As I sit in the dark on the front porch, I talk to God and listen for replies. So far I have had not verbal response but I do seem to find that my mental tangents and rabbit trails get me thinking about topics I would never have when trying to decide which apples to pick from the bin.
I got off to thinking about eternity. When you interact with an eternal God who promises us an eternal destiny that topic comes up a lot. What will come to us after death? Is it all over when the body fails? Is there something more? Most religions have answers to this but they are radically different. My mind ran to the three major religions that I know anything about and I started comparing. Keep in mind that I am a Christian and not a Buddhist or Hindu. My knowledge of those two religions is limited but I am trying to be as objective as I can. All three religions have answers for what happens after the body dies. All are radically different.
Christians believe in an afterlife that in the common vernacular is called “heaven”. Although there are some issues in the misuse of this word it gets the point across. In heaven we will live eternally and there will be no suffering or pain. We will be in the presence of God and enjoy Him forever. The there are two key differences I want to point out that are different from the other two religions I will consider. First, we are aware and filled with joy. We never lose our personhood. Existence and reality are not something that we escape but something that we embrace and explore. Second, we are not gods. There is only one God and we are His creature.
A verse that comes to mind about this is,
(1Co 13:12 KJV) For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.Buddhism also believes that we go on after death. Instead of once it is a cycle of deaths that move us up or down. If we move up then we eventually escape the physical world and achieve what we commonly call Nirvana. You cease to be aware of your personhood and are absorbed into the cosmic whole, the Force of Star Wars. Life is miserable and the goal is to escape.
Hinduism seems to believe that you can achieve godhood. There is also the cycle of reincarnation but the results seem a bit different. You might become unaware of your personhood. I don’t understand that part but it is a good type of not knowing. I found an interesting statement about this in reading one of the books by Vivek Ramaswamy, Nation of Victims. He made this statement at the end of the second book. He had made numerous statements about being a Hindu. One example he gave shared how the Hindu saints would often go out into the wilderness and achieve such enlightenment that they would deliberately starve themselves to death. I think this is the state that he later calls mahasamadhi, and explains it thus,
“That’s the state when a yogi experiences their oneness and unity with their true self, or God, since in Hindu theology those are one and the same.” page 241To my way of thinking this is an enlightened mindlessness but notice that the true self is God.
From my point of view the answers to the big questions they find usually come out of their cultural experience. The Bible is different in that it takes us beyond what we might experience and gives vistas that are not part of our thinking. I have been searching for the quote by Hugh Ross about space/time dimensions but have not been able to find it. I remember reading how he converted to Christianity because in reading the Bible he saw an awareness of many more dimensions than the four that are common knowledge.
Death comes to all of us. It is something we need to think about.
Ramaswamy, Vivek. Nation of Victims. New York: Center Street, 2022.
homo unius libri