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What Happens when a Person Dies?

Swami Kriyananda
February 17, 2009

"What happens when a person dies is the next question, a very interesting question - one that affects all of us in a sense. When I say in a sense, I mean some people are worried about it and others are not. But the truth is that we you've had this sort of protection over your feelings of a physical body. And it's very difficult to feel joy or sadness - it's at least confined within a physical body, and within the hardness of matter. Now when that's removed, when your body is removed, your feelings become untrammeled, you might say. And if you had feelings of anger, hatred, jealousy and lust and all the problems that mankind is heir to, then those become unfettered and therefore much more intense. Therefore, the suffering of that kind of mentality after death is much greater than you feel in this world.

There was a strange episode that I read in a magazine many years ago, I think it was the Reader's Digest, but it's so unlike them that I can hardly believe it. Anyway, this American soldier during World War Two managed to go into Tibet, and he was intrigued by talk of black magic. He must have had a penchant in that direction himself, I don't know. But he found a black magician and managed to talk this black magician into allowing him to come to one of their seances. And the black magician said: “Don't let anybody know that you're not Tibetan, or you'll be killed.” He said to put a cowl over his face, they all came black cowled to this seance. A large group of them all gathered together in a circle. Then they began to swing left and right and left and right and were singing “Yamanta, Kayamanta Kayamantaka.” And gradually he could feel the power himself, it sort of gripped him. As the power of the concentration became very focused demons began to appear. And he said it was horrible to see them, because they were such gross and grotesque caricatures of negative qualities such as greed, lust and anger and so on. And then as their meditation reached a greater intensity, gradually the God of Death himself appeared there. And then they began exerting all their energy (and he was a part of it - he couldn't take his mind away from it) to drive that entity back into the ether. This was Satan himself. And then they all went home. And I suppose that the fear at the time and the reason they drove him away was that he was trying to take over their minds. Nonetheless, I'm sure that what happened was that some of his power did take over their minds.

So there are satanic powers in this universe, and there is a possibility of hell, but it won't last. Sooner or later you'll be reborn, and you'll keep on struggling up the path of evolution. If on the other hand you've lived a good life, then your joy after death is incredibly increased. You no longer have the thick walls of flesh to contend with. And your bliss and happiness and everything are very much greater.

What happens after death, first of all, is that your heart stops and your energy begins to withdraw from the body and your senses one by one shut down. The last sense to leave is your sense of hearing. This was an interesting story that Yogananda told of a couple of students of his many years ago. They were brother and sister and the girl died, and the brother leaned down and into her right ear - he kept calling to her: “Come back sister, I still need you, you must come back.” And gradually she did. She woke up and came back and she said: “Oh, I heard your voice from so far away.” But her sense of hearing was starting to slip also. And then when all the senses withdraw the energy goes up the spine. And in the case of worldly people it goes out through the medulla into a sort of temporary lethargy or unconsciousness. And if you're a yogi, then it will go out through the spiritual eye. And after that you will enjoy (to varying degrees.) People who have meditated even a little bit in this life go to a very happy place.

This world is an imitation of the astral world. People say: “Oh, it seems too neat for the astral world to look like this.” Well, the truth is that it's this world that was based on the astral world. But in the astral world, in the higher heavens as they are called, there are no slugs and beetles and mosquitoes and all those inconveniences that can spoil a nice picnic and so on. And you find that you get to mix with people of your own type. And it isn't often that somebody goes to the higher heavens, the highest heavens, but these are higher heavens. And there you do feel great joy. And that period can last for a shorter or a longer period, depending on your good karma: how much you have shared your wealth, and your good fortune with other people, how much you have done for other people, how much you have lived for helping them, and above all, how much you have lived for God and given yourself to Him. But sooner or later, if you have any worldly desires, then those things gradually in time will wake up again. When your good karma for that period of astral existence is exhausted, then you have to come back to this world and start all over again.

The fallen yogi, as Arjuna describes him in the Bhagavad Gita, has very good karma. It isn't if you've tried for a while and turned away from God, that you lose everything and God becomes angry with you. Quite the contrary, God doesn't become angry with you for anything. He's your own mother and father, he loves you eternally. And he's eagerly waiting for you to finally learn your lessons. So you can go back to him. But in this state of temporary pause (if it's a temporary one) then you do enjoy. But then (as I think I told the story recently of a saint who was told by an angel or devata) your happiness begins to fall like the leaves on a tree in autumn - they begin to turn pale, yellow and dark, and fall. And so your happiness begins to decline. And then you begin to become drawn - you are drawn to those parents which have a similar vibration to your own, or at least certain strong qualities that are your own.

Yogananda said that a saint might be born to a criminal if they both have in common a love for peace, let's say. But usually the kind of person you're drawn back to (and Krishna says this in the Bhagavad Gita), the kind of persons (your couple you're drawn back to) are usually people who are on the path if you are a fallen yogi, and it’s well to do so that you can fulfill your earthly desires more quickly and come back onto the path sooner.

The important thing where couples are concerned is that the moment of coition is a very important moment, when a soul is drawn into the body. And the quality of vibration that they have at that moment - it sends a flash of light into the astral world. And those souls who have a similar vibration rush to get into that womb, if it's their time to be born. So remember to come together physically in an exalted state. One couple came to Yogananda and they asked him to help them to have a spiritual child. And he showed them a photograph of somebody that he said he felt was ready to come back into this world. And he said, “Meditate on this child and don't have any sexual relations for six months. And after six months, invite the soul back into your womb, into your family.” And he said that in fact that was the soul that was born into their family. It's a very important thing to understand."

About Swami Kriyananda

In 1948 at the age of twenty-two, Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters) became a disciple of the Indian yoga master, Paramhansa Yogananda. Yogananda is best known for his spiritual classic, *Autobiography of a Yogi*. In his book he recalls his experiences growing up in India and his life in America. He writes of meeting the great spiritual master Babaji, and how Babaji reintroduced the life changing meditation technique of Kriya Yoga. He tells of his life with his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, of his guru Lahiri Lahiri Mahasaya, and his meeting with Anandamoy Ma. He tells about his experience in cosmic consciousness (samadhi) and his trips to see many of the saints in India and his trip to the Kali temple. Yogananda moved to America and developed the energization exercises and taught the meditation techniques of Hatha Yoga and especially Kriya Yoga. He founded Self Realization Fellowship and spoke often of the need for world brotherhood colonies.

At Yogananda’s request, Swami Kriyananda devoted his life to lecturing and writing, helping others to experience the living presence of God within. He taught on four continents in seven languages over the course of 65 years. His talks, his music, and his many books have touched the lives of millions. An advocate of simple living and high thinking, his more than 150 books emphasize the need to live wisely by one’s own experience of life, and not by abstract theories or dogmas. A composer since 1964, Walters has written over 400 musical works. His music is inspiring, soothing, and uplifting. He taught meditation to thousands and has initiated many into the life changing technique of Kriya Yoga. His books and teachings on spiritualizing nearly every field of human endeavor include business life, leadership, education, the arts, community, and science. He wrote extensive commentaries on the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita, both based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda. He is known as the “father of the intentional communities movement,” which began in the United States in the late 1960s, fulfilling Yogananda's dream. He founded the first of what are now 10 Ananda communities worldwide in 1967 near Nevada City, California. Other Ananda communities have developed over the years to include Ananda Palo Alto, Ananda Sacramento, Ananda Portland, Ananda Seattle, Ananda Los Angeles, Ananda Assisi in Italy, and Ananda India near Delhi and Pune. Each community has a spiritual focus (a teaching center and temple) and a community (homes where members live). More than 1,000 people live in these intentional spiritual communities.

Swami Kriyananda’s example of inspired leadership was the reason for Ananda’s success. He uplifted and encouraged people through personal example, spiritual counseling, writing, lecturing, music, and prayer. He trained the current Ananda leaders in much the same way: free from egoic motivation, always placing the spiritual needs of others foremost in all decisions. He was a patient and sensitive teacher, allowing people to learn by experience, and never placing institutional needs ahead of the needs of an individual. “People are more important than things” is one of the foremost guiding principles of Ananda. And “Where there is adherence to dharma [right action], there is victory,” is another.

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