The following model of what happens after death in the afterlife is based on Deepak Chopra’s understanding from the ancient traditions of his native India. He documents it in his book Life After Death — the Burden of Proof. There is an amazing correspondence with the previous article on death and afterlife where the information came by revelation from beyond (as ultimately all higher truths do). The concepts parallel closely, only the terminology is different.
According to Vedic thinking (and that of other Eastern traditions), life and death are a continual cycle of change and transition. By the laws of nature, matter and energy are never destroyed, only transformed into different forms. In the same way, nothing ever dies, it only changes. Rather than a place, the afterlife is better viewed as a different state of awareness.
The material universe is consciousness experiencing itself at a particular, in this case fairly low, frequency. Elsewhere in the cosmos, in space-time or outside of it, other planes exist simultaneously at different frequencies of consciousness. An orchestra can provide an analogy – the presence of one sound frequency does not displace others and can be perceived individually or together with the rest. In the physical world we only experience what we see.
The planes beyond our physical perception, called lokas or astral planes, are all vibrating at higher frequencies than the material world. A person with higher consciousness can go inward and hear the vibrations of some higher planes, and even perceive their own body. In the lower astral planes is where clairvoyance, telepathy, and spirit experiences operate. Animals may sense some of these planes, which are beyond the perception of most humans. However, numerous saints and sages, both deceased and still living, have had experiences beyond the physical senses at these planes. Because of the simultaneous existence of possibly an infinite number of planes beyond our physical plane, in a sense, the dead are “here and everywhere.”
According to Indian traditions, every physical body also has an astral body (cf. spirit body). The body mirrors the physical body but operates at a higher frequency. During this life, the physical body gives the soul the appearance of being localized in the material world. At death, the soul departs in the astral body and enters an astral plane where the frequency corresponds most closely to the soul’s former life – each person goes where they belong based on their development on earth. After death, we remain self-motivated, retaining our free will. The soul moves from one astral plane to another according to its desires, projecting and attracting whoever and whatever in the astral realm it needs for its own advancement.
All the existing planes are imagined and brought about by Spirit (Brahman, God, Rama, Shiva, a Higher Power or the Ultimate) which is a ubiquitous consciousness that fills every plane of existence. Whatever the name, the concept is of a single supreme Consciousness that creates everything and continues to do so in an infinite dimension and at infinite speeds. Every plane we live in or perceive – physical or astral – provides experience of the working of Spirit, but in different forms. Here and now, we experience solid matter. On the astral planes, the experience includes subtle beings and environments.
After death, we gradually stop being local – in reality, the cosmos is non-local. We then start seeing ourselves as we really are from the soul’s perspective – everywhere at once. At any time, we are at the centre of the universe because the universe extends into all directions. In a sense, nothing is local, this is only an illusion. Dimensions like up, down, north, south, are only points of reference at our frequency inside a body. The transformation at death is not a movement to another time and place. Rather, it is a change of quality of our attention – we only see what we vibrate to.
Saints and sages, common in India, who sit in long-term meditations have in their silence tuned into frequencies beyond the outside world. Through a shift of focus, they can commune with higher beings. Deep meditation is a launching pad for higher consciousness. Near-death experiences are similar – through a shift of attention, a state of higher consciousness is entered. In fact, deep meditation parallels death in that the physical senses fade one by one. Sound is the last to fade and the first registered prenatally. This is because sound as a vibration holds the body together.
As gross senses become duller, subtle senses sharpen. At their changing frequency, a dying person can access what we normally cannot. Their perceptions are also influenced by their beliefs and expectations of the afterlife. Initial experiences in the astral plane depend on one’s life and manner of death. Peaceful death will provide a restful transition. Unnatural death or one where unfulfilled desires remain causes the soul to remain in one of the lower, denser planes until they process their attachments and obligations. Disturbed souls remain caught between the two worlds, while saints and sages can travel freely through astral planes unrestrained by desires.
The phenomenon of seeing one’s life pass before one’s eyes on the brink of dying seems to be a part of the transition, not connected to death per se. Some swamis see this as a karmic process. Karma is seen like a thread wound around the soul rapidly unwinding with the possibility of sudden death. For those dying slowly, past reflections may be frequent, but at the moment of death, entering the astral plane is accompanied by a quick karmic review perceived like a film unspooling off its reel. Some see this as an illusion – the quick life review demonstrating that every second contains all eternity.
Love itself is a vibration. At the physical level, the Spirit vibration is very slow and dense, almost stilled by the material casing of the body. At very high vibration, the Spirit is also still, because it only experiences pure awareness of itself. In the astral world, the soul can visit planes lower than itself, but not higher. Higher realms are reached through evolution which includes refinement.
Spirit permeates every plane of existence. Depending on our level of awareness, we project our own hells, heavens and purgatories to work through on the physical and astral planes. Our imagination creates our reality in the astral world. Evolution is gradual on both the physical and astral planes. It takes time and is really the fulfilment of desires which continue after death. In the astral world, left-over desires are fulfilled and refined. Knowledge and experiences from the physical world are also refined.
According to some Indian swamis, after a time and evolution in the astral world, the soul is reborn in the physical world at a higher plane to continue its evolution. Each new life is at a new level of insight and creativity. The soul’s trajectory is always upwards. By contrast, some believe in rebirths as lower animals or even insects if that is dictated by the person’s previous actions (karma). The cycle of rebirths is not endless, however. Once the soul has worked out its karma (reaped the results of its actions), it loses it earthly desires, transcends material attachments, and becomes enlightened. At this point the need for rebirths ceases. Ideas about rebirth or reincarnation vary widely and will not be discussed here at length. It is important for each person to read widely and come to their own conclusions based on individual experience and insight.
Our future freedom of choice depends on our clarity of self-awareness (witnessing). Those driven by obsessions, compulsions, addictions and unconscious impulses have the least choice.
Relationships in the astral planes are formed with those souls who vibrate at the same frequency as ourselves. Communion can also occur between souls where one is on the physical plane and the other on an astral plane.
A soul in the astral planes that continues to evolve upwards can reach so called causal planes. Here consciousness is extremely subtle and beyond our comprehension. These realms may be glimpsed in an epiphany, but we will dwell there only when our soul’s vibration is high enough to sustain our life there. These realms belong to the highest frequencies of existence. Some from these planes may choose to come back to earth through another human birth to help others reach enlightenment. In Buddhism, these beings are called bodhisattwas.
In summary, right here and now, we are surrounded by an infinite number of planes beyond the physical, which can be glimpsed by shifting our awareness to a higher frequency. In the field of infinite possibilities, we exist on all these planes at the same time. At the level of experience, however, we exist on only one. Yet, in rare moments, or even in our sleep, the astral body may visit a higher plane, while remaining attached by a filament. The afterlife is a place of newfound clarity. It is not static, but we continue to grow and evolve. The afterlife is as open-ended as life itself. Choices don’t end, but rather expand. Earthly images are reflected in the afterlife for a time, but then the soul makes creative leaps that open new worlds.
Reference: Deepak Chopra, Life After Death, the Burden of Proof.
Photo Credit: Steven Ritts