The Glorious Disappearance of Vaishnavas: ISKCON’s Vision of Exemplary Death
Issue: Vol 6 No. 1 (2012)
Journal: Religions of South Asia
This article examines accounts of the deaths of notable ISKCON devotees, beginning with that of the founder, and shows how these are presented as examples to other devotees. Death is understood as merely a transition, and the glorious death as the culmination of a process of conscious dying which takes place within the communion of devotees. Recollecting these glorious deaths, devotees learn how to die and how to mourn. From this perspective, pain and suffering are trials given by Krishna to purify his devotees. They are therefore never beyond the capacity of the individual bhakta (devotee) to endure, and can be welcomed and transcended. The final goal is an auspicious and joyful death, which may be far from the kind of instant death for which many now hope. This article argues that ISKCON’s understandings of dying, death and mourning are shaped by the Hindu/ Chaitanyite Vaishnava tradition, but are also being transformed in turn by the new globalized media, particularly the worldwide web, by biomedical models and by ‘Western’ approaches epitomized by the hospice movement. The glorious disappearance now therefore exhibits traditional, modern and postmodern features.
Author: Anna King
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