Why are most people scared of death? Why does it make most people weak? Why do most people not want to even think of death and dying and what it means?
It must be the fear of the unknown, of not knowing what to expect. Not that most individuals are aware of their purpose in life when they are alive; but that apart, no one really knows what happens when one dies while they're alive, granted. But it is a topic that takes you beyond the realm of comfort and forces you to question the secure world that you've built for yourself. Security, comfort, relations, money, values, hopes, fears, dreams, and desires are all lost when we die. In a way it signifies the true and complete annihilation of our being... or so you'd like to believe. Why the doubt? Cause a topic such as this one has not gone without theories being formulated around it. Theories revolving around what happens when we die and the afterlife. There are several cultures in this world that have distinct explanations regarding this topic and in the following section we will try and touch upon a few of these. It is then up to you to either agree or disagree with them.
What Happens When We Die
Please note that the following article does not give an explanation about the signs of approaching death or about the changes in the body after a person dies, but rather, provides a philosophical perspective on things. That being cleared, let's move on to what we've set out to find.
Here's the thing―why does man have this innate need to question theories, not necessarily settle for something that he can witness, go beyond the normal, and want to discover things? That would be his need for knowledge doing the bidding, which is how he must've probably set out on this mission to find out what happens when you die, and wanted to get a headway about understanding death. Or he might have had some near-death experiences or paranormal phenomena with souls and that might have driven him to find out about this. Whatever it was that drove him to question this, here are some of the popular theories that follow.
In Hinduism, they believe in the theory of rebirth, reincarnation, or life after death when explaining the concept of what happens when we die. The soul rather than the body is more important, they say. The soul emerges from the ultimate being (God) and the ultimate purpose of every soul is to merge with this force or power (God). But that can only happen when the soul is pure and divine, and for the soul to become pure and divine, it needs to let go of all the negative forces that 'life' will bring with it. Things like desires, malice, negativity, attachment, and all other negative emotions that being born brings. It needs to develop purity of thoughts, sacrifice, and unconditional love. It is only when the soul becomes pure in the true sense of the word that it can be one with God or the force. And it is in this quest that the soul passes from one body to the next and hopes to become a better and refined soul with every birth.
This is where the popular concept of karma
comes in (Simply put, 'As you sow, so shall you reap'). If you're a good human being in this life, the next life will be a better one. If on the other hand, you've been a bad human being in this one, you'll have to pay for it in your next life. And so the cycle of life continues till the soul has become so pure that it can merge with God. It is only then that the final mission of every soul will be fulfilled and the true meaning of death achieved.
In Christianity, there are several theories abiding within itself because of the fact that there are several streams or schools of thoughts as far as the Christian world is concerned, those being the Roman Catholics, the Protestants and more.
The Roman Catholics believe that after a person dies, his/her soul's fate can have 3 possible outcomes. If the soul has been close to God, then it will be sent to heaven
, his, whose soul has been corrupt and involved in moral sins and acts will be sent to hell
(where it will stay forever and be tortured), while a third fate, that of purgatory
is one in which a soul who does not love God perfectly is sent so that his soul can be cleansed with the hope of becoming pure and then sent to heaven. In purgatory
, several forms of torture will be meted out on the soul and the pain will far exceed any other form of pain that he/she has ever experienced in their life. This is done in order to cleanse the soul.
The Protestants believe that after a person dies, his soul will enter eternity. With the second coming of Jesus they will be judged and either sent to heaven or hell. Thus there is no concept of purgatory
in the Protestant religion. Many other streams do not believe in the concept of purgatory
In Judaism, the existence of naranchai
is focused upon. Naranchai
is the source of spirituality of a person. It is the count of not the good traits and deeds of a person but the level of spirituality in him/her. The Jews believe that in Judaism afterlife, all of his spiritual essences do not leave the body at one go after the Jewish death rituals are completed. Some remain within the body for 7 days and sometimes even more than that. Upon death it is judged whether a person is spiritual or not. This is based on the fact whether he has done good deeds, focused on spirituality and perfected his characteristic traits. Such a person will have no difficulty leaving his body, while a person who has not built his naranchai
will find it very difficult to break the association with his body and will go through a painful process of having to break those physical ties. Once these ties are broken, the naranchai
is brought before the Heavenly Court and a judgment about his fate made. A good soul is taken to the Realm of Souls
where the naranchai
will continue to grow in spirituality. The concept of hell
does not exist in Judaism. The bad souls are sent to purgatory
It is also believed that there are certain situations in which the soul has to come back to Earth. For example, if an earthly task has remained incomplete or he has done something wrong and can correct it in someway, or sometimes a good soul is brought down to guide others.
In the Islam religion, the death of a person leads to two fates for his/her soul. Once the body is placed in the grave, the holy prayers from the Koran (Religious text of Islam) are recited for the soul's safe departure. The good deeds of a person act as the Angel of deeds
personified. It is this angel that has an account of the good and
the bad deeds that the person has done throughout his/her life. Good deeds would be signified by a number of positive characteristics like whether he has been true to Allah
, and has prayed and been a good person; while bad deeds would manifest if a person has not been God fearing and has accumulated several bad traits throughout his lifetime. The soul of the dead person goes with him in his grave until the time the Angels of Death
descend upon him with a judgment of whether he should be sent to heaven or hell. It is during their descent that the Angel of Deeds
will account for the person having accumulated enough good deeds or bad deeds. According to which, he will be sent to either heaven or hell.
There are 7 levels of heaven and the purer the soul is, the higher the level he will be placed at. In hell, there are several forms of torture meted out on the soul for the way in which it led his/her life. Other than heaven and hell, there is a third possible fate that a soul can be trapped in. This is the in between
phase which is where the souls of those people who have committed suicide will be trapped. Taking one's own life is the ultimate disrespect that can be shown to Allah
because it is the literal taking away of the one true gift (Life) that has been given to mankind. Once the soul's fate has been decided, it is meant for eternity.
Though the different cultures of the world have a distinct theory about what happens after one dies, a common thread seems to be apparent―the concept of good deeds and bad deeds. If you've been a good person throughout your life, good things happen after you're dead. A simple concept, which, even if is merely an adage that has been developed to ensure that a person develops good traits, does the task rather well. The fear or the mystery that surrounds the concept of what happens after you die however, can only be fully understood once a person dies. Maybe what they say is true... a white light will appear at the end of a tunnel and your soul will look down to see its body one final time before it resumes its journey after death. But who's to tell the soul which culture it belongs to?