What are ghosts and how does a person become one?

1. What are ghosts?

When a person dies only his gross body (sthūladēha) ceases to exist. His subtle-body (consisting of the subconscious mind, intellect, ego and soul, i.e. minus the physical body) however continues to exist and moves on to the other regions of the universe. Refer to the picture below for more detailed view of what we are comprised of and what we leave behind after death.

 

What are ghosts - What are we comprised of?

What are ghosts - Human subtle body after death

Some of these subtle-bodies become ghosts. Ghosts by definition meet all of the following criteria:

  • They are subtle-bodies.
  • They belong to the Nether region (Bhuvarlok) or one of the seven regions of Hell (Pātāl) but they are found on Earth region (Bhūlok) too. This is because ghosts from the more subtle-regions of the universe can travel to the more gross ones like Earth at will.
[en-Fourteen lokas]
  • They do not exist in the positive planes of the universe i.e. Heaven (Swarga) and above.
  • They have unfulfilled desires such as cravings for sex, alcohol (things that they can only experience through a gross body), revenge etc.
  • They derive pleasure out of exerting control over and tormenting humans and other subtle-bodies. Their general aim is aligned with bringing about unrighteousness in society.

The subtle-body of a person after physical death is defined as a ghost if their characteristics and intentions match the above. There is no special process as such which they go through to become a ghost.

What are ghosts - Ghost subtle body

2. What decides where we go and what we become after death?

When we die, our course in the after-life is decided by a number of factors. These factors include:

  • The number and type of impressions that are created in the sub-conscious mind depending on how we have lived our lives. Refer to the article on the impressions in our mind that decides our basic nature and personality.
  • Our ego: The word ‘ego’ is used in a spiritual context here. In addition to its everyday usage as self esteem and self conceit, it also includes the attitude of duality with God. Duality means thinking of oneself as having an existence separate from God. Ego is a function of the extent to which we identify with our 5 senses, mind and intellect instead of identifying with the soul or the God within us.
  • The type of deeds done during our life-time.
  • The extent and the type of spiritual practice we had undertaken during our lifetime.
  • Our Destiny
  • The type of death – natural and peaceful, violent or accidental.
  • The type of funeral.
  • The rituals as per Spiritual science done by our descendants after our death to help us in our after life.

3. Who are likely to become ghosts?

People are likely to become ghosts after their death when

  • They have many unfulfilled desires.
  • Many personality defects, such as anger, fear, greed, etc.
  • A lot of negative impressions in the mind.
  • A high amount of ego.
  • They have harmed others and have the basic nature of harming others.
  • They lack spiritual practice consisting of progressive level of surrender of mind body and intellect, done with the intention of God-realisation.
[en-Samashti spiritual level]

Only people who have reached the 50% (samashṭi) or 60% (vyashṭi) spiritual level and have low ego are able to proceed to the higher regions of Heaven and beyond and do not become ghosts. The rest of humanity, when they die, finds themselves in the regions of the Nether world and Hell. Most subtle-bodies in the Nether region are highly likely to become ghosts. All subtle-bodies in Hell are ghosts.

In fact, even if one is a gentleman but doesn’t have enough spiritual strength through spiritual practice, he is liable to become a ghost when he dies. This is because he is attacked by higher level ghosts and is controlled by them. Just as on Earth, in the other regions of the universe also, ‘might is right’ and only the strongest survive. Ghosts (demons, devils, negative energies, etc.) of a higher level, with their high spiritual strength, make the subtle-bodies of ‘gentlemen’ of lower spiritual strength, do things against their will and thus indirectly make them ghosts. Over a period of time, the subtle-body of the ‘gentleman’ too succumbs and becomes a ghost deriving pleasure through tormenting humans or fulfilling their worldly desires by possessing humans.

The moral here is that, if we do not undertake spiritual practice according to the universal six basic principles of Spirituality and do not reduce our ego, then the probability of us becoming ghosts, after our death is very high.

4. Who do not become ghosts?

They are typically people who:

  • Do spiritual practice with the intention of achieving God-realisation (the ultimate in spiritual growth).
  • Have less impressions in the mind, fewer personality defects, etc.
  • Have a low ego.
  • Are above the 50% ( samashti) or 60% ( vyashti) spiritual level.

When such persons die they move on to the higher regions, i.e. Heaven and beyond. Ghosts cannot influence or take them into custody due to their spiritual strength and protection from God.

5. Spiritual level and ghosts

Throughout the section on ghosts, we refer to higher level ghosts who have a lot of spiritual energy as a result of intense spiritual practice and penance. As a result, they have a high spiritual level and a lot of spiritual power. This may seem contradictory as one may ask, “How can one become a ghost when one has a high spiritual level?” The spiritual power of a Saint at the 70% spiritual level and a superior ghost such as a subtle-sorcerer (māntrik) from the 5th region of Hell may be the same. However, the key differences between them are:

  • The Saint does spiritual practice with the intention of surrendering his body, mind, wealth, ego, etc. to God so as to merge with Him.
  • The superior ghost or a person with high spiritual power (who after death becomes a ghost) does spiritual practice with the intention of gaining supernatural powers so as to play ‘God’ and thus has a lot of ego.

The Saint would identify more with the God principle or the soul within. The subtle-sorcerer on the other hand is very proud of the fact that he has the spiritual strength and identifies with his ego i.e. the 5 senses, mind and intellect.