V / I

What after Death

And God said, let there be Light; and there was Light.

Genesis 1:3

And this is the True Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. And Light is the life of men.

In memorable words like these all the scriptures describe the genesis or creation of the world and of all that is in the world. Rays of Light vibrating with the Music of Life, emanating from the formless Absolute Existence came to manifest the world in its variegated colours in countless shapes and forms.

As above, so below. The Spirit and Power of God manifested in the vibrating Holy Light, pervades all the four grand divisions of universe: 

  1. Sach Khand – the abode of Truth or the changeless permanence in its pristine purity, with the material cause, the mind, yet hidden and involved therein;

  2. the Brahmand – or the egg of Brahman, the second grand division of the universe brought into being by the Universal Mind of elemental essence by the will of the Supreme Being;

  3. and the next, And – or the third grand division, called the astral world with mind-stuff in its subtle state;

  4. and lastly, Pind – or the physical world, the fourth grand division, the handiwork of the gross mind.

During our sojourn on the earth-plane, we work out our destiny or fate as planned with great precision and exactitude by what is called Pralabdh Karmas which determine in broad outline the general framework marking the duration and course of life in each case. 

This plane is a big counting house or a clearing office, so to say, in which each one has to square up his or her accounts, coming down the ages, and in doing so, we willy-nilly open fresh accounts and raise credits and debits to be paid off and cleared in the distant future, and no one knows how and when and in what form and in what manner. Thus, while reaping the harvest sown in the past, we prepare the ground for fresh sowing, in season and out of season, with seeds good, bad, or indifferent; and all this we do promiscuously, prompted by mind and the senses.

The sages call the earth-plane as karma kshetra or the field of actions where sowing and harvesting automatically go on all the time, under the superintendence, direction and control of Dharam Rai, the king of shadows who measures and judges each thought, word and deed, however trivial and insignificant it may appear to be, rightly and justly and administers justice to each at the end of one’s life-span. 

Nanak calls this region Dharam Khand, for each pilgrim-soul coming to this region has to realise in fullness, the existence of the Law of Retribution and Requital, which governs all alike with no favours and no exceptions. Each is weighed with the weight of his own acts and deeds and learns, sometime with hard blows, and heavy knocks, the grand lesson of Brahman, the lord of the three realms: 

  • the gross or physical,
  • subtle or astral and
  • causal or instrumental –

Pind, And and Brahmand; all of which are the mind-zones of the Universal Mind with numberless planes and sub-planes including inter alia various hells and heavens with intermediate stages as one may create by one’s senses, sensibilities and susceptibilities, likes and dislikes, loves and hatreds, prides and prejudices, born of desires of one kind or the other. 

Each one thus builds his own habitat and not only here but also in the hereafter; the astral and mental worlds where one stores up his impressions gathered from time to time, in different incarnations from the beginning of time. All these linger in the soul in the form of general latencies in the folds of the karmic body; and a part of them at the time of rebirth prepares an etheric body in advance of the coarse, dense body. Thus 'destiny is cast into the mould before the physical vesture is prepared,' to work out the causes involved therein.

Similarly, at the time of death the departing soul carries with it all the life-impressions, deeply engraved on the tablet of the mind and the ruling passions of the entire lifetime, now singled out in blazing colours which determine the course of its future destination in the astral and/or mental world of spirits. Stripped of the physical mantle, each soul displays its subtle individuality, as it were, in the light of the noonday sun. 

Men may deceive themselves here for any length of time, by wearing pious looks and dressing in attractive clothes. They may for the time being succeed in deceiving others; but none can play the hypocrite in the astral world where one is denuded of the solid outer covering, the gross garment of the flesh:

Oh Nanak! it is there that the Divine Mystery is finally revealed. The perfect are they who worship perfection, and the imperfect are perfected over there; such, as dying come to be born again are yet imperfect.

The astral world is the world of spirits or disembodied souls – souls having cast off the physical body and yet enfolded in the subtle and mental coverings. It is also called Pitri Lok, the place of the Pitris or manes of the deified souls of the departed ancestors. Here the souls are imprisoned in the seven-shelled encasement of the astral world, drawing subtle material from each of the seven sub-planes existing therein. It is here that they work out the causes which they set going on the earth-plane, by undergoing certain purificatory processes in the Divine Crucible so as to make them worthy of the land of the shining ones after the dross is burnt off. 

Mrs Annie Besant (1847–1933), a pupil of Madame Blavatsky, in her famous study 'The Ancient Wisdom,' has given a graphic description of the various sub-planes in what she calls Kam Lok, a lower sub-plane in the astral world. As the name indicates, it is a place of desires and is said to contain seven sub-divisions in it, each peopled by persons of varying natures and temperaments.

The scum of the society, the vilest of the vile, the murderers and marauders, ruffians and profligates and persons with bestial tastes and brutish appetites who, while living on earth, shaped for themselves bestial astral bodies, now appear, after death, in savage forms in their natural likenesses and native hideousnesses, in the lowest strata of the infernal region, roaming about, roaring, raving and raging, fiercely and furiously, pret-like wandering in search of means for the gratification of their insatiate desires.

In these gloomy and loathsome surroundings, they reap the harvest of their own sowing and learn the much-needed lesson which they failed to learn during their lifetime as they were whirled away on the tide of lusts and desires. Nature’s lessons are bitter and sharp but merciful in the long run, designed, as they are, for their ultimate good.

To the next sub-plane go such souls as quit their bodies with some deep anxiety weighing heavily on them or such who had implacable appetites or desires for self-enjoyment and gratification.

Then there are two sub-planes for those who are educated and thoughtful people chiefly occupied with worldly affairs during their lifetime on earth. Their attention is directed more onwards than backwards because they belong to the progressive types.

From the fifth sub-plane onwards the environ changes considerably becoming astral in the true sense of the word, i.e., truly starry, studded as it is with stars and the surroundings are cheerfully inspiring. These three sub-planes are euphemistically termed heavens – heavens of a lower type, sometimes spoken of, as by the later Jews, as infernal heavens, being situated in the infernal world as distinguished from supernal heavens.

The religious and the philosophic busybodies find their way to the materialised heavens in the fifth region which they desired and coveted while on earth: like the Happy Hunting Grounds, the Valhalla – the final resting place of the illustrious dead and the heroes slain in battles –, the joy-filled Bahisht or Paradise of the Muslims, the golden jewelled-gated New Jerusalem or the Lyceum-filled Heaven.

The souls of the more advanced type like artists find a place in the sixth sub-division. The seventh or the highest sub-division is entirely for the materialistically-oriented intellectuals like politicians and administrators and men of science who were pronouncedly materialistic on earth and wedded to the ways of the world in acquiring knowledge.

Life in Kam Lok is said to be more active, forms more plastic and the spirit-matter more highly charged and more subtle, and intangible and imperceptible though transparent or translucent. The thought-forms here appear and disappear with kaleidoscopic rapidity because of the great velocity of the vibrations generated by sensations, feelings and emotions.

A spiritually advanced person with a purified astral body merely passes through Kam Lok without delay. The pure and the temperate though less vapid in his plight, dreams away peacefully through it. Others, less developed still, awaken to consciousness in the region similar to the one in which they worked in their lifetime. Those whose animal passions still cling to them (prets) wake up, each literally and exactly to his own place in the appropriate region to which he belongs.

This plane is treacherous and tricky, and as such those who are initiated by a Perfect Master of the time into the Divine Mysteries of the beyond are not permitted to tarry lest they be bewitched here. On the contrary, they are quickly led under cover through it, to higher regions for gaining maturity and stability so as to be able at a later time to face it with confidence and to stand the tempting witchery and delusive and illusory charms of the place, and do not get stuck-up in their march upwards in the Spiritual Region.

From the astral world of desires, some of the souls pass on to another world, the world of thoughts. It is a mental zone – man-o-mai srishti – created by the thinking mind or manas as it is called. Thoughts have tremendous energy and each person, while on earth, creates his own dream-land by flights of imagination and fancy and to this, the soul, after death, is gradually led on to experience the castles built in the air as the saying goes.

Mind at every stage from the universal Brahman with his pure mind-essence down to the individual, weaves a world of its own and takes delight to live in it as a spider caught in the web of its own making and flits up and down, right and left, of the gossamer texture so artistically set up with a light filmy substance coming out of its own body. So do the thought-patterns and thought-images of each individual go out to make a wonderful thought-kingdom, far in advance of the time that the thinker in the body is freed from the prison-house of the physical existence in the material world.

As you think, so you become. This is the law of nature, and no one can escape from its operation. In this world of thoughts, thought-vibrations are the only channels of communication between soul and soul, and all the souls live in close communion with each other. There space and time do not matter. If at all there is any separation between them, it is only due to the lack of sympathy and not for anything else. All in all, life there is richer, fuller and more advanced than in any of the foregoing regions, but it continues to be delusive, it being the outcome of the mind-stuff of each and no one here can totally escape from delusion, though each one enjoys in full, his own heaven-world, vast and expanding or shallow and restricted according to one’s own mind-stuff, but all the same each one retains in him, a sense of reality in the midst of surrounding illusion.

A sanctuary of special interest in the mental world is Dev Lok, the abode of the Devas or the shining ones – people highly enlightened in their time and greatly advanced in their researches. Here are located the Svargas and Baikunths of the Hindus, the Sukh Vati of the Buddhists, the heavens of the Zoroastrians and Christians, the Arshas of the less materialised Muslims and the Supernal Paradises or Pleasure-grounds of the later Jews. Here lies the garden of Eden from where man was expelled and excluded by God for his first disobedience of His commandments. 

John Milton (1608–1674), a great poet and genius of his age, and a profound political and spiritual Thinker has, in his immortal classics, 'Paradise Lost' and 'Paradise Regained,' given a wonderful account of the fall of man and his resurrection and return unto Him through the intercession of the Son of Man.

Without wading through the scriptures of various religions, dealing with post-mortal existence of man in the various realms, we would do well to once again refer to Brahma Vidya or the Divine Wisdom rightly termed by the Greeks as Theosophia which provides an adequate philosophy, embracing in its fold, the wisdom of the east and the west. 

Turning, again, to the great occultist, Mrs Annie Besant, we find the mental plane inhabited by human beings after they cast off their physical and astral vestures. Purged of the selfish animal passions, each one enters into this region to reap the harvest of his good deeds, whatever the same may be, large or small, according to the measure of good thoughts of personal self-aspirations and ambitions, hopes and fears, loves and interests.

We cannot have more than what we are, and our harvest is according to our sowing. Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Galatians 6:7

It is a universe of the good law, mercifully just, and brings to each, the exact wages or meed of his work on earth. Everything thought of, every aspiration worked up into power, frustrated efforts transmuted into faculties, struggles and defeats becoming pillars of strength and power, sorrows and errors forged into shining armour; now find fruition in one of the seven sub-planes or heavens in the land of midnight sun where self-consciousness awakening, makes one fully conscious of his non-self surroundings; with memory spreading out into the hitherto unknown past, bringing to view the causes that worked out his life on earth and the causes that are wrought by him likewise for the vast future. The past, the present and the future now present to him an integrated view of life, like an open book, with nothing to hide and withhold. Here he develops for himself an all-seeing eye and becomes a perfect seer so far as his individuality is concerned, in the true sense of the word.

In this heaven-world, the lowest part is assigned to the least developed souls with sincere and unselfish love for their families and friends, an admiration for nobler, purer and better persons than themselves. The measure of their meed is accordingly narrow and shallow, the cup of their receptivity being small; but still bubbling over to the brim with joy, purity and harmony; and they are reborn after a while on this plane with improved powers and faculties.

Next, come in men and women of religious faith with hearts and minds turned towards God – the personal God of their own choice, with any name and any form they had faith in, and to them the Nameless and the Formless appears in the said likeness in which they lovingly worshipped Him, overwhelming them with devotional ecstasy according to their mental and emotional capacity. The Divine veils Himself in the form familiar to His devotee. It is really strange that men forget that all deities reside in the human breast. We have but to turn inward to get a glimpse of the Formless in the very form in which we adore Him the most.

It is therefore said:

Formless is He and yet all forms are His; nameless is He and yet all names are His; call Him by any name thou wishest; and He turns to thee.

To the third plane, come devoted and earnest souls who see and serve God-in-man and worship Him in His manifested creation. At this place they are perfected into great philanthropists of times yet unborn, and endowed with a rich power of unselfish Love for mankind.

The souls of master-minds in fine arts, like music, sculpture and painting; the researchers and discoverers of the laws of nature; eager and reverent students delving into the depths of knowledge, get an opportunity in the fourth sub-plane for developing into perfect teachers of mankind in the ages to come; and when they do come, they serve as torch-bearers and leave their footprints on the sands of time.

Next, there are three lofty regions of formless heavens. A large number of souls simply reach the lowest reaches, have but a brief stay, and a flash of insight, according to their sowing and then they come back to the earth-plane with a dip into the great unknown. 

But souls with deep thinking and noble living correctly and immediately perceive truths, see the fundamental causes and the underlying unities and learn of the changeless working of the Divine Law in all harmony in the midst of the most incongruous effects as appear to untrained eye – and where 'though all things differ, all agree.' (Alexander Pope)

More advanced souls with memory perfect and unbroken, find their way to the sixth sub-plane and after garnering the riches of the divine mind – Brahmand –, return as great pioneers of mankind to justify the ways of God to man and to glorify God. The mighty dead of ages gone by here get a taste of the glorious living, seeing and witnessing as they do, the working of the will of Brahman in its fullness with no link missing in the chain of causation.

In the loftiest sub-plane come the souls of the Masters of Brahma Vidya and their initiates – Brahmacharis – for none but an initiate can find the strait gate and the narrow path that leadeth unto life and so the chosen few enter into the land and life of Brahman. They enjoy their self-consciousness to the highest point but are not yet endowed with cosmic consciousness.

In the end, Mrs Annie Besant sums up the position thus: 

Such is an outline of the 'seven heavens' into one or other of which men pass in due time after the 'change that men call death.' For death is only a change that gives the soul a partial liberation, releasing him from the heaviest of his chains. It is but a birth into a wider life, a return after brief exile on earth to the soul’s true Home (Home of the universal mind), passing from a prison into the freedom of the upper air. Death is the greatest of earth’s illusions; there is no death, but only changes in life conditions. Life is continuous, unbroken, unbreakable; 'unborn, eternal, ancient, constant,' it perishes not with the perishing of the bodies that clothe it. We might as well think that the sky is falling when a pot is broken, as imagine that the soul perishes when the body falls to pieces.

The run of mankind after death finds no rest in the three worlds: the physical, the astral and the mental. The souls freed from the physical vesture are carried on, up and down, in the giant Brahmanic wheel of life by the momentum of their own thoughts, words and deeds. It is all a play of the individual mind with its vast field of ramifications spreading out from the lowest, the physical, to the mental worlds wherein one builds his own tabernacles in the hereafter, for a temporary stay, long or short, according to one’s needs for learning the lessons of Brahman; as he advances on the Path towards perfection, and each soul gathers as rich a harvest as he can; before exhausting the causes set in motion through the external stimuli from powers that be in his surroundings in the various planes in the three worlds thus described.

The causal or the seed-body of the human soul, the innermost vest, has yet two more very subtle and sublime linings underneath respectively called the Buddhic – the Vigyanic – and Nirvanic – the Anandic or blissful. It is only a brave soul, very brave indeed, like that of prince Siddhartha, who may enter into Buddha-hood and become Buddha, the Enlightened One and enjoy the bliss of the creator of the three universes; and comes to the earth-plane to give the law – the law of Dhamma or Dharma unto the world with emphasis on desirelessness so as to free the mind of all attachments and then to tread the eight-fold Path of righteousness leading to perfection. Again, it may be a Jain Tirthankara, the Mahavira, the bravest of the brave, who could dare approach the divine throne of Brahman and give out to the world the law of Universal Love and Ahimsa, Love for all creatures from the tiniest insect, helplessly crawling in the dust and the water and air spirits floating in countless numbers, in their respective spheres, invisible to the naked eye.

In the Buddhic plane, one develops the intellectual side of divinity in him and begins to see and realise the selfsame Self in him, as in all around him, and he is as much in that Self as others are. Thus he comes to the great fundamental unity of existence, the Sutra Atma, carrying everything from an ant to the elephant as so many beads on the string of a rosary; in spite of the differences in shape, size and colour, both within and without, due to climatic conditions, and mental make-up and Inner Development and Growth. Now the human monad, the out-breathed life of Brahman, dwells in the inbreathed life of Brahman, with divine powers and attributes, and aspires for the bliss-aspect of the divinity in him – the Atmic or the Nirvanic consciousness of Sat Chit Anand – the heart and soul of the universe, which now becomes his, and he is one with it.

It is indeed a long and weary process to understand correctly the Brahm Vidya and then to successfully practise it, and to traverse the Brahmand from end to end, stage by stage, from the physical world of coarse matter to Brahm Lok proper, the region where Maha Maya in its finest and most subtle form reigns. The Brahmand is the manifestation of the power of God, lodged in Om, the most sacred syllable in the Vedic lore; hence it is the akar or form of Om – Omkar. It is the Logos of the Greeks and Ek-Onkar of the various scriptures.

This is the ultimate end of human attainment, says Vedanta – the highest teachings as given by the later Vedic teachers and scholars, the rishis of old, as a result of their intense meditative experiences in the snow-capped mountain fastnesses or in the thick forest dwellings. Brahman is the very life of the universe, comprising, as it does, the three worlds described above with all that exists in each – the Triloki Nath, the lord of the three-fold panoramic life in its fullness. Their words of wisdom, we find in aphoristic form, as gems of purest ray serene, in their valuable treatises known as Upanishads which are rightly considered as Vedantas or the final rungs or parts of Veda, the efflorescence of divine wisdom; which ends with the Maha Vakya, the great Truth: 'that thou art' meaning that man is Brahman in his real nature and essence and when one realises this fundamental truth, he involuntarily proclaims

aham Brahm asmi – I am Brahman


I and my Father are One,


I speak nothing on my own but as my Father bids me do.

St John 12:49-50

The greatest lesson that one derives from Vedanta is – we are all One; One in our origin, One in our make-up, both inner and outer formation, One in our potentialities and powers, however latent and involved they may be, but equally capable of developing the same, may be sooner or later, but the process of development or unfoldment of the self is essentially the same for all; and then the goal too is One for all mankind, for all of us are worshippers of Brahman. In this way, the out-breathed life constituting as it does, the individual mind merges in the in-breathed life of the Universal Mind or Mahat, – the 'great mind of the cosmos' – the third Logos or divine creative intelligence, the Brahma of the Hindus, the Mandjusri of the Buddhists, the Holy Spirit of the Christians, and Allah-hu of the mystics and Sufi darveshes.

Here in Brahm Lok souls live for long, and in close proximity to Brahman, imbibing the love, the intelligence and the bliss of that being or power and again so long indeed is the stay, that one is prone to believe and call it a veritable salvation, the flame merging in the flame – of Brahman. But the stay there, however long it may be, is not eternal and it lasts only till the Brahmand itself dissolves, and the Universal Mind rolls up its life, absorbing all the souls in its fold wherever they may be. This drama of infolding and unfolding of life called Brahmand is repeated again and again; and the grand play continually goes on in and through eternity.

The divine philosophy deals with it so beautifully:

How charming is divine philosophy, not harsh and crabbed as dull fools suppose but musical as is Apollo’s lute, and a perpetual feast of nectared sweet.

It is from Brahman that there spring the three great powers – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva –, creating, sustaining and dissolving all that is of the matter or maya in one form or the other. These three offsprings or powers come into being by his Shakti or Maha Maya called the Mother of Universe, not in the sense of sex as we ordinarily know it to be, but once again we have to take the simile of the spiders’ light filmy substance that comes out not from without but from within the spider’s body or the cocoon or a silky case as is spun by a larva from fine threads of its own making to protect itself as a chrysalis especially as a silkworm; wherewith we in course of time prepare all sorts of silken garments of so many designs and colours to cover our nakedness and take delight to stunt in borrowed clothings.

Nanak, speaking of the working of God’s creation, also refers to the triple principle concerned with creating, sustaining and destroying it – all working according to the will of the Supreme Being, as Vice-regents, only exercising delegated authority; and strange as it may seem, it is not given to them to know Him, since they are but the part of the objective creation and He, the Supreme Being, is subjective and formless:

The Great Mother, conceiving, brought forth three regents; the first creating, the second sustaining, and the last destroying. What He desires, they perform, they work under His will. But great the wonder, though He watches over them, they behold Him not. Hail, hail to Him alone, the Primal, Pure, Eternal, Immortal, and Immutable in all ages!

Jap Ji, Stanza 30

As to the vast and stupendous work connected with the running of the three worlds in the creation, including all sorts of hells and heavens in them, Vishnu, the second counterpart of Brahma, in the great triumvirate or trimurti, wields the power of administration. Once questioned as to how he – Vishnu – could manage such a big show and make elaborate arrangements for the innumerable souls entrusted to his care for providing all sorts of comforts and woes in the supernal and nether worlds in his domain, he just smiled and said: 

Oh! I have nothing to do at all, for whosoever comes into any of my worlds, he brings with him his own load of pains and pleasures, thereby creating his own hell or heaven both on the earth-plane and thereafter. Whatsoever each one needs in any of my realms, he arranges the same for himself and I simply look on unconcerned at the human drama, tragic or comic or tragicomic as the case may be, unfolding the infold in himself.

Thus runs the Divine Machinery automatically, all on its own and by itself but all under His will.

Brahman is a great power, too great for the human mind to conceive, and of the beyond, none but the Saints know of and can speak with authority – not the formally canonized saints as we know of but Saints of the status of Sant Satguru, authorised and commissioned by Truth – the Truth that was in the beginning, the Truth that now is, and the Truth that shall remain hereafter – to teach mankind and initiate such aspiring souls into the mysteries of the beyond and beyond the beyond state; as may be ripe for the purpose of understanding correctly and properly the causeless cause of all the causes that operate down below, in each of the worlds; and are ready to live the life of the spirit as jivan muktas or liberated beings while yet in flesh:

A jivan mukta,

says Nanak,

is one who knows and practises the art of death-in-life and when he finally quits the stage, he quits it for good, never to return again.

This is what Para Vidya or the knowledge of the beyond teaches.

Apart from this, there are many categories of teachers of Brahma Vidya which is Apara in character and paves the way for the Para, and all of them teach people in the ways of Brahman, each according to his own capabilities. 

The Prophets and the Messiahs generally prophesy the coming of great events, train mankind to live a godly life and bring to them the tidings and messages of God – Brahman. 

The Avtaras are incarnations of the various powers of Brahman and their function is to keep the world agoing in a balanced and orderly manner, holding the balance of the social order aright between righteousness and unrighteousness. 

The yogis and yogishwars remain within the sphere of their yog maya, mind-force, and lead their initiates up to the highest point within their yogic powers.

The Brahm Lok has many sub-loks called Puris, Bhavans, Tabaqs or Divisions, each allotted to one or other of the powers of Brahman like Brahma Puri, Vishnu Puri, Shiva Puri, Indra Puri, etc., to each of which the souls of the worshippers of these powers collectively called Brahman are irresistibly attracted and drawn in course of time, each to his own destination in the place to which he belongs.

The ancient Greeks speak of this three-fold aspect of divinity as the Three Sisters of the Spinning Wheel – one engaged in spinning the thread of life for each, the other in adorning and embellishing the thread of life and the third in cutting the said thread of life when the allotted time comes to an end. Similarly, in the Christian theology we have first Logos, the creative principle in nature, the second Logos and the third Logos, who carry on similar duties of their own. This is the famous Doctrine of Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.