Advaita Philosophy, Yoga Philosophy

What happens on death – some thoughts

P.J.Mazumdar


Here I will put down my own theory on what happens on death.

First, we must recognize that whatever we believe happens on death are always conjectures. This is true whether we believe in life after death or not. It is also true whether we believe in reincarnation, a trial by god and awarding of heaven and earth, modern near–death versions, merger into Brahman or any other such belief. The person who avers that there is no existence at all after death has as little grounds for his belief as others who believe there is something.

What is most interesting is that this is likely to be always so. No matter how far advanced we are into the future, and whether the future has solved the problem of whether there is an absolute or not behind this existence (thus solving the quandary between Buddhism and Advaita philosophy), we can be fairly sure that they will still be as much at a loss in knowing what happens on death.

No one has come back after dying, and no one is ever likely to do so ever. Death must always remain a mystery, and all our theories on death are a conjecture and will always remain a conjecture.

Because of the conditions of death, all conjectures on death must remain a personal belief and cannot be supported by logic or reason. With this, I will present my personal conjecture on death and why I feel it to be most likely.

There are three main conjectures that we can derive in my understanding and in the context of my book. Since I believe that all thinking on death is a conjecture and no one has special knowledge and all such thinking is man made, I reject the conjectures of reincarnation (Hindus) and judgmental (of Christians and Muslims) as being too fanciful.

The three conjectures which, in my opinion, are the most likely are:

Theory 1: there is no absolute and no life after death at all.

Theory 2: there is an absolute behind our relative existence and on death our relative consciousness merges into this absolute consciousness.

Theory 3: there is an absolute but there is no merger on death and hence no life after death.


These three conjectures are also the same for the mystical experience, namely, that there is no absolute and no mystical experience, there is an absolute and there is a mystical experience and there is an absolute but no mystical experience.

There is also the fourth corollary to this, namely, that there is no absolute but there is merger into this nothingness. This is the theory of Buddhist mystical experience. However, for all practical arguments, this is virtually the same as saying there is no absolute and no merger. Saying ‘no merger’ and a ‘merger into nothingness’ may be considered different in theoretical hair splitting, but we need not go into this as the end result is the same, so the Buddhist viewpoint may be considered the same as theory no 1.

Theory no 1: There is no absolute and no life after death.

This is the viewpoint of atheism, or at least, this is how I understand the viewpoint of atheism to be. It is also, as I have just said, the viewpoint of the Buddhists. There is really nothing to say about this, since we can see at once how bleak it sounds. All death is a blankness, a sudden end to all our hopes and dreams.

Theory no 2: There is an absolute and there is merger into this.

This is the viewpoint of Hinduism and Advaita. But there is an important difference from traditional Hinduism and Advaita philosophy. In traditional Advaita, this merger in the absolute is only for those who have lived a successful religious life, ie, achieved mystical union with Brahman in life, according to Advaita, or those who have acquired a sufficient amount of good Karma by doing good deeds, according to general Hinduism.For others this is not the result. For all others, the result is reincarnation.

But for a modern Advaita philosophy, we can disregard the theory of reincarnation. It is much more likely that this merger is for all, and we will all merge into the Brahman at death. I will discuss this more later.

Here it is worth noting that even with a merger into Brahman, our thoughts and aspirations, etc. of this earth will die out. These thoughts and hopes are a part of our consciousness, and with the disruption of the individual consciousness, they will surely cease to exist. So in a sense it is still a death for the individual. But the difference is that this death is not a blankness but instead a merger into something much more wonderful and deep.

Theory no 3: there is an absolute but there is no merger on death.

This to my view is an illogical view.

We can believe in theory no 1, that there is no absolute and hence of course no life after death, and we can believe In theory no 2, that there is an absolute and there is merger into this.

But theory no 3 is logically inconsistent.

The reason is this (of course I have already discussed this in my book): if there is indeed an absolute behind all creation, then there must be an absolute behind our consciousness as well, it cannot be that there is an absolute behind matter but no absolute behind consciousness. Consciousness after all is also an existent entity, just like matter, though it is of a different type. We can then say that Brahman has absolute consciousness and we have relative or differentiated consciousness. Moreover in Advaita, the differentiation or relativeness is not real, it is all ultimately still the Brahman. So even ‘I’ am still Brahman and my individual consciousness has only relative reality. In this case, when this individual consciousness disappears, ‘I’ will not cease to exist but will only expand and exist as my true identity, Brahman.

So if we do believe in the existence of an absolute like Brahman, then we must logically also believe in the merger into Brahman at death.

The same argument applies for mystical experience also, if we believe in Brahman then we must also logically accept the mystical experience as true.

So we come back to theory no 2, that is, there is an absolute and there is merger into the absolute on death.

Here, in the context of traditional Hinduism, there is an important point: traditional Hinduism says that such merger is conditional. Such merger happens only for those who have realized Brahman, according to Advaita, or those who have acquired sufficient amount of good karma, according to general Hinduism. For all the rest, there is reincarnation.

However, I reject both the law of karma and reincarnation for various reasons of illogicality as I have already discussed in the previous section. There is no way that karma can suddenly step in to decide who will get reincarnation and who will get final merger.

Therefore, if we do believe in Brahman, we must believe in a merger for all into Brahman on death.

Support for this can also be found in the Upanishads.In the previous section on Reincarnation, I have pointed out some sutras which support theory 2, I will just copy paste them here in the next page. There is, needless to say, no support at all for theory no 1 at all in the Upanishads.

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