What Happens at the Time of Death
According to the saints, our actions are so important that the manner and time of our death is determined by their sum total. In the book The Path of the Masters, Dr Julian Johnson writes at length on the implications of the law of action and reaction for death and for life. Paraphrasing part of his discussion on karma, we start with the self-evident fact that everyone has to die some day. Whether man or beast, rich or poor, healthy or diseased, nobody escapes death. All have to pass through its gate. The soul that has taken the physical form has to discard it. We all know that we have to quit this world some day, but we do not know when.
When a person dies, the soul current begins to withdraw from the body, starting with the soles of the feet and ending with the top of the head. The whole body becomes numb, and when all of the soul current has collected at a point between the eyebrows, breathing stops and all bodily functions cease. At that moment, the soul leaves the body and the person dies.
After a person dies, he may be required to re-enter earthly life to settle a portion of his karmic dues. If he lived his earthly life in a very degrading manner, he may have to come back to this plane under more trying circumstances. If he lived his life in an exemplary manner, he may still have to return to this lower plane to enjoy the fruits of his actions. Alternatively, depending on his actions, attachments and spiritual development, he could go to another region, whether good or bad, and remain there for a fixed time according to his karmic dues.
These are the possibilities that await the soul after a person dies. All souls receive in the next life exactly what they have earned, and they must face the consequences of their actions. If they have filled their minds with negative impressions, then these must be eradicated in some way. Once this has been done, they are free to work their way to higher planes and better conditions.*
Some people find it incredible that there is life after death and that there are other realms of existence. And yet, what could be more incredible than the fact that, as we are reading this book, our feet apparently planted firmly on the ground, we are in fact perched on the surface of a planet that is moving at a speed of 66,000 miles per hour around the sun, a ball of fire suspended in the dark universe. This is not a fairy tale but a fact. Once we understand that the way we exist in the universe is itself so incredible, should we not at least consider the possibilities that life continues after death and that there are other realms of existence?
* Except where otherwise mentioned, all extracts from publications integrated into the text have been drawn from Radha Soami Satsang Beas books listed at the back, for which copyright rests with RSSB. In some instances the wording has been simplified or edited for clarity in the new context.