Concept of Death, Hell and Afterlife in Hinduism
Yama, the Lord of Naraka, the Underworld
"Our soul never dies; only the physical body dies. We neither fear death nor look forward to it , but revere it as a most exalted experience. Life, death and the afterlife are part of our path to perfect oneness with God."
"For Hindus, death is nobly referred to as mahaaprasthaana, 'the great journey'. When the lessons of this life have been learned and karmas reach a point of intensity, the soul leaves the physical body, which then returns its elements to the earth. The awareness, will, memory and intelligence which we think of ourselves continue to exist in the soul body. Death is a most natural experience, not to be feared. It is a quick transition from the physical world to the astral plane..." Satguru S'ivaya Subramuniyaswami, p. 99.
Hell and Satan
"There is no external hell, nor is there a Satan. However, there are hellish states of mind and woeful births for those who think and act wrongfully--temporary tormenting conditions that lift the fiery forces within." Satguru S'ivaya Subramuniyaswami, p. 155.
Hinduism does not believe in an eternal hell. However, hellish states of mind and woeful births do exist temporarily for those who think and act wrongfully. They consist of fear, hate, jealousy, bigotry and anger, and are brought about by one's own thoughts, actions and deeds. But they are not eternal and can be changed by positive karma.
Satan does not exist nor does he tempt mankind. (There asuras, immature entities of deception and hurtfulness.) There is no eternal damnation; the way out of hellish situations can be altered by positive karma. Paraphrased from Dancing with S'iva, p. 155
Death and the mortal world
According to Hinduism the world in which we live is a mortal world (mrtyulokam), ruled by Death (Kala), who is a manifestation of Brahman himself. He is also personified as Time because in this world everyone has a rendezvous with Death and meets with it when their time comes. The ultimate cause of death is creation itself because everything that manifests in creation, including inanimate objects eventually has to come to an end. Therefore, Death is considered the lord of the mortal world. In Hindu tradition Death is also symbolized as Shiva, the destroyer. Jayaram V
What happens after death?
According to the Hinduism, upon death, a soul or Self proceeds along one of the three paths suggested in the Vedas. As death nears and a person begins to lose consciousness, the Self gathers up the breaths (pranas) and the deities (devatas) hidden in the organs of the body, and enters into the heart (hridayam). From there, through an opening in the heart, it travels upwards along the channel of up breath (udana) and reaches the head.
There through an aperture in the top head, it escapes into the air or the mid-region called antrariksham (interstellar space). Breaths and the deities who accompany the Self return to their spheres in the macrocosm. As the body is cremated in the final sacrifice of life (antima kriya), the elements in the body (bhutas) return to the elements in the world.
From here on karma (net result of past actions) catches up. Liberated souls, or those who have burned their karmas and latent impressions, travel along a path called the northern path (uttarayana) and enter into a timeless eternal zone in the sphere of the sun. From there they are led by divine beings to the highest, immortal heaven of Brahman, known variously as Vaikuntha, Parandhama or Kailasa.
Those who are not liberated, but lived virtuous and dutiful lives according to the laws of God, go by another path called the southern path (daksinayana) to the ancestral world located in the sphere of the moon, where they stay until their karmas are exhausted.
Then they fall down to the earth through rains and enter into plants, from plants into food, either as plant food or animal food, and through food into semen and then through semen into the wombs where they are reborn again according to their previous actions.
Now there is a third path, the path to the hell in the subterranean worlds (adhogati) reserved for those who indulge in serious sins and demonic actions. Upon exhausting their karmas they are born as worms, insects and other low life forms.
In Hinduism there is no particular Judgment Day. In fact, every day is a judgment day, where your actions are weighed and your karma keeps accumulating according to your deeds. - Jayaram V
Suggestions for Further Reading
- Hindu Gods - Lord Ganesha
- God and Self in Hinduism
- Goddesses of Hinduism, Their Symbolism and Significance
- Purusharthas in Hinduism
- The History, Antiquity and Chronology of Hinduism
- Ashrama Dharma in Hinduism
- Hinduism and Buddhism
- Death and Afterlife in Hinduism
- Hinduism and Divorce
- Hinduism and Adultery
- Hinduism, Food and Fasting
- The Future of Hinduism
- Good and Evil in Hinduism
- The Hindu Marriage, Past and Present
- What is Maya in Hinduism?
- The Origin and Definition of Hindu
- Hinduism and Polygamy
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- Hinduism and Premarital Relationships
- God and Soul, Atma and Paramatma, in Hinduism
- About Suicides in Hinduism
- Religious Tolerance in Hinduism
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- Traditional Status of Women in Hinduism
- Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali
- About Hanuman or Anjaneya
- Hinduism and Same-sex Marriage
- Perspectives on What Karma Means
- Hinduism - The Role of Shakti in Creation
- Significance of Happiness in Hinduism
- Hindu God Lord Shiva (Siva) - the Destroyer
- The Role of Archakas, Temple Priests, in Hinduism
- Hinduism - Gods and Goddess in the Vedas