If we look around us we notice that death is the great lady of all creation and history, since everything submits to the second law of thermodynamics — entropy.
Life spends its energy capital until death. Life itself is a great mystery, even when it is understood as the self-organization of matter far from its equilibrium, that is to say, in a state of chaos.
From within the chaos a superior order breaks forth that regulates and reproduces itself. That is life. But that does not explain life; it only describes how it occurs.
Life remains mysterious, as biologists and cosmologists themselves always state.
The most universal spiritual practice is repetition of the holy "word", or "name" of God, using a string of beads called a Rosary, Mala, or Tasbih.
This ancient practice is revered in all the great traditions as an effective means to purify the subtle body and resolve psychic impressions which bind us to the Earth stage.
Sooner or later, whether during life or after death, we all must take responsibility for our past actions and forgive others for theirs. If you've hurt someone, even in the distant past, apologize to that person and try to make amends in whatever way is appropriate. If you're unable to do this, or if contact from you would not be welcome by the other person, talk about your feelings with a trusted friend or counselor. Or seek redemption in a way that's meaningful to you.
For example, you might take a vow, do penance or go on a spiritual pilgrimage. When performed sincerely, in the spirit of repentance, these are powerful demonstrations of responsibility within your own psyche. When you've completed one of these rituals, you've stepped into a river and out onto the other side, a changed person.
Likewise, if someone has hurt you, forgive that person completely and without conditions. This may take time, but keep trying. Forgiveness does not mean we have to accept bad or inappropriate behavior.
The person's behavior may be wrong, but we can still forgive the person. Forgiveness is a form of compassion which arises from the understanding that essentially, we're all the same. And we're all doing the best we can, limited by our own negative conditioning. Ultimately, we forgive others because we realize it's in our own best interest to do so.
In Sanskrit, ahimsa refers to the principle of "Do No Harm". It arises from the recognition that all living beings share a common spiritual origin. In practice, this means making an effort to avoid speech or action which is harmful to ourselves, others, society or the staget.
Ahimsa requires mindfulness of others on many levels as we navigate through life, and invariably we'll fail at times. But that's ok. Mistakes are an important part of the process if we accept responsibility, make amends in whatever way we can and move on.
The purpose of life is to gain knowledge through experience. And this includes making many mistakes along the way.
Our inner desires and motives are private and hidden from view. As a result, we hardly pay attention to them. But after death, our inner desires and motives are reflected outwardly in the character of our faces and cannot be hidden.
This is worth thinking about. What if every time you had a lustful, hateful or selfish motive, it was obvious for everyone to see? You might decide to pay more attention to these things.
It's enough just to notice these things and stop ignoring them. We don't need to struggle against them or judge ourselves. The fact is that most of us have never been taught that our inner world needs attention. In this regard, simple awareness of the truth will have a transforming effect.
As human beings, we tend to view Earth life in absolute terms, as if it were the end-all and be-all of existence.
This limited perspective has a powerful grip on the human psyche. As a result, many people are in denial about death and refuse to consider the possibility of an afterlife.
When people die in this frame of mind, they can be confused, disoriented and unable to accept that they've died. As a result, normal progress through the stages of death may be delayed.
We are not human beings. We're spiritual beings having a brief human experience. And the Earth is not our home. It's a place we're visiting for a short time in order to experience limitations and challenges, which otherwise we'd have no way to know.
If this seems hard to believe, do your own research in the area of the afterlife and near-death studies. If you approach these subjects with an open mind, you'll find overwhelming evidence that consciousness does, in fact, survive death of the physical body. If we cultivate this broader perspective, or even just maintain an open mind on the subject, it will help smooth our progress through the various stages after death.
Where there is life, there is always an interaction with matter — to gain energy — and reproduction occurs as a means of self-preservation.
Despite this, there is one insurmountable obstacle — death — even though lower forms of life can live thousands and thousands of years.
Thus, for example, bacteria which can be revived have been found in the skin of a mammoth frozen in Siberia for almost ten thousand years.
In mineral salt beds, bacteria have been found that have been frozen alive for millions of years but have not died in spite of this and can be restored to normal life conditions.
Today it is possible to submit bacteria to very low temperatures in order to reacclimatize them for life later, after many years have passed. But the moment of death will come even for them.
For the human being death is always tragedy and anguish. Everything in his being cries out for life without end, but this cannot detain the mechanism of death which approaches inexorably.
This affirms that mortal life has been transfigured. In the evolutionary process life has reached such a density of fulfillment that death can no longer penetrate it and wreak its devastating work.
Every day on Earth, roughly 160,000 people die. In a year, that amounts to 60,000,000 deaths. In another 80 years, nearly everyone on Earth today will have died. It can happen at any time, to anybody. Will you be ready when it happens to you?
Most of us live in denial, as if death will never happen. But sooner or later, death comes to everybody. And with it come a number of urgent questions: What happens after death? Is there life after death...or an afterlife? How can I prepare for death and what's the point of it all?
Most people postpone these questions until the end, when the certainty of death can no longer be ignored. By that time they may be caught by surprise, or simply unprepared for the situation at hand. Then a perfectly natural and beautiful stage of life is overshadowed with fear and confusion.
Why wait until the end? Why not ask these questions now, while there's time to make a serious inquiry? You might discover something wonderful and completely unexpected.
The mystery of death is part of the human condition. But on the level of intuition, we have access to information that transcends both the language and logic of the mind.
All experience arises in Consciousness, which is both the foundation and substance of creation. Divested of all limitations fabricated by the mind, Consciousness is formless, eternal and unbounded. For these reasons, it is considered absolute and Divine in nature.
When we speak of Consciousness, we're not referring to something "out there", in space. It's the basis of our own awareness, which shines behind the mind, making it possible to read and understand these words, right now. From this perspective, the recognition of Consciousness is the discovery of our own essential nature.
Because Consciousness is purely spiritual in nature, it's completely hidden from view. We cannot know it objectively because it's the subjective reality behind all experience. As such, its character is mysterious and paradoxical. Some call it the impersonal and non-dual reality underlying the manifest creation. Others refer to it in personal terms, as the Creator and Supreme Divine Being. Both views are correct, and at the same time, Consciousness transcends all conceptual limitations.
After death, our conscious experience doesn't cease. It simply recedes from the physical stage to the subtle, or astral stage and the corresponding astral body. (When people speak of spirits, or spirit communication, they're usually referring to the astral stage of experience.) The astral body is essentially a bundle of psychic impressions (conscious and subconscious), which accumulate during Earth life. From this perspective, the astral stage is like a reflection, or an echo of the Earth experience. Although the astral body survives death of the physical body, it is not eternal and has its own definite life span.
Beyond the astral stage is the spiritual stage and the corresponding spiritual body, or soul.
The spiritual body is the most fundamental unit of creation and as such, it is both immortal and eternal. It's a manifest form of Divine Consciousness, plus the spiritual essence, which has accumulated over many cycles of Earth life.
As soon as we realize that we've died (or in some cases, just before the moment of death) we experience a life review, in which we see and feel every detail of the life just lived; not sequentially, but all at once, in a single flash.
After this initial review there is usually a lapse in awareness, which may be brief or last for several days of Earth time. Eventually we awaken to discover that we're alive.
The miracle of miracles...there is no death! The initial sense of wonder and freedom is beyond anything we've known during Earth life. And at the same time, we witness the whole range of conscious experience, from the physical stage, which we're now leaving, through the astral stage, all the way to the spiritual stage.
During this initial stage of expansion, there's a brief window of opportunity to recognize Divine Consciousness as our essential nature and ascend directly to the spiritual stage. But unless we're prepared for this opportunity, it's unlikely that we'll recognize it, or have the necessary spiritual momentum to make the leap. Residual desires exert a strong attraction and tend to pull awareness back to the astral stage and into the next stage of life after death.
This stage begins when we become aware of a new world around us. This is the astral stage; a mirror image of the human psyche, filled with all the impressions of the collective human experience.
Here we meet our spiritual guide who helps to orient us in our new surroundings and lead us through the various stages of life after death. Our guide may appear as a divine being, a trusted friend or a familiar, loving presence. Sometimes referred to as the gatekeeper or guardian angel, our spiritual guide has been supporting us behind the scenes through many cycles of birth and death.
One of the unique features of Earth life is that our inner desires and motives are private and hidden from view. Also, on the Earth stage, people of all different character types commingle together. But after death, the situation is quite different. There we find that our inner desires and motives are reflected outwardly in our faces. And because everyone seeks to associate with others of a similar character, the astral stage is segregated into spheres of association according to different vibrational qualities.
When we first become aware of our astral body, this aspect of transparency can be quite unsettling. The negative impressions we accumulated during Earth life, such as anger, lust, fear and greed, are reflected outwardly for all to see. Any refusal to accept our shadow material causes a split in the psyche. Before we can progress, we must heal this split. And we can only do this by accepting and taking responsibility for all the impressions we've accumulated, without filters, excuses or rationalizations.
This process may be painful and there usually arise certain archetypal experiences, which are woven into the human psyche. Although these experiences can vary from person to person, they usually involve the acceptance, repentance and forgiveness of past actions.
In some traditions, this stage is called purgatory or hell. But these words imply judgment and punishment, which is misleading and not what this process is about. Rather, it's the cosmic law of evolution as it plays out on the subtle stages. Awareness cannot ascend to the higher stages until the lower vibrational impressions have been resolved and transformed. This process may be easy or difficult depending on how willing we are to heal, forgive and let go.
For most people on a spiritual path, a great deal of purification naturally takes place during Earth life, by accepting responsibility for our actions and exchanging forgiveness with others. Consequently, for many, this stage of purification is brief and relatively easy.
The purpose of this stage is to extract the essence of the life just lived. We do this by re-living our Earth life, with particular focus on the deeper meaning and finer feelings of each experience.
During this process, countless psychic impressions are sifted and reviewed in great detail. Whatever material is no longer needed is cast aside, like chaff from the grain. At the same time, the true value of our life experience is gathered together into a concentrated spiritual essence.
When extracting gold from the earth, miners may collect 50 tons of raw ore to produce a single ounce of pure gold.
Likewise, the huge volume of psychic impressions from a lifetime yields only a tiny germ of spiritual essence. The exact nature of this essence is a mystery. It could be called the deepest meaning, or the finest expression of a human life.
From another perspective, it represents the accumulated truth, love and wisdom of the Earth experience. Once gathered, this essence ascends to the next stage where it becomes a permanent part of our spiritual body, or soul.
As we distill the psychic impressions, we're actually consuming our astral body, for really they are one and the same. By getting rid of what is no longer needed, we're becoming less. And at the same time we're becoming more, in the sense of more real, true, and eternal.
The term "reincarnation" usually refers to a soul incarnating a human form repeatedly, over many lifetimes. This is a misunderstanding.
The soul always remains on the spiritual stage and can neither incarnate nor reincarnate a human form. Rather, the soul participates in recurring human births and the degree of participation, as well as the number and frequency of recurring births, can vary widely.
Likewise, a recurring birth may take place soon after death or hundreds of years later.
There are many variables which influence this process and the range of possibilities is enormous.
The spiritual stage is the most real and eternal stage of creation. It's a realm of light beyond form, which includes many sub-stages and ascending levels. In some traditions it's called heaven, or the celestial realm. But these words don't do justice to the love, truth and beauty, which are the essential features of this stage.
Presiding here are the great souls, as well as eternal forms, which serve as the template for the entire order of creation.
The spiritual stage marks the end of life after death and the beginning of eternal life, beyond the cycles of birth and death.
During the first three stages after death, our experience is merely an echo of Earth life; a reflection of the psychic impressions from the life just lived. From this perspective, everything up to this point is the nature of a dream; an increasingly real dream, but a dream nonetheless.
In contrast, the spiritual stage exists in its own right, beyond the Earth experience and the various astral stages.
Almost everyone has an intuitive awareness (conscious or subconscious) of the spiritual stage. It exists within us, individually and collectively, as our conscience, inner guidance and sense of highest good. It's this intuition that we reflect off when we're being courageous and true in the face of difficult circumstances. And it's during these times that we generate the greatest amount of spiritual essence.
The accumulation of spiritual essence is the purpose of human life and determines the evolution of our conscious experience.
When our spiritual essence reaches a critical mass, it draws our awareness to the spiritual stage where it merges with the soul.
Otherwise, awareness tends to get involved with another cycle of birth and death. But it's alright because our spiritual essence is never lost. It's continuously added to our evolving soul, which gains additional experience and depth with every cycle of Earth life; ever enabling us to live more an excellent life beyond and beyond and beyond thereafter…………………………….