Norma Sherry: Is There Life After Death?
Is There Life After Death?
By Norma Sherry
Is there a Hereafter? Is it a place of perfection and transcendent peace? Does one float or merely walk, yet never get tired? Is the Hereafter for only human folk or does it welcome all creatures from the tiniest ameba to the most gargantuan whale? If so, does the whale float among the angels or are there pristine waters where every living organism lives without fear of a predator? Is there a place in heaven for my puppy dog?
Or is the Hereafter a clever guise to keep us in line? After all, if we fear an everlasting life in the fires of Hell and brimstone versus the glorified everlasting life of splendor and peace: wherein all of humankind's most desired dreams and wishes are fulfilled, would this disparity not act as a deterrent for the greater number of us to be good and lawful human-beings?
Interestingly, all major religions and their scriptures proscribe to the notion of an everlasting life of tranquility and beauty known as the Hereafter. Christianity and Islam believe in the Hereafter. Buddhism and Hinduism believe in the Hereafter. The Romans, Egyptians, Greeks, Babylonians, and the Chaldaens of the ancient world had some belief in an everlasting life.
There is even indication that the belief in the Hereafter existed for the Neanderthal man. They buried their dead in an apparent ritualistic manner, even to placing their tools and implements beside their dead. One would argue that by doing so they demonstrated a belief in a life hereafter. In Fiji, the island's people believe that once one dies on earth they go to an everlasting life where life resumes in every respect, even to procreating.
Buddhism differs from Christianity in that in the Buddhist's faith, death is the transition to another life or life form wherein one must evolve into a being of love, peacefulness, kindness, and good. For the Buddhist, Hell is not interminable damnation, but a temporary place in which one can transcend. In their faith, they are continually evolving depending upon their individual "karma".
In Christianity, although there are many faiths under this umbrella all with differing beliefs, the majority of Christianity believes that we have but one soul and it does not live on beyond life. Likewise, the many sects of Christianity have conflicting beliefs regarding Heaven, Hell, and Judgment. There is evidence, however, that the early Christian Celtics belief in a continuity of life was very much akin to the Buddhist belief in reincarnation. So, even in this the largest faith in the world with 1400 million followers, there is not a concise belief in the Hereafter or the consequences of life that would determine one's Hereafter.
The Jewish faith, on the other-hand, believes that Heaven and Hell are here on earth. There are many legends in this regard, consider the story of a good man who upon entering heaven is disappointed that there are no saints. He is instructed that he is mistaken. "The saints", he is told, "are not in heaven, heaven is in the saints." In a complementary story, a Chasidic rabbi is asked, "Where is God?" He answers, "Wherever you let Him in."
The early Hindu's did not believe in Heaven, nor did they ascribe to such desire. Their early teachings were that they would be reunited with Mother Nature. There was no yearning to live eternally - their prayers were for a healthy life. The notion of reincarnation and Heaven evolved over time. In the Hindu religion, righteousness and to be without sin is of paramount importance. They are the determining factors whether one goes to Heaven or Hell. The Hindu's teach, "As it does and as it acts, so it becomes: The doer of good becomes good, and the doer of evil becomes evil."
The Qur'an, the equivalent of the Bible for Muslims, teaches that all human beings will be judged by God for the conduct of their earthly lives. Islam teaches that life is a test and that all will be held accountable for their lives before God. Consequently, for the Muslim, belief in the Hereafter is considered essential to living a moral and well-balanced life.
Fascinating is the picture of Heaven within the different religions. One of my personal favorites is the Hindu vision. Besides the beautiful gardens, the lack of hunger, grief, or fatigue, the lovely breezes, resplendent bodies, captivating sounds, cleanliness, the lack of need for bodily eliminations, and sensuous fragrances, there are also celestial cars with which to move about the heavenly environment. (I can't help pondering what a celestial car looks like?)
The Islamic vision of Heaven is also a large heavenly garden with rivers of milk and honey, with fruits and meats determined by one's cravings. This Heaven, however, is a man's dream come true because this Heaven offers female companions of exceeding beauty and refinement and in copious numbers, as many in fact, as the pious man can handle. The caveat being, piety is the determining factor. In this Heaven, one can over-eat and over-drink without fear of indigestion or intoxication, and do so in a reclining position upon heavenly cushions of silk and brocade.
Since I never broached the topic with my little pup before he succumbed to his deadly demise, I shall never know if he was a Christian at heart, or a Jew, or a Hindu, or Buddhist. Now, I shall forever wonder if the bird that sings by my kitchen window is he, or if the snake I wish to slay, or the flower that blooms underfoot, or the squirrel that leaps from tree to tree, or the frog that chirps relentlessly, or if in fact, he will return as my friendly or miserable new neighbor.
Are you in a Heaven of forever bliss? Are you whole and well once again romping with all the other heavenly puppy dogs? Or is this all there was and dead is dead? So, in the end the answer to my query depends on whom I question. I'm left to dwell on the hope and the prayer that there is a life somewhere in the world beyond that goes on eternally. At least, I hope so.
- For Pookie, March 4, 2000 - March 13, 2004. Your life was short, but oh so sweet.
© Norma Sherry 2004
Norma Sherry is co-founder of TogetherForeverChanging.org, an organization devoted to educating, stimulating, and igniting personal responsibility particularly with regards to our diminishing civil liberties. She is also an award-winning writer/producer and host of upcoming television program, The Norma Sherry Show on WQXT TV.
Email Norma: email@example.com