>The Mystery of Death by Swami Sivananda

Posted: May 14, 2010 in Death, Desire, Destiny, Enjoyment, Grace, Lust, Maya, Mind, rebirths, reincarnation, Sin


Just as a man casts off worn-out clothes and puts on new ones, so also the embodied Self casts off worn-out bodies and enters others which are new. (II-22) 

The innate question in all is: what remains after death? What becomes to the soul after the death of the body? Where is the soul gone to? Does it still exist? All these questions arise spontaneously in all minds. These are momentous questions which touch the hearts of all deeply. The same questions arise today in all people and in all countries as they arose thousands of years ago. No one can stop them. These questions are discussed today and they will be discussed in the future also. From ancient times, philosophers, sages, saints, Yogis, thinkers, Swamis, prophets and metaphysicians have tried their best to solve the great problem of death. 
When you lead a life of luxury, when you are rolling in wealth, you forget about the phenomenon of death. But the moment you see one of your dearest relations snatched away by the cruel hand of death, you are at once struck with awe and wonder and reflect within yourself as to where his soul has departed to. Does the soul still exist? Is there a soul independent of the body? It cannot be totally annihilated. The past impressions and thoughts of the soul cannot die. You can overcome pain and sorrow if you know the true meaning of sorrow, pain, suffering and death. The phenomenon of death sets the human mind thinking deeply. All philosophy originates from the phenomenon of death. Thus philosophy is really a study of death. The highest philosophy of India starts with the subject of the problem of death. Study the Gita, the Kathopanishad and also the Chhandogya Upanishad which treat of it. Death is a call to reflect and to seek the goal of Truth, the eternal Brahman. 
According to Hinduism life is one continuous, never-ending process. All change is only a change of environment and embodiment. The soul is immortal. It takes one form after another on account of its own actions. Hinduism is based on two fundamental doctrines, namely, the law of Karma and the law of transmigration. Death is only a necessary and a passing phenomenon. Just as you move from one house into another, so also the soul passes from one body to another to gain experience. 
Death is nothing but a change of body. Death is the separation of the soul from the physical body. Just as a man casting off worn-out garments puts on new ones, so also the dweller in this body, casting off worn-out bodies, enters into others which are new. 
Every soul is a circle. The circumference of this circle is nowhere but its centre is in the body. Death means a change of this centre from one body to another. Why then should you be afraid of death? 
This physical body is composed of the five fundamental elements, namely, earth, water, fire, air and ether. The gods are endowed with a divine and luminous body. The fire element is predominant in them. In man the earth element preponderates. In the case of aquatic animals, the element of water predominates. In the case of birds the element of air predominates. 
The hardness of the body is due to a portion of the earth; the fluidity is due to a portion of water; the warmth that you feel in the body is due to fire; moving to and fro and such other activities are due to air; space is due to ether. The individual soul is different from the five elements. The soul is the eternal Spirit. It is non-material. It is intelligence or consciousness. 
The individual soul or Jivatma is an image or reflection of the Supreme Soul or Paramatma. Just as the sun is reflected in different parts of water, so also the Supreme Soul is reflected in the different minds of different persons. 
The individual soul is reflected consciousness. It is this individual soul that departs from the body after the death of the body and goes to heaven with the senses, mind, Prana, past impressions, desires and tendencies. It is endowed with a subtle body when it proceeds to heaven.
Just as there is the subtle bladder within a football, so also, within the gross physical body there is another body—the subtle body or Linga Sarira. This subtle body comes out with all its impressions and tendencies at the time of death of the gross physical body. It is like vapour. It cannot be seen by the physical eye. It is the subtle body that goes to heaven, it manifests again in a gross form. This re-manifestation of the subtle form into the gross physical form is called reincarnation. You may deny this law but it exists. It is inexorable and unrelenting. If you deny the law, it clearly shows that you are ignorant of it; it will surely operate whether you admit it or not. The light of the sun is there whether the owl accepts it or not. 
A dead body cannot talk, walk or see. It remains like a log of wood after the soul has departed from it. It is the soul that enlivens, moves and directs the body, mind and senses. 
The soul, accompanied by the chief vital air (Mukhya Prana), the sense-organs and the mind, and taking with itself ignorance, good and evil actions and the impressions left by its previous existences, leaves its former body and obtains a new one. 
When the soul passes from one body to another, it is enveloped by the subtle parts of the elements which are the seeds of the new body. The soul has a vision of the body to come. Just as a leech or a caterpillar takes hold of another object before it leaves its hold of the first one, so also the soul visualises the body to come before it leaves the present one. 
Just as a leech supported on a straw goes to the end of it and then takes hold of another support by contracting itself, so does the self throw its body aside and, making it senseless, takes hold of another support after contracting itself. Just as a goldsmith takes apart a little quantity of gold and fashions a newer and better form, so does the self throw off this body and, making it senseless, takes on another, a newer and better form, for its enjoyment in the world of the manes, celestials, gods or Hiranyagarbha. 
The Jiva has adopted the whole universe as its means to the realisation of the fruit of its actions. It goes from one body to another to fulfil this object. Therefore, the whole universe, impelled by the work of the Jiva, waits for it with the requisite means for the realisation of the fruit of its work made ready. The Satapatha Brahmana says: “A man is born into the body that has been made for him.” 
When the king of a country pays a visit to some place within his kingdom, the leaders of the particular village, anticipating his arrival, wait on him with a variety of food and drink and provide him with beautiful mansions. They say, “Here he comes, here he comes.” Similarly the elements and the presiding Deities like Indra and the rest, who help the organs of the body to function, wait upon the departing self with the means of enjoying the fruit of its works. They secure for the soul a suitable body to enjoy the fruit of its actions. 
Desire is the root-cause of transmigration. Being a slave of desires, the individual soul attains those results to which its subtle body or mind is attached. Exhausting in heaven the fruit of whatever actions it did in its life it returns from that world to this for fresh work. Thus does the man transmigrate who is a slave of desires. But the man who does not desire never transmigrates. He who is free from desire, the objects of whose desires have been attained, and to whom all objects of desire are but the Self—in his case, the organs do not depart. Being but Brahman, he is merged in Brahman.

(pgs. 77-81, Kingly Science Kingly Secret)

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