Thursday, June 10, 2010

What happens after death?

Have you ever thought or been curious that what happens when we die? Following text I read in “Vasistha’s Yoga”. I do not know if you believe in this or not, does not matter but it was very interesting to me so thought to put it here. May be you will like, surprise or think otherwise. Here it goes….

There are three types of human beings: the fool, one who is practicing concentration and mediation, and the yogi (or intelligent one). The last two type of human beings abandon the body by the practice of yoga of concentration and mediation and depart at their sweet will and pleasure. But, the fool who has not practiced concentration and meditation, being at the mercy of forces outside himself, experiences great anguish at the approach of death.

The fool experiences a terrible burning sensation within himself. His breathing becomes hard and labored. His body becomes discolored. He enters into dense darkness and sees the stars during day. He gets dizzy. He is confused in his vision; he sees the earth as space and the sky as the solid earth. He experiences all sorts of delirious sensations - that he is falling into a well, entering into a stone, riding a fast vehicle, melting away like snow, being dragged with rope, floating away like a blade of grass, etc. He wishes to express suffering but unable to do so. Gradually, his senses lose their power and he is unable to even think. Therefore he sinks in un-wisdom and ignorance.

Such is the order established in the beginning of the creation by the infinite consciousness. When life-breath does not flow freely, the person ceases to live. But all this is imaginary. How can infinite consciousness cease to be? The person is nothing but infinite consciousness. Who dies and when, to whom does this infinite consciousness belong and how? Even when millions of bodies die, this consciousness exists undiminished.

When there is cessation of the flow of the life-breath, the consciousness of the individual becomes utterly passive. Please remember that consciousness is pure, eternal and infinite: it does not arise nor cease to be. It is ever there in the moving and unmoving creatures, in sky, on mountain and in fire and air. When life-breath ceases, the body is said to be “dead” or “inert”. The life breath returns to its source- air and the consciousness freed from memory and tendencies remains as the self.

The atomic eternal particle which is possessed of these memories and tendencies is known as the Jiva, and it remains there itself, in the space where the dead body is. And they refer to it as “Preta” (departed soul). That Jiva now abandons its ideas and what it had been seeing till then, and perceives other things as in dreaming or day-dreaming. After a momentary lapse of consciousness, the Jiva begins to fancy that it sees another body, another world and another life-span.

There are six categories of such “departed souls”: bad, worse, worst sinners; good, better and best of virtuous ones. Of course, there are sub-divisions among these too. In the case of some of the worst sinners, the momentary lapse of consciousness may last a considerable time. The middle among sinners undergo terrible sufferings in hell and then are born in countless living species before they see the end of their agony. They might even exist as trees for a long time. The middling among sinners also suffer for a considerable time; and then born as worms and animals. The light sinners are soon reborn as human beings.

The best among the righteous ascend to heaven and enjoy life there. Later they are born in good and affluent families on earth. The middling among the righteous go to region of the celestials and return to the earth as children of priests, etc. Even righteous among the departed ones, after enjoying such heavenly pleasures, have to pass through the realms of the demi-gods to suffer the consequences of the iniquities they might have committed.

All these departed souls experience within themselves the fruits of their own past actions. At first there is the notion “I am dead”, and then “I am being carried away by the messengers of the God of death”. The righteous among them fancy that they are taken to the heaven and the ordinary sinners fancy that they are standing in the court of God of death where with the help of Citragupta (the hidden record of one’s deeds), they are being tried and judged for their past life.

Whatever the Jiva sees, that the Jiva experiences. For in this empty space of infinite consciousness there is nothing known as time, action etc. Then Jiva fancies. “The God of death has sent me to heaven(or hell)” and “I have enjoyed (of suffered) the pleasures ( or tortures) of the heaven (or hell)”, and “I am born as animal, etc., as ordained by God of death”.

At that moment, the Jiva enters into the body of the male through the food eaten; it is then transferred to the female and delivered into this world, where it undergoes life again in accordance with the fruitarian of past actions. There it grows and wanes like moon. Once again it undergoes senility and death. This goes on again and again till the Jiva is enlightened by self-knowledge.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Did science banished superstition?

Science has not completely banished superstition from society because not all of society is scientifically educated, but science has removed a lot of superstition and will continue to do so.

What do we mean by 'superstition'? I guess we mean 'false beliefs' or belief in things that aren't real. For example belief in bad luck, or lucky charms or goblins or fortune tellers etc. Very few people believe in Goblins now, but plenty of people still believe in ghosts and fortune tellers, which is folkish, superstitious belief.

Basically science can destroy superstition thanks to Sceintific Method. SM is the rulebook for science. If you said 'Ghosts are scientifically provable' you would need to write a scientific report with details of your experiments and your measurable, repeatable evidence to support your claim of ghosts. Then other scientists can read and test your report and the entire scientific community can check your claims. They would use 'scientific method' to see if your report is right or not.

All the current 'proof' for ghosts (blurry photos, people who say they've seen them etc) fail to meet the strict requirements of Scientific Method and so cannot be considered scientific evidence. Nobody has ever produced a satisfactory science report on Ghosts because ghosts are a superstitious fantasy with no real, firm evidence.

An example of a currently held superstition that science can banish: Horoscopes - the belief that the stars can reveal your destiny.

Horoscopes are as old as history. Ancient people believed they were the centre of the universe and the stars went round the Earth. They had no idea how incredibly big or old the universe is and they thought that Earth and Humans were the most important things in it. They had no idea what stars are so they decided they were codes and messages, God's secrets etc. and they created a system of predictions called Astrology.

Modern Astronomy rips Astrological beliefs apart, making them look extremely childish. We now know the universe is not our 'backyard' with the Earth at the centre. Very very far from it. The Stars do not know you exist nor are do they describe each person's future. To believe they do is palpable superstitious nonsense.

So, to answer your question, Nikolai Copernicus's astronomical discoveries were first published in 1543. His work began a series of scientific advances that increased our understanding of the universe and radically reduced humanity's belief in superstition, not least, the pseudo-scientific superstition of Astrology. "Why the answer is No." Unfortunately scienctists and the concept of "science" itself falls prey to superstition as often as anyone (or anything) else. The scientific method is a great concept- observation leads to hypothosis, which leads to experimentation, which leads to theory. This is usually as far as it takes us, but theories which hold up fairly well are often referred to as "facts" while they are actually still only theories. If all works well, theory leads to more experimentation and observation and deduction, which leads to more of the same and (hopefully) eventually to knowledge of fact.

So, ideally, the scientific method leads us from observation to knowledge of fact. An example of this would be the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics, which we know to be facts because in 100% of experimental instances in which these can be measured they are found to be correct. There are, however, comparatively few things so thoroughly known. We tend to stop when we have theories which can be usually but not always relied upon, because that is most often as far as the scientific method can take us, for a variety of reasons.

Even if everyone were completely indoctrinated with "modern science" we would still have superstitions, because superstitious behavior is human behavior, and scientists are human. For instance, today we tend to think of the 17th century as the beginnings of modern thought- Bacon invents the scientific method, Boyle redefines the elements which leads to modern chemistry, and Newton discovers gravity and writes the Calculus. We forget that these three men spent most of their time studying the occult. Modern scientists are no less conditioned by the society they live in. Scientists are as subject to ideas like "These are my lucky socks" as anyone else. All you have to do is be around scientists a lot to understand that their ideas differ from one another about almost everything, and they have opinions as strong as facts, pet theories, etc. For instance, I believe science has proven that we cannot depend on anything as foolish as astrology, and yet I personally know a number of scientists (including a couple of physicists, a mathematician and several engineers in the space program) who firmly believe in astrology. I grew up around many of the foremost scientists of the last half of the 20th century, largely involved in NASA and the defense industry, and they agreed about very little as far as I could see. They all understood clearly that species change, but what "evolution" meant or if it was actually the true process of that change never seemed to be agreed on by any three of them at a time. They clearly saw that genetics, mutation and "natural selection" in genetic breeding caused species to change, but also that all of that put together did not equal the "theory of evolution", and still doesn't today. There are hundreds of mainstream scientists (the vast majority of whom are not "creationists" and a great many of whom are not Christians) who have written hundreds of books using pure science to disprove "evolution" as we usually understand the term, but this does not keep scientists from arguing about this theory any more than boxing fans might argue over who was the greatest heavyweight champion, Ali or Dempsey or Marciano or Louis. Opinions and emotional attachment to our favorite ideas and superstitions are as rampant in science as in any other field of human endeavor.