So much has gone under the bridge of life here, my friends, and everything is happening so fast that the conscious mind has a hard time keeping up with what is really going on. Tomorrow June 7 it will be a year since the beginning of this retreat. What I work, I can tell you, has been this year and I cannot put a value on it because it is invaluable. Life is shining more than ever before and you just want to go on and see what the next two years will bring.
The last time we were exploring the possibilities of death and how I came out of my bed one day and did not know literally if I was alive or dead. This feeling really brings you home and gives you an urgency to do what is most dear to your heart and mind. So after that I have been working harder and constant to undo the ego and to uncover the Light of the Self participating in a different life which spreads light, happiness, joy and wisdom instead of hate, greed, violence, attachment, and misery. By the grace of our Lord my work is paying off and the Light shines here more then ever before.
This last year I have been to the Hades and back. I have never shaken the hands and hugged so many dead people in my life during my dreams. I believe that a great part of me have died and that there was a resurrection, using a Christian language, justly during the Holy week. It was an experience that I will never forget but it will need a separate venue where I can tell you the whole story. With this happening all the dreams about death have come to an end.
This last month, mainly, I have been close to physical death many times and I was saved in what seemed to be the last minute. Mentally something has died inside of me and all those feelings of death is behind although they come once in a while in my mind. However, they are not so prevalent as before and when they come I dialogue with my mind saying that if I die, I die mainly after everything that I have been through. As soon as I dialogue with my mind that way the thoughts of death disappear.
From my religions upbringing through Catholicism I was trained to be believe that we have to be good and confess to our sins if we want to go to heaven and not hell. It seems to me, through my limited knowledge of the religions, that Christianity, Judaism and Islam have a similar position that we have to achieve certain level o goodness to go to heaven or we are going to hell.
During the time I was going through the most critical moments dealing with physical and mental possibilities of dying I delved into serious thinking about death and search for some light about it on some texts and some theories that I know such as The Bardo Todol, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, the theories of Spiritism brought about by the Frenchman Allan Kardec, as well as A Course in Miracles, The Bhagavad Gita and the Gospel of the Buddha.
Some believe that you don’t die although they all seem to recognize that this body will disappear into the dust that it came at some point in time. Who and what survives then? Nobody really knows for certainty. Science has been hit hard in their proof that when the heart and brain stops there will be no memory left. Some doctors in different hospitals working in the frontier of life and death has found that when the person is clinically dead and come back they relate facts of being out of the body and seeing everything that was going on in the operating room plus a light to which there were attracted to. The only explanation science can give is that perhaps after all the consciousness lives on after the body expires. However if you subscribe to certain belief systems that believe in some kind of spiritual orientation that addresses this issue, it will be no surprise to you such experiences related by people who have clinically died. People who believe in these spiritual systems are sure that there is a Self, some say soul, that survives after the body disappears.
I have always been fascinated and impressed by the life of Socrates, the great Greek philosopher. In the book The Last Days of Socrates, he is shown teaching and playing with his students even minutes before he had to take cicuta virosa, some kind of hemlock, the poison that ended the life of his body. Socrates, according to the reports, showed no fear whatsoever of his body death because he believed if you apply yourself rightly to philosophy, it prepares you for the moment of your body death. One of Socrates students asked how they should dispose of his body and he just laughed and commented saying that his students was worried about the nonessential and that Socrates was not that body that would lying down in a few minutes after he took the poison. To him what they did with his dead body did not matter, but what matter the most was his teachings to them. I want to be in that place that Socrates was when my time comes because I think that there is nothing more beautiful, powerful and fulfilling in life than to be prepared that way having no fear of anything including death.
The Bardo Todol, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, based on Buddhist philosophy says that we never die and that when our body dies, we go through what it calls the Bardo, which is an intermediate state between the moment that the body dies and the moment that we are illuminated, if our karma has been worked out enough, or the moment of rebirth into a new life.
During the Bardo you have many opportunities to be illuminated by retaining your awareness the light of Darmakaya, the Supreme Light of all, which they describe as the most beautiful moment someone has ever dreamed off. However, if you fail to hold this Light in your awareness, you will fall and be reborn again to face more suffering until the next time. Some advanced beings can chose to be reborn and come back to this planet to help and in this case they did not fail to hold the light. Those beings are called the Avatars. It also says that those who does not hold the light has much work to do yet and those are really the bad ones whose karma is really dirty. Who knows who the dirty ones are and they could be a hard core criminal in jail, a drug dealer, a common thief that steals and sometimes kill just for a shirt, they can be a blue collar work doing rotten deals, or they can be one of us who lives a normal life, but attack, deceive and lie to our partner, the children and other family members as well as to friends, coworkers, the government and so on. However, we all have some dirty behind because we all have an ego. We cannot deny that some egos are dirtier than others as there are people who are more destructive than helpful to themselves and their fellow beings than others. It is also important to remember that to the sage a speck of dirt in a clean mirror function as if the whole mirror is dirty and, therefore, there is no difference for the sage if there is only one speck of dirty or if the whole mirror is dirty because they are the same.
The Bardo Todol also says that when you are going through the Bardo after the body death if you are not illuminated immediately, as I said before, you are going to be offered many chances to free yourself from the cycle of birth and death. During this time comes all kinds of experiences through images some bad, really bad, and some good, and these experiences are just a distraction being good or bad, and a production of our own imagination. To reach the Light we need to stir ourselves away from them.
There are other systems that also believe in reincarnation. Spiritism is one example, some kind of religion very popular in Brazil. The spiritualists, people who believe in this system, teaches that this system is a combination of science, religion and philosophy. It is based on the belief of God’s existence, the soul being immortal, reincarnation, plurality of different worlds being inhabited, and on communication with Spirits. For the Spirit Doctrine, the soul or spirit is one of the intelligent beings that lives in the invisible world who temporarily assume a carnal wrapper, the body, with the objective of purifying themselves. The human soul or Spirit incarnated is defined as a being that little by little goes on purifying itself until it becomes a pure Spirit. When incarnated, our bodies is moved by this vital energy or vital fluid, the basic element of life which characterizes itself by the phenomena of birth, growth, reproduction and death. Death happens when the quantity of vital fluid is finished.
According to this system in the moment of death, the soul becomes again Spirit, which means to go back to the world of Spirits, from where it separated from after incarnation in a body, which is short period. As Spirit the soul preserves its individuality never losing it. In the moment of death of the body we go through a confusing period until we adapt to this new situation and begin to know this new self. Immediately after death we are like a person who woke up from a deep sleep and tries to adapt to the waking situation. To Spiritism the time that lasts this disruption after the death of the body is variable and it depends on the level of evolution of each being. If we are already purified we immediately recognized our real self as spirit that has no body because we freed ourselves from matter long before the life of the body ended. However when we are very much connected to the flesh, when our consciousness is not pure, we hold for a long time the impressions caused by matter, impressions left by a body life, in our consciousness. This illusion persists until we are completed free and only then we recognize our true self as spirit and understand that we do not belong anymore the world of the living beings in the body.
For Spiritism the feelings of being a just human, having a pure soul, while facing death is great and therefore we experience no guilt, one of the sources of misery. If we practice bad deeds we are going to face the torments and suffering born out of our own conscience. This suffering, teach the spiritualists, are all moral anxieties that torture us more than any physical suffering. If we are not developed enough, we can stay connected for a period to the Threshold (Umbral) a region situated at the earth crust, a place of shadows, built and cultivated by our own mind when it is sick, according to the teachings of Andre Luis, a spirit manifested through Chico Xavier, a very well known Brazilian medium. The Threshold (Umbral) functions in a region proper for us to finish the mental residues and deterioration of illusions which we acquired throughout our lives. As much as we insist to persist in the illusion and in our errors, more time we are going to spend in this region. In the moment that we awake from these illusions and mistakes, we go to one of the treatment colonies where we can program our reincarnation to complete our learnings and to progress to more advanced stages in our path or from there we can go on to a more advanced stage.
From the point of view of the non dualistic philosophy represented by Advaita Vedanta, an Indian philosophic system and A Course in Miracles which see this world as an illusion, like a dream, build by the Maya according to Advaita or by the ego according to A Course in Miracles life as we know it is just a dream. Thus, life in this body is simply an illusion and also everything else connected with it including this world. So if everything here is an illusion, we made everything up, our egos made everything up, including our bodies like we make everything in our dreams. In this way there is no death and A Course in Miracles states it very clearly in one of its lesson. The Course also says that if there is no death, there is no birth either being both an illusion. Without death and birth reincarnation does not exist either. The Course explains that although there is no reincarnation the term can be helpful if we use it to attest that life is eternal. Life, for the Course, only exists in God and outside God there is no such thing as life. The Course teaches that everything in this world including our bodies was made by our egos as a hiding place from God because in God’s presence the ego is dissolved or transformed. In this way the fear of death is an ego fear of being destroyed and that when we approach our true self, our Self, the fear increases because the ego is afraid of being destroyed. Once we dissolve or transform the ego, this fear will disappear completely. When this fear disappears, when we fear no death, to be in this body or not does not play a central role in our consciousness and we walk this earth like the Son of God Who fears no evil including the evil of death. Not believing in birth and death the Course does not talk about what happen after the body dies but through the Course’s philosophy we can conclude that if we do not wake up when the body dies, we will continue dreaming until this happen and where and when does not matter because time and space, for the Course, are an illusion. Who knows perhaps we go to a parallel universe to continue dreaming.
In Yoga death is seen as a transition from one dimension to another, from one life to another, and from this other life we reemerge again until our cycle is completed. Some yogis describe it as taking off an old garment and put a new one. There is an emphasis on dying consciously and yoga can be a preparation for it. Swami Rama talks about certain yogis who have drop their body consciously and have come back to it. So in yoga when you prepare yourself in the right way, similar to Socrates preparations with philosophy, you lose all fear of death like you have no fear of taking off your old clothes and put new ones on. In this line of thinking we have control over death and cast off the old body, go to another dimension and then when we desire we will come back to a new body to complete the cycle that we need to complete. In yoga also we go through an intermediate state where we have to get acquainted with a new body, which is not so dense as the one we had before we died.
The philosophy of the Bardo Todol, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Spiritism and Yoga have some things in common. To them reincarnation is a fact and, after the death of our bodies we immediately go through an intermediate state which serves as preparation for a life in a different body. Depending on our level of progress in our life cycles we can go to a different stage perhaps superior or reincarnate in a new body on earth.
When I was going through the most difficult parts of my fear of dying, it helped me a lot to think on the manner spoken by the non dualist philosophy that everything is a dream, that there is no death and that as you approach the Self the fear of death increases. To imagine the clear light spoken on the Bardo Todol, the Tibetan Book of Dead was also very helpful maybe because I was reading it. It took my mind into silence and gave peace to imagine this clear light as clear as I could in my mind’s eye.
Death is a fact of this body so this is not the question. The question then is what will happen next and we saw above many different ways of thinking about what happens next. As we saw above some described a period of transition for which we need to prepare for before death come if we want to have a good passage. I am coming to the conclusion that whatever you really believe in the last moment of your body existence, it is what is going to happen. If you believe like some scientists that life ends with your last breath that is what is going to happen. If you believe like in the Tibetan Book of Dead or in Spiritism or in Yoga that you are going to go through a transition before a new life beyond or before reincarnating that is what is going to happen. If you believe like in A Course in Miracles or in Advaita Vedanta that this life is a dream and that when you drop off your ignorance, your ego, you are just going to wake up that is what is going to happen. Belief is a powerful thing mainly when belief it is coupled with experiencing and we have no idea how powerful it really is until we experience deeply what we believe. In this moment what we believe becomes a certainty that cannot be refuted.
As we can see above each one tells your own story and we can believe in it or not or we can discover our own. Independent of our own story which is a result of our education and conditioning, Love, the Self, the Divine Light in us is prevalent over everything else. Therefore what is most important in spite of what we believe is my deep love and compassion towards my fellow being and this is what all these spiritual systems mean by being really advanced.
A Course In Miracles teaches that it is important to question everything that we believe if we want real freedom. Besides this questioning, it is important to delve deep into our minds and to dissolve or transform the ego to free ourselves from all fear, and to free ourselves from these beliefs and values which was most often taught to us since we were a child and we accepted them without any questioning. Free at last we can accept what came before but now consciously and in a new light or we can make our own story. This freedom is the most beautiful thing in the world and I hope I have inspired you to look for it and to look at death seriously and question your beliefs and values about it because we all have our beliefs and values about it consciously or unconsciously, wanting it or not.
My hope one day is that all of us will be completely free of all the fear of death because when that happens my friends our lives will be free of violence, the need to attack or defend ourselves, guilt, jealousy, envy, hate, anger, fear and all the rest that our egos stand for. Our lives will be full of happiness, joy, bliss, compassion, love, light and wisdom. Then and only then our lives will have real meaning and will shine like a beautiful red rose under the light of the sun and its perfume excited by the light will spread to all the hearts around us and beyond, a perfume that was never smelled before by us, a perfume whose home is not in this aching world of our egos but belongs to the house of the Lord or whatever name you give to the Truth within you.
God Bless you all,
Obs.: It was incorporated contribution from Dr. Ligia MN Souza about Spiritism