Dying Awake

Dying Awake

I’ve heard teachers I respect say different things about what happens when you die (drop the body) post-enlightenment. Something I read recently discussed the variety and I realized a resolution to the differences.

Before we go into it, the first thing to understand is that we go through a series of lifetimes, driven by past karma (cause and effect) and unresolved desires. When we awaken, non-stop samadhi (silence in activity & bliss) roasts the remaining seeds of future actions/desires and we mostly step off the “wheel” of karma. With the completion of our human life, we resolve the last of the sprouted seeds. We are thus no longer reborn. (Though I understand that if we reach some basic awakening but not a full enlightenment and have unfinished business, we may have a choice to come back and finish the job. This would be one reason why we sometimes see people awaken early and easily, picking up where they left off. We may also make the shift during death.)

In the Vedic literature, there are 6 systems of Philosophy. These are known as the upangas or darshanas. Each (except the 1st) reflects the reality of a different stage of evolution. The last of these is Vedanta or “end of the Veda”, also known as Uttara Mimamsa. The primary text is the Brahma Sutras, though sometimes people associate the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita with Vedanta due to their stories of the essence of full awakening.

Vedanta speaks of the total oneness of Brahman and on that all the highest sages are agreed. But there are 2 schools of thought about what happens after an enlightened yogis death. Both are described in the Vedas so I suggest we actually have a choice, driven in part by our history and tendencies.

One is Advaita or non-duality (without distinctions) of whom Adi Shankara is the best known exponent. He taught of a total oneness where the atma merges into Oneness with Brahman. On death of the body, any individuality or form would dissolve. The wave settles into the ocean. Totality of Oneness. (This is much deeper than the internal unity of nirvana/ Self-realization/ cosmic consciousness – this earlier stage is where ego (individual self) becomes atman(cosmic Self))

Other masters such as Ramanuja, Madhva, and Narayana speak of the transcendent space or world within Brahman. This outlook is called Dvaita or “with distinctions”(not dualism)[see comments]. This space within pure awareness is known as Vaikuntha Loka and is beyond all universes, humans and devas (angels). It is the first space, the first expression. We’d gain a pure light body and retain a subtle value of individuality and live with other such enlightened sages and forms of God. The ultimate heaven we could say.

As a friend observed, from that state one would have the option of returning as what the Buddhists call a Bodhisattva, an enlightened sage that may appear on occasion or for a time. Avatars (God in human form) such as Krisna reside there and may arise from there.

Ultimately though, Shankara’s is the highest truth. Some of these other masters refer to this transcendent space as eternal and the light body as absolute. However, while one may remain in this space for astonishingly long times, that space is not eternal. In a recent article on Yugas, I described some of the larger cycles of time. One cycle of Yugas is known as a Mahayuga. 1,000 Mahayugas is a day of Brahma. 100 Years of Brahma is a life of Brahma. A lifetime of Vishnu is 1,000 lives of Brahma. A lifetime of Shiva is 1,000 of Vishnus. And a time of the Divine Mother is 1,000 of Shiva. When the Divine Mother sleeps, that transcendent space is unexpressed. Now, 429 million trillion (Yukteswar) or 154 billion trillion (standard) years is a long time, but it’s not eternal. 😉

This can also be further established with 2 other references. The story of Bhusunda the crow unusually being able to continue between creations while the great sage Vasishtha does not. And the experience of creation ending that may be part of a Unity shift. At some point, all those waves will dissolve back into the ocean. At least for a time.

Are we to dissolve or hang around awhile first? Be bliss or live bliss? Our own destination we’re not likely to know clearly until well along. We usually even forget why we’re here while in human form. But it can be amusing to consider.

Last Updated on June 17, 2015 by

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  1. Pingback: What is Eternal? « In 2 Deep

  2. Kristopher Grey (@KGrey_Com)

    Like the body, and all manifest appearances, time and space too are conditional aspects of experiencing. No beginning, no end.

    These “after” musings are beliefs based on these appearances. Nothing happens. No problem. The question only appears as a problem, arising in awareness as present experiencing.

    When nothing more arises, nothing arises. There is no experiencing as there’s no time or space for appearances, not even of emptiness/unity. No one to notice there’s no where to go and no time to be there. No problem.

    The wonderful stories of this or that realm/afterlife/merging/dissolution/ascension/heaven/whatever likewise present no problem. They do serve as pointers while we still breathe though, like all else arising in awareness as present experiencing…

    (Excuse the raw ramble, that’s what came)

  3. Davidya

    Hi Kristopher
    Thanks for the ramble.
    The point of the post was to resolve the expressions by sages of Vedanta in their discussion of the ultimate nature of reality. These are describing direct experience rather than “beliefs” about afterlife and such.

    Vedanta is well beyond reality seen as “emptiness”. It describes a wholeness or totality that is totally inclusive rather than the exclusive reality vs appearances perspective you describe. While often confused with unity, it is actually by nature dualistic. Unity comes later.

  4. Hi Bill
    While I appreciate some traditions speak this way and, relative to our lifespans, they seem eternal, the Vedic tradition from which these names and personalizations arise specifically names the extent of their lifespans.

    The key detail is that creation itself is cyclic. It goes through creation, maintenance with sub-cycles like the Yugas, and destruction. With the dissolution of all expression, all forms and all gods also dissolve leaving only Brahman. I mention the calculated lifespan of some of the pancha devata in the article.

    I would also note that the divine mother is far more than Durga. Durga is just one expression. She expresses first as the tridevi or 3 female forms, then as secondary forms such as Durga. Some traditions favour Durga or another form as their highest form of the divine feminine. But that’s just the chosen form to worship, not the totality of her being.

    Shiva is somewhat unique in that the name may refer to several things. First is as unmanifest consciousness, pure being. (which also has an origin) Second as Mahadeva, more expressed but not in complete form. Somewhat like the Christian idea of “Holy Ghost”. And then you have Shiva in form.

    Shiva in form is part of the male trinity who in turn match with the original tridevi. His consort is said to be Shakti or Parvati, depending on the age of the text. “Husband” is little misleading as they are not “married” in the human sense.

    I make these points because it’s useful to put it in a larger context. Otherwise, the vastness of divinity is reduced to arguments over who has the better beliefs. This makes us small and divided.

  5. When researching this article, I compiled information from several sources, adjusting to my own experience. In reviewing the article today, I notice an error crept in I didn’t catch.

    “This outlook is called Dvaita or “with distinctions”(not dualism)” This is messed up.

    This outlook is not correctly called Dvaita. Dva is the word for the number 2. Advaita means ‘not 2’ whereas Dvaita means 2 or Dualism. Self and other.

    Quite often, Self Realizations is called Advaita yet the experience is commonly described as the awakened Self within and a separate illusory world. That is Dvaita or duality. Advaita begins later when the world is also recognized to be That.

    Within Advaita or Oneness, there is 2 values – Nirguna, without qualities aka without form and void. And Saguna, with qualities. But those qualities are non-separate, part of the one wholeness expressing within itself.

    Some may describe this as Dvaita but thats not quite the right term to use. This subtle space arises when consciousness becomes self aware, as illustrated on this article:

    1. Hi Gina
      Actually, this is an ability that arises with the resolute intellect after awakening. However, it is highly dependent on our degree of sattva or clarity and how open we are to new perspectives. For some things, we can be a clear channel but it’s common to have concepts and biases that get in the way of clear seeing. ie: we remain human.

      For example, the stages of ParaBrahman appeared before they’d unfolded here. I had to tweak it slightly a bit later as greater clarity unfolded.

      re: the article, perhaps I didn’t emphasize “we actually have a choice”. There are some who do live on in various subtle realms but not every enlightened being does. So clearly some waves fall back into the ocean.

      That said, the awake points in wholeness remain, as do the record of their being. This can be called upon. The difference is just degree of expression.

      I can further note that such differences can be simultaneously true when they’re created by different perspectives of the one wholeness. At first, I thought the 2nd perspective was dualistic because of how it had been interpreted in my references. But then I realized it was another perspective of non-duality.

      Further, we can model reality differently. Maharishi, for example, used an 8-Prakriti framework whereas I use 7. (to me ego isn’t a prakriti or kosha but an effect of mind & intellect. Am isn’t technically a vowel either.)

      There is one reality but we’re here as perspectives of that wholeness to draw out distinct details. None of us will see it just the same. There are common fundamentals but lots of variation in perspective. 🙂

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