Srivaishnava Question and Answers – Learners Series – 15

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Chapter 10: Departure of the Soul

1. At the time of death, how does the Jivatma depart from this body?

This is well explained in the Upanishads. At the time of death, the Jivatma leaves the body. When the Jivatma leaves the body, the following also leave:-

1) The five senses of knowledge; (Jnana Indriyas)

2) The five senses of action; (Karma Indriyas)

3) Manas or mind;

4) Prana or principal vital air;

5) The five elements viz., ether, air, fire, water and earth, in subtle form.

2. What exactly happens at the time of death?

First, the speech rests in mind.

3. What do you mean by this?

As you know, the mind thinks first and then the person speaks. So, at the time of death, it is the reverse. The power of speech stops first. He is unable to speak. He is able to think, but not able to speak. This is the first stage in the process of death.

4. What happens next?

Similarly, the five senses of knowledge and the five senses of action rest in the mind.

Then the mind rests in the vital air or prana. This means that his thinking function also stops. Then, the people say that he has become unconscious. He does not know what is happening around. But, life is still there. So, we say that the mind rests in prana.

5. What happens next?

Next, the prana reaches the soul or Jivatma. After this, the soul joins with the five gross elements (panchabhuta), of ether, air, fire, water and earth, in a subtle form.

Then, they all depart from the body. The Upanishad figuratively states that the prana then rests in the fire, in the body. In other words, after the prana departs, there is still warmth in the body.

That is why for some time after death, the body is still warm. When the fire also departs, then the body becomes cold.

6. What is the further process of the soul leaving the body, at the time of death?

I have explained earlier how

1)the five senses of knowledge

2)five senses of action, combined with

3) mind (manas),

4) prana (vital air)

5)the soul and

6) the five gross elements in subtle form, proceed out of the body.

Now, there are innumerable veins (nadis) in the body. Out of these, there are 101 veins, which go upwards. Out of these 101 veins, going upwards, there is one special vein, called Brahma nadi.

1) The Jivatma, who is to attain moksha, passes through this special Brahma nadi.

2) The Jivatma, who passes through the other 100 veins, going upwards, reaches svarga; and enjoys pleasures, in the company of devas.

3) The Jivatma,who passes through one of the veins,going downwards,is born in samsara in this world.

7. What happens to the senses (Indriyas)?

When a person dies, the soul leaves the body; and depending upon the karma,, the soul i) goes to svarga or ii) takes on some other body or hi goes to Paramapada. ~When the soul goes to svarga or to some other body, all the ten senses also follow the soul.

But when the soul goes to Paramapada, the senses are left behind. In any case the senses are not destroyed.

8. Please explain the method of departure of the Jivatma,followed by these elements,from the body.

Suppose the individual soul or Jivatma performs good and meritorious acts. So, for the good and pious acts done in this world, they have to enjoy the fruits. So, to enjoy these fruits in the other world, the Jivatma, accompanied by senses and elements, as mentioned above, reaches the heaven or svarga.

There he takes a body, to enjoy the fruits of his good acts. In the company of the devas, he enjoys the fruits of his action. When his good karmas or the good acts get almost exhausted, he is born again in this world, along with the balance of karma.

9. So, how does he get into this world again?

i) After enjoying the fruits of his good action, in the heaven, as described above,

ii) TheJivatma enters the clouds. Then, along with the rain from the clouds, he again enters this world.

iii) So as the rain water falls on the earth, he also falls on the earth. There, he then becomes united with the paddy, etc, which is grown in the earth.

iv) The paddy, is made into food, and is eaten by man. So, he also enters the man. v) Then, from the man,, he (along with the creative fluid of the man), enters the womb of a woman; when the man and woman unite. He is subsequently born from the womb of the woman.

The above is described in detail in the Vedas and is called as the vidya of five fires (panchagni vidya).

The five fires are: 1) svarga or heaven, 2) The rain cloud, 3) earth, 4) man and 5) woman – as explained above;

10. Please explain the types of persons who reach svarga.

Some people do good and meritorious works, like performing the yaga, or digging ponds, for the good of the people. Such persons go through the path of smoke, night, krishnapaksha, dakshinayana, the world of manes (pitrus) etc. and – reach the Moon god.

Such people, who have done good work and reach the moon, through the path of smoke, enjoy the fruits of their action in svarga. Then they come back into this world, as described above.

11. Explain the types of persons, who reach Paramapada, i.e., attain moksha, and their passage.

Those who perform bhakti yoga or adopt the path of prapatti, also reach the moon, but by a different route, the route of the devas. They go through the path of light, suklapaksha, uttarayana, air, sun and moon. People, who after the bhakti yoga or prapatti reach the moon this way, go further beyond to reach Paramapada.

There is a big tank called Irammadiyam. Then the sacred river Viraja is there. On the banks of the river Viraja, the Jivatma casts off his subtle body, consisting of the senses and elements in the subtle form, along with the principal vital air. Then he enters the Paramapada.

12. What happens in Paramapada?

He is welcomed there by others. He sees the Lord,with Mahalakshmi, reclining on Adisesha. He announces himself to the Lord and is received by Him. After that, it is eternal bliss for him.

13. Where is this described?

This is described in detail, in Kaushitaki Upanishad and also in Sri Vaikunta Gadya of Ramanuja.

14. What happens to those, who have done only bad things, who have never done any good things in their life?

Those, who have done only bad things; and who have not done any good things in their life; do not go either by the path of smoke or by the path of light, to the moon. There is no question of the five fires for them, i.e., coming through the rains, down to the earth.

They are repeatedly re-born in this world, as trees, animals, birds, and so on.

15. So, how do you categorise the departure of beings, after death?

There are three ways of passage for the beings, after death, as follows:

1) Those, who have done bhakti or prapatti, go by the path of Light to the Moon and then on, they attain moksha or Paramapada. There is no return for them, from the Paramapada.

2) Those, who have done good things, like digging ponds for the benefit of the people, performing yagas or giving gifts to the deserving, go through the path of smoke and reach the moon. Thereafter, they enjoy the fruits of their good deeds in svarga. Afterwards, they come down to this world, through the five fires, with a balance of their karmas. Depending upon the balance of the karmas, they are born in this world, as human beings, animals or birds.

3) Those, who have done only bad things and have not done any good things, are repeatedly born and re-borm in this world itself, as trees, animals and birds.

16. A person has done prapatti and he is assured of moksha. At the time of death, what happens to the good karma, (punya) that he has earned so far; and similarly, to any bad karmas which also he earned so far?

Now he leaves off both the results of the good karmas and bad karmas. The Upanishads say that, at the time of death, his good karma is distributed to his relatives and friends. The sins or bad karmas are distributed to persons who hated him.

17. Do you mean to say that, for a person who has done Prapatti, even his good karmas are of no use?

You are right. When a person, who has done prapatti, attains moksha after death, his good karmas are also of no use to him.

The good karmas of a person are useful to him, only when he attains svarga and not moksha.

18. Then, why should a man, who has done prapatti, do anything good in this world, since they are of no use to him?

So long as a person, who has done prapatti, is alive in this world, he has also to obey the sastras. He has to do good things voluntarily, for the pleasure of the Lord. That is why, whatever good things we do, we do for the pleasure of the Lord. We call this Sattvika tyaga.

19. So, for a person who has done prapatti, both good karmas and bad karmas, are of no use, at the time of death.

You are right. That is why,for a person who has done prapatti,the good karmas are called golden chain or shackle; and,the bad karmas are called iron chain.So the chain,whether golden or iron, is discarded,at the time of death.

20. Why should the Lord wait till death, for distributing the person’s punya and papa, to his friends and enemies? Why not earlier?

There are two reasons for this:

1) Even a person, who has done prapatti, continues to do good things and also bad things (intentionally or unintentionally) till death. So the Lord waits till a man’s death, for the final distribution of the results of his karmas, to his friends and enemies.

2) A person, who was earlier a friend, might later become an enemy. Similarly, a person who was an enemy, might later become a friend. So the Lord waits till a person’s death, for distribution of his karmas, to his friends and enemies.

21. You say that, for a person, who has done prapatti, at the time of his death, his papa and punya, (his sins and good deeds) are distributed to his enemies and friends or relatives. But sastras say that a man, who has done good or bad, has to reap the benefit. Is this not conflicting with what you have stated?

It is not the exact sins and good deeds of the person. who has done prapatti, that go to his enemies and friends. An equivalent value is distributed to the enemies and friends.

The person, who has done prapatti, has friends or relatives, who do good to this person. So, in return. they get the effects of good deeds of the person. who has done prapatti. Similarly, his enemies do bad things to him (who has done prapatti). So, they get the equivalent effect of sins of the person. who has done prapatti. Further, in any case, for every general rule, there is always an exception. Even if the above interpretation is not accepted/you can take this, as an exception to the general rule, in the case 01 a prapanna (who has done prapatti).

22. Now a man does good things or bad things. Consequently, he gets pleasure or pain. Do these results as pleasures or pains come from his earlier action, by themselves; or are these given by Brahman?

The results of actions, whether good or bad, are bestowed by the Lord only. It is only the Lord, who gives pleasures or good results for good things done. Similarly, it is only the Lord, who gives punishment, for all bad actions of the Jivatma.

23. Do we accept the concept of salvation in this world itself?

No. This is the concept of advaitins. They call it as jivan mukti; and say that a person can attain salvation here itself. For us, the salvation is attaining moksha or Paramapada, where we enjoy and serve Lord Narayana.

24. I have heard that death at night or in krishna-paksha or in dakshinayana, is not good. Is that so?

For people who have done Prapatti and who are to attain moksha, it is immaterial, when the life departs from the body. Saying that it is not good to die, during night or krishnapaksha or dakshina-yana is only for others, who have not done prapatti.

25. What is the meaning of Conductor (ativahika)?

The presiding deities of light, year, moon, wind, sun, etc. are directed by Brahman, to receive and conduct those, who are to attain moksha. So, they are called conductors.

26. What happens to the soul, after attaining moksha?

His essential qualities of intelligence, happiness, etc. shine in their normal splendour. The soul (Jivatma) becomes free from all sins, free from sorrow, etc; having the highest degree of intelligence and happiness.

27. Were these qualities with the soul even in this world?

These qualities rightly belong to the soul, even in this world. But, as I mentioned earlier, they are hidden, because of the impurities and defects, due to his association with the body. So when he leaves the body and leaves this world and attains moksha; his essential in-born qualities shine in their normal splendour.

I also gave you the example of a gem covered by dirt.In this world, the soul is like a gem, covered with dirt. When he attains moksha, the dirt is cleaned; the soul becomes like a clear gem having its fullest brilliance.

28. What are his powers, after attaining moksha?

His powers become unlimited. He can get whatever he wants. He can do whatever he wants. He can take any body, if he likes. He can move without a body also.

In short, whatever he desires, he can do. He enjoys things. He serves Lord Narayana, either with body or without body.

29. After attaining liberation, in the Paramapada, does the Jivatma become one with Paramatma?

No, the Jivatma does not become one with Brahman. But he acquires all the auspicious and divine qualities of Brahman.

30. What do the Vedas say in this regard?

The Vedas say that in the Paramapada, the Jivatma attains the highest degree of equality with Brahman. He is permanently free from the bondage of births and deaths. He enjoys the Lord, in the company of others.

31. Are there any limitations or restrictions to this freedom of the soul, when he reaches Paramapada? Can he do anything he pleases?

Yes, his powers are unlimited, except with regard to one matter. That is, except regarding creation, support and destruction of the world. The powers to create, support and destroy the world, are entirely that of Brahman. So in these matters alone, the released soul does not have the powers.

32. Does this limitation not restrict or curtail the happiness of the released soul?

No, it does not. Because, the released soul attains the same pleasure and happiness as that of Brahman, who creates, supports, and destroys the world.

He attains the highest degree of equality with Brahman. This can be explained with an example.

33. Can you clarify this further?

Let me give you an example:

There are a father and his son. The father cultivates the land. He harvests the grains and he cooks. The meal is shared, both by the father and the son. So, the son does not till or plough the land. The father is tilling the land and is harvesting the proceeds.

Still, the son has the pleasure of eating the produce, just like his father. So, the pleasure remains the same, both for the father and the son. In the same way, although the released soul does not create the world, he gets the same pleasure as the Brahman in this regard.

34. You said that even in Paramapada, Jivatma does not have powers to create, support or destroy the world. Are there any other powers or qualities, peculiar to the Lord?

The following qualities are special to the Lord:

1. Being the cause of the world.

2. Giving of moksha to Jivatma.

3. Being the support and controller of the world and for whom all things and beings exist.

4. Having everything as His body.

35. After attaining Brahman in the Paramapada, when does the released soul return to the world?.

After attaining moksha, the released soul does not return to the world, because he has no karmas left. All his karmas have been destroyed; and he continues in eternity, enjoying the Brahman.

36. Can the released soul then never return to the world?

What I mentioned is that the released soul does not have any karma left. So, he is not re-born in this world. But if, out of his own free will, he wants to visit this world, he does so. As already mentioned, he can do anything he likes, anything he pleases.

37. Can the Lord, because of His independence, send back the released soul into this world?

There is no possibility of this; because, after getting rid of all karmas, the Jivatma has attained moksha. So, there is no reason or cause for the Lord to send him back into this world.

38. Again,you say that he can do anything he likes.But,there are specific duties assigned to some of the Nityasuris, like Garuda and Adisesha. Garuda is the vehicle of the Lord. Adisesha is the couch (bed) for the Lord. So, can the released soul do these duties also?

As I said earlier, all these have to be interpreted, without conflicting with other matters. The released soul does not desire to do things, which are already being done by some others, like Garuda and Adisesha. Further, the pleasure that results from doing any of these things, is the same, i.e. whichever service the released soul does to the Lord, he gets the same pleasure.

To be continued…

Source: A Dialog on Hinduism By Sri V.N. Gopala Desikan

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1 COMMENT

  1. Are there any physical trails we can use to know whether the soul has gone to svarga, moksha or just remaining in the lower and middle planetary systems?
    If the soul has gone to moksha, do we still have to do tarpanam for that soul?

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