Part I — The soul and the afterlife

Question: What happens after one dies?

Sri Chinmoy: Each human being is composed of five elements: body, vital, mind, heart and soul. When we die, these five elements enter into their respective sheaths and the soul gradually goes back to the soul’s region. It starts its journey from the subtle physical. From the subtle physical it enters into the heart and the psychic region. Then finally the soul goes back to its own region. There it takes rest for some time, maybe six years, or ten years, or forty years; it entirely depends on the Will of God. Then again the soul comes back into the world; it assumes a new body and tries to manifest divinity on earth.

Question: When we go to the other world after leaving the body, are there any forms or is it all formless?

Sri Chinmoy: When somebody dies, if the soul wants to come and see the relatives still on earth, the soul usually takes the form that it had on earth so that the relatives can recognise it. But great spiritual Masters can recognise the soul no matter what form it takes. Even if the soul takes the form of a column of light, the Master can use his third eye and immediately recognise the soul.

Question: What happens with the souls that have retired from work on earth? Do they eventually fill up the other worlds?

Sri Chinmoy: There is lots of room in the other worlds. There we deal with Infinity.

Question: What happens to the soul of an animal after it leaves the body?

Sri Chinmoy: It has its own world. Each soul has its own capacity. The soul of a saint will not go to the same place as the soul of a thief. The saint will go to a much higher world. It all depends on the consciousness that the soul has revealed here on earth. So, animals will go to a world that will suit them. They will not go to a world where the souls are very highly developed.

Question: Do our souls ever leave our bodies for just a second while we are alive?

Sri Chinmoy: For a few seconds during the day the soul may leave, but the consciousness of the soul remains in the body at that time. This is your room and your whole vibration is here. As soon as somebody comes here, he will immediately feel your vibration. But if you go away and do not come back, then there will be nothing here. If the soul stays away, then its own body becomes foreign; its own room is foreign. But when it is a matter of dying, the body, like a cage, is broken. So what is the use of staying in a broken cage?

Question: What happens to the soul of an object created by a human being if the object is destroyed?

Sri Chinmoy: A house is destroyed; then the inhabitants try to find another house. In the case of the soul also, if the cage is destroyed, it doesn’t mean that the soul will not get any other place to live. Once the soul enters into the process of evolution, it will continue functioning until it has fully manifested the divine light, according to its capacity. It may go to the soul’s region and take some rest, if that is the Will of the Supreme, or it may stay for a few days or a few months here on earth and then again enter into a form. But the soul will always function.

Human souls — especially aspiring souls — are more evolved in the sense that they embody more light. Right now I am sitting on a chair. I am a spiritual man and my soul will have more light than the chair I am sitting on. Again, this chair will make progress just because I have brought down light and the chair is receiving the light. This same opportunity another bench or chair will not get.

In the spiritual life, when we go to a spiritual Master and see him talk or meditate, we make faster progress, whether we believe it or not. Forty to fifty seekers are here. These seekers, according to their capacity, are receiving something from me. So, each individual soul has been fed to some extent. When the soul is fed, the soul makes fast progress.

Question: If someone dies a violent death, does his soul suffer as much as it would if he had committed suicide?

Sri Chinmoy: Certainly not. If one is killed in a car accident, do you think that the soul will not have an opportunity to pray again and realise God? Even if someone commits suicide, a spiritual Master can save him and all the karma can be washed away. Again, if in his next incarnation he starts praying and meditating under some spiritual Master, then he has every reason to hope that he can realise God.

Question: If someone commits suicide to avoid dying at the hands of an enemy, does that person suffer the same fate in the inner world as another person who takes his life?

Sri Chinmoy: It has happened many times that two warriors are fighting and when one of them knows that definitely it is a matter of a minute or a second before the other will destroy him, then immediately he puts an end to his own life. Many times when kings have been arrested, they do not want to be killed by their enemies. So they kill themselves. They say, “Since we are destined to be killed by you, then the best thing is for us to kill ourselves.” If they do this, I tell you, they are doing the right thing. They will not suffer the same fate as someone else who commits suicide.

Question: Will the soul suffer if a person commits hara-kiri, a form of suicide which is regarded as honourable in Japan?

Sri Chinmoy: It entirely depends on the individual case. Ordinarily, people commit suicide because they cannot face reality; they have emotional problems or their desires are not fulfilled. But each case is different and only God can decide. In the case of spiritual Masters, they can leave the body at will. But they do not harm the physical; they do not shoot themselves or anything. The soul leaves occultly and spiritually. But first they take permission from the Supreme.

Question: If someone makes an almost impossible attempt to save someone else’s life and if he dies in the attempt, is this like suicide?

Sri Chinmoy: You have to know the motive. The mother sees that the child is drowning. She may not be able to know that it is God’s intention that she stays on earth and looks after her other children. Only she sees that her son is drowning, so she tries to save him. Then, if she dies, this is not suicide.

Question: Sometimes, when you describe Heaven, it sounds much like hell, when they fight and all that.

Sri Chinmoy: There is vital Heaven. People like it. As we like quarrelling, strangling and fighting, they also enjoy it.

Question: Can someone whose soul was in hell go to Heaven?

Sri Chinmoy: The usual process is that first he has to go to earth and do good things. But hell is only a portion of the vital world, so from there it is possible to go directly to Heaven. If they get direct help from the Supreme or from a spiritual Master, some souls can go from hell to Heaven. Otherwise, they have to come back to earth and acquire spiritual merits.

Question: Is it possible for us to be in Heaven while our vital is in hell?

Sri Chinmoy: It is quite possible. Sometimes the angry, undeveloped vital remains in hell, the torture-world. If the soul wants to leave the subtle vital, it does. It leaves the physical sheath at one place, the vital sheath at another place, the mental sheath at another place. Then it goes back to the soul’s world.

Question: What happens to the vital at the hour of death?

Sri Chinmoy: There are two vitals. One is the physical vital, the vital that is in the physical. The other is the vital proper, the vital which does not belong to the physical. It is not identified with the physical; it is totally separate.

When the soul leaves the body, the human being decomposes into its five elements. The vital proper enters into the vital sheath. The mind stays for a shore while with the vital — for a few days or a few months — and then it goes back to the mind’s level, the mental sheath. The soul stays in the vital sheath for two months, six months, sometimes even a year; it depends on the individual. Then it passes to the mental world and then to the psychic world.

Now, when the vital is in the vital sheath, it may suffer considerably. If the vital is unlit and impure, then it is tortured there most mercilessly. When our third eye is open, we see that no human punishment is as severe or as cruel as the vital punishment. Again, if the vital has aspired in its own way to be one with the soul, if the vital listened to the soul when the seeker was on earth, then the vital does not suffer in the vital zone. If the individual is spiritually advanced, he suffers practically nothing, because he knows the ins and outs of that realm.