spiritual writings | retreat center directory

You're invited to visit our sister sites: DanJoseph.com, a resource site
featuring articles on spirituality, psychology, and A Course in Miracles, and
ColoradoCounseling.com, an information site on holistic cognitive therapy.

Home | Writings | General | Deepak Chopra | Life After Death part 1 | next   

Excerpted from Life After Death by Deepak Chopra. Copyright © 2006 by Deepak Chopra. Excerpted by permission of Random House, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.
 

"In the India of my childhood the hereafter wasn't a place at all, but a state of awareness."

  Deepak Chopra, Life After Death, Part 1

While writing this book on the afterlife, I kept being drawn back to stories that I'd heard in India as a child. Parables are a powerful way to teach children, and many of the ones told to me have lasted all my life. So I decided to weave the book around tales of the kind I heard at home, around the temples, and at school, hoping that the reader would be enticed by a world where heroes battle darkness in order to emerge into the light.

In this case the hero is a woman, Savitri, and the enemy she must defeat is Yama, the lord of death. Yama shows up in her front yard one day, waiting to take away her husband the moment he returns from his work as a woodcutter. Savitri is terrified. What strategy could possibly turn Death away from his inexorable mission?

I had no trouble imagining these characters. I was frightened for Savitri and anxious to find out how her battle of wits with Death turned out. Their world flowed easily into my own, because the India of my childhood was not that far removed from ancient India. I want to take a moment to convey what death and the world beyond meant back then. It may seem like a very esoteric place. If so, you can come back to it after reading the main body of the book. However mysterious and exotic, here is where I began.

What was most magical in my childhood was transformation. Death itself was seen as a brief stopping point on an endless soul journey that could turn a peasant into a king and vice versa. With the possibility of infinite lifetimes extending forward and backward, a soul could experience hundreds of heavens and hells. Death ended nothing; it opened up limitless adventures. But at a deeper level, it's typically Indian not to crave permanence. A drop of water becomes vapor, which is invisible, yet vapor materializes into billowing clouds, and from clouds rain falls back to earth, forming river torrents and eventually merging into the sea. Has the drop of water died along the way? No, it undergoes a new expression at each stage. Likewise, the idea that I have a fixed body locked in space and time is a mirage. Any drop of water inside my body could have been ocean, cloud, river, or spring the day before. I remind myself of this fact when the bonds of daily life squeeze too tight.

In the West the hereafter has been viewed as a place akin to the material world. Heaven, hell, and purgatory lie in some distant region beyond the sky or under the earth. In the India of my childhood the hereafter wasn't a place at all, but a state of awareness.

next ->