Lesson 21 - What happens after we die, Paramahansa Yogananda


Paramahansa Yogananda
one hour before he died

Is Death a Misfortune or a Blessing in Disguise?

Death is a peculiar phenomenon, signifying cessation of all vital functions of the body without capability of resuscitation. It is cessation of the souls residence in that bodily form.
The very word death strikes terror in the hearts of human beings because of the following associations:

  • The predominant dread thought of excruciating corporeal pain, supposedly accompanying death.

  • The psychological pain of facing separation from family and friends, and from the joys of earthly life and possessions.

  • The fear of loosing ones existence.

But natural death is nothing to fear. The indwelling soul is immortal. Natural death is a blessing, because it offers the soul an opportunity to exchange a dilapidated, tottering dwelling-place for a new and sturdy one. The soul requires the successive instrumentalities of new and better organisms in order to express itself fully. If the individualised soul, cloaked in delusion and sent out to evolve itself back to God, didn’t have a chance to express itself to assert its nature through various changing bodies, it would have to remain in a nascent or latent disembodied state. And imagine, if the immortal soul had to live forever in an old bent body, pallid and shrunken! No greater punishment could be meted out to this great one, the soul, than to behold and express through the same decrepit organism forever. Instead, the inhabited organism undergoes the souls discipline, as the soul experiments with it; and when the souls work is finished on that particular form, it works on another.

Paramahansa Yogananda: The Divine Romance p. 210


The astral world has many spheres

When we awaken in the morning, we find we are exactly the same as before we went to sleep. Similarly, when we and our loved ones awaken in the astral world after death, we are exactly the same; only generally we may be more youthful in appearance and free of disease.
We don’t become angels merely by the instrument of death. If we are angels now, we will be angels in the hereafter. If we are dark, negative personalities now, we will be the same after death. Just as there are slums and beautiful parts of the country here, so it is in the other world. According to the way you have lived your life on earth whether you have lived a good, pure life, or a mean, ugly one you go to a better or darker region in the astral world. Jesus spoke of these different regions: In my Fathers house are many mansions. (John 14:2).
The astral planes are of differing atmospheres, or vibrations, and each soul that passes on from this earth is attracted to whichever atmosphere is in harmony with its own particular vibration. Just as fish live in water, worms in the earth, man on the earth, and birds in the air, so souls in the astral world live in whichever sphere is best suited to their own vibration. The more noble and spiritual a person is on earth, the higher the sphere to which he will be attracted, and the greater will be his freedom and joy and experience of beauty.
On the astral planets, beings are not dependent upon air or electricity in order to exist. They live in variously coloured rays of light. There is more freedom in the astral world than in the physical world. There are no bones to break, because there are no solids there; everything is composed of light rays. And everything takes place by the power of thought. When souls in the astral want to produce a garden, they merely will it, and the garden comes into being. It remains as long as it is willed to. When a soul wants the garden to disappear, it goes away.

Paramahansa Yogananda: The Divine Romance p 286f

Gods plan seems very cruel

When you reflect that this world is filled with death, and that your body, too, has to be relinquished, Gods plan seems very cruel. You cant imagine that He is merciful. But when you look at the process of death with the eyes of wisdom, you see that after all it is merely a thought of God passing through a nightmare of change into blissful freedom in Him again.
Saint and sinner alike are given freedom at death, to a greater or lesser degree according to merit. In the Lords dream astral world - the land to which souls go at death - they enjoy a freedom such as they never knew during their earthly life. So don’t pity the person who is passing through the delusion of death, for in a little while he will be free. Once he gets out of that delusion, he sees that death was not so bad after all. He realises his mortality was only a dream and rejoices that now no fire can burn him, no water can drown him; he is free and safe.

Paramahansa Yogananda: Where There Is Light p 148ff


A sense of soaring through a tunnel

The consciousness of the dying man finds itself suddenly relieved of the weight of the body, of the necessity to breathe, and of any physical pain. A sense of soaring through a tunnel of very peaceful, hazy, dim light is experienced by the soul. Then the soul drifts into a state of oblivious sleep, a million times deeper and more enjoyable than the deepest sleep experienced in the physical body. The after-death state is variously experienced by different people in accordance with their modes of living while on earth. Just as different people vary in the duration and depth of their sleep, so do they vary in their experiences after death. The good man who works hard in the factory of life goes into a deep, unconscious, restful sleep for a short while. He then awakens in some region of life in the astral world: In my Fathers house are many mansions. (John 14:2).

Paramahansa Yogananda: Where There Is Light p 148ff

Cold and gloomy

A group of disciples were walking with the Master on the lawn of the Encinitas Hermitage, which overlooks the ocean. It was very foggy and dark. Someone remarked, How cold and gloomy it is!
It is something like the atmosphere that envelops a materialistic person at the time of death, the Master said. He slips from this world into what seems to be a heavy mist. Nothing is clear to him; and for a time he feels lost and afraid. Then in accordance with his karma, he either goes on to a bright astral world to learn spiritual lessons, or sinks into a stupor until the rigt karmic moment arrives for him to be reborn on earth.
The consciousness of a devotee, one who loves God, is not disturbed by the transition from this world to the next. He effortlessly enters the realm of light, love, and joy.

Paramahansa Yogananda: Sayings of Paramahansa Yogananda p 86f


I have never been able to believe in heaven, a new student remarked. Is there truly such a place?
Yes, Paramahansa Yogananda replied. Those who love God and put their trust in Him go there when they die. On the astral plane, one has power to materialise anything immediately by sheer thought. The astral body is made of shimmering light. In those realms colours and sounds exist that earth knows nothing about. It is a beautiful and enjoyable world.

Paramahansa Yogananda: Where There Is Light p 148ff


Where is Heaven?

The fourth dimension is the sphere of lifetrons (the astral world) [Yogananda uses the term “lifetrons” for prana], which can be perceived only through the sixth sense of intuition. As your senses become spiritually refined, they become intuitive, and you become more and more conscious of that other world. And where is that other world? Many people think it is far off in the skies, but this is not so. The fourth dimension, the astral world heaven is just behind the gross vibration of this physical realm. […]

Paramahansa Yogananda: The Divine Romance p 284

Friends of other lives

Friends of other lives easily recognise one another in the astral world, [Sri Yukteswar said]. Rejoicing at the immortality of friendship, they realise the indestructibility of love, often doubted at the time of sad, delusive partings of earthly life.

Paramahansa Yogananda: Where There Is Light p 148ff


Why do we cry when our dear ones die? Because we sorrow for our own loss. If our loved ones leave us for training in better schools of life, we should rejoice instead of being selfishly sad, for we may keep them earthbound and hamper their progress by broadcasting our own selfish wills. The Lord is ever new, and by his infinite magic wand, renewing Death, He keeps each created object, each living being, ever manifesting, ever remodelling itself into a fitter vehicle for his inexhaustible expressions. Death comes to dutiful men as promotion to a higher state; it comes to failures to give them another chance in a different environment.

Paramahansa Yogananda: Where There Is Light p 148ff

Death is the culmination of life. In death life seeks rest. It is precursor to the greatest happiness, the exquisite freedom from all tortures of flesh. Death automatically dismisses all bodily pain, just as sleep banishes the weariness and aches of the hard worked body. Death is a parole from the prison of the physical body.

Paramahansa Yogananda: Where There Is Light p 148ff


To send your thoughts to loved ones who have passed on

To send your thoughts to loved ones who have passed on, sit quietly in your room and meditate upon God. When you feel His peace within you, concentrate deeply at the Christ Centre [The 3 eye], the centre of will at the point between the two eyebrows, and broadcast your love to those ones who are gone. Visualise at the Christ centre the person you wish to contact. Send to that soul your vibrations of love, and of strength and courage. If you do this continuously, and if you dont lose the intensity of your interest in that loved one, that soul will definitely receive your vibrations. Such thoughts give your loved ones a sense of well-being, a sense of being loved. They have not forgotten you any more than you have forgotten them.

Paramahansa Yogananda: Where There Is Light p 148ff

Send your thoughts of love and goodwill to your loved ones as often as you feel inclined to do so, but at least once a year - perhaps on some special anniversary. Mentally tell them, We will meet again sometime and continue to develop our divine love and friendship with one another. If you send them your loving thoughts continuously now, someday you will surely meet them again. You will know that this life is not the end, but merely one link in the eternal chain of your relationship with your loved ones.

Paramahansa Yogananda: Where There Is Light p 148ff


The Spiritual psychology of pain

The pain produced on a human organism by a pinprick is beneficial; as a warning, it reports to the soul the punctured condition of the skin, needing repair. The sensation ought not to vex the soul, but should serve as a matter of academic information. It is possible to know each bodily or mental experience of ourselves and others without being moved or troubled by any of them. Vexation and suffering are born of strong imagination and the souls bad habit of translating sensation into pain. If this bad habit and imagination, and the ensuing restless or exited state of feeling, were to disappear from human consciousness, mans bodily suffering would be cut down one hundred percent. He would not even require anaesthesia during surgery (But one should not venture to forego anesthetics if he is not sufficiently strong-minded. A sudden imagination of pain might cause such reaction as to produce death.)
In Indian ashrams in olden times, children were taught from an early age how to watch bodily changes with an academic interest. This doesnt mean indifference, or negligence in attending to a wound or treating disease; rather, it is denial of pain and refusal to suffer, recognising that suffering is not endowed to man, either by nature or by divine fiat.
Bodily pain is merely a sensation intended to give an intimation or report to the brain of a certain bodily state requiring attention, It should not cause suffering. Attend to bodily pain but do not worry or weep over it.

Written 1923 by Paramahansa Yogananda,

Here from Paramahansa Yogananda: The Divine Romance p. 211f


Why, after Death, the Ordinary Man Forgets His Former Life

Unnatural death, and death in a state of bodily attachment, are not only painful, they also obscure memory. Of course, unless one is spiritually advanced, it is not always desirable to remember ones former life. The after-death oblivion of ones previous identity allows him to forget his past consciousness of failure, pain, and attachments, and begin life anew. The only disadvantage is that if he has not learned from past wrong actions, he may repeat those experiences, ignoring the warning of their consequences just as the inveterate alcoholic continues to drink the infernal liquid, even with the conscious knowledge of probable death from liver damage.
Though the pure consciousness of the soul maintains a continuity of remembrance from one life to another, the body-identified consciousness does not. The fact is, memory after death cannot survive under the following conditions:

A. f there is attachment to the body;

B. If there is attachment for past possessions, family or friends;

C. If there is a strong entanglement in bad karma, and if one has not risen above the effect of both good and bad actions

Written 1923 by Paramahansa Yogananda,
Here from Paramahansa Yogananda: The Divine Romance p. 213f


In the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord says: Actions do not cause attachment in Me, nor have I longing for their fruits. He who knows My nature is also free from the (karmic) fetters of works (IV: 14).

If, as in a. [attachment to the body]; and b. [attachment for past possessions, family or friends] the newborn soul remembered and was attached to its previous body, possessions, family, or friends, imagine the agony and frustration the soul would feel in a new incarnation! It would not like to begin a different life amidst a new environment, a new family, and new friends. The soul is a brother to all to all mankind. Imagine how narrow it would become if it loved only one small circle of human beings. It would not expand, and it wouldn’t let those other souls expand, to reach the ultimate goal of unity. We must realise this oneness of our soul with all souls in the unity of the one Spirit, and it is impossible to do so unless the soul expands its sphere of family and friends to include all.
In the case of c. above, the soul would be extremely discouraged, remembering past bad karma, struggles, and suffering, and wouldn’t have the will to make new effort to progress. It would forget its transcendent nature.
At the conclusion of each lifetime, death washes away all dark impressions, memories of failures and sins, and prejudiced conceptions, so that the soul can begin afresh to express itself in newer ways and make newer efforts to rise above and free itself from matter.

Written 1923 by Paramahansa Yogananda,
Here from Paramahansa Yogananda: The Divine Romance p. 213f

And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give the power over the nations. And I will give him the morning star.

Revelation 2:26,28

It is through the opening in the spiritual eye that the astral vehicle of man emerges from the physical body at death. Deprived of their astral counterparts, the sense organs and the myriad cells of the human form are left powerless. They then decay and return to their native state of dust. The astral-body forces can be seen by the yogi as they pass up through the spinal tunnel and the brain (the seven trap doors of the plexuses) and enter an astral form.
The spiritual eye in the average man is not awakened during his lifetime. Therefore he is not aware at death of the passage of the astral body through the plexuses. An unconscious person wh is carried from one place to another does not notice the stages of his journey. Similarly, the ordinary individual does not see his life energy being freed from the physical vehicle at death and manifesting itself as an astral form.

Paramahansa Yogananda: Bhagava Gita p. 725 - 727


Looking at the stars while strolling one evening with a group of disciples,
the Master said:

Each of you is composed of many tiny stars of atoms! If your life force was released from the ego, you will find yourself aware of the whole universe. When great devotees die, they find their consciousness spreading over infinite space. It is a beautiful experience.

Paramahansa Yogananda: Sayings, p. 97

At death

At death man is overcome by fear at his strange experience that of gradually finding himself unable to feel, or express his will, through a physical body. Then drowsiness overtakes him and for some time he remains in a state of peaceful slumber. Awakening from this sleep of death much needed after the hard trials of life he becomes aware of his encasement in an astral body, one whose tissues are made of light.
Amid the new beauties of the astral world, he forgets the whole of his past physical experience.
But a great yogi consciously observes through his spherical spiritual eye the various phenomena of death. Even a person whose soul is only partially awakened by good karma may at the advent of death have glimpses of the glory and joy of the mortal transition from the physical body to the astral heaven.
The advanced yogi sees his life forces move backward like a mass of rolling light from the cells, nerves, organs, and spine, and then enter an astral body, which hovers over the inert physical form.
The yogi who in life or at death withdraws his life force from the senses, and focuses it in the single eye finds himself in a joyful state of breathlessness. He thrills to see streams of prana rolling backward from the countless cells and ascending the spinal tunnel through the coiled stairway (kundalini), out from the single-eye passage in the forehead into a subtle astral body.
A yogi who has arrived at this state a midway perception of the physical plane and the astral plane is overwhelmed with joy. He sees a double splendour, that of two worlds. [] the yogi is simultaneously aware of the physical sphere and the astral sphere. His range of perception increases, through meditation on his intuitive spherical eye, until he can behold the omnipresence of God in all creation and beyond it.

Paramahansa Yogananda: Bhagava Gita p. 725 727

When the yogi has freed himself from the physical body,

he is still encased in an astral and a causal body

When the yogi has freed himself from the physical body, he is still encased in an astral and a causal body. By further yoga meditation on the spiritual eye, he ascends from the astral body by withdrawing his astral life force and consciousness upward through triune tunnels of the astral spine, through the spiritual eye, into the causal body.
The ideational or causal body contains the seed thoughts of mans physical and astral bodies. When by deeper ecstasy the yogi dissolves his chronic thoughts or delusions that have caused him to be encased in physical and astral bodies, his soul then moves through the seven idea-knots or plexuses of his causal body out into the vibration-less Transcendental.

Paramahansa Yogananda: Bhagava Gita p. 725 727

By Paramahansa Yogananda

Thine astral airplane of earthly parting
came to take my soul away. I wondered through
what starry vaults I was to soar, to what strange
lands I was to travel.

I questioned the mystic emissary of cosmic law. Soundlessly he answered:

I am the pilot of ever evolving life — often
mistakenly called Terrible Death. I am thy
brother, uplifter, redeemer, friend — unloader
of thy gross burden of body troubles. I come to
fetch thee away from the valley of thy broken
dreams to a wondrous highland of light, to which
poison vapours of sorrow cannot climb.

I have removed thy soul bird from the cage
of flesh attachment. Long imprisonment behind
bars of bones madest thee used to the cage, but
unwillingly; thou didst always yearn for liberty.
Now, cast away fear; thou hast won thine astral

O transitory visitor to Earth, re-enter the
beauteous skies! Explore once more thine eternal

From Whispers from Eternity