All of us can benefit from reading Life’s Final Exam. Its contents can fuel our own spiritual search, help us better understand our brethren from the Vedic tradition, and teach us much about life’s great mysteries. You will be glad you opened these pages!
–Porter Storey, MD, author of Primer of Palliatve Care and the Unipac series
Life’s Final Exam stands at the crossroads where the wisdom of spiritual tradition meets real human need. Death and dying do not respect sectarian boundaries, and it is wonderful to see the riches of Vaishnava Hinduism drawn upon to sustain and console people embarked on this life’s final journey. Ministry to the sick and dying is today an increasingly interreligious phenomenon, and this book will be a welcome resource for departments of pastoral and hospice care.
–Francis X. Clooney, SJ, Director of the Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard University
Life’s Final Exam opens a world of new insights into the mysteries of life, death, and what lies beyond. The book contains answers to life’s biggest questions seen through the eyes of love, devotion, and service. Giriraj Swami weaves the perennial wisdom of the Vedic tradition, which is not very well known in the West, with practical experience and support for those working in hospice and for anyone who cares for others at the great threshold. Regardless of a person’s spiritual path, Life’s Final Exam offers fresh perspectives into what we all hope for and most cherish in life. Here is a new volume for the growing world library of The Books of Living and Dying.
–Richard Groves, founder of the Sacred Art of Living Center, author of The American Book of Living and Dying
From the Author
Why should the living contemplate death and dying–how can we profit from such topics? Recently a colleague and friend of mine passed away, and before his death he said, “When you get this close to death, you see that it is not what you thought. All our life we fear it, but when you are this close you see that it is not the end; it is a portal to opportunities beckoning us, a portal beyond which we are able to see our true existence and nature–that we are all actually entities that don’t pass away. It is not something negative or destructive; it is the opposite of that, hugely life affirming. Life is for learning lessons, and death is our best instructor to teach us the most important of lessons, because it reveals the essence and purpose of our life and throws a light on our eternal spiritual nature.”
Being mindful of death–our own or that of others–helps put things in proper perspective. Steve Jobs, the visionary American entrepreneur said, “When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past thirty-three years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
When we are conscious of death, we see more clearly what is important–ultimately, our eternal relationship with the Supreme Person and reestablishing it by chanting and hearing and serving–and what is not.