Upanishads: Part I | Part II

Life After Death - An Upanishad Story

Source: Sri R.R.Diwakar's book The Upanishads in Story and Dialogue published by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai 400 007, India and the March 1998 issue of Tattvaloka, a religious journal published from Mumbai, India

Once Prahavana Jaivali, a Kshatriya Prince of the Panchalas, accosted a young Brahmin called Svattaketu and asked him 5 questions relating to life, its origin and the destiny of soul after death. The Brahmin whose Guru is his own father could not answer them. The Brahmin Guru himself sought answers from the Prince. The explanations given by the Prince are summarized as follows:

1. There are five yajnas or sacrifices, and as a result of those sacrifices the elemental matter is ultimately converted into life or into a person as under:

(a)There is the fire and the Sun and the elemental matter is the oblation offered to it. The result of this yajna is the production of Soma, the life giving juice.

(b)Then Soma is poured into parjanya, the power that brings rain. The result is rain itself. The rain is poured as an offering on earth and food is the result.

(d)When food is offered to a man and when he digests it, the vital fluid called retas (semen) is produced.

(e)When retas enters the body of a woman, the embryo comes into being and a child is born. Thus, the elemental matter is converted into life after going through the five stages.

2. Since the man's body is made up of four elements, it is dissolved into those constituents, after death.

3. But the destiny of his soul depends upon his actions and his knowledge. If he has attained real spiritual knowledge, he goes by Devayana, the Path of Light, and does not return to this earthly existence, His soul becomes immortal.

4. But if he has lead a life full of desires and spent it in doing good deeds out of a desire for heaven, his soul goes by Pitrayana, the Path of Darkness, to heaven, remains there till his merit is exhausted and then hurries back to this world and takes his birth according to the general nature of his former actions.

5. But, if his is a life of sin and evil deeds and wickedness, if he was all along engaged in stealing, drinking, killing and debauch or in associating with people occupied with these sinful acts (these are the five great sins) he forfeits his claim to both immortality and heaven. He is born and reborn here on the earth and he goes through the cycle of lives of insects and worms and the vile vermin and suffers interminably.

Thus of those who are born on earth, some pass on and away to the world of Brahman, from which there is no return. Some others go to heaven, stay there for a time and then return to worldly existence, and numerous others are caught up in the ever-recurring cycle of birth and death.

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