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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.

"Deep meditation wasn't an inert state; it was a launching pad for consciousness."

  Deepak Chopra, Life After Death, Part 5

I had an uncle who loved to travel and visit the various saints and sages that so densely populate India. Sometimes, to my fascination, he brought me along. I saw renunciates who sat in one posture for years at a time; others who barely breathed. I know now that my eyes were deceiving me. I only saw a chrysalis, inside of which marvelous transformations were taking place. Silently, these figures were tuning in to different frequencies beyond the outside world. Through a shift in attention they could speak to Rama (or Buddha or Christ, though that was less likely in India). Deep meditation wasn't an inert state; it was a launching pad for consciousness. In the ER when someone dies of a heart attack, only to be resuscitated with reports of a near-death experience, he or she uses a different launching pad. In both cases there was a shift in the quality of attention.

The big difference is that when a cardiac patient goes into the light, the journey is involuntary. Those silent yogis from my past were exercising an intention. By having a desire at a deep enough level of awareness, they went through a process that parallels death. The senses fade one by one. (The last one to leave when a person dies is sound, which was the first to come in at birth. This fits the Indian notion that the five elements come and go in a specific order; since sound is the equivalent of vibration, which holds the body together, it makes sense that it would be the last to go.)

As the gross senses become duller, the subtle senses sharpen. We still see and hear after we die, but now the objects aren't physical. They consist of anything we want to see on the astral plane: celestial sights and sounds, heavenly beings, and brilliant lights. In near-death experiences the most typical manifestations are faces, voices, or an emotional presence. In other traditional cultures people might expect to encounter ghosts or animals. Often a dying person feels something subtle around him--a certain warmth, a faint form or sound before leaving the body. Somehow these can be accessed on the dying person's vibrational frequency. Anyone who has spent time with the dying knows that they may say that they've been joined in the room by a departed spouse or other long-dead loved one. Some kind of astral contact is being made in the transition zone from physical to subtle.

At death the astral counterpart of the physical body separates from it. According to Vedic teachings, the departed soul then sleeps for a time in the astral region, which I translate as its incubation period. New ideas percolate in the mind before they lead to action, and something similar happens with the soul. Normally the soul sleeps peacefully, but if a person dies suddenly or prematurely, or has many unfulfilled desires, this sleep may be restless and disturbed. The horrors of a violent death would continue to reverberate, and so would more mundane torments like unrequited love or grief. Suicides experience the same inner pain that led them to take their lives.

Unfulfilled desires don't have to be negative. A longing for pleasure also represents an inability to let go. My uncle the spiritual devotee heard many detailed accounts of souls stuck in lower astral planes. Days, months, and years aren't the yardsticks of the soul's perspective.

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