Her is a slender survey of various teachings about the other side and how to live wisely and well so as to improve one's standing, presumably.
The general teaching is that after death the spirit may move "upwards" from here, remain on a mind level similar to this realm, or move "downwards", all according to karma that has been amassed though lifetimes. But in single cases, some who have done much evil, may move upwards, while some who have done much good, may go downwards (!). It depends on a totality of karma distribution, says Buddha. However, man should make lots of good karma to improve the drift of his future lives, is his counsel. Further, in Buddhism we are taught facets of how to live in this life so as to move ahead and upwards and not fall short.
So allow for exceptions. If you want to know what really happens, there are methods to learn to find out of it. The results may not be forthcoming today, however. All the same, Buddhism teaches how to see these things for yourself, even though it may take time. If and when you do find out for yourself, you might want good, objective evidence of your findings. Dr. Ian P. Stevenson's research illustrates that problem: He and co-workers have researced reincarnation for decades, without having more than suggestive evidence to show for it. [Link]
If you want to look into what various scriptures tell about the afterlife, beyond, and underworld, there is a mass of literature, extremely little solid evidence, if any, and many conflicting viewpoints.
If there were no afterlife, there may be no regrets at death's door for a life wisely lived, for then there would be OK fulfilment of oneself and one's gifts while alive too. And if death means annihilation, there are no regrets for living OK either!
If there is an afterlife, as Hinduism, Buddhism and other major religions teach, although with variances, and if the fruits of what we have done in this life mingle with fruits of previous lives, we should at least have done our souls a good turn - and may sooner or later reap rewards for that.
Another matter could be whether we have done our souls the best possible turn so that the good things we have accomplish did not overshadow and steal valuable time from much better things we otherwise could have lived - for example adhering to the the Eightfold Path, meditating by a good method, getting skilled, developing ourselves, taking Guru Dev's poignant and relevant counsel to our heart too, and learn how to meditate swiftly and deeply. The much studied method called TM stems from Guru Dev, we are told. In conclusion, there are ways of living that obviously are better than others.
You may have noted that some persons of ill fame may be all right people all the same, and some of great fame may be not. The psychologist Abraham Maslow studied outstanding persons - presumably good ones - to learn how they were, and how they lived. Mahatma Gandhi was one such outstanding person, Maslow found. If we extract the common features of great, accomplished folks, maybe we learn better ways of behaving than mere conform and guarded ways, for outstanding people did not conform all along, he found.
Another thing is to make sure you can afford to stand out - for hardboiled guys among the conform ones seem to take delight in tearing down their betters, or take delight in scandals and rumours or hearsay to fill their day. So guarding oneself much goes a long way, and may be seen as linked to self-defence on higher or social levels too.
May this serve as a hint that some "best ways" of living may or may not be under the cover of all conform ways, and that "the best of Maslow" offers tips on doing better than quite blind-conform guys who did not venture to go for their great, inner promptings to get fulfilled lives (1987; 1968; 1964, 1950).
Higher than appearing worldly great is to be and realise oneself in wise ways too. Maslow calls it self-actualisation, and sometimes self-realisaton. You tend to build your esteem by common ways first, later tinged by individual flair, if any. It may be a stepwise "both-and", and the outcomes may be happy, if accepted, or otherwise. Add "more or less" to that, and drink little beer, if any.
One has to be genuine to be oneself and not offend the Self. Faking all along won't do for self-actualising. Guess that most materialist go for Mammon, for money gives a sort of esteem along the road, such as money can buy. And yet, money in itself cannot further genuine development above the second lowest level of Maslow' pyramid. Money or funds can still let you into welcoming arms (3rd level). If genuine respect and self-respect are into such welcoming, it would mean a lot.
Faking, including lip service, doesn't bring personal development and fulfilment either.
A wider perspective is needed. "Money is a good servant but a bad master," says an American proverb. The great idea is to see amassed wealth - there are many sorts and levels of it, both fairly and unfairly gained - in a wider scenario, to make sure it serves you in decent and fair, fit ways. Sanatan Dharma teachings about the four general life goals are further help to put money and wealth in perspective.
Four life goals: Artha, Kama, Dharma, and Moksha
There are four general life goals in Sanatan Dharma, also called Hinduism. They are wealth, pleasure, righteousness and freedom.
So, four distinct life goals of Sanatan Dharma (eternal righteousness, law etc.) are wealth, pleasure, righteous ways and dealings, and liberation. [Extracts from Hinduism: Its Meaning for the Liberation of the Spirit]
If the future lives look dim and dark due to exasperating sinning, what can you do? You have a chance to get free from all cycles of births and deaths evenbefore degradadions and alarming conditions reach you as retributions, as perhaps partial or overwhelming balancing-out, as the fruits of so-called bad seeds, bad karma, take time to find ideal conditions for sprouting. Hence, we can flee from heaps of bad karma by going for freedom in Atmajnana - knowing the Source, the Self.
It may be harder to realise that treading the same route for the sake of escaping good future karma is talked very well of too. However, if "good" hinders the attainments of "better than good", that traditional view is fair enough. So for whatever reason you have come here in this body, there is a good way pointed out regardless of personal reasons too.
The solution is that of getting free as soon as possible, or without delay, becoming liberated - and if you don't succeed completely and get Self-realised in one life, your efforts are hardly wasted, granted that you get good and fair chances to go Home in time anyway, before long series of bad karma sprout and give you fallen, deranged lives - That seems to be a balanced take-off in perfect harmony with several passages in the Bhagavad Gita as translated by Sivananda:
Listen to wisdom concerning Yoga, endowed with which, Arjuna, you shall cast off the bonds of action! In this there is no loss of effort, nor is there any harm (the production of contrary results or transgression). Even a little of this knowledge (even a little practice of this Yoga) protects one from great fear. (2:39-40)
"Seeing is believing". Buddha asks just for a provisional faith to study, sort out and practice his key teachings and experience for oneself. That matters.
Existential Summary for now
Riding in bodies from one life to another, doing what is good for yourself and the others, you might get it a lot better if you can keep a human body along that road.
Be careful; well guarded, get accomplished, and much may get better along the road. Make good use of your opportunites and study the words of those who have gained a lot also.
You may eventually find your fare was counteracted by things that were called great, and confronted with these too:
There are "a hundred and one" other fit points for the art of accomplished living in Buddha's great words. There is, for example a collection of good Gautama advice here: [Buddha words]
Our World and the Otherworlds
One should not allow one's mind to pursue objects blindly without being aware. - Sutra of Detecting Good or Evil Karma and Requital
The good thing is to get rid of illusions and get firmly grounded in reality, the Mahayana sutra says. One effect of ignorance is attachment. and one effect of going along the Gentle Middle Path is a lessening of afflictions, dukkha. Along with it, one may train oneself to reach higher states, even the wisdom-knowledge of Eternity, it says. (Rulu).
A. Staying on one's attained level or going upwards in time
If we don't know the fine art of living; don't know the dear lessons of the accomplished ones; and don't have the benefit of a good, open enough society, good friends, and good conformity, we may even wilfully fill our time with inferior things, things that hardly suit the progressive development of human libido as Eric H. Erikson finds it goes, we may be in for lower realms after death - a possibility is there.
Some who sin and don't adhere to their first duties, may eventually redress such things, but balancing along may be a costy road. Moreover, one be in degrading circumstances, get diseases and more as time goes by. So some play safe and make efforts to be nice to fellows and animals, and improving themselves in good yoga ways.
Who can tell what the afterlife may bring, and what sort of living conditions that follow it. Buddha says it depens on a mass of karmic influences in networks from several former lives.So the results of one transmigrating life may or may not start flourishing in the next. It could take some more lives for that to happen, for example. It depends on what karma is dispensed, and when, and how fit you get also. Getting accomplished in managing stress, even killer stress, is one rewarding way. And sometimes great sinners just wake up, or take to what liberates them.
From this: take up deep, sensible meditation, guard yourself from repercussions of bad karma, bad upbringing, lots of diseases, and you may be better off at long last. It could happen, as if by chance or a stroke of good luck.
Paradises of various levels (the seventh heaven and so on) are happy afterlife realms. Here comes another scenario:
2. Going downwards for a while or longer
In many religious traditions, the underworld is described as a place of suffering. Punishment in the underworld typically corresponds to sins committed in life.
We are told the underworld is not a permanent or physical place of torment, but rather a state of mind and a corresponding realm in the beyond, shared by similar penitents: Buddhist and Hindu teachings tell of several levels of "hell" thus. In some scriptures the descriptions of them serve to cement a faith in doing as told by the clergy.
In Hinduism, there are different opinions from various schools of thought on Hell, Naraka. For some it is metaphorical, or a lower spiritual plane or realm (called Naraka loka) where the spirit is judged. Hells are described in various Puranas (texts) and other scriptures. It is believed that people who commit sins go to Hell and have to go through punishments. Individuals who finish their quota of the punishments are reborn in accordance with their balance of karma, but if one has led a pious life, one ascends to paradise, heaven, swarga, after a period of expiation in Hell.
The weighing of the heart (soul) of the departed in much older Egyptian mythology (in The Book of the Dead) can lead to annihilation. Jesus too teaches that (Matthew 10:28)".
Buddhism teaches that there are five (also six) realms of rebirth, which can then be further subdivided by degrees of agony or pleasure. Like all realms of rebirth, rebirth in Hell realms is not permanent. In the Lotus Sutra, Buddha emphasising the temporary nature of the Hell realms.
Most Chinese legends agree that once a soul (usually referred to as a 'ghost') has atoned for their deeds and repented, he or she is given the Drink of Forgetfulness by Meng Po and sent back into the world to be reborn.
In Jewish teachings, hell is not entirely physical; but like an intense feeling of shame. And being out of alignment with God's will is itself a punishment. But there are different opinions in the matter in Judaism.
In Christianity, Hell is traditionally depicted as fiery and painful. Some theologians of the early Church and some of the modern Church hold that sinners are destroyed rather than tormented forever in the lake of fire, Hell. Christianity's belief in hell and afterlife derives from the teaching of the New Testament, where hell is typically described by the Greek words Tartarus or Hades or the Hebrew word Gehenna, which is translated into "Hell".
The Judeo-Christian origin of the concept Hell is "Gehenna". Judaism does not have a specific doctrine about the afterlife, but a tradition of describing Gehenna. Gehenna is first of all a valley in Jerusalem, and figuratively understood it is a sort of Purgatory where one is judged based on his or her life's deeds. Or rather, such a hell is a place where one becomes better aware of one's own shortcomings and negative actions during one's life. Rabbinic thought usually maintains that people are not in Gehenna forever.
There are pages on this site on what conduct helps nobility of heart and helps us upward all in all, much as taught by Buddha and several gurus. Behaviour that gets you into the netherworld, may be opposed to that - and behaviour that makes us think you come from such places (levels), may be exactly the same: Vileness of heart, stealing, murdering innocents, and breaking other parts of the Buddhist moral code for lay persons.
Interestingly, great clumsiness and lack of tact may take us downward too, eventually, as Buddhism suggests. Being OK skilful is praised as real help on and up in this one life. And merely whining in the face of problems may not help you above them.
From ancient times it has been stated that fools are not good company. Biblical fools are depraved persons, or morally deficient ones. Buddha too cautions against the company of fools. One may say great fools are lacking in bright intelligence, so that their lives may be dark. It may show up in lack of proficiency in the long run.
Buddha further discerns between four types of persons, and only one of them is fit for progress upwards towards Nirvana: It is he (or she) who does not inflict harm and torture on himself and others. The three other types inflict harm and worsen the fare of themselves, themselves and others, or others. [Link]
A scapegoating religion: In Judaism the sins of the whole people were transferred onto two goats each year, by ritualistic magic specified in Deuteronomy 16. The practice was to last indefinitely, the end of the chapter says, but -
Some say it is great that Jesus was sacrificed for Jews, and Jews only. Others think otherwise. To think a vicarious sacrifice of Jesus was glorious for non-Jews, speaks not only of a defective moral, or lack of higher moral, but also a lack of understanding of who Jesus, his teachings, healing and salvation were for. The gospel of Matthew says who Jesus strove for, and find the Missionary Command to be forged. (Matthew 15:24; 10;5-8; Vermes 2012)
Jesus did not come for all or all Jews, though. He says that healthy ones do not need him, and that he came only for ill Jews, not all Jews. Therefore, remain as classy as you can and avoid being caught and herded like a sheep, stating that a fit and sound human is more valuable than a two-legged sheep (Matthew 9:12-13; 12:12; cf. Luke 5:31-32 and Mark 2:17; John 10:27; 21:16).
"Much more valuable is a man than a sheep!" [Matthew 12:12, abr.]. The fate of herded sheep are to be made use of.
A sound moral may help you against going downward, and many handy and explicit teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism may get you upwards. Better aim for health than being a sick sheep - It is in the gospels that you find those teachings among words of Jesus.
As for conformism, there is basically good conformism, which preserves good contact and an upright life and love, and many sorts of bad conformism. Some of them hinder moral and mental growth, and may even work harm.
"What will be the reward or punishment of a man who has been partly good and partly bad in this life, so that they are equal? Will he go to Heaven or to Hell?" - Yogananda, East-West, March-April, 1926 Vol. 1–3,"Reincarnation".
Budge, Ernest Alfred Wallis. The Book of the Dead: The Papyrus of Ani. London: British Museum, 1895.
Erikson, Erik. Childhood and Society. Rev. ed. London: Vintage, 1995.
⸻. The Life Cycle Completed. Extended version with new chapters by Joan Erikson. New York: Norton, 1997.
Maslow, Abraham. Motivation and Personality. 3rd ed. New York, HarperCollins, 1987.
⸻. Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences. Columbus: Ohio State University, 1964.
⸻.Toward a Psychology of Being. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1968.
⸻. "Self-Actualizing people. A study of psychological health" (Grune and Stratton, 1950). Article extracts in Tollak B. Sirnes. - at vi skal elske hverandre. Oslo: Gyldendal, 1968.
McClelland, Norman. Encyclopedia of Reincarnation and Karma. London: McFarland and Co., 2010.
O'Flaherty, Wendy Doniger, ed. Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1980.
Rulu, tr. Sutra of Detecting Good or Evil Karma and Requital. (T17n0839) Translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in the Sui Dynasty by Master Bodhi Lamp. Fascicle 2 (of 2) (T17n0839) Online.
Talbot, Michael. Your Past Lives: A Reincarnation Handbook. New York: Harmony Books, 1987.
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