Almost all of us have at sometime wondered if we can meet our departed ancestors and loved ones when we leave this Earth at the time of death. The purpose of this article is to explain the factors and principles governing who we can meet and who we cannot in the afterlife.
2. Where do we go after death?
Please refer to our article on ‘Where do we go after death?’.
As you can see, there are 13 subtle and intangible regions we can go to after death. In the current era, approximately only 5% of us make it to the positive regions of Heaven (Swarga), Maharlok and above. This is because one needs to be at least at the 50% (samashṭi) or 60% (vyashṭi) spiritual level (which is 5% of the world’s population) to attain the first positive region of the Universe, i.e. Heaven, after death. Please refer to the breakdown of the world’s population by spiritual level for more information.
There is another region that is very important to mention in order to understand what happens to us after death. Immediately after we die, we go to a region known as the ‘Region of the Dead’ (Martyaloka). This is a halfway house or an interim plane of existence where one stays as one makes their journey from the moment of death to their final resting place in one of the 13 subtle (intangible) planes of existence.
Please refer to the article on the Region of the Dead for more information.
3. Some principles that govern which of our departed ancestors we can meet in the afterlife
Same region: Subtle-bodies of relatives in the same region can meet each other easily. For example, two subtle-bodies of relatives in the Nether region (Bhuvarlok) can meet each other.
Subtle to subtler regions: It is not possible for a person in a subtle (intangible) plane to meet a person in an even more subtle-plane of existence. After the Earth region (Bhūlok), the Nether region is the most gross (tangible). A subtle-body in one of the planes in the Nether region cannot go to meet a subtle-body in Heaven or the 1st Region of Hell (Pātāl).
Subtle-regions to more gross regions: A subtle-body from a more subtle-plane of existence can go to a grosser (less subtle) plane of existence. For example, a subtle-body in the 3rd Region of Hell can go to meet a person in the 1st Region of Hell on a temporary basis. Such visits usually last for as long as they are required and are also dependent on the spiritual strength of the visiting subtle-body.
- Subtle higher regions:
Subtle-bodies in the higher positive subtle-regions of Maharlok are so spiritually advanced that they are devoid of desires including the desire to meet family members. The main purpose of their existence is to grow spiritually.
Subtle-bodies in Heaven experience immense happiness and are generally caught up in the subtle-pleasures that Heaven has to offer. As a result, the desire to meet previous relatives just does not encroach upon their consciousness.
Visiting Region of the Dead or Earth: Subtle-bodies in any subtle-region can visit the subtle-bodies in the Region of the Dead or Earth region.
A ghost of higher spiritual strength in the lower regions of Hell can temporarily enter higher positive regions such as Heaven to upset the peace.
4. How do we recognise our previously departed ancestors when we die?
4.1 What form do we take after we die?
Once a subtle-body enters the Region of the Dead, it begins to lose its identity with its previous Earthly life. By the time it crosses the Region of the Dead and reaches one of the main subtle-regions such as the Nether region, the subtle-body takes an amorphous form.
If people have a strong attachment to their Earthly life and relatives, they are not able to move on beyond the Region of the Dead. Here, they continue to take a form resembling their previous form. The form is created by the ‘energy of desire’. Subtle-bodies can get stuck in the Region of the Dead for many years and hover around their ancestral home. As a result, those with sixth sense are able to feel or see their presence.
4.2 Mechanism of meeting
When entering the same region: When the subtle-bodies of departed ancestors have an intense desire to meet another departed relative or friend, the energy from that single-minded thought creates a subtle (intangible) materialisation of his form when he knew his relative. At the same time, the relative who has just died and entered that region is attracted to that particular ancestor’s subtle-body because of the frequencies of desire emanating from the subtle-body of the ancestor. The descendant who has recently expired then recognises his ancestor because of the familiar form that the subtle-body of the ancestor has taken.
At the time of death: There are generally hereditary similarities at the level of the subtle basic Sattva, Raja and Tama components among family members. Hence, due to their oversensitiveness the subtle-bodies of ancestors residing in the Region of the Dead and the Nether region are able to perceive the changes happening in the dying person at the time of death. They are then pulled towards the sound of the sub-vital energies emitted and the excretory gases discharged by the dead body. Thus, they enter the Earth’s environment and come near the dying person. That is why many dying people get visions of their dead ancestors. If the recently dead person strongly wishes to meet his departed ancestors or if the departed ancestor strongly wishes to meet the dead person, then the ancestor on the strength of his strong ‘energy of desire’ attains a gaseous apparition-like form. They thus help the dead person in identifying themselves.
4.3 Risks involved with meeting
In some cases, higher level ghosts (demons, devils, negative energies, etc.) like subtle-sorcerers (māntriks) can take the form of dead relatives and misguide recently departed subtle-bodies. This can be best avoided if one has done a lot of spiritual practice on Earth and can see through their illusory (māyāvi) form.
Departed ancestors who are in one of the Regions of Hell can also mislead recently departed subtle-bodies.
The sure way of ensuring one is not misled after death is to do regular spiritual practice as per the six basic principles of spiritual practice and attain as high a spiritual level as possible. The higher the spiritual level at the time of death, the lower the chances of being deceived by ghosts or ancestors from Regions of Hell. Also, one is able to access greater protection from God.
5. Once identified do we stay together with other departed relatives in the afterlife?
Subtle-bodies from a family generally stick together. This is because there is a lot of similarity among relatives as compared with others.
6. How do we communicate when we meet with relatives and friends in the afterlife?
The method of communication in the afterlife is not the language of sound that we are used to on Earth. The thoughts in one's mental body are perceived by others.
7. Do we meet our pets in the afterlife?
There is a chance of an animal being born as a human being if a human being had regressed to that animal form as punishment for his misdeeds. After the animal that was initially a human has finished its quota of suffering as an animal, it can be reborn in human form. Rituals for departed ancestors done by their descendants also help.It is extremely difficult for an animal (that was born as an animal to start with) to evolve to a human being as it is very difficult for an animal to do spiritual practice. However, an animal who has attained a Saint's satsang, consumed Holy sacrament (prasad), listened to Holy songs or repetition of the Name of God regularly may develop the desire for God realisation and evolve spiritually to human form. Also if an animal lives with a Saint, and the Saint makes a resolve for the animal to progress spiritually to evolve to a human form, then an animal could attain a human birth.
Hence, it is highly unlikely to meet pets in the afterlife. If at all one sees pets, this again is the doing of illusion creating subtle-sorcerers. Again, regular spiritual practice is the assured way of avoiding being deceived.
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