V / II

What after Death

Where all the philosophies of the world end, there the True Religion begins. It is only after soul, the dweller in the body, sheds its dross personality comprising as it does, the three vestures or vehicles of body, mind and intellect, and becomes an entity in its pristine simplicity, an undivided whole, the great immortal tree, evergreen and ever fresh in its native essence, in spite of the ever-changing panorama of life around; it can break through the magic hall of multi-coloured mirrors and transcend the trigunatmac egg of Brahmand and escape into the beyond. 

One has to be born anew like a new-born phoenix, arising out of the ashes of its own previous self with renewed youth and vigour, so as to be able to live through the life of the spirit that lies ahead.

To cross the mental world is not so easy as it may seem to the untrained in the mysteries of the beyond. It is the most delusive world where even the mahatmas and the rishis with all their learning and tapas, fail to hold on to their own ground. What is there in that vast universe which Brahman would not like to offer to those earnest souls who try to escape through his domains and reach the True Home of their Father!

At every step, be it in the physical world, the astral or the mental, he tries to block the way of the aspiring souls. The great Prophets and Messiahs and all others have given their experiences of the fierce encounters that they had with Satan, Mara, Ahirman; the evil spirits, – Asuras, Demons and their agents in countless ways, fair or foul, whereby they try to obstruct the way, to win over the seekers after Truth by assurances of worldly kingdoms and principalities; and if they do not succumb to these temptations, then by threats of violence by fire, thunder, earthquakes, heaven-splitting, cloud-bursts, lightenings and what have you. 

It is in predicaments like these that one can only stand these trials and tribulations when one has by his side, his Guru or Murshid, for the Guru-Power then draws and absorbs the disciple-soul into Himself and takes him along the Path of Ringing Radiance.

For each soul the Brahman stakes his all, and does not yield, unless he is convinced that the seeker clings to the protection of the Master-Power – Akal or the Timeless.

Do we not see even in the material world that the rulers and governments of one state seal their borders to prevent unauthorised emigration of their subjects, and devise laws to control such outflow ?

Great indeed is the power of time and none can conquer it, and yet time itself is in mortal dread of the timeless music, lest he himself may get lost in the Divine Harmony.

We had exegesis of Dharam Khand by Nanak elsewhere in these pages. After that the Great Teacher goes on to describe the journey of the pilgrim-soul through various regions culminating in Sach Khand. The next two regions, he respectively calls Gyan Khand – the realm of knowledge – and Saram Khand – the realm of ecstasy. 

In the former, the soul’s horizon expands immeasurably for it comprehends at once the manifold nature of all created things with infinity of forms and phenomena and understands the immutable laws of the workings of nature. In the latter, the soul becoming attracted by the Power of the Word, gets a taste of, and insight into the real nature of things.

Next comes Karm Khand or the realm of Grace. With the purification wrought by the Holy Word, soul is freed once and for all times of even the faintest, vague and indefinite traces of the dross in the form of vasnas, and matter no longer blinds the vision, and one becomes fully conscious of Him, coming as he does, face to face with the pure essence of the Word, the Light of Life, giving birth to Brahmand and all the worlds included therein.

Finally, the soul reaching Sach Khand – the abode of Truth, realises in fullness, complete oneness and harmony according to His will –

All hearts filled with God, they live beyond the reach of death and of delusion ... All destined to move according to His will ... Such is the beauty that to describe it is to attempt the impossible.

This arising of the soul into super-conscious awareness is termed as said before, Life Everlasting from which there is no return.

What Nanak has described above, falls within the realm of Vijnana – subjective Inner Experience, direct and immediate –, as distinct from jnana or theoretical knowledge which the Master expounds and imparts to the disciple through a correct rendering of the scriptures. 

A Perfect Master is all the scriptures combined and something more. The scriptures after all are the records of the experiences of Holy Men Who appeared from time to time to teach mankind in the ways of God. 

We can, no doubt, read the scriptures if we are proficient enough in the ancient and archaic original languages in which they are written; but cannot get at their True Import nor can we reasonably reconcile the apparent differences and explain the discrepancies in the scriptural texts of various religions. He Who has an access to the Inner Fountainhead of the life and spirit of all these texts, which of course is common to all men, with His first-hand Inner Knowledge, makes things easily intelligible to us all in a way simple enough both for Himself and for us.

In the company of a Saint, it is said, God comes nearer to man, for God Himself speaks through Him. As we all are scripture-bound in one way or the other, the Master takes full advantage of these different scriptures which come in handy to Him as aids in His work of Spiritual Regeneration to lead different types of people aright along the line of least resistance in each case.

A Murshid-i-Kamil is not content with imparting mere theoretical knowledge. He gives a practical demonstration of what He says and therein lies His greatness. One who cannot grant on soul-level some actual experience of what he asserts on the level of the intellect, is not a master in the true sense of the word and his words cannot carry weight and conviction.

A Satguru is verily Truth Personified, God in the garb of man. His mission is to lead human souls to the True Home of His Father – Sat or Truth –, called Sach Khand or the abode of Truth, the first grand division that came into being by His will and hence the region of pure Spirit, eternal and indestructible.

The Path of the Masters is a grand road leading from merely physical material world to the purely Spiritual Realm, beyond all duality and pairings of opposites.

The Satguru says:

Move ye in the vast sea of Light substance, in your hearts is your perfection. Go on, and on and on, until there is not a vestige of the human left. The Light substance knows no limit.

His is the Path not of hells and heavens, nor of toils and sorrows, but one of flowery boulevard 'studded with heavenly lights and soul-stirring strains of Divine Harmonies'; and above all, He Himself as an unfailing friend and an unerring guide comes, in all His Glory in full radiance, and accompanies the pilgrim-soul into the Great Beyond, instructing in the life of spirit, as He proceeds along, explaining the beauties and mysteries of the way, guarding against pitfalls and warning us of the sharp turns and twists that lie en route.

The disciple, from the very beginning is taught how to withdraw from the body and rise above body-consciousness into higher regions. The Inner Man is to draw himself from his coarse bodily encasement, as a hair is drawn out of butter; for it is the soul in the luciform body to use the Neo-Platonist phraseology, that rises to find the Self.

Mandukopnishad tells us:

Not grasped by the eye, nor by speech, nor by the gods (senses), nor by austerity, nor by religious rites and rituals and ceremonies, but by serene wisdom, the pure essence doth see the Partless One in meditation.

So do the western scholars say:

True Happiness never comes through the avenue of senses as it lies beyond the senses. Boundless joy can be ours, only if we know how to rise above the senses and catch the sublime vision which comes to the pure.

The Divine Wisdom, in short, is at once the Science and Art of soul and only a Theocentric Saint, well-versed in both, can solve for us the riddle of life and death by giving us a first-hand experience of death-in-life, thereby demonstrating beyond the least shadow of doubt:

Life is a pure flame, and we live by an invisible sun within us. What has life and death to do with Light? In the image of My Light, I have made you. The relativities of life and death belong to the cosmic dream. Behold your dreamless being. Creation is light and shadow both, else no picture is possible. The darkness grows luminous and the void becomes fruitful only when you will understand that you are nothing. It is only at the Mount of Transfiguration that you will get revelation and see the mingling of heaven and earth.

To worship perfection is the Highest Education in life, and only a Perfect One can, by transmitting His own Life-Impulse, release the soul from its trammels of mind and matter and grant a vision of the sublime Reality. He Who can, at the very first sitting, open the Inner Eye more or less to a glimpse of heaven’s Holy Light and unstop the Inner Ear to the Music of the Spheres, alone is entitled to be called a Perfect Saint and a True Guru.

It is of such a one that Shankara says:

No known comparison exists in the three worlds for a True Guru. If the philosopher’s stone is assumed to be truly such, it can only turn iron into gold and not into another philosopher’s stone. The venerated Teacher, on the other hand, creates equality with Himself in the disciple who takes refuge at His feet. The Guru is therefore peerless, nay transcendental.

Guru Arjan speaking of His Master, Guru Ram Das, says:

I have searched the entire Brahmand but have not found one who may come up to my Master.

And finally He said:

Hari (God), it seems to me, has taken for Himself the appellation of Ram Das.

In the workaday world, we are all very busy, very busy indeed, too busy to think of God, much less to practise the presence of Living God and still less to live in His Holy Presence. If, at all, at odd moments we speak and talk of Him, worship Him, and offer our prayers to Him, we do so not to win Him for His own sake or to reach unto Him for our own sake but just to seek favours from Him and to get an easy and quick riddance from our difficulties and to escape from trials and tribulations.

Again, if we at times, feel serious about God, we try to find Him in the earthly surroundings about us, the snow-covered mountain caves, the burning desert sands, the depths of sacred pools and rivers, worshipping Him in the elemental powers of nature like the rising sun, the vacuous expanse above, the thunderous clouds, the Lucifer and the Vesper, and worse still, in the hollows of trees, in the fish of the sea and the fowls of the air; and no wonder that with all our efforts we do not find Him.

God Himself has declared:

I am so big that the entire world cannot hold Me, nor the heavens can provide an adequate support to Me, nor the earth can provide Me a seat; but strange as it may seem to you, I reside in the heart of Holy Men. If you desire to see Me, seek Me there and you shall find Me.

Kabir also tells us:

How can you find the Reality, where it is not, seek thou the Real, where Reality dwells, take hold of Him Who knows the Real, He shall hie thee to Him in no time.

This then is the way to self-illumination. The process though seemingly complicated and lengthy is simplified by the Grace of a Perfect Master – Sant Satguru. He provides the magic wand, the Open Sesame, that does the trick and enables one to get access to what is inaccessible:

He Who goes beyond the Sat Lok, He knows the Incomprehensible and the Inexpressible. It is in the Nameless that the Saints live, the slave Nanak finds peace in Him.

Thus we see that if one could learn to die while living, a voluntary death at will, one gains Life Everlasting, free from the endless cycle of births and deaths and rebirths. Saints, therefore, sing praises beyond measure of such a death and teach us how to transcend the various planes, and to traverse into the beyond and gain the Kingdom of God which is our birthright now lost to us. It is within our reach if we but listen to Them, accept Their teachings and follow Them diligently and with willing obedience.

After death, each one of us has to go blindly in a state of utter destitution and helplessness. The scriptures, all the world over, place a high premium on crossing the borderland between life and death on this side of the world and then death and life on the other side:

Where thou hast to go after death, why not gain a foothold while alive?

Guru Nanak, Sri Rag M1

Oh Nanak! learn to die while there is yet time, for verily this indeed is a real yoga.

Guru Nanak, Suhi M1

Die thou and remain dead to the world, a death like this I experience many times a day.


With the Grace of the Master, one may ride over the mind; by vanquishing the mind, you meet the Lord for certain.


Be ye dead while ye live and be fearlessly free, with a Competent Master by thy side, there will be nothing to rue.


You will get rich dividends should you know – how to die before death overtakes you.

Bulleh Shah

Shabd or the Eternal Life Current is the only help on this Path: in Shabd we die (get absorbed), in Shabd we live eternally with no fear of death, this is the True Water of Life that a rare soul may get with His Grace.

Guru Amar Das, Sorath M3

What does the Master give? He makes manifest the Eternal Sound Current which is the life of the universe and in which we all live. By riding on this audible Life Stream we, while living, can at will transcend the various planes of existence; and come back into the physical when we so desire:

Without the aid of Shabd thou cannot get out of the clayey mould. There is no other way besides.

Soami Ji

Salvation or Life Everlasting cannot be earned by deeds howsoever righteous or commendable in themselves they may be or in the eyes of the world. It is purely a gift of Grace from a Godman with the Power of God working in Him to the full.

For by Grace ye are saved […] and not by yourselves; it is a gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His Mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.

Titus 3:5

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other Name, under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Acts 4:12

And the Grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,

Titus 2:11

and His Grace shall continue to appear hereafter so long as God exists and His creation continues to people the earth.

This then is the way to Eternal Life, by living in the Life-Principle itself, ever in communion with the Holy Word, the Will of God – Hukam; and there is no way other than this, try howsoever hard one may. But the revelation of the God-way in the living life-lines within – the Holy Light and the Voice of God – solely depends upon the Grace of some Godman, a Word Personified Saint, 'unto Whom all things have been delivered by the Father,' and of Whom it is said,

No one knoweth the Son, save the Father, neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him.

St Matthew 11:27

Time and again Great Souls come into the world to remind us of our True Home. They tell us with clarion call that this world is not our natural habitat. We are here just for a brief span as travellers in a caravanserai and must therefore prepare to quit, and sooner we do it, the better it would be. We must, therefore, work for the Kingdom of Heaven and gain Life Eternal.

May Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

St Matthew 6:10

And of this Kingdom, it is said:

The Kingdom of God does not come by observation. The Kingdom of God is within, and verily this body is the temple of the Holy Ghost and the Holy Ghost dwells in it.

St Luke 17:20-21

 This is why all the sages and the seers exhort us:

The place which thou hast to quit in the end has gripped thee most, little doth thou know of the place where thou hath to dwell for good.

Guru Nanak

Arsh (Heaven) is thy True Abode, my soul, fie on thee, thou art entangled in clayey mould.


Thou my Lord dwelleth in Thy native land, while I am here grovelling in dust.

Guru Nanak

Your place is where earth is not, why doth thou cling to the earth?

Soami Ji

Human life is just as a vapour, why not live in communion with the Eternal Word?


Those Who have communed with the Word, Their toils shall end, and Their faces shall flame with Glory, not only shall They have salvation, oh Nanak! but many more shall find freedom with Them.

Guru Nanak