Death in Bondage

To have some idea of what happens after death, let us have recourse to the scriptural texts. The Masters divide mankind into four categories. In the first place, there are those who have not had the good fortune to take refuge in any Sant Satguru and these form a considerable bulk. They have to go all alone, each a solitary soul by itself, without any friend and companion. All such souls have to appear before, and abide by the decrees of the just-god (Dharam Rai), who dispenses stern and strict justice on the principle of as you sow, so shall you reap (see Galatians 6:7), without compassion or commiseration.

This is what is called the inexorable Law of Karma that works relentlessly. This law does not take any count of extraneous circumstances and admits of no exceptions:

Castes and colours avail naught there; one gets his meed according to his deeds.

Guru Amar Das, Asa M3

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes; but the Lord pondereth the hearts.

Proverbs 21:2

At the appointed time of which no one is aware, good angels Ramgans or bad angels Yamgans, as the case may be, come to forcibly take the spirit out of the body and one has to go along with them. They escort the spirit to the judgement-seat so that each has to render account of his thoughts, words and deeds.

Fool, thinkest thou that because no Boswell is there to note thy jargon, it therefore dies and is buried. Nothing dies, nothing can die. The idlest word thou speakest is a seed cast into time which brings fruit to all eternity.

Thomas Carlyle

Jesus, in no uncertain terms, has declared:

And I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof on the day of judgement. For by thy words thou shalt be justified; by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

St Matthew 12:36-37

All thoughts, feelings and emotions, all words uttered intentionally or unintentionally and all deeds done premeditatedly or casually leave indelible impressions sanskaras or naqsh-i-amal on the tablet of the mind and the account has to be rendered after death. It is all a summary procedure but just, with no provision for logic-chopping or argument or appeal to any higher power, nor can there be any chance of release therefrom. 

The one who has indulged all his life in sinful doings is sent to hell Narak or Dozakh to undergo the penal servitude for a particular length of time as his deeds may merit and thereby rid himself of the evil impressions, and understand the law that works for his ultimate good. When the allotted time runs out, he once again takes birth so that he may have another chance to lead a reformed life freed from the evil now washed off, and make a fresh start avoiding the pitfalls of the past. 

If one leads a life of righteousness, he is assigned a place in Heaven or Paradise Swarg, Baikunth or Bahisht, where he for some time enjoys the fruits of his good deeds, after which he too, once again, comes down to the earth-plane. 

Thus all souls ensconced in the karmic wheel of life move up and down by the ceaseless momentum of their own deeds. There is no escape from this ever-revolving giant wheel until one, by a stroke of good fortune, meets some Sant Satguru and the latter accepts him and helps him to a way-out and to the God-Way. 

The spirits on coming out of the nether world of Pluto, gradually work their way up from the mineral to the vegetable kingdom and then to the world of insects and reptiles and on to that of the feathery fraternity and next to the quadrupeds and finally to human beings:

After passing through the wheel of the eighty-four thou hast gained the top, Oh Nanak! now take hold of the Power of God, and be thou eternally free.

Guru Arjan, Sri Rag M5

Even the Devas or deities, the various gods and goddesses who are said to reign in regions of bliss are there on account of their highly meritorious deeds on the lower planes. As soon as they exhaust the merit gained, they have also to return to the physical world.

The blessed Lord Krishna, the adorable one, once explaining to Udhav, a devoted disciple of his, about the working of the Law of Karma, pointing to an insect crawling in the filth said: 

Oh Udhav, this insect that you see before you, has often times been Indra, the god of thunder and rain, and has often times been grovelling in dirt as at present. Such indeed is the fate of all.

Even the Avatars or incarnations, the embodiments of the Powers of God are not immune from the inflexible working of the Karmic Wheel and are called to judgement. Like a soldier in the army, an Avatar is not immune from liability under the civil law in addition to his obligations under the military law governing his profession. Even if he may be doing his duty under the command of his superiors which is law unto him under military regulations, he may incur a civil liability under the civil law. His is a two-fold responsibility: one under the army law – to wit, to obey implicitly what the officers order him to do on pain of being court-martialled and the other under the civil administration if, in the discharge of his duties, he is found to have exceeded the limits.

Gods and goddesses, and the incarnations of various God-powers are, therefore included in this category, so far as the law of karma goes. With all their privileged position, they, and the entire hosts of angels, are under the law and not above the law. This is why they too seek human birth in which lies the possibility of escape from the toils and struggles on to the Abode of Peace-eternal and Life ever-lasting. 

Even the great Rishis with all their austerities and penances when their end draws nigh, wish and aspire for a human body in preference to celestial abodes in heaven as the shining ones Devas. They do so because it is in this way alone that they stand the chance of contacting a Satguru, getting instructions from Him and rising above the inexorable Law of Causation or action and reaction.

*Heroes like Arjuna and the Pandava brothers except Yudishtra, the Dharam putra – the embodiment of Dharam –, as he was commonly known and believed to be, were cast into the nether regions for engaging in a war, though of righteousness, and enjoined by no less a personage than the blessed Lord Krishna, because in doing so they could not, with all his exhortations divest themselves of the idea of doership.

* (This section is adjusted to the First Edition of 1968;
Editor’s Note 2011.)

Again, of Lord Krishna himself, it is said that he met his death by the chance arrow shot by a hunter, bhil, thus requiting his past karma committed ages before as Rama, who killed the invincible Bali, a forest prince, by the artifice of shooting an arrow from behind the cover of a tree. Rama and Krishna, it may be mentioned, were both incarnations of Lord Vishnu in different ages.

Similarly, of King Dasrath, the father of Rama, it is said that one night while hunting in the forest, he heard the gurgling sound that seemed to him to be of some wild animal lapping water close by among the rushes and the reeds. Guided by the sound, he aimed his arrow in that direction, hitting a young man, Sarvan by name, who had gone to the riverside to obtain water in a pitcher for a pannier on his back, and who had just left his blind and thirsty parents some distance away. Hearing the piteous anguished cry of his victim, the King rushed towards the dying man who told him of his plight and begged him to take the water to his parents. Full of grief, the King took the water to the aged couple and told them of the mishap. They could hardly bear the shock and died bemoaning their lot, wishing the same fate as theirs for the unknown perpetrator of the crime.

In course of time, the King also met the same fate, when he died in bitter agony caused by the pangs of separation from his son Rama who had been exiled for fourteen long years. This is how Nemesis overtakes each one in his turn, meeting out what is due unto him. Thus each one comes in his own way into the world and goes out of it into the valley of death under the compulsive force of karma.

In the second category fall all persons who come in contact with a living Perfect Master, are accepted by Him, and initiated into the esoteric science of the soul but, for one reason or another, are not able to develop Communion with the Holy Word to any appreciable extent, be it on account of indulgence in sense-pleasures or because of sloth or lethargy or something else. 

They stand on a different footing from those in the first category. At the time of their death when the soul-currents begin to withdraw from the body, or a little earlier, the Satguru in his Radiant Form appears within, to take charge of the departing spirit. His Radiant Form gladdens the heart of the devotee and he gets so absorbed in Him that all attachments of the world fall off like autumn leaves, and he fearlessly and joyously follows Him into the valley of the shadows of death.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadows of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me,

says the Psalmist (23:4).

And this indeed is His troth:

Everyman, I will go with thee, and be thy Guide; in thy most need to go by thy side.


So […] I shall never leave thee, nor forsake thee till the end of the world.

Hebrews 13:5

The Master constantly keeps a watch over the affairs of the disciple. He is ever with him in weal or woe.

He stands by him even before the Judgement-seat of God,

says Nanak.

With the darveshes, there is no reckoning of deeds of their disciples. The Master is all in all, the sole judge and arbiter of the disciples' deeds, whether these be righteous or unrighteous, and deals with them as he thinks best.

For as the Father hath Life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have Life in Himself; and hath given Him an Authority to execute Judgement also, because He is the Son of man.

St John 5:26-27

It is because of such a deep solicitude for the disciple that Nanak so emphatically declares:

Love thou the true Master and earn the riches true, He who believes in Him unto the last, the Master rescues him true. Like wandering sprites, the mind-ridden roam up and down, Animals in human form – devoid of light through and through.

Guru Nanak, Malar War 1

Distance does not count with the Master. The Master-Power does come at the last moment, or even earlier, no matter where the disciple may be – far or near. He apprises him of the impending inevitable hour of his exit from the world and accordingly comes to escort him. The Subtle Form of the Master is resplendent, and leads the spirit into higher regions and assigns each one an appropriate place to which he may be entitled according to his sadhan or the practice of the Holy Word during his lifetime; and imparts to him the necessary instructions for further and fuller development on the spiritual Path.

In my Father's House are many mansions; and if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

St John 14:2-3

In case one is to be chastised for his laxities, He Himself administers the necessary chastisement but never lets him into the torture of hell-fire. The divine balance-holder (the King of Shadow) who judges each according to his deeds, has no authority over the apt disciples of the Master, for they live in

the name of Lord (which) is a strong tower.

Proverbs 18:10

It is not given to him to pass and execute Judgement on the disciples of a true Master. In all such cases, the Master Himself decides and does things as He thinks best.

The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear (awe) Him, in those that hope in His mercy.

Psalm 147:11


For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth (accepteth).

Hebrews 12:6

In brief:

Those who love the Master, are never alone, nor are they answerable to any nor do they suffer pain.

Guru Amar Das, Gujri War M3

But such initiates who have no love for the world, they are not reincarnated on the earth-plane, unless for some particular reason the Master deems it necessary to do so; and in that case such a one does not slide down the scale but is reborn in some family of pious and religious parents so that the new-born easily gets into touch with a Master-Saint and resumes on his Path Homeward from an early age without any let or hindrance. For the incurruptible seed of the Word sown by the Sewer the Master-Power ever remains within the depths of the disciple´s soul and, in time, cannot but sprout, blossom and fructify by means of the Water of Life that he is sure to get from the Master of his age:

None can take away the Gift of the Guru; He who has bestowed it, knows how to ferry across.

Guru Nanak, Maru M1

Once the seed is sown by a Saint, none has the power to singe It.

Soami Ji

Hafiz, the mystic poet of Persia says:

On the Day of Reckoning, thou shalt know for certain, in the land of darveshes, there is no count of deeds.

Shamas-i-Tabrez, another mystic poet of Persia, says:

Death breaks away the cage, liberating the spirit; death has no sway over the Phoenix, that dies to soar again; why should I not fly back to my Home? Why should I tarry in the clayey mould?


The lovers know where and how to die, they accept and relish death as a Gift from the Beloved: with inner eye opened, they see the glory of God, when others are forced blind-fold into the blind alley. While the lovers wend their Way happily to the Lord, the ignorant ones die a horrifying death. Those who pass sleepless nights in fear of God, they have no regrets in life nor any hopes and fears; while here, they seek His glance of Grace, merrily do they go in His Holy Presence.

The third category comprises such persons as make the most of the instructions imparted to them by the Master but have not yet attained Perfection though they are well on the Way to it. Such souls know of the time and day of their departure in advance of the event. Since they are fully conversant with the death process and every day undergo its experience, they are not afraid of death and know its shadowy character. On the contrary, they wishfully and wistfully await the appointed time and voluntarily throw off the worn-out mortal mantle just in the same way as they had put it on, on their advent into the world. They know some of the higher planes of the spirit-world which they traverse day in and day out along with the Master-Power, and know the particular plane to which they are ultimately to go for sojourn after death. There they live for some time and work for their way up to still higher regions. They live all the time consciously in the love of the Master, and the Master-Power ever abides in them. He is their mainstay and support and they owe no allegiance to anyone else.

Led by the Spirit, they are no more under the Law (of Karma).

Galatians 5:18

Last, but not the least, come the Perfected Souls. They, while living, are liberated beings Jivan-muktas and lead a freed life of the spirit. They know full well, far ahead of the time, as to when they have to go back to the Mansion of the Lord and gladly await the hour, and welcome the manner, in which they are required to quit the bodily frame – be it on the cross or the gibbet, on the red-hot iron plates or on the executioner's block.

With no will of their own, they live in the Will of God, and joyously embrace death as a means of reunion with the Beloved, unmindful of the swift or lingering process of death, as may sometime be ordained by the religious zealots and tyrannical pontiffs and potentates, for that is the moment of highest jubilation for them. Therefore, they live out their span of life from moment to moment. They care not if they are flayed alive, hacked to pieces or burnt at the stake or made to drink the cup of hemlock or nailed to the cross along with felons. They give a hearty handshake to death as it comes in their way, no matter what form it may assume. This, then, is the Way that Gurumukhs, the Saints and the Prophets follow.

Of Guru Amar Das it is said that when the time of his departure drew nigh, he called for the Sangat (congregation) and addressed: 

I am going back to the Hari (Lord). No one should weep for me. He who will do so, will incur my displeasure. After I am gone, be ye all engaged in the silent Music of the soul.

Similarly, Shamas-i-Tabrez said:

On the day of my death, as my bier slowly moves along, never for a moment feel that I am going with any regrets in life. When you see my coffin, utter not a word of separation, for then alone I am in Union with the Lord. When I will turn my face away from the world, I will then be facing the eternal Reality.

Hazur Baba Jaimal Singh Ji Maharaj had foretold of his approaching end long before it actually came about. When he was nearing his earthly pilgrimage, he said:

I am going back to my native Place, and none should press me to stay on. My mission in this life is over, and I have amassed immense spiritual riches. Happily I go to the Mansions of the Lord.

It is a sacrilege to lament and bewail the passing away of Saints for verily do they go back to their own Home. One may, if he likes, shed copious tears at the death of a worldly soul who is forcibly ejected from and dragged out of the body by the Prince of the Nether World, and passes through devious processes up and down:

Oh Kabir, why weep for a Saint who goes back Home; Weep, if you must, for a worldly-wise who tosses from hand to hand.

Saints, when called back, on completion of their mission are given an honoured place in His Court. To die such a death is a rare privilege and a real blessing which may be envied by mighty Kings and Emperors.