is asking his egoistic and desiring mind to remember its past actions.
The second part of this sutra has been much misunderstood. The fact is that such things as these are usually interpreted for us by pundits – by our self-professed wise men. However intelligent their interpretations and explanations may be, they commit a fundamental error. They understand the words and principles of the scriptures correctly, but they do not understand at all that which is hidden unsaid behind the words and principles. The hidden essence is never contained in the actual words of religions. It is to be understood from the gaps between the words. The meaning is not in the lines but in the spaces between the lines. So those who are unable to understand the spaces, those who read only the printed words, cannot correctly interpret these great sutras.
There is a movement called Krishna Consciousness in the West. I was just looking at a book on the Ishavasya Upanishad by Swami Bhakti Vedant Prabhupad – the leader of this movement. I was very much surprised to read his interpretation of this sutra. The way he explains it is: “I am on the point of dying, I am standing at the door of death. Therefore, O God, please accept the sacrifices and renunciation I have made for you: remember the actions I have performed for you.”
Not only is he unable to read the spaces between the words, he seems unable to read even the words themselves, finding other words instead. The sage is addressing his egoistic and desiring mind – there is no question here at all of bringing God in. Nor does the sage say, “Remember the actions which I performed for you, remember the sacrifices I made for you.” But our business mind loves to interpret it in this way. It will say at the moment of death, “O God, remember, I have given a lot of money to charities, I have built a temple for you, I have built a dam for the village, and so on. O God, my time is over, now give me a fitting reward for all the actions and sacrifices I have made for your sake.”
“My egoistic and desiring mind….” Will is the channel of our desires, of the longings of the mind. It is necessary to understand what will is so that the discussion may be easily followed. Desires arise in the minds of all of us, but desire does not become will till the ego is linked with it.
Egoistic desire becomes will. All people have desires, but these desires remain mere dreams as long as they are not linked with ego, as long as they do not become actions. To be translated into actions, a desire has to be linked with ego. Then it becomes will. Vanity – ego – is born to perform, to be. A desire to be the doer arises. You become the doer as soon as ego is united with desire.