Chapter 55 — Categories of Death Experiences; Origin of Illusion

Leela said, “Tell me, goddess, for edification of my knowledge, how does a living come to die and is reborn in another form?”

The goddess replied:—

As the action of the heart ceases and the lungs blow and breathe no more, the current of vital airs is utterly stopped and the living being loses its consciousness. But the intellectual soul, which has no rise or fall, remains ever the same as it abides in all moving and unmoving bodies, and in air, water, fire and vacuum. When the breathing, pulse and motion of the body stop, it is said to be dead and is then called an inert corpse. The body being a dead carcass and the vital breath having mixed with the air, the soul is freed from the bonds of its desires. It flies to and remains in the mode of the discrete and self-existent soul.

The individual soul, called the animal spirit (jiva), has its desires and is other than the atman (soul). It remains in its burial tomb under the same atmosphere as the soul of Padma, which you saw hovering about his tomb. Hence such departed spirits are called ghosts of the dead (pretas). They have their desires and earthly propensities attached to them, just like the fragrance of the flower is concentrated in its pollen and thence diffused through the air.

As animal souls are removed to other spheres, after their departure from this visible world, they view the very many scenes and sights that their desires present before them like visions in a dream. The soul continues to remember all its past adventures, even in its next state, and finds itself in a new body soon after the unconsciousness of death is over.

10 What appears an empty vacuum to others seems as a dusky cloud to the departed soul, enveloping the earth, sky, moon and all other orbs within its bosom.

11 Departed spirits are classed in six orders, as you shall now hear from me. These are the great, greater and greatest sinners, and likewise the three degrees of the virtuous. 12 These are again subdivided into three kinds, some belonging to one state and others composed of two or three states in the same individual soul.

13 Some of the most sinful souls lose the memory of their past states for a period of a whole year. They remain quite unconscious within themselves, like blocks of wood or stone. 14 Rising after this time, they are doomed to suffer the endless torments of hell which the hardness of their earthly mindedness has brought upon them. 15 Then they pass into hundreds of births leading from misery to misery, or have a moment’s respite from the pains in their short lived prosperity, amidst their dreaming journey through life.

16 There are others who, after their numbness of death is over, come to suffer the unutterable torments of sluggishness in the state of unmoving trees. 17 And others again who having undergone the torments of hell, according to their inordinate desires in life, are brought to be reborn on earth in a variety of births in different forms.

18 Those of lesser crimes, are made to feel the inertness of stones for sometime, after the unconsciousness attending upon their death. 19 These awakened to consciousness after some time, whether long or short, are made to return on earth to feel the evils of brutish and beastly lives.

20 But the souls of the least sinful, soon after their death, come to assume some perfect human form in order to enjoy the fruits of their desire and reward on earth. 21 These desires appear before the soul as dreams and awaken its reminiscence of the past as present at that moment.

22 Again the best and most virtuous souls, soon after their death, come to find themselves in heavenly abodes by reason of their continued thoughts and speculations of them. 23 Some among them are brought to enjoy the rewards of their actions in other spheres, from which they are sent back to the mortal world, at the homes of the auspicious and best part of mankind.

24 Those of moderate virtues are blown away by the atmospheric air upon the tops of trees and medicinal plants where they rove about as protozoa after the unconsciousness of death is over. 25 Being nourished here by the juice of fruits, they descend in the form of serum and enter into the hearts of men, from where they fall into the uterus in the form of virile semen, which is the cause of the body and life of other living beings.

26 Thus the dead, after they recover from the collapse attending upon their death, make themselves into one of these states of living bodies according to their natural tendency. 27 At first they think themselves extinct, then they come to feel resuscitated upon receiving offerings of the food made to their departed spirits. 28 Then they fancy seeing the messengers of death, with nooses in their hands, come to fetch them to the realm of Yama, and they depart with them.

29 There the righteous are carried in heavenly cars to the Nandana gardens of paradise which they gain by their meritorious acts in life. 30 But the sinful soul meets with icebergs and pitfalls, is tangled with thorns and iron pikes and bushes and brambles in its passage as punishment for its sins. 31 Those of the middling class have a clear and paved passage, with soft grassy pathways shaded by cooling trees, and supplied with spring waters on both sides of them. 32 On its arrival there, the soul reflects within itself that, “Here am I, and yonder is Yama, the lord of the dead. The other is the judge of our actions, Chitragupta, and this is his judgment given on my behalf.” 33 In this manner also, the great world appears to every one as in a dream. And so the nature and manner of all things present themselves before every soul.

34 But all these appearances are as empty as air. The soul alone is the sentient principle, and vast space and time and the modes and motions of things, though they appear as real, are in reality nothing. 35 Here in Yama’s court, the soul is pronounced to reap the reward of its acts, whereby it ascends either to the blissful heaven above or descends to the painful hell below. 36 After having enjoyed the bliss of heaven or suffered the torment of hell, the soul is doomed to wander in this earth again to reap the reward of its acts in repeated reincarnations.

37 The soul springs up like a paddy plant and brings forth the grains of intelligence. Then, being assembled by the senses, it becomes an animal, and lastly an intelligent being. 38 The soul contains in itself the germs of all its senses which lie dormant in it for lack of its bodily organs. It is contained in man’s virile semen which, passing into the uterus, produces the fetus in the womb of the female. 39 The fetus then becomes either well-formed or deformed, according to the good or evil deeds of the person in its past state, and brings forth the infant of a good or ill shaped appearance. 40 It then perceives the moonlike beauty of youthful bloom, and its amorous disposition comes upon itself. Afterwards it feels the effects of hoary old age, defacing its lotus-like face like the sleets of snow shatter and shrivel the lotus leaflets. 41 At last it undergoes the pains of disease and death and feels the same lack of physical senses at of death as before, and finds itself again as in a dream taking on a new form. 42 It again believes itself to be carried to the region of Yama, and subjected to the former kinds of revolution. Thus it continues to conceive its reincarnation in endless births and various forms.

43 Thus forever in its own ethereal sphere, the aerial spirit goes on thinking about all its ceaseless reincarnations until its final liberation from this ever changing state.

44 Leela said, “Tell me kindly, O good goddess, for the enlightenment of my understanding, how did this misconception of its changeableness first come upon the soul in the beginning?”

45 The goddess replied:—

The dense appearance of the abstract causes us to assume the discrete spirit in the concrete forms of the earth and sky and rocks and trees. 46 As Divine Consciousness manifests itself as the soul and model of all forms, so we see these manifestations in the transcendental sphere of its pure consciousness.

47 In the beginning, God conceived himself as the lord of creation (Brahma). Then, as it were in a dream, he saw in himself all the forms as they continue to this time. 48 These forms were manifested in the Divine Spirit, at first as his will, and then reflected and exhibited in the phenomenal world in all their present forms. 49 Among these some are called living beings which are able to move their bodies and limbs and live by means of the air they breathe and circulate in their bodies through lungs and arteries.

50 Such also is the creation of plant life. They have their inner sensitivity, although devoid of outward motion, and they receive their sustenance from their roots. 51 The hollow sphere of the Divine Intellect, beaming with intelligence, sends forth its particles of perception which form the consciousness of some beings and sensitivity in others.

52 But man uses his eyes to view the outer and the reflected world, although the eyes do not form his individual soul, nor did they exist at his creation or before his birth.

53 It is according to one’s estimation of himself that he has his proper and peculiar desires, and also the particular form of his body. Such also is the case of the elemental bodies, from their inner conception of their peculiar natures. 54 Thus all moving and unmoving things have their movable and immovable bodies according to their intrinsic disposition or idiosyncrasy as such and such. 55 Hence all self-moving beings have their movable bodies conforming to the conception of their natures as so and so. And in this state of their belief, they continue to this time with their same inborn or congenital bodies.

56 The vegetable world still continues in the same state of fixedness from its sense of immobility. And so rocks and minerals continue in their inert state from the inborn sense of their inertness. 57 There is no distinction whatever between inertness and intelligence, nor any difference between production, continuance and extinction of things. All occurs in one common essence of the Supreme. 58 The varying characteristics existing in plants and minerals make them feel themselves as such and cause their various natures and forms as they have to this time. 59 The inner constitution of all immovable objects makes them remain in their stationary states; likewise for all other substances, according to their different names and natures. 60 Thus the inner constitution or quality of worms and insects makes them conceive themselves according to their different kinds and gives them their particular natures forever.

61 So the people under the north pole know nothing about those in the south other than what they know of themselves. 62 So also all kinds of moving and unmoving beings are prepossessed with their own notions of things and regard all others according to their own peculiar self-concepts. 63 Again, as the inhabitants of caves know nothing of their outsiders, and as frogs in dirty pools are unacquainted with the pure water of streams, so is one sort of being ignorant of the nature of another.

64 But empty consciousness, residing in the form of the all pervasive mind and all sustaining air, knows the natures of all things in all places. 65 The moving principle is the vital air that enters all bodies through their pores and which gives life and motion to all living beings. 66 Truly the mind is situated in all things, whether they are moving or immovable. And so is the air, which causes motion in some and stillness in others. 67 Thus all things in this world of illusion are only the rays of the conscious soul, continuing in the same state as they have from the beginning.

68 I have told you everything about the nature of things in the world and how unrealities come to appear as real unto us.

69 Look, here this King Viduratha is about to breathe his last, and the garlands of flowers heaped on the corpse of your husband Padma are now being hung upon the breast of Viduratha.

70 Leela said, “Tell me goddess, how did Viduratha enter Padma’s tomb? How can we also enter to see what he is doing there?”

71 The goddess said:—

Man goes to all places by the way of his desires, even thinking that he goes to a distant future, in the spiritual form of pure consciousness. 72 We shall go the same way, as you like, because the bond of our friendship makes no difference in our choice and desires.

73 Vasishta said:—

Princess Leela was relieved of her pain by what Goddess Saraswati had explained. Her intellectual sight was brightened by the blazing sun of spiritual light. She saw the unconscious and unmoving Viduratha breathe out his final breath.