Death – The only certainty
We all have heard the phrase that death is the only certainty in life. It is the only thing that we, humans, have not been able to comprehend or control, yet, despite all advances made. That’s also the reason it remains the biggest fear of man, till date. People fear death like they fear nothing else! The unknown factor of what happens after death also leads to its mystique. There are some interesting facts about death in Hindu mythology.
Death in Hindu Mythology
From childhood, we have heard a lot of stories about death and what happens to people after they die. We have been told that our ancestors are in heaven with God, or they have become stars that twinkle in the sky, etc. Each religion and civilization have had many different and exciting things to say about death. The Hindu mythology too has a lot to say on the topic, through the various scriptures handed over from ancient times. These include the famous Bhagavad Gita, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and a few other manuscripts too, mentioned in the Puranas.
The most important and exciting aspect of all these scriptures is that death is linked to the soul and reincarnation. Yes, the Hindu mythology has some fascinating things to say about death, which may change our views about it. Here are 8 interesting facts that will make you understand death and change your thinking and perhaps fear of death, for, it stands explained, and is no longer the unknown.
1. It is only the mortal, physical body that dies
Strange as it may seem, we are not defined by our bodies, though we go through our whole lives identifying ourselves through it. It is the soul or the ‘Atma’ that is ours, and it leaves the body when we die. The human soul is said to be immortal and continues its journey, perhaps to be reborn again in another body. This concept of rebirth or reincarnation is also depicted through the various avatars of forms that Lord Vishnu takes to be born on Earth and save it from crises. Death can be compared to a form of sleep, from which we wake up: only, our soul finds itself in another body!
2. The concept of ‘seven lives’
We, human beings, have seven lives to live! It is ‘karma’ or actions of our present life that decide whether or not we’re going to reborn as a human being in the next life. If we do good deeds, it is said that we get reborn as humans and if not, as something else, as per the karma.
3. The ultimate freedom, or Moksha
It is also said that after seven lives, our souls attain ‘Moksha’ or liberation or freedom from rebirth. It is also said that those who have lived a highly ideal life with only good deeds, will attain ‘Moksha’ and be free from rebirth. There are also theories in Hindu scriptures, which say that a person is reborn only if he or she has unfulfilled wishes. The soul returns to complete those wishes.
4. Swarg or Narak (Heaven or Hell)
How often have we heard that those who have troubled others will surely go to ‘Narak‘ or hell, to suffer for their misdeeds? As kids, we heard our grannies tell tales of what happens to bad people in Narak. One of the scariest beings, the person will be put into boiling oil! ‘Swarg’ is defined as a heavenly place where the gods reside and everything is nice and good, and people are happy. In a way, the grannies urge us to be good, quoting these tales.
As per Hindu mythology, there indeed is a swarg and a narak. It is your good or bad deeds that decide where you end up. Interestingly, it is also said that based on the severity of your deeds, whether good or bad, there are multiple levels of swarg or narak where you may end up.
Compare this to a performance assessment shared by companies, which tell us exactly how much hike or incentives we are eligible for, based on our performance metrics.
The bad news is, unlike your employee performance measurement parameters, here it is not known beforehand as to where you are going to land and what the parameters are! ‘Just do good’ is the mantra. Why take chances!
5. Yama is only an account keeper
Yama, as per Hindu mythology is the god of death, easily identified, with the noose in hand and riding a buffalo. He is said to be the first person to have died and made his way to the celestial abode, thus becoming the god of death, in charge of the departed. Various scriptures and Upanishads give him different characteristics. Put simply, Yama is more like the chief accountant who keeps the balance sheets for each one of us. He maintains our accounts of good and bad deeds. He is assisted by Chitragupta in this activity.
When a person’s time is up, he is taken to Yama’s abode where Chitragupta reads out the account books. Based on this, Yama assigns the right place for the soul.
6. Rebirth may not be immediate
Unlike what many people believe, rebirth or punarjanma for a soul need not be immediate. It is possible that the soul may have to wander around for a while; especially if the person’s death was due to unnatural causes like suicide or murder, and has unfulfilled wishes. It sometimes takes years for the soul to find suitable conditions to be reborn into another body.
7. We all can remember our previous lives
Yes, as tough as it may be to believe this, the memory of our previous lives is stored in our subconscious or unconscious mind. It is said that only people who are pure and can attain the heights of self-realization through meditation, can connect to this memory. There are lots of instances when people have talked about their previous births. There are also past life regression practitioners who help people in this through hypnotism etc. This has been used as a healing technique as well.
8. Karma carries a lot of weight
Unlike what we say, it is not God or Yama who judges us, but we are judged purely by our deeds. Yama is only the person who is ordained to carry out the task of assigning the soul its place.
So, when you think about it, death is not so bad a thing after all. It is fascinating, in fact, because the possibilities are so endless. It is like going on an adventure to a place about which we do not have much information, apart from hearsay. What’s more, even Google cannot help you with this, nor can you come back and write a travelogue about the journey!