Saturday 6 August 2022

Life after life by Raymond Moody and Hindu scriptures

The book "Life after life" by Raymond A Moody is a fascinating read, where the author describes the "Near Death Experience" encounters of many people. In this post, I draw a parallel of those experiences with what is described in Hindu scriptures.

What is Near Death Experience? NDE as it is called, is an experience a person goes through when he/she is almost died. Basically, a soul comes out of the body, experience out-of-the-body for a few minutes, and then goes inside the body. Here, that person was almost dead but resuscitated. Many people have experienced this phenomenon and have shared their experience with the author. As mentioned in the book, author has interviewed around 150 people who went through this experience. Though it may sound difficult to believe in NDEs, it is however astonishing (as the author puts it) that there is a common pattern which these people experienced NDEs and it would be difficult to dismiss these experiences as the result of anesthesia, or a drug or hallucination. Anyways, it is left to the individual to believe in it or not.

Why this post? After explaining NDEs, author also draws parallels with religious texts specifically Christian (Bible) and Tibetan text. I found that there is no reference to Texts from Hinduism which deals with the subject of Soul in greater details. Perhaps he may not have read or heard Hindu scriptures. So I thought I'll share the parallel which I have found in Hindu scriptures. Let me call out one thing very clear here. I'm not a Pandit or scholar in Hindu scriptures. I've only read Kannada translation of BagavadGeetha and Preta kanda of Garuda Purana. Preta kanda of Garuda purana deals with after death experience in greater detail. In addition to these, I have heard many discourses which discuss this subject.

Black Tunnel

The people have shared that they had to travel through a black tunnel before coming out of the body. Some people referred to this as a pitch dark tunnel and others called it as an enclosure, a vacuum and many more. Interestingly, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, chapter 4, section 4 describes "Death and Hereafter". This section says that the soul departs from the top of the heart (as per Hinduism, soul reside in Heart), and it comes out of one of the exit points. The Upanishad mentions that it could be through the head, or eyes or any other part of the body. As per the scholars - there are 9 exit points for a soul - Head (also known as brahma randra, it is stated that a spiritually evolved soul exit from this point), two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, and two excretory points. When the soul starts its departing journey, it has to pass through the body to come out of one of the 9 exit points. What people referred as black tunnel, were they referring to this short journey?

Spiritual Body

Almost all the people experienced that when they were out of the body, they felt they had another body. This body was not as evident as they had earlier but they felt the presence of organs such as eyes, ears, arms, legs etc. They also experienced that this body was super thin and kind of cotton piece (a bit of transparent and white). The author termed this as a spiritual body. In Hinduism, the body which we have currently is called gross body (sthoola shareera) and it also states that the soul will also have subtle body (sookshma shareera). The gross body will have it's own limitations; for an example we cannot travel to outer space in this gross body (without proper protection). Whereas, the subtle body does not have any such limitations. This is exactly what people have described in their experience. They could go through the doors and walls, they could hear what others are talking even if the people are at a greater distance, they could travel pretty quickly etc.

White light

People also described that when they came out of the body, they met what they call a white light. They said this white light looked like a being but there was no proper shape as such. It was pretty bright yet not blinding the eyes. This light was gentle and assisting us in terms of this experience. Many people also reported that this white light told them that their time has not come yet, so they have to go back to the body. In Hinduism, it is stated that assistants of Yama (the god of death) comes to pick the soul at the time of the death. This is mentioned in greater detail in Garuda Purana. After the body is cremated, these assistants take the soul to the city of Yama and this is termed as a pretty long journey. I'll not get into the details here but I wanted to call out the similarities of what is mentioned by this Author and the scriptures.

Message from the white light

Interestingly, when some of the people talked to the white light, this white light stressed on importance of two things - one, doing good to others, and the second gaining knowledge. Doing good to others is somewhat universal in every religion, but the second part which says gaining knowledge is very important. It is not clear though what kind of knowledge the white light was talking about (I meant people don't recollect any specifics here). In Hinduism, the importance was always given on the knowledge - jnana yoga is one of the three ways one can attain moksha or liberation; the self-enquiry and contemplation which leads to the understanding of brahman.

I know this is a debatable topic. This cannot be validated mathematically or in a lab. My goal is not to prove a point. When I was reading this book, I could draw a lot of parallels with our scriptures. Hence I thought of sharing this through a blog post. Click here for a link to that book, in case you want to read.


Anonymous said...

Hello, very insightful article. Thanks. Do u have a view on why Garuda puran appears to emphasise more on punishment for souls that have not practised god consciousness while most that have described NDE have not talked about punishment but in fact have described afterlife as a very peaceful affair even when most of them don’t appear to be into any formal spiritual practices. Why is there that difference?

Suresh said...

@Anonymous, in the case of NDE, the person has not died, instead the person has come back to the life (after experiencing NDE). The punishment is experienced only by sookshma shareera (subtle body) and that means the soul has left the gross body forever. Hope this clarifies.