In What is Real Joy, I spoke of the discussion between King Janaka and the sage Yagyavalkya. After asking about joy, the king asks what happens at the time of death.
But here, Yagyavalkya details what happens after death. He speaks of how the body comes to creak like an old cart, loaded down. Like a fig is loosened from the stem, the spirit releases itself from the body. The powers of nature wait for him, like a village awaits the approach of the king. Then they gather around to see him off. The person collects his vital powers and enters into his own heart.
Then a light shines in his heart and guides him as he departs. The vital breath and senses go with him. His ageless wisdom, his deeds and his past experience take him by the hand and guide him.
He reaches out to another more beautiful form like a caterpillar reaching from the tip of a blade of grass. This reaching is driven by desire. The mind goes to the object of desire so the desire at the time of death determines where one goes: the world of fathers, mothers, friends, music etc. By his intention, these arise and he is filled with joy.
But after a time, the fruits of action (good karma) are exhausted and he returns to this world. He who has desires is born again from those desires.
When desires are fulfilled through Self knowledge, they cease. The mortal become immortal & attains Brahman. The knowers of Brahman rise to the heavenly worlds and are liberated.
This is of course an abbreviation of the story. Yagyavalkya uses many analogies and quotes scripture. Beautiful stories worth reading. As I noted in the last article, the joys of each layer of being help us fulfill all desires, releasing us from their yoke.
In other words, it is not through renunciation of desires that we find liberation. Rather, it is their fulfillment through bliss that resolves them and liberates us. Curiously though, it is not “me” that is liberated. More, we see who we really are and release the need for a limited me. That is real liberation.