Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

What Happens When An Awakened One Dies?
Tom Stine

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Tom Stine

Read comments and discussions on this essay at Tom's website.

A reader sent me the following questions:

Something I have never quite understood is that after we come to this realization of the one self that we are not our [the] body or the mind or the thoughts, then we see the body die what then? And what is the difference in the death of a realized one and a unrealized person?

What happens when the body dies? That is a question that has plagued mortal man from the earliest days. So much of religion is basically an attempt to answer that question, with enough theories of heavens and hells to keep us debating for the rest of our lives.

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So let me start by saying what seems obvious to me: I don’t know what happens after the body dies. And neither does anyone else. If you say, “well, we go to _________ after death,” or tell me about other dimensions, etc., I’m going to ask you a very simple question: How do you know? Have you died and then experienced these things? No, of course you haven’t. So death is as yet a mystery to you. (As for past lives, let me write a follow-up article to deal with them.)

Even if you’ve had a near death experience, all you can do is tell me about that particular experience, but not the full experience of death (notice they are called near death experiences). There is absolutely no way to know what happens after the body dies until it actually dies and you find out.

Observations about death and consciousness

That said, we can make a few interesting observations, though, about what might happen after death if you have realized the truth about what you are, namely the One.

1. When you realize that you are not the mind, the body, thoughts, the ego, etc., you realize that the awareness (or consciousness) that you are, the “you” that is looking out of your body’s eyes, is the same awareness looking out of everyone else’s eyes. And the same fundamental beingness that is the house you live in, the Earth you are standing on, the sky, the stars, your thoughts, others’ thoughts, the very fabric of reality. All One, all the same, all conscious, all aware.

2. When the body dies, and the thoughts in it die, and when the energy contained in it dissipates, and everything ceases, what happens to the awareness contained within it? Ah, trick question, for the awareness/consciousness is not contained within it! We are so used to feeling “trapped” in the body that we think we are actually trapped in a body. But we are not. What I am is the beingness that is Everything. And this beingness, this conscious awareness contains the body.

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Look-up from your computer right now and look around the room. Is not your body contained in the room you are in? Isn’t it a part of the room? And the room, isn’t it a part of the building? And the city or town in which the building exists? And planet Earth? And so on until we get that this body is contained in the Universe as a whole? And you are the Universe. The awake, aware, conscious, alive Wholeness of existence, the totality of the Universe (and so much more), that is what you are. So, the body is actually contained in you. You realize this fact, too, upon awakening.

3. So, when the body dies, the conscious awareness that appeared to be within it doesn’t go anywhere, for nothing at all has been lost to the Universe. It has merely started to change form. But the consciousness itself is still right where it was before: everywhere! Nothing leaves, dissipates, disappears, or goes anywhere. The One is still ever present Oneness.

4. As for what awareness/consciousness that formerly identified as Tom experiences at death, I have no idea, and as mentioned before, neither does anyone else. This is still true whether you are “realized” or not.

What’s the difference between the death of the realized and unrealized?

And finally, let me answer the last question: “And what is the difference in the death of a realized one and a unrealized person?” I believe it was Sailor Bob Adamson who said, “The only difference between someone who has realized the truth and someone who hasn’t is that the realized one knows that there is no difference.” Once you realize the truth, you don’t know any differences.

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While other people will still look different to you, have different color hair, wear different clothes, etc., you will have no awareness that any of that matters. They will still be what you are. So at death, how can there be any difference? To the realized one, whatever is experienced at death is experienced by every aspect of consciousness. He knows himself to be that consciousness, so nothing to him has changed. The form has changed, but nothing else. Everything is still everything. Oneness is still One.

And for the unrealized one? Again, it is impossible to say. You will simply have to die to find out what happens. I know this answer won’t make a lot of people happy, and it would ruin sales of lots of books if it were widely accepted as the truth that it is. But it is still the truth. We can argue until the cows come home, but it won’t matter. You can’t know death of the body until it dies. And then you will discover what happens next.

July 31, 2008

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