Questioner: When an ordinary man dies, what happens to him?
Maharaj: According to his belief it happens, As life before death is but imagination, so is life after. The dream continues.
Q: And what about the jnani?
M: The jnani does not die because he was never born.
Q: He appears so to others.
M: But not to himself. In himself he is free of things -- physical and mental.
Q: Still you must know the state of the man who died. At least from your own past lives.
M: Until I met my Guru I knew so many things. Now I know nothing, for all knowledge is in dream only and not valid. I know myself and I find no life nor death in me, only pure being -- not being this or that, but just being. But the moment the mind, drawing on its stock of memories, begins to imagine, it fills the space with objects and time with events. As I do not know even this birth, how can I know past births? It is the mind that, itself in movement, sees everything moving, and having created time, worries about the past and future. All the universe is cradled in consciousness (maha tattva), which arises where there is perfect order and harmony (maha sattva). As all waves are in the ocean, so are all things physical and mental in awareness. Hence awareness itself is all important, not the content of it. Deepen and broaden your awareness of yourself and all the blessings will flow. You need not seek anything, all will come to you most naturally and effortlessly. The five senses and the four functions of the mind -- memory, thought, understanding and selfhood; the five elements -- earth, water, fire, air and ether; the two aspects of creation -- matter and spirit, all are contained in awareness.
Q: Yet, you must believe in having lived before.
M: The scriptures say so, but I know nothing about it. I know myself as I am; as I appeared or will appear is not within my experience. It is not that I do not remember. In fact there is nothing to remember. Reincarnation implies a reincarnating self. There is no such thing. The bundle of memories and hopes, called the 'I', imagines itself existing everlastingly and creates time to accommodate its false eternity: To be, I need no past or future. All experience is born of imagination; I do not imagine, so no birth or death happens to me. Only those who think themselves born can think themselves re-born. You are accusing me of having been born -- I plead not guilty!
All exists in awareness and awareness neither dies nor is re-born. It is the changeless reality itself.
All the universe of experience is born with the body and dies with the body; it has its beginning and end in awareness, but awareness knows no beginning, nor end. If you think it out carefully and brood over it for a long time, you will come to see the light of awareness in all its clarity and the world will fade out of your vision. It is like looking at a burning incense stick, you see the stick and the smoke first; when you notice the fiery point, you realise that it has the power to consume mountains of sticks and fill the universe with smoke. Timelessly the self actualises itself, without exhausting its infinite possibilities. In the incense stick simile the stick is the body and the smoke is the mind. As long as the mind is busy with its contortions, it does not perceive its own source. The Guru comes and turns your attention to the spark within. By its very nature the mind is outward turned; it always tends to seek for the source of things among the things themselves; to be told to look for the source within, is, in a way, the beginning of a new life. Awareness takes the place of consciousness; in consciousness there is the 'I', who is conscious while awareness is undivided; awareness is aware of itself. The 'I am' is a thought, while awareness is not a thought, there is no 'I am aware' in awareness. Consciousness is an attribute while awareness is not; one can be aware of being conscious, but not conscious of awareness. God is the totality of consciousness, but awareness is beyond all -- being as well as not-being.
Q: I had started with the question about the condition of a man after death. When his body is destroyed, what happens to his consciousness? Does he carry his senses of seeing, hearing etc. along with him or does he leave them behind? And, if he loses his senses, what becomes to his consciousness?
M: Senses are mere modes of perception. As the grosser modes disappear, finer states of consciousness emerge.
Q: Is there no transition to awareness after death?
M: There can be no transition from consciousness to awareness, for awareness is not a form of consciousness. Consciousness can only become more subtle and refined and that is what happens after death. As the various vehicles of man die off, the modes of consciousness induced by them also fade away.
Q: Until only unconsciousness remains?
M: Look at yourself talking of unconsciousness as something that comes and goes! Who is there to be conscious of unconsciousness? As long as the window is open, there is sunlight in the room.
With the windows shut, the sun remains, but does it see the darkness in the room? Is there anything like darkness to the sun? There is no such thing as unconsciousness, for unconsciousness is not experienceable. We infer unconsciousness when there is a lapse in memory or communication. If I stop reacting, you will say that I am unconscious. In reality I may be most acutely conscious, only unable to communicate or remember.
Q: I am asking a simple question: there are about four billion people in the world and they are all bound to die. What will be their condition after death -- not physically, but psychologically? Will their consciousness continue? And if it does, in what form? Do not tell me that I am not asking the right question, or that you do not know the answer, or that in your world my question is meaningless; the moment you start talking about your world and my world as different and incompatible, you build a wall between us. Either we live in one world or your experience is of no use to us.
M: Of course we live in one world. Only I see it as it is, while you don't. You see yourself in the world, while I see the world in myself. To you, you get born and die, while to me, the world appears and disappears. Our world is real, but your view of it is not. There is no wall between us, except the one built by you. There is nothing wrong with the senses, it is your imagination that misleads you. It covers up the world as it is, with what you imagine it to be -- something existing independently of you and yet closely following your inherited, or acquired patterns. There is a deep contradiction in your attitude, which you do not see and which is the cause of sorrow. You cling to the idea that you were born into a world of pain and sorrow; I know that the world is a child of love, having its beginning, growth and fulfilment in love. But I am beyond love even.
Q: If you have created the world out of love, why is it so full of pain?
M: You are right -- from the body's point of view. But you are not the body. You are the immensity and infinity of consciousness. Don't assume what is not true and you will see things as I see them. Pain and pleasure, good and bad, right and wrong: these are relative terms and must not be taken absolutely. They are limited and temporary.
Q: In the Buddhist tradition it is stated that a Nirvani, an enlightened Buddha, has the freedom of the universe. He can know and experience for himself all that exists. He can command, interfere with nature, with the chain of causation, change the sequence of events, even undo the past! The world is still with him but he is free in it.
M: What you describe is God. Of course, where there is a universe, there will also be its counterpart, which is God. But I am beyond both. There was a kingdom in search of a king. They found the right man and made him king. In no way had he changed. He was merely given the title, the rights and the duties of a king. His nature was not affected, only his actions. Similarly, with the enlightened man; the content of his consciousness undergoes a radical transformation. But he is not misled. He knows the changeless.
Q: The changeless cannot be conscious. Consciousness is always of change. The changeless leaves no trace in consciousness.
M: Yes and no. The paper is not the writing, yet it carries the writing. The ink is not the message, nor is the reader's mind the message -- but they all make the message possible.
Q: Does consciousness come down from reality or is it an attribute of matter?
M: Consciousness as such is the subtle counterpart of matter. Just as inertia (tamas) and energy (rajas) are attributes of matter, so does harmony (sattva) manifest itself as consciousness. You may consider it in a way as a form of very subtle energy. Wherever matter organises itself into a stable organism, consciousness appears spontaneously. With the destruction of the organism consciousness disappears.
Q: Then what survives?
M: That, of which matter and consciousness are but aspects, which is neither born nor dies.
Q: If it is beyond matter and consciousness, how can it be experienced?
M: It can be known by its effects on both; look for it in beauty and in bliss. But you will understand neither body nor consciousness, unless you go beyond both.
Q: Please tell us squarely: are you conscious or unconscious?
M: The enlightened (jnani) is neither. But in his enlightenment (jnana) all is contained. Awareness contains every experience. But he who is aware is beyond every experience. He is beyond awareness itself.
Q: There is the background of experience, call it matter. There is the experiencer, call it mind.
What makes the bridge between the two?
M: The very gap between is the bridge. That, which at one end looks like matter and at the other as mind, is in itself the bridge. Don't separate reality into mind and body and there will be no need of bridges.
Consciousness arising, the world arises. When you consider the wisdom and the beauty of the world, you call it God. Know the source of it all, which is in yourself, and you will find all your questions answered.
Q: The seer and the seen: are they one or two?
M: There is only seeing; both the seer and the seen are contained in it. Don't create differences where there are none.
Q: I began with the question about the man who died. You said that his experiences will shape themselves according to his expectations and beliefs.
M: Before you were born you expected to live according to a plan, which you yourself had laid down. Your own will was the backbone of your destiny.
Q: Surely, karma interfered.
M: Karma shapes the circumstances: the attitudes are your own. Ultimately your character shapes your life and you alone can shape your character.
Q: How does one shape one's character?
M: By seeing it as it is, and being sincerely sorry. This integral seeing-feeling can work miracles. It is like casting a bronze image; metal alone, or fire alone will not do; nor will the mould be of any use; you have to melt down the metal in the heat of the fire and cast it in the mould.