The Urban Dharma Newsletter - June, 2010

In This Issue: Afterlife in Buddhism

1. What Happens When You Die?
2. Buddhism Afterlife and Salvation
3. Buddhist Beliefs about the Afterlife
4. Central Beliefs of Buddhism Afterlife
5. Buddhist Afterlife Beliefs
6. Buddhism
7. Afterlife

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Hi,

(I tried to attach the ePub file... Didn't work... I'll see if I can find a fix for the next UD Newsletter...)

Something new, find attached to the this newsletter the normal PDF file and for the first time an ePub file for you phone or ebook reader… I thought it might be useful for folks on the go… Enjoy.

Peace… Kusala

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1. What Happens When You Die? Evidence Suggests Time Simply Reboots – by Robert Lanza, M.D.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-lanza/what-happens-when-you-die_b_596600.html

What happens when we die? Do we rot into the ground, or do we go to heaven (or hell, if we've been bad)? Experiments suggest the answer is simpler than anyone thought. Without the glue of consciousness, time essentially reboots.

The mystery of life and death can't be examined by visiting the Galapagos or looking through a microscope. It lies deeper. It involves our very selves. We awake in the present. There are stairs below us that we appear to have climbed; there are stairs above us that go upward into the unknown future. But the mind stands at the door by which we entered and gives us the memories by which we go about our day. Everything is ordered and predictable. We're like cuckoo birds who appear through a door each morning. We fancy there's a clockwork set in motion at the beginning of time.

But if you remove everything from space, what's left? Nothing. The same applies for time -- you can't put it in a jar. You can't see through the bone surrounding your brain (everything you experience is information in your mind). Biocentrism tells us space and time aren't objects -- they're the mind's tools for putting everything together.

I was a young boy when I realized there was something unexplainable about life that I simply didn't understand. I learned this from one of the last smiths in New England, when I, as a child, tried to capture a woodchuck on his property.

Over his shop a chimney cap went round and round, squeak, squeak, rattle, rattle. One day the blacksmith came out with his shotgun and blew it off. The noise stopped. Mr. O'Donnell pounded metal on his anvil all day. No, I thought, I didn't want to be caught by him. Yet, I had my purpose.

The woodchuck's hole was in such close proximity to Mr. O'Donnell's shop that I could hear the bellows fanning his forge. I crawled noiselessly through the long grass, occasionally stirring a grasshopper or a butterfly. After setting a new steel trap that I had just purchased at the hardware store, I took a stake and, rock in hand, pounded it into the ground. When I looked up, I saw Mr. O'Donnell standing there, his eyes glaring. I said nothing, trying to restrain myself from crying. "Give me that trap, child," he said, "and come with me."

I followed him into his shop, which was crammed with all manner of tools and chimes of different shapes and sounds hanging from the ceiling. Starting the forge, Mr. O'Donnell tossed the trap over the coals and a tiny flame appeared underneath, getting hotter until, with a puff it burst into flame. "This thing can injure dogs, and even children!" he said, poking the coals with a fork. When the trap was red hot, he took it from the forge, and pounded it into a little square with his hammer. He said nothing while the metal cooled. At length, he patted me upon the shoulder, and then took up a few sketches of a dragonfly. "I tell you what," he said. "I'll give you 50 cents for every dragonfly you catch." I said that would be fun, and when I parted I was so excited I forgot about my new trap.

The next day I set off with a butterfly net. The air was full of insects, the flowers with bees and butterflies. But I didn't see any dragonflies. As I floated through the last of the meadows, the spikes of a cattail attracted my attention. A huge dragonfly was humming round and round, and when at last I caught it, I hopped and skipped all the way back to Mr. O'Donnell's shop. Taking a magnifying glass, he held the jar up to the light and made a careful study of the dragonfly. He fished out a number of rods, and with a little pounding, wrought a splendorous figurine that was the perfect image of the dragonfly. It had about it a beauty as airy as the delicate insect.

As long as I live I will remember that day. And though Mr. O'Donnell is gone now, there still remains in his shop that little iron dragonfly −- covered with dust now −- to remind me there's something more elusive to life than the succession of shapes we see frozen into matter.

Before he died, Einstein said "Now Besso [an old friend] has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us ... know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion." In fact, it was Einstein's theory of relativity that showed that space and time are indeed relative to the observer. Quantum theory ended the classical view that particles exist if we don't perceive them. But if the world is observer-created, we shouldn't be surprised that it's destroyed with each of us. Nor should we be surprised that space and time vanish, and with them all Newtonian conceptions of order and prediction.

It's here at last, where we approach the imagined border of ourselves, the wooded boundary where in the old fairy tale the fox and the hare say goodnight to each other. At death, we all know, consciousness is gone, and so too the continuity in the connection of times and places. Where then, do we find ourselves? On stairs that, like Emerson said, can be intercalated anywhere, "like those that Hermes won with the dice of the moon, that Osiris might be born." We think that the past is past and the future the future. But as Einstein realized, this simply isn't the case.

Without consciousness, space and time are nothing; in reality you can take any time -- whether past or future -− as your new frame of reference. Death is a reboot that leads to all potentialities. That's the reality that the experiments mandate. And when I see Mr. O'Donnell's old shop, I know that somewhere the chimney cap is still going round and round, squeak, squeak. But it probably won't rattle for long.

("Biocentrism" (BenBella Books) lays out Lanza's theory of everything.)



2. Buddhism Afterlife and Salvation

http://www.patheos.com/Library/Buddhism/Beliefs/Afterlife-and-Salvation.html

There is no consistent notion of the afterlife or salvation in Buddhism. It varies according to country, era, and individual perspective.

Buddhism began as a way to address the suffering that exists in the world, and was not overly-focused on ultimate salvation. That said, however, there was a clear doctrine of salvation in the Buddha's teachings: Salvation in early Buddhism was nirvana, the extinguishing of the all karma that constitutes the self. Nirvana is not a place or a state, but the end of rebirth. Significantly, the Buddha said little about nirvana, because he felt that the alleviation of suffering was far more important, and that focusing on the goal of ultimate salvation would only lead to more attachments, and therefore more suffering. Rather than focus on nirvana as a goal, therefore, lay Buddhists were encouraged to give donations of goods, services, or money to monks or monasteries; to chant or copy sutras; and to engage in other activities in order to gain merit that could lead to a more desirable rebirth which would bring them closer to enlightenment.

Some Mahayana Buddhist monks aspired to become bodhisattvas, postponing the dissolution of self until all living things are enlightened. In Tibet, for seminal religious figures and heads of religious orders, this took the unusual form of continued incarnations in human form as the same individual, lifetime after lifetime. The current Dalai Lama is called the 14th, for example, because this is believed to be his 14th incarnation as the Dalai Lama.

The notion of skillful means in Mahayana Buddhism led to other interpretations of salvation, such as rebirth in a Pure Land, where one could continue to aspire to enlightenment in pleasant surroundings without fear of rebirth in human form. Mahayana texts also refer to hells into which one might be reborn, usually in the context of rescuing others from a hellish domain, or transferring merit to those in such a place. There is also reference in the earliest texts to Yama, a deity of death who will judge and punish those who do evil. The punishment is not eternal, but lasts until the karma of these misdeeds has been exhausted.

As Buddhism evolved and as it moved to other countries with different religious backgrounds, other views of the afterlife emerged. Yama became a central figure in popular understandings of the afterlife in East Asia and also in Tibet. Tibetan Buddhists also envisioned the Bardo, a kind of limbo where the soul or self remained until the next rebirth.

In the Chinese tradition, where ancient notions of the role of the ancestors in human life have shaped Buddhism, people burned incense and paper goods depicting goods or money for the benefit of their deceased loved ones in order to provide a better situation for them in the afterlife. The deceased, in turn, were believed to be able to bring benefits or cause harm to the living.

Notions of heavens and hells eventually became a part of popular Buddhism throughout Asia. These range from ideal surroundings such as the Pure Lands to horrific worlds of punishment and suffering. Illustrated "hell texts" are popular among in some Buddhist countries, depicting in detail the punishments one can expect for a host of specific misdeeds -- which may range from wearing tight blue jeans to murder.

As should be evident, there is no single, consistent notion of the afterlife and salvation within Buddhism. There are diverse and contradictory ideas even within individual countries. This is the result of the merging of Buddhism with pre-existing conceptions, of contradictions between scholarly and popular understandings, and of the evolution of ideas within Buddhism throughout the life of the religion.



3. Buddhist Beliefs about the Afterlife

http://www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/beliefs/afterlife.htm

The Buddha said of death:

Life is a journey.
Death is a return to earth.
The universe is like an inn.
The passing years are like dust.

Regard this phantom world
As a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp - a phantom - and a dream. {Vairacchedika 32.}

According to Buddhism, after death one is either reborn into another body (reincarnated) or enters nirvana. Only Buddhas - those who have attained enlightenment - will achieve the latter destination.

Reincarnation (Transmigration)

Based on his no-soul (anatta) doctrine, the Buddha described reincarnation, or the taking on of a new body in the next life, in a different way than the traditional Indian understanding. He compared it to lighting successive candles using the flame of the preceding candle. Although each flame is causally connected to the one that came before it, is it not the same flame. Thus, in Buddhism, reincarnation is usually referred to as "transmigration."

Nirvana

Nirvana is the state of final liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. It is also therefore the end of suffering. The literal meaning of the word is "to extinguish," in the way that a fire goes out when it runs out of fuel. In the Surangama, the Buddha describes Nirvana as the place in which

it is recognized that there is nothing but what is seen of the mind itself; where, recognizing the nature of the self-mind, one no longer cherishes the dualisms of discrimination; where there is no more thirst nor grasping; where there is no more attachment to external things.

But all these descriptions only tell us what is not Nirvana. What is it like? Is it like heaven, or is it non-existence? The answer is not clear, due in large part to the Buddha's aversion to metaphysics and speculation. When he was asked such questions, he merely replied that it was "incomprehensible, indescribable, inconceivable, unutterable."



4. Central Beliefs of Buddhism Afterlife – by Anita Saran

http://www.edubook.com/central-beliefs-of-buddhism-afterlife/20908/

According to Buddhism, the afterlife is determined by the quality of karma one accumulates in life. Karma is defined as volitional action. Buddhists (except for those following the Theravada tradition) believe that after death there is a transitional or intermediate state of existence before the next birth.

The Three Main Stages of Afterlife

In his book,The Zen of Living and Dying, Philip Kapleau, one of the founding fathers of Zen in America, says that the transitional period between death and the next birth consists of three main stages.

In the initial stage (marked by an intense feeling of freedom), there is still a tenuous connection to the body, enabling the deceased to be aware of the words, actions and even thoughts of the loved ones he has left behind.

In the second stage, the individual has all kinds of sensory experiences. This phase lasts longer than the first one.

Finally, in the third stage, the individual is drawn to his next birth in accordance with his karma.

The Duration of the After-Death Stages

Depending on the various Buddhist traditions, the transitional or intermediate phase can last for 1 day, 3 days, 21 days, 49 days, 100 days or 7 years. According to the Pali (Theravada) tradition of early Buddhism, there is no intermediate phase between births.

The Buddhist View of Heaven and Hell

In all forms of Buddhism, heaven and hell are divided into several levels. None of these are permanent residences for the soul.

One may be born as a god (deva) in heaven which has a certain number of levels according to the different Buddhist traditions. However, once the deva’s virtue gathered from good karma runs out, he will be reborn in a realm which is lower.

The following are the various realms beginning from the lowest level:

1. Hell – For those who have committed evil deeds such as murder of parents, an arhat, or disturbed the harmony of the sangha, and not repented for their actions
2. Hungry Ghosts – Inhabited by those with insatiable desires for food, sex, fame and wealth
3. Animal – Those born in this realm are guilty of having killed animals or committing evil deeds. If a man kills a dog, he can be reborn as one.
4. Asura – These are war-like beings with a lust for power. Like the devas, they enjoy comforts, and also have benevolent thoughts, but are plagued by anger and pride.
5. Human – Being born as human is considered most fortunate by Buddhists as only in the human body can one attain enlightenment. Therefore, the human realm is superior to the realm of devas. One must adhere to the Five Precepts of Buddhism to be born as human.
6. Deva – Devas are benevolent and wise. But they are too proud of their merits. They can be born in any of the three primary heavenly realms: the Desire Realm, Form Realm or the Formless Realm. All their desires are fulfilled in these realms, whether they are material or spiritual.

Nirvana

The state of Nirvana is beyond all the levels described above. Only one who has attained this state is completely free from all craving and delusion. He is free from the wheel of life, death and rebirth. This is why the Buddhist aim is nirvana.

In essence, the quality of afterlife depends on the karma of an individual. He may be reborn as a hungry ghost, animal, asura, human or deva and suffer or be rewarded accordingly, but none of these existences are permanent. His karma will determine whether he will progress or regress. The ultimate goal of the Buddhist is the state of nirvana which frees one from the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth.



5. Buddhist Afterlife Beliefs

http://www.near-death.com/experiences/buddhism04.html

Buddha accepted the basic Hindu doctrines of reincarnation and karma, as well as the notion that the ultimate goal of the religious life is to escape the cycle of death and rebirth. Buddha asserted that what keeps us bound to the death/rebirth process is desire, desire in the sense of wanting or craving anything in the world. Hence, the goal of getting off the Ferris wheel of reincarnation necessarily involves freeing oneself from desire. Nirvana is the Buddhist term for liberation. Nirvana literally means extinction, and it refers to the extinction of all craving, an extinction that allows one to become liberated.

Where Buddha departed most radically from Hinduism was in his doctrine of "anatta", the notion that individuals do not possess eternal souls. Instead of eternal souls, individuals consist of a "bundle" of habits, memories, sensations, desires, and so forth, which together delude one into thinking that he or she consists of a stable, lasting self. Despite its transitory nature, this false self hangs together as a unit, and even reincarnates in body after body. In Buddhism, as well as in Hinduism, life in a corporeal body is viewed negatively, as the source of all suffering. Hence, the goal is to obtain release. In Buddhism, this means abandoning the false sense of self so that the bundle of memories and impulses disintegrates, leaving nothing to reincarnate and hence nothing to experience pain.

From the perspective of present-day, world-affirming Western society, the Buddhist vision cannot but appear distinctly unappealing: Not only is this life portrayed as unattractive, the prospect of nirvana, in which one dissolves into nothingness, seems even less desirable. A modern-day Buddha might respond, however, that our reaction to being confronted with the dark side of life merely shows how insulated we are from the pain and suffering that is so fundamental to human existence.

Following death, according to Tibetan Buddhism, the spirit of the departed goes through a process lasting forty-nine days that is divided into three stages called "bardos." At the conclusion of the bardo, the person either enters nirvana or returns to Earth for rebirth.

It is imperative that the dying individual remain fully aware for as long as possible because the thoughts one has while passing over into death heavily influence the nature of both the after-death experience and, if one fails to achieve nirvana, the state of one's next incarnation.

Stage one of the Bardo (called the "Chikai" Bardo), the bardo of dying, begins at death and extends from half a day to four days. This is the period of time necessary for the departed to realize that they have dropped the body. The consciousness of the departed has an ecstatic experience of the primary "Clear White Light" at the death moment. Everyone gets at least a fleeting glimpse of the light. The more spiritually developed see it longer, and are able to go beyond it to a higher level of reality. The average person, however, drops into the lesser state of the secondary "clear light."

In stage two (called the "Chonyid" Bardo), the bardo of Luminous Mind, the departed encounters the hallucinations resulting from the karma created during life. Unless highly developed, the individual will feel that they are still in the body. The departed then encounters various apparitions, the "peaceful" and "wrathful" deities, that are actually personifications of human feelings and that, to successfully achieve nirvana, the deceased must encounter unflinchingly. Only the most evolved individuals can skip the bardo experience altogether and transit directly into a paradise realm. Stage three (called the "Sidpa" Bardo), the bardo of rebirth, is the process of reincarnation.

Buddhist and NDE Correlations

The Tibetan account of the first bardo after death shows striking parallels with the near-death experiences of people who have died, experienced themselves floating out of their bodies, having what appears to be real afterlife events, and then being revived.

The second bardo is an experience with divine entities which parallels near-death accounts where a person experiences visions of heaven, hell, and judgment. Scholars have also been interested in the parallels between the psychedelic and psychotic states, and experiences of "astral projection."

The third bardo involving the reincarnation of a person's karmic energy by choosing and entering a new body to be born agrees with many near-death accounts that affirm reincarnation.

The purpose behind the Buddhist bardo states after death is to provide the dying an opportunity to become enlightened and attain Buddha-hood, or if enlightenment is not attained, to secure a favorable rebirth. As it is with Buddhism, the goal to be attained during near-death experiences is to become one with God. Experiencers have described this as a "merging" process and "becoming God." This loss of ego and at-one-ment aspect involved in near-death experiences and the Buddhist bardo journey are identical.

The most remarkable correlation between Buddhism and near-death accounts is the encounter with a divine light. Buddhists refer to this light as the "Clear White Light" and the Tibetan Book of the Dead's description of it is remarkably similar to the Being of light in near-death experiences. Buddhists believe this light to be the light from all the enlightened ones which is indistinguishable from true essence of everyone. As it is with Buddhism, near-death experiences have described this light in the same way. For example, Mellen-Thomas Benedict saw the light change into various personalities such as Jesus and Buddha. Other experiencers affirm the light to be everyone and everything. Encounters with beings of light and darkness described in near-death experiences can be found in the "peaceful" and "wrathful" deities encountered in the Buddhist afterlife. At some point in the bardo states, many of the karmic essences of individuals feel a desire, a "pull", to return to the physical world. This phenomenon also appears in many near-death accounts when the individual is given a choice to stay or return and this choice results in the individual returning from the near-death condition. Also, as it is with Buddhism, near-death experiences support the concept of reincarnation.

The number of days (forty-nine) given in the Tibetan Book of the Dead is likely symbolic, although the Tibetans themselves, like all people who are strict religionists, interpret it literally.

The comparison between the Tibetan and Egyptian Books of the Dead, Taoism, and Kabbalistic conceptions, also reveals similarities. All of them with the exception of Tibetan Buddhism view the soul as composition of elemental components that separates after death; each component entering into its own world. Tibetan Buddhism describes an aspect of the human personality passing through a number of different afterlife bardo experiences.

"One in all, All in one, If only this is realized, No more worry about not being perfect!" - the Third Patriarch of Zen



6. Buddhism

http://www.unexplainedstuff.com/Afterlife-Mysteries/How-the-Major-Religions-View-the-Afterlife-Buddhism.html

While the Buddhist text recognizes the existence of a self as a being that distinguishes one person from another, the Buddhist teachings state that the Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim concept of an eternal metaphysical soul is inaccurate. To Buddhists, the human person is but a temporary assemblage of various elements, both physical and psychical, and none of these individual aspects of a whole person can be isolated as the essential self; nor can the sum of them all constitute the self. Everything, all of reality, is in a constant state of change and decay. Because a human is composed of so many elements that are always in a state of flux, always dissolving and combining with one another in new ways, it is impossible to suggest that an individual could retain the same soul-self for eternity. Rather than atman, Buddhist doctrine teaches anatman/or, "no-self."

Although the Buddha (c. 567–487 B.C.E.) denied the Hindu concept of an immortal self that passes through a series of incarnations, he did accept the doctrines of karma ("actions," the cause-and-effect laws of material existence) and samsara (rebirth). If the Buddha recognized rebirth into another lifetime but did not believe in an essential self or soul, then what would be reborn? The Buddhist answer is difficult to comprehend; the various components in the perpetual process of change that constitute human beings do not reassemble themselves by random chance. The karmic laws determine the nature of a person's rebirth. Various aspects which make up a functioning human during his or her lifetime enter the santana, the "chain of being," whose various links are related one to the other by the law of cause and effect. While there is no atman or individual self that can be reincarnated, the "contingent self" that exists from moment to moment is comprised of aggregates that are burdened with the consequences of previous actions and bear the potential to be reborn again and again. Because the aggregates of each living person bear within them the fruits of past actions and desires, the moment of death sets in motion an immediate retribution for the consequences of these deeds, forcing the individual to be reborn once again into the unceasing cycle of karma and samsara. However, dharma, the physical and moral laws that govern the universe, flow through everything and everyone, thereby continually changing and rear-ranging every aspect of the human. Although driven by karma, the dharma rearranges the process of rebirth to form a new individual.

In his first sermon, the Noble Truth of Suffering (Dukha), the Buddha presented his views on the aggregates that constitute the human condition:

The Noble Truth of Suffering is this: Birth is suffering; aging is suffering; sickness is suffering; death is suffering; sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief, and despair are suffering; association with the unpleasant is suffering; dissociation with the pleasant is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering—in brief, the five aggregates of attachment are suffering.

In the Dhammapada (147:51) the Buddha speaks further of the destiny of all human flesh in quite graphic terms:

Behold this beautiful body, a mass of sores, a heaped up lump, diseased, much thought of, in which nothing lasts, nothing persists. Thoroughly worn out is this body, a nest of diseases, perishable.…Truly, life ends in death.…Of bones is this house made, plastered with flesh and blood. Herein are stored decay, death, conceit, and hypocrisy. Even ornamented royal chariots wear out. So too the body reaches old age. But the Dhamma of the Good grows not old. Thus do the Good reveal it among the Good.

The Buddha's advice to all those who wish to rise above the karmic laws of death and rebirth is to live a contemplative, religious life:

Men who have not led a religious life and have not laid up treasure in their youth, perish like old herons in a lake without fish. Men who have not led a religious life and have not laid up treasure in their youth lie like wornout bows, sighing after the past. (Dhammapada 155:56)

The counsel of the Buddha is quite similar to the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:19–21 when he admonished those who would follow him not to expend their energies accumulating treasures on Earth where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourself treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Dharma is the path to the goal of nirvana, which in Buddhist teachings can represent the final extinction of the desire to exist, or can also suggest a high level of mystical experience achieved through deep meditation or trance. It never means the complete annihilation of the self, only the squelching of the wish to be reborn. Most often, nirvana is meant to indicate a transformed state of human consciousness which achieves a reality independent of the material world.

Once the desire to continue existence in a material flesh form has been extinguished, and "when a son of the Buddha fulfills his course, in the world to come, he comes Buddha." To achieve one's Buddhahood in Buddhism is comparable to realizing Brahma, the Absolute and Ultimate, in Hinduism. Once those levels have been attained, it is believed that one is freed forever from material reality and becomes one with eternal reality.

There are many schools of historical Buddhism—Hinayana, Mahayana, Tantric, and Pure Land—and it is difficult to find consensus among them concerning the afterlife. Tibetan Buddhism's Book of the Dead provides an important source for an understanding of their concept of the afterlife journey of the soul. A lama (priest) sits at the side of the deceased and recites texts from the Book, a ritual which is thought to revive the bla, the life force within the body, and give it the power to embark upon a 49-day journey through the intermediate stage between death and rebirth. Such a recitation by the priest at the bedside of the deceased might include these words from the Tibetan Book of the Dead:

Since you [no longer] have a material body of flesh and blood, whatever may come—sounds, lights, or rays— are, all three, unable to harm you; you are incapable of dying. It is quite sufficient for you to know that these apparitions are your own thought-forms. Recognize this to be the bardo [the intermediate state after death].

If there is to be no rebirth for the soul, it appears before Yama, the god of the dead, to be judged. In Tibetan Buddhism, there is a direct link between one's earthly lifetimes and intermediate stages of existence in the various spheres of paradise, extending to the appearance of the soul remaining the same as the one it assumed when living as a human on Earth.

Both Buddhism and Hinduism place Yama, god of the dead, in the position of judge in the afterlife, and these passages from the Rig-Veda depict the special reverence with which he was held:

Yama was the first to find us our abode, a place that can never be taken away, a place where our ancient Fathers have departed; all who are born go there by that path, treading their own. Meet the Fathers, meet Yama, meet with the fulfillment of wishes in the highest heaven; casting off imperfections, find anew your dwelling, and be united with a lustrous body.

Regardless of one's religious background, it is in the presence of death that all humans find themselves face to face with the single greatest mystery of their existence: Does life extend beyond the grave? Whether one believes in a supernatural heavenly kingdom, the inescapable laws of karma, or a state of eternal bliss, death remains a dreadful force beyond one's control. For untold millions of men and women the ceremonies of religion provide their only assurance that life goes on when the darkness of physical death envelops them.



7. Afterlife – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afterlife

The afterlife (also referred to as life after death, the Hereafter or the Next World) is the idea that consciousness or the mind continues after the death of the body occurs, by natural or supernatural means. In many popular views, this continued existence often takes place in an immaterial or spiritual realm. Major views on the afterlife derive from religion, esotericism and metaphysics.

Deceased persons are usually believed to go to a specific plane of existence after death, typically believed to be determined by a god, based on their actions during physical life. In contrast, the term afterlife refers to another life in which only the "essence" of the being is preserved, and "reincarnation" is another life on Earth or possibly within the same universe.

Types of views on the afterlife

There are two fundamentally different types of views on the afterlife: empirical views based on observation and religious views based on faith.

* The first type are loosely based on observations and conjecture made by humans or instruments (for example a radio or a voice recorder, which are used in electronic voice phenomena, or EVP). These observations come from reincarnation research, near death experiences, out-of-body experiences, astral projection, EVP, mediumship, various forms of photography etc. Academic inquiry into such phenomena can be broken down roughly into two categories: psychical research generally focuses on case studies, interviews, and field reports, while parapsychology relates to strictly laboratory research.

* The second type are based on a form of faith, usually faith in the stories that are told by ancestors or faith in religious books like the Bible, the Qur'an, the Talmud, the Vedas, the Tripitaka etc. This article is mainly about this second type.

The afterlife in different metaphysical models

In metaphysical models, theists generally believe some sort of afterlife awaits people when they die. Members of some generally non-theistic religions such as Buddhism, tend to believe in an afterlife, but without reference to a God. The Sadducees were an ancient Jewish sect that generally believed that there was a God but no afterlife.

Many religions, whether they believe in the soul's existence in another world like Christianity, Islam and many pagan belief systems, or in reincarnation like many forms of Hinduism and Buddhism, believe that one's status in the afterlife is a reward or punishment for their conduct during life.

Agnostics generally hold the position that, like the existence of a God, the existence of other metaphysical phenomena such as the existence of souls or life after death is not verifiable and therefore remains unknown or unknowable.

Atheists and Humanists generally believe that there is insufficient evidence to assert the existence of an afterlife.

Reincarnation

Reincarnation refers to an afterlife concept found among Hindus, Buddhists, Rosicrucians, Spiritists, and Wiccans. Reincarnation is also a belief described in Judaism as gilgul neshamot (Reincarnation of Souls).[1] In reincarnation, spiritual development continues after death as the deceased begins another earthly life in the physical world, acquiring a superior grade of consciousness and altruism by means of successive reincarnations. This succession leads toward an eventual liberation.

One consequence of the Hindu and Spiritist beliefs is that our current lives are also an afterlife. According to those beliefs events in our current life are consequences of actions taken in previous lives, or Karma.

Rosicrucians,[2] in the same way of those who have had near-death experiences, speak of a life review period occurring immediately after death and before entering the afterlife's planes of existence (before the silver cord is broken), followed by a judgment, more akin to a Final Review or End Report over one's life.[3]

Many Wiccans, though not all, profess a belief in an afterlife called the Summerland, a peaceful and sunny place where the souls of the newly dead are sent. Here, souls rest, recuperate from life, and reflect on the experiences they had during their lives. After a period of rest, the souls are reincarnated, and the memory of their previous lives is erased. Shi'a Muslims believe to Raj'a that can be understood as a limited reincarnation.

Afterlife in ancient religions

Ancient Egypt

The afterlife played an important role in Ancient Egyptian religion, and its belief system is one of the earliest known. When the body died, parts of its soul known as ka (body double) and the ba (personality) would go to the Kingdom of the Dead. While the soul dwelt in the Fields of Aaru, Osiris demanded work as restitution for the protection he provided. Statues were placed in the tombs to serve as substitutes for the deceased.

Arriving at one's reward in afterlife was a demanding ordeal, requiring a sin-free heart and the ability to recite the spells, passwords, and formulae of the Book of the Dead. In the Hall of Two Truths, the deceased's heart was weighed against the Shu feather of truth and justice taken from the headdress of the goddess Ma'at.[4] If the heart was lighter than the feather, they could pass on, but if it were heavier they would be devoured by the demon Ammit.

Egyptians also believed that being mummified was the only way to have an afterlife. Only if the corpse had been properly embalmed and entombed in a mastaba, could the dead live again in the Fields of Yalu and accompany the Sun on its daily ride. Due to the dangers the afterlife posed, the Book of the Dead was placed in the tomb with the body as well as food, jewelry, and 'curses'. They also used the " opening of the mouth".

On March 30, 2010, a spokesman for the Egyptian Culture Ministry claimed it had unearthed a large red granite door in Luxor with inscriptions by User,[5] a powerful adviser to the 18th dynasty Queen Hatshepsut who ruled between 1479 BC and 1458 BC, the longest of any woman. It believes the false door is a 'door to the Afterlife'. According to the archaeologists, the door was reused in a structure in Roman Egypt.

Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism states that the urvan, the disembodied spirit, lingers on earth for three days before departing downward to the kingdom of the dead that is ruled by Yima. For the three days that it rests on Earth, righteous souls sit at the head of their body, chanting the Ustavaiti Gathas with joy, while a wicked person sits at the head of the corpse, wails and recites the Yasna. Zoroastrianism states that for the righteous souls, a beautiful maiden, which is the personification of the soul's good thoughts, words and deeds, appears. For a wicked person, a very old, ugly, naked hag appears. After three nights, the soul of the wicked is taken by the demon Vizaresa (Vīzarəša), to Chinvat bridge, and is made to go to darkness (hell).

Yima is believed to have been the first king on earth to rule, as well as the first man to die. Inside of Yima's realm, the spirits live a shadowy existence, and are dependent on their own descendants which are still living on Earth. Their descendants are to satisfy their hunger and clothe them, through rituals done on earth.

Rituals which are done on the first three days are vital and important, as they protect the soul from evil powers and give it strength to reach the underworld. After three days, the soul crosses Chinvat bridge which is the Final Judgment of the soul. Rashnu and Sraosha are present at the final judgment. The list is expanded sometimes, and include Vahman and Ormazd. Rashnu is the yazata who holds the scales of justice. If the good deeds of the person outweigh the bad, the soul is worthy of paradise. If the bad deeds outweigh the good, the bridge narrows down to the width of a blade-edge, and a horrid hag pulls the soul in her arms, and takes it down to hell with her.

Misvan Gatu is the 'place of the mixed ones' where the souls lead a gray existence, lacking both joy and sorrow. A soul goes here if his/her good deeds and bad deeds are equal, and Rashnu's scale is equal.

Ancient Greek and Roman

In the Odyssey, Homer refers to the dead as "burnt-out wraiths." An afterlife of eternal bliss exists in Elysium, but is reserved for Zeus's mortal descendants.

In his Myth of Er, Plato describes souls being judged immediately after death and sent either to the heavens for a reward or underground for punishment. After their respective judgments have been enjoyed or suffered, the souls are reincarnated.

The Greek god Hades is known in Greek mythology as the king of the underworld, a bleak place in between the place of torment and the place of rest, where most souls live after death. Some heroes of Greek legend are allowed to visit the underworld. The Romans had a similar belief system about the afterlife, with Hades becoming known as Pluto. In the ancient Greek myth about Hercules, he needs to travel to the underworld to capture Cerberus as one of his tasks, and retrieves Admetus' wife, Alcetis.

Dream of Scipio, written by Cicero, describes what seems to be an out of body experience, of the soul traveling high above the Earth, looking down at the small planet, from far away.

In book 6 of Vergil's Aeneid, the hero Aeneas travels to the underworld to see his father. By the river Styx, he sees the souls of those not given a proper burial, forced to wait by the river until someone buries them. While down there, along with the dead, he is shown the place where the wrongly convicted reside, the fields of sorrow where those who committed suicide and now regret it reside, including Aeneas' former lover, the warriors and shades, tartarus (where the titans and powerful non-mortal enemies of the Olympians reside) where he can hear the groans of the imprisoned, the palace of Pluto, and the fields of Elysium where the descendants of the divine and bravest heroes reside. He sees the river of forgetfulness, Lethe, which the dead must drink to forget their life and begin anew. Lastly, his father shows him all of the future heroes of Rome who will live if Aeneas fulfills his destiny in founding the city.
[edit] Norse religion

The Poetic and Prose Eddas, the oldest sources for information on the Norse concept of the afterlife, vary in their description of the several realms that are described as falling under this topic. The most well-known are:

* Valhalla: (lit. "Hall of the Slain" i.e. "the Chosen Ones") This heavenly abode, somewhat analogous to the Greek Elysium, is reserved for those brave warriors who die heroically in battle.
* Hel: (lit. "The Covered Hall") This abode is somewhat like Hades from Ancient Greek religion: there, something not unlike the Asphodel Meadows can be found, and people who have neither excelled in that which is good nor excelled in that which is bad can expect to go there after they die and be reunited with their loved ones.
* Niflhel: (lit. "The Dark" or "Misty Hel") This realm is roughly analogous to Greek Tartarus. It is the deeper level beneath Hel, and those who break oaths, abduct and rape women, and other vile things will be sent there to be among their kind to suffer harsh punishments.

Afterlife in Abrahamic religions

Judaism

Resurrection

Writing that would later be incorporated into the Hebrew Bible names Sheol as the place of the unrighteous dead, a non-descriptive place where the unrighteous are destined to go after death, although some texts seem to indicate that even the righteous will find themselves there.[6] The Book of Numbers refers to people going down to Sheol when the earth opens up and destroys the rebellious Korah, Dathan and Abiram and their 250 followers (Numbers 16:31-33). One might take this as implying that Sheol is literally underground, although it is as easily read literally, as signifying an earthquake or split in the earth.

Solomon states in the book of Ecclesiastes: "For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust. Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?" (Ecc. 3:19-21 NKJV)

"But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun." (Ecc. 9:4-6 NKJV)

Similarly Psalms 146:2-4 (NKJV) states: "Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish."

In the book of Job it is stated: "But man dies and is laid away; indeed he breathes his last and where is he?... So man lies down and does not rise. Till the heavens are no more, they will not awake nor be roused from their sleep... If a man dies, shall he live again?" (Job 14:10,12,14a NKJV)

The Talmud offers a number of thoughts relating to the afterlife. After death, the soul is brought for judgment. Those who have lead pristine lives enter immediately into the "World to Come." Most do not enter the World to Come immediately, but now experience a period of review of their earthly actions and they are made aware of what they have done wrong. Some view this period as being a "re-schooling", with the soul gaining wisdom as one's errors are reviewed. Others view this period to include punishment for past wrongs. At the end of this period, approximately one year, the soul then takes its place in the World to Come. Although punishments are made part of certain Jewish conceptions of the afterlife, the concept of "eternal damnation", so prevalent in other religions, is not a central tenet of the Jewish afterlife. According to the Talmud, eternal punishment is reserved for a much smaller group of malicious and evil leaders, either whose deeds go way beyond norms, or who lead large groups of people to evil.[7][8] In the Talmud, completed by 500 AD, non-Jews who are purely evil cease to exist in any realm when they die. However, authorities agree that virtuous gentiles are given a share in the world-to-come. The Book of Enoch describes Sheol as divided into four compartments for four types of the dead: the faithful saints who await resurrection in Paradise, the merely virtuous who await their reward, the wicked who await punishment, and the wicked who have already been punished and will not be resurrected on Judgment Day.[9] It should be noted that the Book of Enoch is considered apocryphal by most denominations of Christianity and all denominations of Judaism.

The book of 2 Maccabees gives a clear account of the dead awaiting a future resurrection and judgment, plus prayers and offerings for the dead to remove the burden of sin.

Maimonides describes the Olam Haba ("World to Come") in spiritual terms, relegating the prophesied physical resurrection to the status of a future miracle, unrelated to the afterlife or the Messianic era. According to Maimonides, an afterlife continues for the soul of every human being, a soul now separated from the body in which it was "housed" during its earthly existence.

The Zohar describes Gehenna not as a place of punishment for the wicked but as a place of spiritual purification for souls.[10]

Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism Rejection of Resurrection

Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism reject Resurrection. Accordingly, they have modified the text to read m'chayei hakol ("who gives life to all"). In the new prayer book released by the Reform Judaism movement, they have returned the traditional prayer for the resurrection of the dead.[11]

Reincarnation

While ancient Greek philosophers like Plato attempted to prove the existence of reincarnation through philosophical proofs, Jewish mystics who believed in reincarnation simply accepted it as a divine reality.

Although there is no reference to reincarnation in the Talmud or any prior writings,[12] according to rabbis such as Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman, reincarnation is recognized as being part and parcel of Jewish tradition. Rabbi Trugman explains that it is through oral tradition that the meanings of the Torah, its commandments and stories, are known and understood. The classic work of Jewish mysticism whose origins date back 2000 years,[13] the Zohar, is quoted liberally in all Jewish learning; in the Zohar the idea of reincarnation is mentioned repeatedly. Rabbi Trugman states that in the last five centuries the concept of reincarnation, which until then had been a much hidden tradition within Judaism, was given open exposure.[13]

Rabbi Shraga Simmons commented that within the Bible itself, the idea [of reincarnation] is intimated in Deut. 25:5-10, Deut. 33:6 and Isaiah 22:14, 65:6.[14]

Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman wrote that reincarnation is an "ancient, mainstream belief in Judaism." The Zohar, written by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai close to two thousand years ago, makes frequent and lengthy references to reincarnation. Onkelos, a righteous convert and authoritative commentator of the same period, explained the verse, "Let Reuben live and not die…" (Deuteronomy 33:6) to mean that Reuben should merit the World to Come directly, and not have to die again as result of being reincarnated. The great Torah scholar, commentator and kabbalist, Nachmanides (Ramban 1195-1270), attributed Job's suffering to reincarnation, as hinted in Job's saying "God does all these things twice or three times with a man, to bring back his soul from the pit to…the light of the living' (Job 33:29,30)." [15]

Reincarnation, called gilgul, became popular in folk belief, and is found in much Yiddish literature among Ashkenazi Jews. Among a few kabbalists, it was posited that some human souls could end up being reincarnated into non-human bodies. These ideas were found in a number of Kabbalistic works from the 1200s, and also among many mystics in the late 1500s. Martin Buber's early collection of stories of the Baal Shem Tov's life includes several that refer to people reincarnating in successive lives.[16]

Among well known (generally non-kabbalist or anti-kabbalist) Rabbis who rejected the idea of reincarnation are Saadia Gaon, David Kimhi, Hasdai Crescas, Yedayah Bedershi (early 14th century), Joseph Albo, Abraham ibn Daud, the Rosh and Leon de Modena. Saadia Gaon, in Emunoth ve-Deoth (Hebrew: "beliefs and opinions") concludes Section VI with a refutation of the doctrine of metempsychosis (reincarnation). While refuting reincarnation, the Saadia Gaon further states that Jews who hold to reincarnation have adopted non-Jewish beliefs. By no means do all Jews today believe in reincarnation, but belief in reincarnation is not uncommon among many Jews, including Orthodox. Most Orthodox siddurim (prayerbooks) have a prayer asking for forgiveness for one's sins that one may have committed in this gilgul or a previous one.[17]

Other well-known rabbis who are reincarnationists include Rabbi Yonassan Gershom, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Talmud scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, Rabbi DovBer Pinson, Rabbi David M. Wexelman, Rabbi Zalman Schachter,[18] and many others. Reincarnation is cited by authoritative biblical commentators, including Ramban (Nachmanides), Menachem Recanti and Rabbenu Bachya.

Among the many volumes of the holy Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (known as the "Ari"), most of which come downfrom the pen of his primary disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital, are profound insights explaining issues related to reincarnation. His Shaar HaGilgulim, "The Gates of Reincarnation", is a book devoted exclusively to the subject of reincarnation in Judaism.

Christianity

In Scripture

When questioned by the Sadducees about the resurrection (in a context relating to who ones spouse would be if one had been married several times in life), Jesus said that marriage will be irrelevant after the resurrection as the resurrected will be (at least in this respect) like the angels in heaven.[19]

Jesus also maintained that the time would come when the dead would hear the voice of the Son of God, and all who were in the tombs would come out, the faithful to the resurrection of life, and the unfaithful to the resurrection of judgment. According to the Gospel of Matthew, at the death of Jesus tombs were opened, and at his resurrection many saints who had died emerged from their tombs and went into "the holy city", presumably Jerusalem.[20] No other New Testament account includes this event.

The Last Day: Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven, over which He rules, to a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age also known as the Last Day. The angels will separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

The Early Church: 1st century

Domenico Beccafumi's Inferno: a Christian vision of hell

The author of Luke recounts the story of Lazarus and the rich man, which shows people in Hades awaiting the resurrection either in comfort or torment. The author of the Book of Revelation writes about God and the angels versus Satan and demons in an epic battle at the end of times when all souls are judged. There is mention of ghostly bodies of past prophets, and the transfiguration.

The Early Church: 2nd and 3rd century

The non-canonical Acts of Paul and Thecla speak of the efficacy of prayer for the dead, so that they might be "translated to a state of happiness."[21]

Hippolytus of Rome pictures Hades as a place where the righteous dead, awaiting in the bosom of Abraham their resurrection, rejoice at their future prospect, while the unrighteous are tormented at the sight of the "lake of unquenchable fire" into which they are destined to be cast.
[edit] The Early Church: 4th and 5th century

Gregory of Nyssa discusses the long-before believed possibility of purification of souls after death.[22]

Saint Augustine counters Pelagius, arguing that original sin means that the unbaptized go to hell, including infants, albeit with less suffering than is experienced by those guilty of actual sins.

Medieval Christianity

Pope Gregory I repeats the concept, articulated over a century earlier by Gregory of Nyssa that the saved suffer purification after death, in connection with which he wrote of "purgatorial flames". The noun "purgatorium" (Latin: place of cleansing[23]) is used for the first time to describe a state of painful purification of the saved after life. The same word in adjectival form (purgatorius -a -um, cleansing), which appears also in non-religious writing,[24] was already used by Christians such as Augustine of Hippo and Pope Gregory I to refer to an after-death cleansing.

Swedenborg and the Enlightenment

During the Age of Enlightenment, theologians and philosophers presented various philosophies and beliefs. A notable example is Emanuel Swedenborg who wrote some 18 theological works which describe in detail the nature of the afterlife according to his claimed spiritual experiences, the most famous of which is Heaven and Hell.

On the other hand, the enlightenment produced more rationalist philosophies such as deism. Many deist freethinkers held that belief in an afterlife with reward and punishment was a necessity of reason and good moral

Seventh-day Adventists

The Seventh-day Adventist Church, teaches that the first death, or death brought about by living on a planet with sinful conditions (sickness, old age, accident, etc.) is a sleep of the soul. Adventists believe that the body + the breath of God = a living soul. Like Jehovah's Witnesses, Adventists use key phrases from the Bible, such as "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten" (Eccl. 9:5 KJV). Adventists also point to the fact that the wage of sin is death and God alone is immortal. Adventists believe God will grant eternal life to the redeemed who are resurrected at Jesus' second coming. Until then, all those who have died are "asleep." When Jesus the Christ, who is the Word and the Bread of Life, comes a second time, the righteous will be raised incorruptible and will be taken in the clouds to meet their Lord. The righteous will live in heaven for a thousand years (the millennium) where they will sit with God in judgment over the unredeemed and the fallen angels. During the time the redeemed are in heaven, the Earth will be devoid of human and animal inhabitation. Only the fallen angels will be left alive. The second resurrection is of the unrighteous, when Jesus brings the New Jerusalem down from heaven to relocate to Earth. Jesus will call to life all those who are unrighteous. Satan and his angels will convince the unrighteous to surround the city, but hell fire and brimstone will fall from heaven and consume them, thus cleansing Earth of all sin. The universe will be then free from sin forever. This is called the second death. On the new earth God will provide an eternal home for all the redeemed and a perfect environment for everlasting life, where Eden will be restored. The great controversy will be ended and sin will be no more. God will reign in perfect harmony forever.(Rom. 6:23; 1 Tim. 6:15, 16; Eccl. 9:5, 6; Ps. 146:3, 4; John 11:11-14; Col. 3:4; 1 Cor. 15:51-54; 1 Thess. 4:13-17; John 5:28, 29; Rev. 20:1-10; Rev. 20; 1 Cor. 6:2, 3; Jer. 4:23-26; Rev. 21:1-5; Mal. 4:1; Eze. 28:18, 19; 2 Peter 3:13; Isa. 35; 65:17-25; Matt. 5:5; Rev. 21:1-7; 22:1-5; 11:15.)[25][26]

Afterlife in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormonism)

Joseph F. Smith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints presents an elaborate vision of the Afterlife. It is revealed as the scene of an extensive missionary effort by righteous spirits to redeem those still in darkness - a spirit prison or "hell" where the spirits of the dead remain until judgment. It is divided into two parts: Spirit Prison and Paradise. Together these are also known as the Spirit World (also Abraham's Bosom; see Luke 16:19-25). They believe that Christ visited spirit prison (1 Peter 3:18-20) and opened the gate for those who repent to cross over to Paradise. "--- what Jesus’ immortal spirit did after His death and before His Resurrection is a mystery to all but the Latter-day Saints ---" (Elder Spencer J. Condie, Liahona, -Church magazine – July, 2003) "- - - unto the wicked he did not go, and among the ungodly and the unrepentant - - his voice was not raised. - - But behold, from among the righteous, He organized His forces and appointed messengers …" (D&C 138:20, 30–32). "Christ opened the doors of hell to missionary work among the dead …" (H. Donl Peterson, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, Apr. 1986, 36–38). This is similar to the Harrowing of Hell doctrine of some mainstream Christian faiths. (citation needed) Both Spirit Prison and Paradise are temporary according to Latter-day Saint beliefs. After the resurrection, spirits are assigned "permanently" to three degrees of heavenly glory––Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial––(1 Cor 15:44-42; Doctrine and Covenants, Section 76) or are cast with Satan into Outer Darkness. (See Doctrine and Covenants, Section 76.)

Salvation, faith and merit from ancient to modern Christianity

Most Christians deny that entry into Heaven can be properly earned, rather it is a gift that is solely God's to give through his unmerited grace. This belief follows the theology of St. Paul: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. The Augustinian, Thomist, Lutheran, and Calvinist theological traditions all emphasize the necessity of God's undeserved grace for salvation, and reject so-called Pelagianism, which would make man earn salvation through good works. Not all Christian sects accept this doctrine, leading many controversies on grace and free will, and the idea of predestination. In particular, the belief that heaven is a reward for good behavior is a common folk belief in Christian societies, even among members of churches which reject that belief.

Christian theologians Thomas Aquinas and Jonathan Edwards wrote that the saved in heaven will delight in the suffering of the damned. Hell, however, doesn't fit modern, humanitarian concepts of punishment because it can't deter the unbeliever nor rehabilitate the damned, this however, does not affect the Christian belief which places Biblical teaching above the ideas of society. Some Christian believers have come to downplay the punishment of hell. Universalists teach that salvation is for all. Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists, though they have among the strictest rules on how to conduct their lives, teach that sinners are destroyed rather than tortured forever. John 3:16 says that only those that accept Jesus will be given eternal life, so the people that don't accept him can't burn in hell for eternity because Jesus hasn't given them eternal life, instead it says they will perish.
[edit] The dead as Angels in Heaven

In the informal folk beliefs of many Christians, the souls of virtuous people ascend to Heaven and are converted into angels. More formal Christian theology makes a sharp distinction between angels, who were created by God before the creation of humanity, and saints, who are people who have received immortality from the grace of God through faith in the Son of God Jesus (John 3:16).

Universalists

Some sects, such as the Universalists, believe in universalism which holds that all will eventually be rewarded regardless of what they have done or believed.

Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses occasionally use the terms "afterlife" and "hereafter"[27] to refer to any hope for the dead, but they understand Ecclesiastes 9:5 to preclude common views of afterlife:

For the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, neither do they any more have wages, because the remembrance of them has been forgotten.

They believe that following Armageddon a resurrection in the flesh[28] to an Edenic Earth[29] will be rewarded to both righteous and unrighteous (but not wicked) dead. Acts 24:15 states, ""I have hope toward God . . . that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous."

Eternal death (non-existence) is the punishment for sin lacking repentance after Armageddon. Although those who are not dead when Armageddon occurs will be judged and possibly slain during Armageddon because of their potential regretless sins. They believe that death is the price for sinning (that is why most dead will be resurrected - they paid the price already).[30][31]

Modern Orthodox Christianity

The beliefs typical to modern Orthodox Christian Churches has not diverted from the old Orthodox Christian Churches.

The Modern Catholic Church

In the 1990s, the Catechism of the Catholic Church defined hell not as punishment imposed on the sinner but rather as the sinner's self-exclusion from God.

Christian Science

Christian Science teaches that the after-death state consists of a form of "probation" and spiritual development / progress whereby the experience of the deceased is in proportion to their ability to avail of the unlimited love of God. Consequently, a person dying in a state of sin would experience God's love as suffering (like a person used to darkness whose eyes are hurt by the light) while someone who passed on in a state of spiritualized consciousness would experience a corresponding level of happiness. There is no concept of eternal punishment in Christian Science: hell and heaven are both states of thought that correspond to the presence, or absence, of self-centeredness that characterize the individual undergoing the experience of death. A person who seems to die does not "go" anywhere: he/she simply adjusts to another level of consciousness which is inaccessible to those they have left behind. The ultimate, and inevitable, goal of all of us is the experience of divine Love (heaven, harmony). Death is not necessary for the experience of heaven: it can be experienced here and now to the extent that one's thought is elevated to a spiritual level. Indeed, Christian Science teaches that death itself is an illusion, and that it can, and will, be ultimately conquered through the conquest of sin, as taught by Jesus Christ and exemplified in his life.

Islam

Barzakh and Akhirah

The Islamic belief in the afterlife as stated in the Qur'an is unique; its official description is more detailed. The Islamic word used to describe Paradise is jannah and to describe Hell is jahannam. Jannah and Jahannam both have different levels. Individuals will not arrive there until after the Judgment Day, when they will be resurrected. Their level of comfort while in the grave, however, depends on their belief in The God and His teachings, as well as their deeds during this life. The levels are 8 for Jannah [32] and 7 for Jahannam.

Islam teaches that the purpose of man's creation is essentially to be kind to other human beings and to worship the Creator of the Heavens and Earth - Allah (the Arabic word used to refer to The One and Only God, who Muslims consider to be the God of Judeochristian Tradition). Islam teaches that life lived on this Earth is a test for man to determine each individual's ultimate reward or punishment in the afterlife, which is eternal and everlasting.

In the twentieth century, discussions about the afterlife address the interconnection between human action and divine judgment, the need for moral rectitude, and the eternal consequences of human action in this life and world.[33]

Bahá'í Faith

Bahá'í teachings

The teachings of the Bahá'í Faith state that the nature of the afterlife is beyond the nature of those living, just as an unborn fetus cannot understand the nature of the world outside of the womb. The Bahá'í writings state that the soul is immortal and after death it will continue to progress until it attains God's presence. In Bahá'í belief, souls in the afterlife will continue to retain their individuality and consciousness and will be able to recognize and communicate spiritually with other souls who they have made deep profound friendships, with such as their spouses.[34]

The Bahá'í writings also state there are distinctions between souls in the afterlife, and that souls will recognize the worth of their own deeds and understand the consequences of their actions. It is explained that those souls that have turned toward God will experience gladness, while those who have lived in error will become aware of the opportunities they have lost. Also, in the Baha'i view, souls will be able to recognize the accomplishments of the souls that have reached the same level as themselves, but not those that have achieved a rank higher than them.[34]

Eastern religions

Hinduism

No other religion deals with this topic like Hinduism. Upanishads describe reincarnation, or punarjanma (see also: samsara). The Bhagavat Gita, an important book for Hinduism, talks extensively about the afterlife. Here, the Lord Krishna says that just as a man discards his old clothes and wears new ones; similarly the soul discards the old body and takes on a new one. In Hinduism, the belief is that the body is but a shell, the soul inside is immutable and indestructible and takes on different lives in a cycle of birth and death. The end of this cycle is called "Moksha" or salvation.

Garuda Purana, a book solely deals with what happens to a person after death. The God of Death Yama sends his representatives to collect the soul from a person's body whenever he is due for death and they take the soul to Yama. A record of each person's timings & deeds performed by him is kept in a ledger by Yama's assistant "Chitragupta".

According to the Garuda Purana, a soul after leaving the body, travels through a very long & dark tunnel towards South. This is why an oil lamp is lit and kept beside the head of the corpse, to light the dark tunnel and allow the soul to travel comfortably.

The soul, called "Atman" leaves the body and reincarnates itself according to the deeds or Karma performed by one in last birth. Re-birth would be in form of animals or other lower creatures if one performed bad Karmas and in human form in a good family with joyous lifetime if the person was good in last birth. In between the two births a human is also required to either face punishments for bad Karmas in "NARKA" or "HELL" or enjoy for the good karmas in SWARG or Heaven for good deeds. Whenever his or her punishments or rewards are over he or she is sent back to earth, also known as "Mrityulok" or World of Death. A person is merged with the God or ultimate power when he discharges only & only good Karmas in last birth and the same is called as "Moksha" or "Nirvana", which is the ultimate goal of a true Hindu.Atma (Soul) merges into "Parmatma" or the greatest soul.According to Bhagwadgita an "Atma" or soul never dies, what dies is the body only made of five elements - Earth, Sky, Water, Fire & Vacuum. Soul is believed to be indestructible.None of the five elements can harm or influence it.Hinduism through Garuda Purana also describes in detail various types of "Narkas" or Hells where a person after death is punished for his bad Karmas and dealt with accordingly.

Hindus also believe in 'Karma'. 'Karma' is the accumulated sums of one's good or bad deeds. According to Hinduism the basic concept of Karma is 'As you sow, you shall reap'. So, if you have lived a good life you will be rewarded in the afterlife. Similarly your sum of bad deeds will be mirrored in your next life.Good 'Karma' brings good rewards and bad 'karmas' lead to bad results. There is no judgment here. People accumulate karma through their actions and even thoughts. In Bhagavad Gita when Arjuna hesitates to kill his kith and kin the lord reprimands him saying thus "Do you believe that you are the doer of the action.No.You are merely an instrument in MY hands.Do you believe that the people in front of you are living? Dear Arjuna they are already dead. As a kshatriys (warrior class) it is your duty to protect your people and land. If you fail to do your duty then you are not adhering to dharmic principles."

Buddhism

Buddhists maintain that rebirth takes place without an unchanging self or soul passing from one form to another. The type of rebirth will be conditioned by the moral tone of the person's actions (kamma or karma). For example, where a person has committed harmful actions of body, speech and mind based on greed, hatred and delusion, rebirth in a lower realm, i.e. an animal, a ghost or a hell realm, is to be expected. On the other hand, where a person has performed skillful actions based on generosity, loving-kindness (metta), compassion and wisdom, rebirth in a happy realm, i.e. human or one of the many heavenly realms, can be expected.

In Tibetan Buddhism the Tibetan Book of the Dead explains the intermediate state of humans between death and reincarnation. The deceased will find the bright light of wisdom, which shows a straightforward path to move upward and leave the cycle of reincarnation. There are various reasons why the deceased do not follow that light. Some had no briefing about the intermediate state in the former life. Others only used to follow their basic instincts like animals. And some have fear, which results from foul deeds in the former life or from insistent haughtiness. In the intermediate state the awareness is very flexible, so it is important to be virtuous, adopt a positive attitude, and avoid negative ideas. Ideas which are rising from subconsciousness can cause extreme tempers and cowing visions. In this situation they have to understand, that these manifestations are just reflections of the inner thoughts. No one can really hurt them, because they have no more material body. The deceased get help from different Buddhas who show them the path to the bright light. The ones who do not follow the path after all will get hints for a better reincarnation. They have to release the things and beings on which or whom they still hang from the life before. It is recommended to choose a family where the parents trust in the Dharma and to reincarnate with the will to care for the welfare of all beings.

Sikhism

Sikhs also believe in reincarnation. They believe that the soul belongs to the spiritual universe which has its origins in God. It is like a see-saw, the amount of good done in life will store up blessings, thus uniting with God. A soul may need to live many lives before it is one with God. But there is more to it than this; there are four classes that are included in this belief. Above these four classes is God "Waheguru" and you can stay with him if you like or take another step and go to your people and serve them. Below these four classes are non humans such as plants and viruses. You move up and down according to your deeds, a good life and death moves you up to a higher class and a bad life and death results in going down a class.

Parapsychology

A study conducted in 1901 by physician Duncan MacDougall sought to measure the weight lost by a human when the soul "departed the body" upon death.[35] MacDougall weighed dying patients in an attempt to prove that the soul was material, tangible and thus measurable. These experiments are widely considered to have had little if any scientific merit, and although MacDougall's results varied considerably from "21 grams", for some people this figure has become synonymous with the measure of a soul's mass.[36] The title of the 2003 movie 21 Grams is a reference to MacDougall's findings.

The Society for Psychical Research was founded in 1882 with the express intention of investigating phenomena relating to Spiritualism and the afterlife. Its members continue to conduct scientific research on the paranormal to this day. Some of the earliest attempts to apply scientific methods to the study of phenomena relating to an afterlife were conducted by this organization. Its earliest members included noted scientists like William Crookes, and philosophers such as Henry Sidgwick and William James.

J. B. Rhine, who was critical in the early foundations of parapsychology as a laboratory science, was committed to finding scientific evidence for the spiritual existence of humans. Scientists who have worked in this area include Raymond Moody, Susan Blackmore, Charles Tart, William James, Ian Stevenson, Michael Persinger and Pim van Lommel among others.[37]

After 25 years of parapsychological research, Susan Blackmore came to the conclusion that there is no empirical evidence for an afterlife.[38][39]

Some, such as Francis Crick in 1994, have attempted a ‘scientific search for the soul’.[40] Frank Tipler has argued that physics can explain immortality, though such arguments are not falsifiable and thus do not qualify, in Karl Popper's views, as science.[41]

Tart conducted research into out-of-body experiences, or OBEs, that indicated the possibility that a person might be able to perceive targets at a distance removed from the physical body.[42] Later investigations have both corroborated and failed to corroborate "out-of-body" experiences transcending the confines of the brain.[43] In one instance, a hospital placed an LED marquee above its patients’ beds which displayed a hidden message that could only be read if one were looking down from above. As of 2001[update], no one who claimed near-death experience or out-of-body experience within that hospital had reported having seen the hidden message.[44]

In 2008, Penny Sartori, an intensive care nurse from Swansea, published a book about near death experiences following 10 years of research. Sartori says that people who went through out-of-body experiences felt as if they floated above themselves and were able to accurately recount what had happened in the room even though their bodily eyes were closed.[45]

Investigation of the afterlife also includes the study of (among others) cases of haunting, apparitions of the deceased (including, in some cases, information conveyed by those same apparitions), instrumental trans-communication (recording of paranormal voices on tape), and mediumship.[46]

There is still the position, based on the philosophical question of personal identity, termed open individualism, and in some ways similar to the old belief of monopsychism, that concludes that individual existence is illusory, and our consciousness continues existing after death in other conscious beings. This position was supported by some notable physicists.


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