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 its journey.

 

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.