Warning: include() [function.include]: URL file-access is disabled in the server configuration in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 6

Warning: include(http://www.thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com/Include_TRSW/header.html) [function.include]: failed to open stream: no suitable wrapper could be found in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 6

Warning: include() [function.include]: Failed opening 'http://www.thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com/Include_TRSW/header.html' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/local/php5/lib/php') in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 6

Immortality and Life after Death


    Warning: include() [function.include]: URL file-access is disabled in the server configuration in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 14

    Warning: include(http://www.thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com/Include_TRSW/sitemap_phil_of_rel_life_death.html) [function.include]: failed to open stream: no suitable wrapper could be found in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 14

    Warning: include() [function.include]: Failed opening 'http://www.thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com/Include_TRSW/sitemap_phil_of_rel_life_death.html' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/local/php5/lib/php') in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 14

Warning: include() [function.include]: URL file-access is disabled in the server configuration in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 16

Warning: include(http://www.thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com/Include_TRSW/list_phil_of_rel_sections.html) [function.include]: failed to open stream: no suitable wrapper could be found in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 16

Warning: include() [function.include]: Failed opening 'http://www.thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com/Include_TRSW/list_phil_of_rel_sections.html' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/local/php5/lib/php') in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 16

Warning: include() [function.include]: URL file-access is disabled in the server configuration in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 17

Warning: include(http://www.thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com/Include_TRSW/amazon_sidebar_left.html) [function.include]: failed to open stream: no suitable wrapper could be found in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 17

Warning: include() [function.include]: Failed opening 'http://www.thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com/Include_TRSW/amazon_sidebar_left.html' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/local/php5/lib/php') in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 17

Warning: include() [function.include]: URL file-access is disabled in the server configuration in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 18

Warning: include(http://www.thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com/Include_TRSW/new_list.html) [function.include]: failed to open stream: no suitable wrapper could be found in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 18

Warning: include() [function.include]: Failed opening 'http://www.thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com/Include_TRSW/new_list.html' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/local/php5/lib/php') in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 18

Warning: include() [function.include]: URL file-access is disabled in the server configuration in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 19

Warning: include(http://www.thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com/Include_TRSW/other_sidebar_left.html) [function.include]: failed to open stream: no suitable wrapper could be found in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 19

Warning: include() [function.include]: Failed opening 'http://www.thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com/Include_TRSW/other_sidebar_left.html' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/local/php5/lib/php') in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 19

Life after death: An introduction to Hindu beliefs

Information: This article describes some of the key Hindu beliefs concerning life after death, and some of the spiritual principles funding them. A version of this article was originally published on the website www.faithnet.org.uk.

Introduction

All the major world religions teach that life continues after death. Christian, Islamic and Jewish beliefs can be generally classified as a linear, whereas the faith traditions Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism can be classified as mainly cyclical.

  • Liner: People live on the earth one time, and then when they die they face judgement.
  • Cyclical: People do not just live and die once, but can be reborn a number of times (and live a series of lives) before reaching their final end-state. After death the soul (or the essence of a person) is reborn in this world to live a new life. The process of being re-born into the world is also known as reincarnation.

The idea of being re-born here is not the same as being born-again. Some Christians talk about being born-again, but they do so meaning that when someone becomes a Christian, they are being spiritually re-born (having first been physically born into the world). This belief is based on something Jesus taught Nicodemus (see John 3:1-36).

This continuous cycle of life (birth, death, rebirth) is known as samsara, and it is the aim of every Hindu to achieve freedom from this so that they will no longer be reborn into the world.

The law of karma

'Karma is the correction mechanism, the chisel with which the negative self, the inert stone, is chiseled away till the hidden deity comes out of it and enters the temple of God.' (Hinduism and the belief in rebirth, www.hinduwebsite.com)

The law of karma explains why people are reborn into the samsaric realm, and is also the basis for determining how this occurs. Karma literally means 'action', and refers to the things we do. However, karma is also to do with looking at how someone has lived their whole life too. For instance, someone might have spent their whole life indulging in worldly pleasures, which although not deemed wrong by Hindus, shows that they love the things of this world rather than any other. So the law of karma will naturally lead them to be reborn into the world (again), whereas someone who has spent most of their life dwelling on more spiritual things will begin to progress on from this.

As with Buddhism, Hinduism teaches that worldly pleasures are limited in the amount of happiness they can bring, and that sooner or later a person will desire 'higher' (spiritual) forms of satisfaction.

One important thing to note is that no God is involved in judging and determining where someone will be reborn. This is because the law of karma is a natural process. To say that God is involved in this natural process, would be like saying God caused a bruise to appear on someone's arm after they knocked it (which is not the case). Therefore, just as a bruise naturally appears, so people will naturally be reborn in different ways according to the sum total of their karma (or desires).

SiliconeZone Sunflower Cake Mould

Something to think about: In what way might using a cake-mould to bake a cake help to explain the law of karma?


Warning: include() [function.include]: URL file-access is disabled in the server configuration in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 74

Warning: include(http://www.thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com/Include_TRSW/google_main_ad_unit.html) [function.include]: failed to open stream: no suitable wrapper could be found in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 74

Warning: include() [function.include]: Failed opening 'http://www.thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com/Include_TRSW/google_main_ad_unit.html' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/local/php5/lib/php') in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 74

Atman (soul)

'[The atman] is indestructible. It cannot be hurt or damaged in any way. It is a pure being, created by God, maturing its way to Him in final merger.' (Life after death, Hinduism Today, September 1999 [Bracket mine])

Hindus believe that everyone has a soul (atman), and that this is also divine. Although religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam also teach that each human has a soul, they tend to believe this is unrelated to God (other than having been created by God). Another unique feature of the Hindu belief in the atman is the notion that everyone has the same soul.

The belief that everyone has the same (divine) soul is also encompassed by the Hindu saying, tat vam asi (you are that).

Hindus believe that people remain on the cycle of samsara (birth, death, rebirth), because they are ignorant of their true (divine) nature. Naturally, this implies that once someone begins to realise, accept and embrace who they really are, that they will begin to progress towards God (Brahman).

Although born and raised a Hindu, the Buddha rejected the notion of God and also the idea of a permanent divine soul. This is because he felt that both these concepts supported what he saw as an unfair and unjust social system (aka the caste system).

For Hindus, death is merely a transition from one life to another. Unlike Judaism and Christianity, where death is said to have come into the world due to sin (or wrong-doing), Hindus embrace death as an important transitional experience. This is because on its journey back to Brahman the atman needs to pass from body to body, and this can only happen if people die and are able to 'cast off' their old life-form in order to move onto another:

'As a man casts off his worn-out clothes and takes on other new ones, so does the [soul] cast off it's worn out bodies and enter new ones' (Bhagavad-Gita Gita 2:22)'

It is interesting to note that although the atman is neither male or female, it does (and can) inhabit male and female bodies over the course of many lifetimes.

Beings are 'reborn' into different bodies due to their past karma, but they will not remain in them forever. Instead, they will move onto others once the effects of a particular karmic cycle have run its course.

'This is where the idea of reincarnation of soul perfectly fits in. If we accept the whole creation as a grand process stretching over a vast period of time, we cannot over look the importance [of our role] in it. [We] cannot make a brief appearance on earth, live just one life and then disappear forever into the cozy corners of some safe heaven, or the vast dungeons of some burning hell, leaving creation, God and Nature to themselves.' (Hinduism and the belief in rebirth, www.hinduwebsite.com [Bracket mine])

Wheel of life - Buddhist painting from Bhutan

Wheel of life - Buddhist painting from Bhutan (Source: Wikipedia - click to enlarge)

Buddhism has many similar religious concepts and themes to that of Hinduism. This should not surprise us, seeing as the Buddha was raised a devout Hindu. However, the similarities between these spiritual traditions are so numerous that it has led some to suggest that Buddhists should not be regarded as followers of a new and unique religious tradition, but simply reformed Hindus.

Moksha

'Salvation' in Hinduism is not so much to do with 'saving one's soul', but being freed from the cycle of samsara. There are four ways this can be achieved, but at the heart of all of them is the idea of reuniting of the atman (soul) with Brahman:

  • Karma yoga (the way of action): This 'way' is to do with performing one's dharma, or doing the 'right thing' according to one's caste (or social status). Borrowing a term from Buddhism, we might say that it is 'right action'. The classic discussion of this concept is found in The Bhagavad-Gita, where Arjuna converses with Krishna about whether it is right for the sons of Pandu to fight against each other. Krishna' response is that it is, because they are doing their duty in an impassioned way (or doing what they need to do at this time, without regard for personal gain or interest).

The impassioned way of acting in karma yoga, might also be compared to Immanuel Kant's notion of 'duty' and the categorical imperative.

  • Bhakti yoga (the way of devotion): This 'way' is to do with developing love and devotion to God (Brahman). It is generally considered the easiest way, not so much in terms of how much effort one needs to put in but because anyone (no matter which caste (social group) they are in), can perform Bhakti anywhere, and at any time.
  • Jnana yoga (the way of knowledge): This 'way' is to do with being able to correctly perceive and understand the true nature of things (i.e. that the body is temporary, whilst the atman is divine).
  • Raja yoga, or yoga (the way of meditation): Those who stress the importance of this 'way' say that having a controlled and purified mind, is the key to gaining control over the rest of the body.

Something to think about: Which of these four ways would you say was most important (if any), and why?

In terms of what happens once someone is liberated from samsara, there are two popular schools of thought:

  • Advaita Vedanta: This tradition holds that the soul and Brahman are one, and that upon achieving moksha the atman will be absorbed into God (also classified as monistic (mono = 'one')).

'Brahman is the only truth, the world is unreal, and there is ultimately no difference between Brahman and individual self.' (Adi Shankara)

  • Visishtadvaita: This tradition holds that the soul and Brahman are separate entities, and that upon achieving moksha the atman will retain its uniqueness in the presence of Brahman (i.e. it will not be absorbed).

Back to top


Warning: include() [function.include]: URL file-access is disabled in the server configuration in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 176

Warning: include(http://www.thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com/Include_TRSW/footer.html) [function.include]: failed to open stream: no suitable wrapper could be found in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 176

Warning: include() [function.include]: Failed opening 'http://www.thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com/Include_TRSW/footer.html' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/local/php5/lib/php') in /home/content/t/h/a/thatrswebsite/html/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/Life_after_Death/hinduism_life_death.php on line 176