Is There Life After Death? | Vedanta Podcasts

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Today’s podcast has been edited & adapted from the lecture “Does the Soul Exist after Death?” by Swami Abhedananda, (Shāmi Abedānondo), delivered in 1900.

One of the most poetical of the Upanishads begins with this inquiry: “There is this doubt: when a person dies, some say that they are gone forever, that they do not exist, while others hold that they still live; which of these is true?”

Various answers have been given to this question. Metaphysics, philosophy, science, and religion have tried to solve this problem. At the same time, attempts also have been made to suppress this question and prevent inquiry as to whether or not we exist after death. Hundreds of thinkers have brought forward all sorts of arguments to do away with questions bearing upon this momentous subject.

From ancient times there have been thinkers in India who denied the existence of the soul after the death of the body. They are known as Charvákas. They believe that the body is the soul, and that the soul does not exist outside of the body, and that when the body dies, the soul is also dead and gone. They believe in nothing that cannot be perceived by the senses.

Their motto is: “As long as you live, do not fail to enjoy. Live comfortably and enjoy the pleasures of life. Do not think of the future. Get all that you need and wish; if you have not got money, then beg or borrow it, for when the body is burned into ashes, no one will have to be accountable for your deeds.”

Such Charvákas we find in almost every country. For instance, in the Old Testament we read that Solomon says: “Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart. Live joyfully with the wife whosoever thy hand findeth, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”

The followers of such thinkers are spreading very rapidly, and their number is increasing every day. They are now known as atheists, materialists, etc. According to this class of thinkers, those who believe in the existence of the soul as separate from the body, or in a life after death, are ignorant and superstitious fools, while those who follow their ideas are clever and intelligent beings.

Most of them hold that there is no such thing as a soul. No argument can convince them or change their views, because they will not admit the existence of anything which lies beyond the reach of their senses, or which cannot be perceived by the limited powers of the senses.

They have written volumes after volumes against the existence of the soul, and have tried to stop such useless questions of the mind; but in spite of their efforts, have they succeeded in stopping that innate question, “What remains after death?” — which rises spontaneously in almost every human heart? No.

The same question rises today, as it arose thousands of years ago. No one can stop it, because it is inseparably connected with our nature. The same question was asked by saints and sinners, by prophets and priests, by kings and beggars amongst all nations, in all climes. We are discussing the same question today; and it will be discussed the same in the future.

We may forget it for the time being in the turmoil and struggles of our lives; we may not ask it when we are deeply absorbed in comforts, luxuries, and sense enjoyments; we may delude ourselves by various false argumentations; but the moment we encounter the sudden appearance of death, the moment we see that someone of our nearest and dearest is breathing their last, we stop for a while and ask within ourselves: “What is this? Where have they gone? Do they still exist? What has become of them?”

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