Awakened Living Study Program, Lesson 14: LIFE AFTER DEATH
Dear brothers and sisters: Good morning and thank you for attending our weekly Awakened Living Study Program. My name is Alaye Soteme and I will be your host. Our topic for today’s Study is LIFE AFTER DEATH. May we focus our full attention on this study for the lessons of life because knowledge is POWER, knowledge is SUCCESS, knowledge is FORGIVENESS, knowledge is WISDOM, knowledge is ENLIGHTENMENT and knowledge is AWAKENED LIVING.
All quotes relating to GOD are interpreted in a Universal sense; in other words our use of the word GOD does not refer to any religion, cultural Gods, saviors, or created Gods. GOD is the underlying ESSENCE of the Universe. GOD has no chosen people, GOD has no Sacred Text and GOD has no Sacred Place! The Universe is the Sacred Text, the Universe is the Sacred Place and all creatures are Testaments of GOD!
Further you are here to look at life from a different angle. You are not here to follow what others have put in place be it their religion, their Gods, their sacred texts, their beliefs or their way of thinking. You are here to share your LIGHT with the world. The beliefs of our ancestors are our liabilities. Our challenge is to look at life in ways that promote interdependence and destroy all forms of discrimination including racism, tribalism, nationalism, nepotism, fundamentalism, fanaticism, favoritism, exclusivism, chosen people and racial superiority.
Lastly, none of the quotes here is absolute or written in blood. They are all human thoughts and ideas based on their experiences and according to their levels of consciousness. The Awakened Living Study Program is a platform to study what others have said and improve on them. Do not for any reason use the quotes as mantra for life because you are the LIGHT!
You may offer an appropriate prayer before reading, discussing and reflecting on the famous quotes and the Sacred Texts verses. You may use the following prayer:
O LOVE who pervades the universe, we thank you for this opportunity to learn. We pray for LOVE to manifest amongst us to guide our readings, discussions and reflections. We specially pray for peace of mind and save us from all distractions and concerns of the world so that we may receive the lessons of life for our guidance and the transformation of our lives. Amen.
The Study Leader may make announcements at this time. Welcome new members, recognize birthdays or anniversaries; make an award or recognize a contribution; announce Circle of Life successes. This is also an opportunity for anyone to share an experience, give thanks or make a request for special prayers.
The leader or an appointed person will stand and read the opening thoughts. The opening thoughts explain the topic of discussion. You may use the information below or explain it in your own words.
Life after Death is the proposition that we live again after we die in a different form and in a different dimension that we cannot readily see at this moment. How many believe in Life after Death? How many disbelieve Life after Death? What does your religion teach about Life after Death? Whatever it is the fact that some believe in Life After death makes this subject a compelling one. This presentation will attempt to explore the faces of Life after Death and how we could use the information to heal ourselves.
Take turns to read the famous quotes and discuss what you have learned from each quote. Please give credit to the author of the quote and as an assignment for presentations each person may choose an author and find out more about the author to share with the group during the next session.
1 "I know you are not far away. I feel your presence around me. Our love binds us together always. We two, are one, eternally." Unknown
2 "I believe there are two sides to the phenomenon known as death, this side where we live, and the other side where we shall continue to live. Eternity does not start with death. We are in eternity now." Normal Vincent Peale
3 "Of course you don't die. Nobody dies. Death does not exist. You only reach a new level of vision, a new realm of consciousness, a new unknown world." Henry Miller
4 "Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there's a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see." Helen Keller
5 "Life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one. In the depths of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond; and like seeds dreaming beneath the snow, your heart dreams of spring. Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity." Kahlil Gibran
6 Death is not extinguishing the light, it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come. "Rabindranath Tagore 1861-1941
7 Personally, I would be delighted if there were a life after death, especially if it permitted me to continue to learn about this world and others, if it gave me a chance to discover how history turns out. Dr. Carl Sagan
8 To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die. Thomas Campbell
9 Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. Norman Cousins
10. After your death you will be what you were before your birth. Arthur Schopenhauer
Take turns to read all the sacred text quotes and discuss what you have learned from each quote. In your discussion compare and contrast the quotes. What did you learn from the similarities and differences? What quote inspires you? What life lessons did you learn from the quote? Please give credit to the sacred text during your reading by mentioning the name of the text and where the quote could be found.
- No one in heaven or on the earth knows the Unseen save God; and they know not when they will be raised. Does [human] knowledge extend to the Hereafter? No, for they are in doubt concerning it. No, for they cannot see it. Islam. Qur'an 27.65-66
2 Of the nether worlds and heavens has He created millions; Men exhaust themselves trying to explore them. Sikhism. Adi Granth, Japuji 22, M.1, p. 5
3 What is here [the phenomenal world], the same is there [in Brahman]; and what is there, the same is here. Hinduism. Katha Upanishad 2.1.10
4 As a man leaves an old garment and puts on one that is new, the spirit leaves his mortal body and then puts on one that is new. Hinduism: Bhagavad Gita 2:22
5 Yellow leaves hang on your tree of life. The messengers of death are waiting. You are going to travel far away. Have you any provision for the journey?" Dhammapada 235
6. As the fallow leaf of the tree falls to the ground, when its days are gone, even so is the life of men; Gautama, be careful all the while! As the dew-drop dangling on the top of a blade of grass lasts but a short time, even so the life of men; Gautama, be careful all the while! A life so fleet, and existence so precarious, wipe off the sins you ever committed; Gautama, be careful all the while! A rare chance, in the long course of time, is human birth for a living being; hard are the consequences of actions; Gautama, be careful all the while! Jainism. Uttaradhyayana Sutra 10.1-4
7. Tzu-lu asked how one should serve ghosts and spirits. The Master said, "Till you have learnt to serve men, how can you serve ghosts?" Tzu-lu then ventured upon a question about the dead. The Master said, "Till you know about the living, how are you to know about the dead?" Confucianism. Analects 11.11
8. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Christianity. New Testament, Matthew 6.19-21
9. Relatives and friends and well-wishers rejoice at the arrival of a man who had been long absent and has returned home safely from afar. Likewise, meritorious deeds will receive the good person upon his arrival in the next world, as relatives welcome a dear one on his return. Buddhism. Dhammapada 219-20
10. Giving no pain to any creature, a person should slowly accumulate spiritual merit for the sake of acquiring a companion in the next world....For in the next world neither father, nor mother, nor wife, nor sons, nor relations stay to be his companions; spiritual merit alone remains with him. Hinduism. Laws of Manu 4.238-39
The teaching story is a story, a parable or thoughts related to the topic of discussion. An appointed person will read each story and the group will take turns and discuss. What does the story mean to you? What did you learn from the story? Did the story add anything new to the topic of discussion? How has this study enriched your life?
Our teaching story is from the Overcome Fear of Death Website and the title is Life After Death Stories: Story of a Sister and it comes from the diary of a Hospice Harpist dated 2003. I have rewritten the story in my own words without changing the basic idea.
Once upon a time a Hospice Harpist played for a man from a California family who was near death. The man’s son Dan had a conversation with the Harpist in which he told her that his sister, Carry, drowned swimming off the coast of Hawaii when she was nineteen years old. But Dan also told her that he had been having very vivid dreams about his sister and in one of those dreams Carry appeared to him and told him: "Tell everyone not to be afraid of dying. It is so joyful and beautiful here!". When Dan returned to school after his sisters death he became closer to a friend Mark. Mark’s father drowned during the previous year. Mark went swimming one day off the coast of northern California and got caught in a rip tide. The tide was dragging him toward the jagged rocks and as he saw the crashing waves on the rocks he thought he would be killed. His first thought was to swim from the tide but his muscles began to cramp and he started to go under. At that moment he saw an “apparition” that advised him to go in the direction of the tide and that he would not be harmed. Seeing that he had no other choice Mark allowed himself to be swept into the dangerous rocks but miraculously escaped with only a few minor cuts and bruises. Mark shared his miraculous incident with his friend Dan and wanted to see Dan’s sister’s picture. As Dan pulled out the picture of his sister, Carry, from his wallet, Mark exclaimed, “That is the person who appeared to me!”
The closing meditation presents the highlights of the Study. The highlights should include among others what you have learned and what aspects of the study are worth noting. The leader or an appointed person may share the closing meditation. You may use the thoughts and information provided below but I encourage you to use the contributions of the participants and current relevant information.
In the documentary “Afterlife” Paul Perry makes the case that life continues after death. Many would jump at this proposition but not all of us are onboard. Some people outright deny the possibility of an afterlife without giving it a thought or even doing any kind of research on the subject. Others like the “enlightened” skeptics want more information, which I think is a reasonable demand. Personally I know that there is an afterlife because of personal experiences but a more qualified person to shed light on the subject is Dr. Raymond Moody. When asked about what happens when we die in the “Afterlife” documentary Dr. Moody said, “We enter into another state of existence or another state of consciousness that is so extraordinarily different from the spatial and temporal frame of reality in which we exist in the physical world that the language we have is not adequate to describe this other state of existence or consciousness.”
The major attraction for a belief in the afterlife is the possibility of reuniting with our loved ones. I am looking forward to it because I have promised my grandmother that I would see her first and other family members before seeing the Buddha. The Buddha is my favorite spiritual teacher and I respect him for his contribution but still my family comes first. Being with my family is all the heaven I need! I know millions of people would trade their family members for the Buddha, the Christ, Prophet Muhammad, Lord Krishna or Moses but not I. Can you imagine people risking their lives to be with someone they have never seen before because of a promise of heaven? One cannot help but ask what kind of insane root they consumed? Another motivation for a belief in the afterlife is the possibility of continuing with our vocation. There is no better reward than doing what I like to do in the afterlife.
The lack of belief in the afterlife is compounded by the fact that we need a special sensitivity in order to “see” and many of us do not have that. We live in a material world that predisposes us to see, to feel, to smell, to touch and to taste material things and if we cannot verify something through our senses it simply does not exist. However many organizations including the society for Psychical Research and the American Society for Psychical Research have made several attempts to provide the public with some material proof that there is indeed life after death. The most famous of these experiments in my view is the Scole Experiment.
Scole is a village in England where six mediums sat in a cellar to connect with the departed. They sat for about a year before a breakthrough and they called the spirits they contacted “the Spirit Team”. The experiment reported the manifestation of ghostly beings and lights; the appearance of physical objects (apport); touches from unseen hands; ghostly voices; levitation; communication of instructions for the building of spirit communication devices; and writings on a photographic film. It seems to me that the research proved without a reasonable doubt that there is life after death but the skeptics want more information, which as I said earlier is a reasonable request. It is however important to note that these occurrences are not new and spirit contact is as old as the world and they are readily used in many parts of the world. The problem is that the process of contacting the spirits is still labeled devilish by the uninitiated and of course with that state of mind they lose the benefits that come with communicating with the other side. Our challenge is to come up with refined methods of contacting our brothers and sisters and when that time comes spirit contact will be as normal as any other activity.
Another evidence on my list is from Near Death Experiences (NDE). In most cases people who were pronounced dead observe their consciousness rise from their body so that they are able to “see” their body and “see” what is going on in the area. One of the most fascinating tales concerns those who were born blind but were able to “see” what was going on during their near death experiences. Recall Helen Keller’s quote on being blind:
"Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there's a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see."
What comforts me most is the presence of departed relatives who come to help their family members with love, care and understanding. Further some people who had this experience talk about a light at the end of a tunnel or funnel and they describe the vicinity as unearthly in the sense that the colors of the flowers could not be described in earthly terms. They also talk about having a light body that is way different from the body we have on earth. Christianity teaches about Christ giving us a different body when he comes to judge the world. Could this be the body they are talking about? If it is this light body is not just for a special group of people because of their beliefs but for all of us and that calls for celebration. Evidently some of these people also meet a spiritual teacher like Jesus, Virgin Mary or even God but this experience seems to be in the minority because most of the people only experience meeting their relatives. Another notable experience is the life review that many spiritual organizations teach their members. During the life review the individual’s life flashes before him or her in a chronological order and with vivid details but they do not feel judged by a God, a savior, or a Buddha. However it usually happens with the presence of other beings. On the whole people who return from near death experiences to normal life are no longer afraid of death and they abandon their preoccupations before the experience and place more emphasis on how to love.
This is indeed a fascinating subject that needs more research for believers as well as for non-believers. I specially encourage believers to find out ways to make this real for non-believers and for non-believers to take the subject seriously instead of dismissing it before hand. If we really know that there is an afterlife and we can each verify it on our own and use it as many spiritual people do all over the world the possibilities will be limitless. For one thing we won’t rely on books and preachers to tell us about spiritual things; instead we would each have a direct line. Traditionally my people believe that there is life after death and my first “confirmation” of life after death came from a friend in high school who passed on after graduation. I saw him in my dream during the week he passed on. In the dream I called his name and told him that he was dead. In reply he said, “I’m alive” and he is not just alive but also full of life and joy. Many of you have probably had similar dreams when a loved one tells you that he or she is alive. What this experience does for me is the fact that there is joy over there and instead of dwelling on the tragic circumstances of their death I see the happiness and joy that they experience in their new life. If you are weighed down by the death of a loved one, but without taking the passing away of your loved one lightly, you can now rejoice in the fact that your loved one is alive and happy in another dimension and that you will one day meet again.
You may accept gifts and donations at this time for the work you are doing. It takes effort, time and money to put the Study Program together so I encourage attendants to give. An appointed person may now pass the donation bag. The leader may bless the gifts after the donations.
Always close your Study Program with a prayer or an affirmation. Pray for guidance and direction during the week. Pray for everyone present. The leader or an appointed person may offer the closing prayer. You may use the sample prayer if needed.
O LOVE who pervades the Universe and who resides in us
We thank You for Your presence during our studies and reflections.
May these studies bear fruits within us for our good and the good of our environment.
As we go through our day to day activities may You guide us and protect us.
And bring us here again to continue your work for your glory. Amen
You may serve refreshments after the Study. This is a time to relax and socialize. Get to know the people in the Program with you and I mean really know them well. One of the secrets of success is connection so I encourage you to know the people around you. The host may decide what to serve or he or she may ask the attendants what they want for refreshments before each Awakened Living Study Program.
You may now entertain the group with your talent in music, songs, dance and poetry including playing musical instruments. This is also a time to share your Awakened Living Tips for the benefit of the group.
Circle of Life
The Circle of Life depicts different aspects of your life. You are at the center and the different aspects radiate outwards to form a circle as long as they are in harmony. You can pinpoint an aspect of your life at any given time and find out if you are in harmony with the rest of the circle. If an aspect needs improvement you may have an uneven circle. Your challenge then is to work on the area that needs improvement in order to keep it in harmony with the rest of the circle.
There are 12 aspects in this version of the Wheel of Life including Health, Spirituality, Family, Relationships, Education, Mission, Finances, Work, Play, Personal Development, Environment, and creativity. Take time to answer the following questions and begin to work on the areas that need improvement.
1. Are you healthy?
2. Do you have any bad habits like drinking, smoking, pornography, fast foods and doing drugs?
1. Are you spiritual?
2. When was the last time you meditated, chanted, affirmed or prayed?
1. Do you have a family?
2. Are you happy with your spouse, children, and parents?
1. Do you have friends?
2. Are you happy with your friends, co-workers, boss?
1. Do you have a degree?
2. When was the last time you read a book?
1. Do you have a mission statement?
2. What is your life mission?
1 Are you financially stable?
2. Do you have any debts?
1. Do you have a job, career?
2. Are you happy with your job, career?
1. Do you play regularly?
2. When was the last time you played with your friends, children, spouse, parents or pet?
1. Do you lose your temper often?
2. When was the last time you took a class on human development?
1 Are you happy with your environment?
2. How are you reducing pollution?
1. Are you sharing your creativity?
2. When was the last time you wrote a poem, painted, sang, danced, or played a musical instrument?