What happens after death? That’s the big question, right? Priests, scientists and mystics have been trying to answer this simple question for thousands of years, but they can’t seem to agree even amongst themselves. We know that all of them can’t be right, but it’s not impossible that all of them are wrong. Then how should you approach this basic existential question?
The first thing to do is to forget all this nonsense about the afterlife, to throw out all this borrowed knowledge. What you want is consolation, but what you need is confrontation. Your beliefs about an afterlife only give you a false reassurance, only prohibit you from getting to the bottom of the truth. But nonetheless you want to believe, because you can’t stand the thought of annihilation.
The second thing is to define the question more clearly. What happens after the death of who or what? Let’s go through all the various possibilities together, from gross to subtle. What happens to your body? That’s the easiest one to answer, because science can observe it very easily. Your body will decompose and return to the Earth from which it came from.
What happens to the world after your death? The world will go on functioning just like it did before you were born. Things just go on, and perhaps even better without you, if you were too unconscious and caused suffering around yourself. What happens with the memory of you? Some people – sometimes a lot – will still remember you after you’re gone. But your memory will eventually fade away with time, especially when those you met in your lifetime also die.
What happens with your mind after death? Your thoughts, your memories and even your self-identity exist in the brain, so when your brain stops functioning, these will also evaporate. The personality you currently define as yourself will cease to exist.
But these answers are not quite fulfilling, are they? Besides, even if you want to deny them, I’m sure you’re already well aware of these facts. But there must be something more, right? What about the soul? Everybody says the soul is immortal, so even if I’m not the body or the mind, I will still live after death.
Well, not so fast! There’s no such thing as a soul, and if you want to know why, I explain it in the episode titled “What is the soul?”. What you think to be your personal soul is just your personal ego, your self-identity that you only wish was immortal, but it’s not. Like I said, your personality will die with the death of the brain, because it is just a thought.
You see, the real question is not: “What happens after death?”, but: “Who are you really?”. Asking what happens after you die is just as absurd as asking what happened before you were born. More precisely, what happened specifically to you before you were conceived? Who were you before your parents met?
Surprisingly, the answer is not nothing. It’s more like everything. The question is absurd and the answer is absurd too. You are, in the depth of your being, the same you were before your conception, the same you will be after your death, and the same you are right now in this very moment. In other words, you were never born, and thus you will never die either. What was born and what will die is existentially different from you.
On the ultimate level of reality, birth, death and life itself are only illusions appearing to the one and only eternal consciousness. In reality, nothing ever happened, so nothing will happen after death either. But it’s not like something is happening now, and after death it will stop happening. No, it’s not a contrast, it’s a continuity, because nothing is really happening now either.
Things are happening only in the same sense they happen in a dream. You may tell your friend what happened with you in your dream last night, but you are also well aware that nothing really happened with your self that was laying on the bed. In the same manner, whatever you think may be happening with you is just a perception that doesn’t affect your true self dreaming up this whole life on the ultimate level of reality.
Now, as far as your consciousness is concerned, you may also ask: What will I experience after death? Well, I’m not sure you will experience anything at all. In a recent study done on 2000 patients who clinically died, only half of them remembered anything. Those who did had a so-called near-death experience, but I highly doubt its validity, as explained in my episode titled “The truth about near-death experiences”. I would be very careful to take these as proof of afterlife.
My answer to the question of what will you experience when you die is a definite I don’t know. This is very courageous of me to say, because I’m a spiritual teacher whose main teaching is about death. But I have to say it anyway, because it’s the truth. I could sugarcoat it, I could sell you all kinds of beliefs, I could promise you all kinds of fantasies, like everybody else.
But I admit that I don’t know, because I haven’t died yet. And anybody who tells you that he knows is lying. I told you earlier to forget all your beliefs about life and death, and that only direct experience counts. Now death is a very peculiar experience in the sense that it’s the only one that can’t be shared. People can tell you about all other kinds of experiences except for this one.
You can’t have an experience about death before you’re actually dead, but then you can’t come back and share your experience. So death is the greatest unknown, the biggest mystery in life. But I’m glad that it is so. Because this way nobody can ruin my experience, I can go into it without any expectations, with the curiosity, innocence and wonder of a small child.
Your life is the greatest mystery novel ever written, and its last chapter is the crescendo: because it turns out only at the very end who the murderer was, what death is all about. People who can’t stand uncertainty turn to fortune-tellers in an effort to find out their destinies. But think about it for a second: how miserable would it be to live life knowing exactly what will happen? All the fun would be gone, and life would lose its wonder.
If you ask this question, you are trying to do exactly the same thing with death. You can’t stand the uncertainty surrounding it, so you turn to religions. But I’m glad that nobody can give you a real answer, because it would be the ultimate spoiler. Will it be a disaster? Will it be a happy ending? Will there be an ending at all? We’ll just have to wait and see. I’m just as curious as you are.
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.