Hello and welcome to episode 135 of The Ask Sri Vishwanath Show. Today I want to talk about what happens after death.
Today’s question comes from Nicholas and he says “I am curious to know what happens after death. Every religion has a different version of what happens.”
The law of death treats everyone the same regardless of whether they are Hindu, Muslim, Christian or atheist. The law does not differentiate. It’s a law, just like the law of gravity. It’s based on principal and not religion.
People have different understanding and interpretations because they say this is written in this text or that is written in that text but the truth is it is a question of eligibility. Krishna says “I am the thread that runs through the pearls of all religions.”
God expresses things differently in the Bhagavad Gita, The Bible and the Quran but the principal is always the same. The must subtle expressions are best heard in the Bhagavad Gita. They were the first laws and then in later texts such as the bible these laws are expressed through characters like Christ and then again in Buddhism by Buddha.
I want to share a story with you. In times ago Kings would have sitting where great men and women would come together to discuss the subtle laws. They would discuss things like a scientist would undertake an experiment. These great ones would try certain things and if that didn’t work they would try something else. These meetings make up the whole text of Hindu philosophy called Upanishads.
Nachiketa was a wonderful boy with a very doubt father who had a great yearning to get into heaven so to aid this wish he would perform sacrifices. These sacrifices involve offering a lot of charity. He would offer old lame cows as a gift to others to be a part of this sacrifice.
A worthy sacrifice
Although Nachiketa was young he possessed an intelligence beyond his years and he explained to his father that what he was doing was wrong. Even this young boy knew that a sacrifice must be something new or useful. Not something that is old, worn out and no use to you anymore. His father dismissed him angrily, telling him to go away and to leave him to his work.
Nachiketa would not be dissuaded and again he tried to make his father understand. Again he told him that for something to be considered a sacrifice it must be the best of what you have. You must always give your best to God. Then the son had an idea. He said “father you love me, you always do the best for me. I am the best thing that belongs to you so why not offer me as a sacrifice?” Again his father told him to go away but he would not give up.
Eventually the father got so frustrated with his sons demands that he said “OK I will give you to the God of death!” Now he was such a devout man that anything he said, would happen. The second that he said that his son disappeared and was taken away to Yama’s chamber of death.
The chamber of death
Yama was not there at the time so Nachiketa spent 3 days without food or water waiting for him. Yama’s messengers went to him and told him about the boy who had just appeared from nowhere in his chamber that wanted to meet him.
Yama went to the boy and told him that his time for death had not come and that he must go back to earth as he didn’t belong there. Yama told him how pleased he was with his devotion. He was only a young boy yet he endured three days of hunger and thirst so he could meet him. As a reward Yama told the boy he could ask for three boons.
He asked for his first boon. He asked Yama that when he was sent back to earth, that his father would not be angry with him and think of him as ghosts. He wanted his father to love him like he did before. Yama said fine, that boon is yours.
The boy then told Yama that his father really wanted to go to heaven. That all his life he had been offering sacrifices in an attempt to get to heaven after death. So he asked Yama to guide him and tell him what sacrifice was needed to guide one to heaven. Yama told him what he needed to do to be guaranteed a place in heaven and to this day that sacrifice is known as a Nachiketa Sacrifice. It is a very complicated ritual. This was the second boon.
Yama then told him to ask for the final boon. The boy said that some say consciousness exists after death and some do not. He explained that he was confused because no one really knew what the truth was. So his third boon was to know what happens after death. Seeing as he was the lord of death he was the perfect one to ask.
Life after death
Yama told him that even the Gods in heaven do not have a clear picture of what happens after death. He said that this was too subtle to be explained so he wanted the boy to ask for a different boon. Nachiketa said no, he wanted this boon. Yama told him to ask for riches or elephants or all the good things on earth and he would grant them. Nachiketa said no, he did not want any of that.
Yama offered him things that would be difficult to attain. Appendance, a long healthy life, lots of riches, beautiful women and loving children. Again the boy said no. Yama again tried telling him he could give him a life of 300 years on earth with unlimited power.
Once gain the boy said no. He said, great as they are, these desires would only waste the human spirit away eventually and he didn’t want them. He wanted to know what happens after death.
Nachiketa said to Yama that “no human being on earth was ever satisfied with the wealth he owned. No human being has escaped pain and pleasure, there is no pleasure without pain. I don’t entertain any of these transcendent delights which you have given me. Having met you, Oh god of death I know that I will always be wealthy. Having come into contact with you I know that I will live a long and peaceful life but a boon worth praying for is knowing how one can attain mortality, what happens after death.”
That was all he wanted to know. Yama had no option left. He offered him everything and the boy had remained steadfast and refused. As Yama had promised three boons he had no option but to tell the boy what happened after death.
So do you want to know what happens after death? That will be covered in the next episode. Until then, you keep asking questions and I’ll keep answering them.