The quality of your existence must supersede your physical life. This truism echoes the mahaguru’s thinking. Your deeds (karmas) and deliberations impact the quality of your existence in this world (Bhu-loka) and qualify you for other lokas. That is why the mahaguru suggested that your aims and aspirations must extend beyond your present-day incarnation to multiple lifetimes. And each lifetime must stack up towards the goal of reaching higher lokas, being blissful for extended periods, achieving mukti or temporary suspension from the birth-death cycle and ultimately, reuniting with the param-aatma.

The easiest way to grasp the mahaguru’s truism is by using the analogy of the corporate world. Suppose you do well in your present job and can back that with recommendations, references and an excellent reputational rating. In that case, you have a fitting chance of getting a better job with a higher designation and significant perks. Similarly, even in the spiritual sphere, your jivaatma objectively assesses itself at the end of each life-term on attitudes changed, attributes gained, and altitude reached. This “transformation assessment score” determines the quality of your next life. And in turn, every lifetime becomes an opportunity to score higher and move closer to the goal post.

It’s only when he taught me to flirt with death, did I begin to dwell on the concept of living for the future. I realised that in the afterlife I may be given a sabbatical before my next assignment as a human, but it was my present incarnation that would qualify me either for a hut or a palace. If I were concerned about the quality of my existence, I would aim to ensure that my present life is better than the last or the one prior. Knowing that death could put the best-laid plans to rest, I figured it was useful to be prepared for it. Being prepared meant trying to be constantly aware of my physical and spiritual environment while being conscious of anything that would detract me from the mission of self-transformation.

In any lifetime, efforts towards enhancing the quality of existence entail working within the framework of time and intention. Practices that amplify your efforts must be considered hygiene and routinely undertaken until they become habits. In studying Gurudev’s habits, I stumbled upon their correlation with his philosophy and re-learnt, self hygiene is not only about personal wellbeing but equally about the welfare of others.