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Two Paths For The Soul To Travel By After Death – Bhagavad Gita

How can one go to Bhagavan when departing from this world? It is the life-to-come after this life that we are all so very anxious about. That secret, that profound mystery, is a mighty power in this world. And it has given birth to all the religions and philosophies existing today.

First we must understand that this life is not all of our existence. We must understand that when we close our career on earth, only one page of the book of life is finished. Much has gone before we came to this page and much is to follow. The soul is eternal and it is studying this book of life. When the study is finished, when the contents of this book are mastered, then it is laid aside as having served its purpose. That means liberation. We have experienced all there is to be experienced and the soul returns to its eternal abode of Peace. The play is over. We have played our part; we have done our share; we have enjoyed it (notwithstanding the hard knocks and bruises) and now the soul becomes a spectator. That is the first thing to understand.

Sri Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter VIII Verse 23 to 25), there are two paths for the soul to travel by after death. One path means simply a temporary rest. We are tired and are sent to the bench. We must stop our play for a while to gather new strength, to rest our tired limbs. Then when the call comes we have to go back and mix once more in the game. Many are like that. They are anxious to go back. But others have had enough. They have outgrown this play stage. They have found something superior, far greater than  knocking about on the field of play. They do not wish to return. They go by another path. They leave the playgrounds and go to Bhagavan.

Knowing this, we can choose for ourselves which way to go. If we want the world, its pleasures and its sorrows (for we have to accept both, if we want the one), then we must perform good deeds, live a righteous life and we will travel by the dark path, which in time will lead us back to our playground. That path goes in a circle. But do we want God? Then go by the straight path, the path of Light. It ends in the ocean of Bliss, entering which we shall never desire to return. That will be the end of our play. So Arjuna, if you want to go to Bhagavan, if you have had enough of the world play, go by the path of Light. That is the path by which the jnanis go, the yogis, the great souls.

The other path is the path of darkness. ‘Smoke, night-time, the fortnight of the waning moon …. Departing by that path the yogi returns.’ These souls will be guided by diverse spirits to different spheres. It is the path of the karmis, who perform good deeds in order that they may enjoy heaven after death. After enjoying their reward in heaven they will be born again.

We know how light and darkness are often associated in our life and minds with moral good and evil. And it is therefore not strange that the idea should have arisen that after death the good are guided by bright spirits to realms of light, whereas the wicked are guided by spirits of darkness. Agni, fire, represents the dual nature of the world. Its flame is bright and light and stands for virtue and goodness, and smoke represents darkness or evil. Both are connected with fire and we can choose whichever we want. So also day and night, and waxing and waning moon may stand for good and evil.

Performance of religious and other ceremonies for the sake of duty alone leads gradually to liberation, proceeding from higher to higher spheres. When these ceremonies are performed with some special object in view, they secure residence in transitory celestial spheres where that object is attained. Doing that which is forbidden by sacred authority leads to abodes of suffering. Those who are devoid of faith, devotion and spiritual wisdom go to the land of the spirits and then return to earth. These are cosmic laws and as the cosmos is eternal so are its laws eternal.

Source - Reflections on the Bhagavad Gita by Swami Atulananda – Prabuddha Bharata February 2004 issue.