King Rishabha is considered the incarnation of the Lord and the most famous of Rishabha’s sons is Bharata who succeeds him to the throne. Like his illustrious father, Bharata takes to asceticism in later life renouncing his family, kingdom and other worldly possessions.
Spiritual excellence inheres in the exercise of self-control in one’s thought, word and deed whether one is a householder or a sanyasi and is a process to be cultivated right through the end, explained Srimati Prema Pandurang in a lecture. Tracing the trajectory of Bharata’s life in the Bhagavata Purana, she referred to how this learned king-turned-ascetic succumbs to a new emotional bondage leading to dire consequences.
Bharata becomes fond of a newborn deer that is unlucky to lose its mother at birth. He rears the deer and forgets all his sadana and penance. Moha is a word in spiritual parlance to describe any attachment that detaches one from the Lord. It is this moha for the deer that preoccupies his mind even in his deathbed and in his next birth he is born a deer. Impacted by the memory of his past birth and understanding the cause of the present one, he lives through the life of a deer in solitude near an ashram. In his next birth, he is born as Jadabharata, a person evincing no interest in worldliness who just remains dull and unwilling to act but who is also realised.
A jivatma with its baggage of karma is believed to be at the crossroads in the course of its journey through countless births at the moment of death. Though karma is a prime determinant of the direction it has to take, it is held that whatever pervades the consciousness of a dying person determines his next birth.
While speaking of salvation to Arjuna, the Lord elucidates that whoever thinks of Him at the moment of death attains Him indubitably. “Thinking of whatever object at the time of death, he attains that very object, being constantly absorbed in its thought.” Sages engage in meditation trying to grapple with this subtle awareness. Scriptures reiterate that realisation is a continuing process of development in the consciousness till the very end.