[This excerpt is taken from "Making Life out of a Life" by Srimat Swami Ranganathanandaji Maharaj - http://www.sriramak rishnamath. org/magazine/ vk/2000/12- 3-1.asp]
In the Mahabharata, we get a powerful verse. Whenever and wherever I have quoted that verse, it always had a tremendous impact on the mind of listeners. It is a short Sanskrit line containing a profound message of the beauty of an intense life. There was a king by name Sanjaya in the Northern Sindh region; his mother bore the name Vidula. She was a heroic queen-mother. How she inspired her son to be brave is what the story conveys. This young king went out for battle, got defeated, became weak-minded and depressed. The mother tried to rouse his royal spirit in several ways; it did not happen. Then, finally, she uttered a sentence conveying a tremendous power that helped to rouse the courage of the prince. That line conveys so much inspiration in so few words. That is the uniqueness of great literature-- the capacity to convey great meaning to humanity in a few words. And what that great queen-mother conveyed to her princely son ages ago, our Mother India conveys to every child in this country today:
Muhurtam jvalitam shreyo,na tu dhumayitam chiram.
'It is better to flame for one instant, than to smoke away for ages!'
A short intense life, burnt out in a great struggle and achievement of the humanistic impulse, is preferable to a humdrum life of long duration. That is the message to us from our own past. In this modern period, we had a Vivekananda. During his brief 39 years, he made a tremendous impact on both East and West; even in that short span of life, his actual public work was only during the last nine years.
Live such a life that when you die, you will leave a permanent wholesome impact, small or big, on the world.