According to Christianity, every individual who dies will be immediately judged after death by God. Those who did good deeds go to Heaven, those who sinned are condemned to Hell, and those who are in-between need to be purified in purgatory.
In Buddhism, you similarly have to account for your life at the time of death, although it has different consequences. According to the law of karma, your merits and demerits – in other words the accumulation of your good and bad deeds define your future.
Internally, merit makes the mind happy and virtuous. Externally, a good karma attracts good circumstances, prosperity and health. But most importantly, when you die, the destination of your rebirth depends on how you behaved in this life. If you led a life full of sin and ignorance, your next life will be unfavorable, whereas if you collected enough merit, your future life will grant you spiritual growth and maybe even enlightenment.
Moreover, Buddhist texts state that you cannot take anything with you when you die, except for whatever merit and demerit you have done, which will affect your future. This is similar to Christianity: No matter how much wealth, fame or possessions you have accumulated, you have to leave them all behind. Even your physical appearence is redundant, as your soul will be separated from the body, and only the soul will continue its journey, while the body will stay on Earth.
Most religions stress the importance of good deeds, good thoughts and good intentions. They give a moral compass to their followers, rules and principles to live by, a clear distinction between good and evil. Religious people are bent to follow these rules, because they fear Hell and desire Heaven, or they are worried about their next life.
But what if – like me – you’re not religious, and don’t believe in any kind of afterlife? Does it mean you will throw morality out of the window, and live a reckless, selfish and irresponsible life? No, of course not! How you behave in this life counts a lot, even without the concept of an afterlife. You will be judged at the time of your death even if you’re an atheist. But your judge won’t be God, you will be your own judge.
Again, I turn to near-death experiences that religious and secular people equally have. One very common experience of these people returning from death is the so-called life review. A life review is about seeing and re-experiencing major and trivial events of one’s life, sometimes from the perspective of the other people involved, and coming to some conclusion about the adequacy of that life and what changes are needed.
This life review experience varies from person-to-person, but is most commonly described as your life flashing before your eyes. You can be either viewing a movie of your entire life in fast motion, or just important segments of it. Sometimes what you deemed to be important could prove to be entirely insignificant from this perspective, or vica versa.
Time and space lose their meaning during this experience, as people report seeing their entire life in one instant or just in a couple of seconds. Others say it’s like viewing hundreds of television screens all at once, or a three-dimensional hologram projected around them that feels entirely realistic.
However, a life review is not simply a reminiscence, it is also a judgment. There is oftentimes a Being of Light, or some kind of higher being, or a Council of Elders helping you evaluate your life. Just like I said before, your worldly possessions, your achievements and your looks don’t matter at all. Rather, it is all about how you treated others, how you were treated and how you reacted.
One very specific feature of a real life review is that you can not only relive your interactions from your own perspective, but from the others’ perspective, as well. This means that you literally become the one you came in contact with in that specific situation, you can feel their feelings, think their thoughts, learn their motives.
This allows you to judge the event very precisely and objectively, from multiple perspectives. If you caused harm to somebody with your actions or words, you can literally feel their pain. If you brought joy to somebody’s life by helping, encouraging or simply smiling at them, you can feel this joy in your own heart. If on the other hand somebody harmed you, you can now see behind their actions and find forgiveness easier.
The purpose of the life review is to educate us about life and death and about ourselves. To evaluate our life according to the highest values in life: love, integrity and honesty. To show us how our life impacted others, what we did good, and what we could have done better. Only you can be the ultimate judge of your life, because nobody else knows you as much as you know yourself.
During your life, you often try to hide away from your own mistakes and weaknesses, and from the pains and traumas you suffered. But in death, there’s no hiding and lying anymore, everything comes to the surface, everything has to be faced, and everything is judged. The time of death is the time of truth.
So, whether you are religious or not, I want you to remember this. Live your life knowing that your every action, every thought and even every intention counts, more than anything. Your every deed is kept in the book of your life, and you will have to account for it all when you die. You can’t escape the final judgment, whether it comes in the form of God or your own conscience.
If you want to know more about death from a spiritual but down to earth perspective, you should read my book: The Power of Death. Click on the link below, and get it now! I’m deadly serious.