by Swami Krishnananda
Sa yatrᾱyam atmᾱ-abalyam nyetya sammoham iva nyeti, athainam ete prᾱṇᾱ abhisamᾱyanti; sa etᾱs tejomᾱtrᾱḥ samabhyᾱdadᾱno hṛdayam evᾱnvavakrᾱmati: It is said that all the energies get centred in the heart. The brain also stops functioning. There is no thinking faculty at that time. There is feebleness. The breathing becomes slow. There may be a heaving just at the time of the exit, but otherwise, there is a slowing of the breath on account of the withdrawal of the activity of the Prāṇa from the various parts of the body. What happens when the energies get centred in the heart?
Sa yatraiṣa cᾱkṣuṣah puruṣaḥ parᾱṅ paryᾱvartate: 'The Puruṣha in the eye withdraws himself and goes back to the sun.' The Ambassador goes back to the centre which has deputed him for a particular purpose. Then what happens? The connection between the sun and the eye is snapped. Then there is no seeing. So, even if the eyes are open, there is no seeing at that time. Athᾱrῡpaj˝o bhavati: He cannot cognise forms. If people stand before him, he cannot recognise them. Generally, when a person is about to depart, people get excited over it. They become anxious. They want to know whether he is really conscious or not. So if someone comes near him and asks, "Do you know who I am; can you recognise me?" He cannot recognise. He cannot see, because the force which was in the eye has been withdrawn. Though he is keeping the eyes open, physically, he sees nothing.
Ekī-bhavati: It becomes one with the centre. That is why this particular function of seeing ceases. Na paśyati, ity ᾱhuḥ: People say; "Oh, he does not see, he cannot recognise me." The reason why he cannot recognise and cannot see is because the eye has gone back to the centre. So, its particular function has stopped. Ekī-bhavati, na vadati, ity ᾱhuḥ: The olfactory sense also gets withdrawn. So, he cannot smell. The smelling activity ceases. Ekī-bhavati na rasayati, ity ᾱhuḥ: The sense of taste also gets withdrawn, and even if you pour sugar onto the tongue of a dying man, he cannot feel that taste. Eki-bhavati, na vadati, ity ahuh: The force of speaking, Agnī-Tattva, gets withdrawn into its source, and he cannot speak. Likewise, he cannot hear; he cannot think; he cannot understand. Eki-bhavati na srinoti ity ahuh; eki-bhavati, na manute, ity ahuh; Ekī-bhavati, na manute, ity ᾱhuḥ; ekī-bhavati na spṛśati, ity ᾱhuḥ; ekī-bhavati, na vijᾱnᾱti, ity ᾱhuḥ: He cannot touch; he cannot think; he cannot smell; he cannot hear; he cannot understand.
Then what happens afterwards when all these energies, senses, Prāṇas, etc. are gathered up in the centre of the heart? Tasya haitasya hṛdayasyᾱgram pradyotate: There is a flash of light, as it were, bursting forth through some part of the heart. That is the only consciousness that he has, not the consciousness of body, not the consciousness of sense-activity, not the consciousness of people around, of objects around, etc. There is only a feeble, meagre, failing self-consciousness. He cannot even feel that he exists. That meagre self-consciousness is of the nature of a very fine flame of lamplight, as it were, which illumines a corner of the heart. Tena pradyotenaiṣa ᾱtmᾱ niṣkrᾱmati: That burst of light, in a particular part of the heart, which projects itself through some orifices of the heart, is the passage of the soul. Through that, the Prāṇa departs. It can depart through any part of the body. Aiṣa ᾱtmᾱ niṣkrᾱmati, cakṣuṣo vᾱ mῡrdhno vᾱ anyebhyo vᾱ śarīra-deśebhyaḥ: It can rise up through the head, sometimes, or through the eyes or through any other part of the body. The belief is that if the Prāṇa departs through the crown of the head, one reaches Brahma-loka; if it passes through the eyes one goes to the sun, and so on and so forth. If it is a vertical movement, it is supposed to be the indication of ascending to a higher region. If it is a horizontal movement or a downward motion, then it is supposed to be a descent to the lower worlds or to this particular world itself. Tam utkrᾱmantam prᾱṇo'nutkrᾱmati: When the centre of consciousness, which is in the form of this little light, rushes out of the body, the Prāṇa goes with it. When the Prāṇa goes, all the energies of the senses also get gathered up together and leave with the Prāṇa.
Prᾱṇam anῡtkrᾱmantaṁ sarve prᾱṇᾱ anῡtkrᾱmanti: Now this term vij˝āno bhavati has a special sense. It seems to imply that there is a feeble consciousness of the future stage that is Vij˝ana. There is a total unconsciousness of the previous condition. One loses touch with the earlier body and, therefore, there is no connection with the previous life at all. Inasmuch as the senses have been withdrawn from the previous body, there is no recognition of the previous world, the previous relations, the previous society, etc., etc. There is a tendency to recognise the presence of a new atmosphere. That is the functioning of the Vijnana. The intellect slowly stirs into action when there is a possibility of fresh materialisation, that is, the preparation for a new body – sa vij˝ᾱno bhavati, sa vij˝ᾱnam evᾱnvavakrᾱmati; taṁ vidyᾱ-karmaṇī samanvᾱrabhete pῡrva-praj˝ᾱ ca: When there is such a departure of the individual, something must be going with the individual. What is it that goes with us when we leave this world and enter the other world? Do we take something when we go? We have a lot of property, many possessions and acquisitions. We have cherished many values in this life. Do they all come with us? The Upaniṣhad has a simple answer to this question. Whatever knowledge has become part of your life, that will come with you, not the knowledge that is in the books or in the libraries. This knowledge is not going to come with you. The knowledge that has become part of your actual daily life, through which you have been thinking and working, that knowledge will come with you. That action that has become a part of your very life itself, not merely an externally compulsive action, but an action that is voluntary, of your own accord, which you have done and you like it, which you feel has a meaning in it, which you feel is your action, which you have done with a purpose, will produce a result in a very fine form. And that form which is very fine is called Apūrva, something subtle and invisible. It is of the form of energy. This Apūrva comes with you. The impressions which have been accumulated by the mind by various thoughts of perception, cognition, etc., called Vāsanas or Samskāras, they accompany the departing individual. It is a psychic complex that actually departs from the body. Whatever is our mind in its complex state goes with its own constituents. Nothing extraneous will come with it. We cannot take anything from this world which has not become a part and parcel of our own minds, our own feelings. That is the meaning of saying, that which has become part of your life will come with you. Nothing else comes with you. Many things there are in this world which cannot be regarded as part of our life. They are extraneous appurtenances. They do not come with us. But that which is absorbed into our own life by the feelings, that will come with us.
There is an activity, as we observed, taking place in the other realm at the time of the departure from this body. This is compared to the activity of a caterpillar or a leech when it moves from one leaf to another or from one spot to another on the same leaf. What it does is, it thrusts its hind part forward and then projects its fore part forward. Then it fixes the fore part on the leaf and withdraws the hind part, bringing it forward. Then again it projects its fore part. Like that, it goes on moving. It will not lift the hind part unless the fore part is fixed. Likewise – tad yathᾱ tṛṇajalᾱyukᾱ, tṛṇasyᾱntaṁ gatvᾱ, anyam ᾱkramam ᾱkramya, ᾱtmᾱnam upasaṁharati, evam evᾱyam ᾱtmᾱ – the old body is not left unless proper arrangement is already made elsewhere. When you go on a journey, you do not suddenly go. You find out where you are going and what arrangements have to be made there for your stay by correspondence and enquiries, etc. Likewise, even without your consciously thinking of the destination, forces of nature begin to work for you. They spontaneously work, and that preparation that is being made there to receive you to another realm is the foot that you have kept there already before you lift the other foot from this world. It is not a physical foot that you have placed, but a feeler which has connected you with the future realm in a very subtle manner. This shows the interconnectedness of all things. We are not cast into the winds by forces of which we have no knowledge. Everything is connected with us, and all the forces of nature keep an eye over us. Exactly in the manner in which it is necessary for us to have experiences in the future life, in that particular manner alone do the forces of nature work – idaṁ śarīraṁ nihatya, avidᾱṁ gamayitvᾱ, anyam ᾱkramam ᾱkramya, ᾱtmᾱnam upasaṁharati.
Just as a goldsmith takes a little gold from here and a little gold from there and puts these pieces of gold into a melting pot, boils the pieces making them into one lump and gives a new shape to this lump, even so a new body is formed out of the ingredients collected from nature. The goldsmith does not create new gold. He only creates a new shape of the gold after melting it in a furnace. That is how he prepares ornaments, etc. Likewise, the material forces, earth, water, fire, air, and ether are the elements out of which bodies are formed. The present body is made up of these elements. The future body also will be made up of these elements. A carpenter can arrange pieces of wood in such a way that these pieces form a chair. Or he can arrange these pieces of wood in another manner to make a table. He can convert these pieces into a box, and so on. The carpenter can arrange these pieces of wood in various ways according to the need or the requirement of the time. But the wood is the same. It is not new wood that he is using. Likewise, they are the same elements that work wherever you go, whatever be the birth that you take, and whichever be the shape the soul assumes in whichever realm, in its new incarnation. Even if it is in a very highly elevated state like that of a Gandharva, or a Pitṛ, or a celestial in paradise, even if such a lustrous body is to be assumed by the soul, it is made of nothing but this same material. It is formed of these elements only in their finer essences. When they are gross, they look like the bodies we have. When they are fine, they begin to be transparent like glass, for instance. You know, even glass is made up of matter. It is as much material as a lump of iron or a hard brick. But the glass shines. It is transparent. Light can pass through it because of the fineness of the structure, notwithstanding the fact that glass is made up of the same matter as a hard brick. So, one can take any form; one can be reborn in any shape, maybe a Gandharva, a celestial, or any other being. You may even go to the realm of Hiraṇyagarbha, assuming the subtlest form of matter known as the Prakṛitis. Any form the soul can take. It can adjust and readjust the material elements according to the need which is indicated by the nature of the mind that actually reincarnates.