Mind Beyond Death, the title of a book by Dzogchen Ponlop, captures a valuable insight about life and death.
As one ponders the mystery of life, the premise that the mind will continue after death can be a meaningful and insightful contemplation.
Related to this question, is the task of coming to understand the nature of our mind today:
(1) What is the mind?
(2) What are the characteristics of the mind?
“What happens after death is a central theme of all the world’s religions, rooted as they are in a mystical view of the individual. This is not to say that the conclusion reached by these diverse religions is the same, however.
Each culture interprets the after-death experience according to its own dominating images, and the mythology of its own religion.
We can take the story of the blind men and the elephant as a metaphor for these cultural differences. Confronted by the enormous beast, several blind men touch him in different places and fall to arguing. “The elephant is like a tree,” says the one who is holding a leg. “No, no, he’s much more like a wall!” insists the one who is touching the elephant’s side. “A rope!” says the one who is holding the trunk, and so the bickering continues, though the blind men are touching the very same creature.
So it is with all mystical experience, including descriptions of the afterlife. Every attempt to describe what happens after we die—the bardos in the Tibetan texts, the mansions in the Kabbala, the heaven and hell of Christianity, the ground of being in Buddhism—point to the same thing: that is, a realm that the Soul enters after death.
Mystical texts frequently use the image of a finger pointing at the moon to describe our efforts to articulate metaphysical reality, the finger representing the words and images we employ to make symbols for what is beyond our grasp.
In this same way, though we cannot capture the after-death experience in language, we can point convincingly toward the fact that some form of afterlife does exist.” (Dass, Ram. Still Here (pp. 155-156). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)
As we near the end of our lives, to consider and reflect on the after-life for ourselves becomes of greater significance. This can involve taking the time to:
(1) Read and study about the after-life as described in the world’s spiritual traditions.
(2) Reflect on and analyse what one has read and studied.
(3) Meditate on life’s mystery.
Areas to contemplate and ponder include:
(1) What happens at death?
(2) Is there an after-life?
(3) What role does karma play — does how I live today affect my future existence?
(4) What about reincarnation?
(5) What about the possibility of past lives?
(6) If the mind indeed continues beyond death, what would that mean in terms of our future existence?
In the end, such reflections also become a very personal journey.
May these reflections be richly meaningful and insightful in each of our lives – so that we may enter the dying and death process with greater clarity, confidence, hope, and abiding peace of mind.
Alexander Peck March 22, 2020