Question to Radhanath Swami: In ordinary life, our short-term goals—wealth, fame, money, etc.—are measurable. To aspire for love of God is to pursue the proper long term goal. But unlike short-term goals, isn’t this goal achieved only after death?
Radhanath Swami: The highest goal does not come at the time of death. The highest goal comes when we make service to God the highest priority of our life. We are not waiting for death to attain love of God. If we do not develop love of God when we are living, we will not have love of God at the time of death. Therefore little Prahlad (about whom the Srimad Bhagavatam speaks about) said to his classmates, “Now is the time to live a life of devotion,” though he and his friends were only five years old then. Prahlad had pure, ecstatic love of God even as a small child and he lived his whole life expressing that love of God, in a spirit of compassion to others. That is what we are striving for. Love for Krishna is not far away. It is the closest thing to our heart and is the very essence in the core of our heart. But unfortunately, our consciousness is running far away from the thing that is closest and nearest to us.
Yes, now is the time to begin to redirect our consciousness to our essence, to our eternal spiritual nature. We cannot wait till the moment of death. If we haven’t deeply realized the Absolute Truth when we are living, the time of death will proclaim a great sorrowful failure of our human life. But if we pursue the goal of pure devotional service now, then we are already on the path of perfection.
Srila Prabhupada, our guru, once told the devotees, “Because you are living a life of service to God, and you are chanting the names of God, you are all liberated.” The devotees were astounded, because even though they were following the principles, chanting the names of God, serving God, reading the scriptures, they understood that they had much envy, pride, greed and lust within their hearts to deal with. Srila Prabhupada said that his followers were liberated because they were living like liberated souls by following the principles of Bhakti. They just hadn’t realized their liberated state! So if we just follow Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, we are actually living in a liberated state. And by living in that state, gradually we realize our liberated condition. And that is the perfection of life.