There are few experts on death, for there is nothing to know about
it. Even those who study the death process have no edge on the
rest of us. All we can say about death is that it is the
end of existence or it is not. In other words, the end of one's
embodied life is either a simple termination or it is a portal to
another life or state of consciousness.
All knowledge about life after death is subjective - either from the
experience of dying, or from contacts with those who have died
(whether the contact is real or not is purely subjective.)
The Western World denies or ignores the existence of death.
The only time the average person thinks about the mysterious aspects
death is when a close family member or a dear friend dies
Most of the religions have a strong viewppoint regarding life and
death. Nearly all the religions believe in afterlife, reincarnation,
heaven and hell, or soul. Religion is a major part of life and
death. In fact, the concept of death in different religions differs
a lot. For instance, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism
have discrete opinions about death and what comes after.
Although the ancient Egyptians strongly believed in life after
death, the idea of passing from life on earth to life in the
hereafter was somewhat obscure, and the concepts concerning the
afterlife were complex.
The ancient Egyptian hoped not only to extend life beyond the grave,
but to become part of the perennial life of nature. The two most
important concepts concerning the afterlife were the ka and
the ba. The ka was
a kind of double or other self, not an element of the personality,
but a detached part of the self which was sometimes said to guide
the fortunes of the individual in life, like the metaphysical higher
self, but was clearly most associated with a person's fortunes in
the hereafter. When people died they were said to join with their ka. More
important perhaps than the ka
was the concept of the ba. The ba is
perhaps loosely identifiable as the soul of a person. More
specifically the ba
was the manifestation of an individual after death, usually
thought to be represented in the form of a bird. The Egyptians also
believed in the concept of akh, which
was the transformation of some of the noble dead into eternal
objects. The noblest were often conceived of as being transformed
into stars, thus joining in the changeless rhythm of the universe.
Death in Hinduism is very spiritual, and it strongly believes in the
rebirth and reincarnation of souls. So, according to Hinduism, death
is regarded as a natural process in the existence of soul as a
separate entity. When a person dies, the soul travels for sometime
to another world and finally returns again to the earth to continue
After death, Hindus are not buried, but cremated. According to
Hinduism, a human body is made up of five elements. Out of the five
elements four elemenst are fire, earth, water and air. The fifth
element is known as ether and it belongs to the domain of the subtle
body and does not belong to the Earth. By cremating the body, the
elements are rightfully returned to their respective spheres, while
the subtle body along with soul returns to the world for the
continuation of its afterlife. A lot of rituals are associated with
the cremation ceremony.
In Buddhism a lot has been said about the importance of death. It
was awareness of death that prompted Lord Buddha to explore the
truth behind worldly concerns and pleasures. After a long search,
Lord Buddha finally came to the conclusion that death is inevitable
for a person who thinks about worldly pleasures and attitudes.
Today, Buddhists look at death as taking a break from
this materialistic world. Buddhist people do not think death as a
continuation of the soul but consider it as an awakening. They
believe in reincarnation: once a person dies on this earth, he will
be reborn to a new life here and the status of that life depends on
the work he did before his previous death.
Christian beliefs about the afterlife vary between denominations and
individual Christians, but vast majority of Christians believe in
some kind of heaven, in which believers enjoy the presence of God
and other believers and freedom from suffering and sin. Most of the
Christians follow the idea that Jesus died on the cross for the sins
(immoral acts) of humanity, so that we could achieve salvation.
There are references of heaven and hell in the Bible. It is clearly
stated that those who do not follow and believe in Jesus will
ultimately end up in hell, while those who do will achieve salvation
and end up in heaven. In the Bible it is explained that there is a
time to be born, and a time to die.
Some Christian groups believe in "soul sleeping" This is the concept
that, at death, we go into a 'sleep' and do not reqain consiousness
until Judgement Day.
Initially, most Christian favored burial of the dead body but today
both cremation and burial are practiced by Christians. Whether it is
burial or cremation, there are many rituals that Christians practice
for the deceased.
Muslims believe that the present life is only a preparation for the
next realm of existence. For them death is merely movement
from one world to another. It can be described as a journey through
a separate dimension of existence. The Prophet taught that three
things can continue to help a person even after death; charity which
he had given, knowledge which he had taught and prayers on their
behalf by a righteous child.
Upon the death of a Muslim person, the body of the deceased is
washed and covered in a clean white cloth and preparation for burial
takes place as soon as possible. Muslims gather and prayers are
performed for the dead and soon after the prayer the body of the
deceased is buried. The body is to be laid on its right side facing
the direction of Makkah. Charity, fasting, prayers, and pilgrimage
are often performed by the family members on behalf of the deceased.
When a person is close to death, family members and monks
recite scriptures and mantras. By doing so, they help the dying
person to achieve a peaceful state of mind.