Is Our Birth A Contract We Agree Upon? Is Our Death Predetermined?

Question

It is said that all souls agree on a contract before taking birth on earth. Then is the date of death, and the way the soul will depart, all predetermined? Do souls agree for violent deaths in accidents and other natural disasters, and if yes, then are they prepared beforehand in some way for this experience? Can you suggest some good books for more information on this?

—Venkat, India

Answer

Dear Venkat,
Does the soul agree to a “contract” when coming down on earth? From what I know from Yogananda’s teachings, I don’t think so, at least it’s not a freely given or withdrawn agreement. His “contract” is rather forced on him by his own karma. The soul might intuitively realize what he is getting into, and when he enters the world as a newborn babe, the first thing he does is cry, because, as Yogananda explains, he knows what trouble he has to face here in our tough material world. He has to agree: there is a compelling karmic set-up for the time and circumstance of our birth. There is little to agree upon. It’s rather like mathematics: a+b results in c. We read in the Autobiography of a Yogi: “A child is born on that day and at that hour when the celestial rays are in mathematical harmony with his individual karma.“

If souls from the astral worlds “chose” their parents and country etc., it is a karmically laden choice.

The only ones free of such karmic compulsions are the avatars, which are truly free souls. Again from the Autobiography of a Yogi: “Jesus knew from the beginning the sequence of his life; he passed through each event not for himself, not from any karmic compulsion, but solely for the upliftment of reflective human beings.”

But normal people – all of us – don’t enjoy that freedom. According to our karma, we are placed in a certain environment, with a certain state of health, circumstance, with karmically ordained parents, and so on. Much is determined by our unsatisfied inner desires (which make us “chose”).

When we are a tiny embryo in our mother’s womb, our karmic pattern determines how our body and brain grow: “The pranic lifetrons in the spermatozoa and ova, for instance, guide the embryonic development according to a karmic design.” (once again: from the Autobiography of a Yogi)

That’s what concerns birth. When it comes to our death, however, things are very different: certainly there is a karmic design (a probability) for our way of dying, but it can definitively be changed. It’s not a fixed contract. Nothing is predetermined. Every karmic pattern can be changed. The human being has free will, which is “given to him simultaneous with a soul, and revocable never.” (again from the Autobiography, which Yogananda called “my messanger”) With every action, right NOW, we are creating our future. Swami Kriyananda taught that all life long we prepare our death, for the way we die, for our “final exam”.

Fortunately our karmic date and mode of death can be changed not only by our actions (both in the outer life and within, in meditation, especially through Kriya Yoga), but also by grace, received from God or a great saint. Devotion “burns up” karma, as it attracts grace. In the Autobiography of a Yogi (that “messanger” book of eternal wisdom) we read a story in which Mahavatar Babaji dissolved the karmic death of a devoted disciple: “The master suddenly seized a burning log and lightly struck the bare shoulder of a chela who was close to the fire. ‘Sir, how cruel!’ Lahiri Mahasaya, who was present, made this remonstrance. ‘Would you rather have seen him burned to ashes before your eyes, according to the decree of his past karma?’ With these words Babaji placed his healing hand on the chela’s disfigured shoulder. ‘I have freed you tonight from painful death. The karmic law has been satisfied through your slight suffering by fire.’”

Which books could you read about these topics? The thing is: different books will tell you different things, and not all of them are written by enlightened Masters who truly know the afterworld, the laws of life, the soul and its voyage toward transformation and Self-realization. The Master I fully trust is Paramhansa Yogananda. In various books, like Man’s Eternal Quest, The Divine Romance, in various chapters he talks about your question of the karmic “contract”.

In divine friendship,
Jayadev