By M. A. Shrivastava
Reported round the world, near-death experiences lift the veil off death and show us glimpses of a domain of love, compassion and beauty. NDEs not only obliterate the dread of death but also charge life with fresh meaning and purpose
What happens after we die? Is there life after death or do we sink into nothingness? Are we punished for our sins and rewarded for our good deeds? Do heaven and hell exist? What about reincarnation? For man, death has always been an impenetrable mystery.
Never before has there been such a large-scale denial of death as today. The cult of youth, good looks and health is a manifestation of man’s tendency to run away from the perceived unpleasantness of death. For medical science, death is the ultimate enemy, to be defeated at all costs, even if it means keeping a person alive through artificial means.
Ironically, this determination to fight death has opened the door to an exploration of it. In recent times, there has been a deluge of accounts of people who have returned from the jaws of death. Called near-death experiences (NDE), a term coined by writer Dr Raymond Moody Jr. in his book Life after Life, these descriptions and experiences have ripped the veil off the face of death. And what is revealed is neither frightening nor nihilistic. On the contrary, the landscape is radiant with love, beauty, compassion and joy. Death seems to open the doors to ongoing life where we encounter loving spiritual guides, see our akashic records, enjoy celestial music, and understand the purpose of our earthly mission. This not just obliterates the dread of death but charges life with fresh meaning and purpose.
NDE survivors report leaving the body with a plop, and suddenly find themselves surveying their supine bodies from above. They find they can go anywhere simply by intention. They enter by themselves, or are guided by spiritual figures to a long, dark tunnel emanating love and warmth. For some, the experience is frightening, but for most it appears to be overwhelmingly positive. At the end of the tunnel, they see a bright vibrating light radiating powerful rays of love. God?
In P.M.H. Atwater’s book Beyond the Light, an NDE survivor says: ‘I felt whole and loved. My sense of well being was complete. I heard celestial music clearly and saw vividly colored flowers, like nothing seen on earth, gorgeous greenery and trees.
As I looked around, I saw on a hill, Jesus Christ. All he said to me was that it was up to me whether to come back to earth or not. I chose to come back to finish my work.’
Another survivor is quoted: ‘A bright, new, beautiful world-beautiful beyond imagination! For half a minute I could see both worlds at once. Finally, when earth was all gone, I stood in a glory that could only be heaven.’
Back in India, Suresh Kothari, 73, a Mumbai-based businessman had a premonition in 1972 that something unusual would happen. Next day, he was admitted to a hospital with a liver abscess. As the pus was being drawn from his liver, Kothari felt a severe pain moving towards his head. He became numb and felt something trying to come out from his body. His eyes began to pop. He could feel some kind of energy rotating in his forehead. And then he was out of his body.
‘I entered an area of silent storm where light was oscillating at great speed. The entire view was multidimensional. I experienced divine love,’ he says. When he came to, he found doctors pressing his femoral artery to revive his cardiac arrest. Merra, a 42-year-old resident of Washington, USA, who has had three major NDEs and a few minor ones, recalls having seen a being of frosted white light pulsating near her during her second NDE in 1988. ‘I could see another bright light on my right but wasn’t allowed to go near it. It looked like a male figure and was sending a lot of light towards me,’ she recalls.
While Kothari and Merra witnessed light, 71-year-old Navinbhai Mehta of Mumbai smelt a beautiful fragrance synchronized with soothing music. A practitioner of acupressure and acupuncture, Mehta is strongly intuitive. One morning in June 1995, he sensed that he was going to die. His family members rushed him to a cardiologist where Mehta collapsed and was declared dead. Ten minutes later, he opened his eyes, much to everybody’s surprise.
About the period when he died, Mehta says: ‘I was traveling through a tunnel and could see a bright light at the end. As I neared the light, I heard indescribably beautiful music.’
Most NDE survivors recall feeling intense love when they went near the light at the end of the tunnel and wouldn’t have returned but for unfinished business. ‘I felt as if I had reached the pinnacle of love. All my mental and physical fatigue was gone,’ says Kothari. His first reaction on returning to consciousness was: ‘Why did you bring me back? I don’t want to come back.’
Merra was also unwilling to return but the being of light told her that she had unfinished tasks on earth. Merra also felt the presence of her parents who had died in a plane crash in 1978 and her sister who was murdered when Merra was 21 but could not see them.
However, not all undergo pleasant NDEs. Describing the NDE of a Californian woman, Atwater says: ‘She floated out of her body into a dark tunnel, then headed towards a bright light ahead. Once the light was reached, she saw a landscape of barren, rolling hills filled to overflowing with nude, zombie-like people staring straight at her. She was so horrified that she started screaming. This snapped her back into her body, where she continued screaming until sedated. As she related her story, she declared death a nightmare and cursed every church throughout history for misleading people with heaven. She was inconsolable.’ Nevertheless, NDEs can also heal. Merra had had an incurable brain tumor since childhood. During her second NDE, she was taken into a room in the mountains where she saw her body lying on a stone-bed and three bearded men praying over it. Merra was told that they would perform a psychic surgery on her tumor. ‘They were massaging my body with oils, poured purified water on my head and lighted incense. Then I saw some dark energy emanating from my body,’ she reminisces. When she came to, her tumor was gone.
NDE experiencers also lose a sense of timing while on the other side. ‘Though the whole process lasted for about 60 to 90 seconds, I felt as if I had spent thousands of years there and traveled thousands of miles,’ says Kothari.
In Kothari’s case, the effect of the NDE unfolded only later. After being discharged from the hospital, he could not recognize anyone for six months. He remembered the past vaguely. Then began the onslaught of deities. Kothari claims to have seen various deities sitting face to face with him in his house: ‘I used to see huge forms of Krishna, Buddha, Mahavira. One day, to my surprise, I saw millions of Lord Krishnas on my body, almost in each cell. If I looked down on the floor I could see 100 miles under the ground.’
Kothari asked the deities to explain the purpose of what was happening to him. Then began the flow of advice from them in the form of verses where he was supposedly given the secret of creation. Till date, 41,000 verses have been dictated to him.
Most NDE survivors report a dramatic change in their personality. Normally, it takes a spiritual bend. Having seen the reality, they return as better and reformed human beings.
‘You return from your NDE knowing that we affect each other because we are all part of each other, and that we affect all parts of creation because all parts of creation interweave with all other parts. Any sense of aloneness or separation dissolves in the light of such knowing,’ says Atwater.
Betty Eadie, author of Embraced by the Light, an account of her NDE while undergoing surgery, was shown the consequences of her actions in the akashic records. Her positive actions rippled through the lives of many people, creating joy and happiness, while her negative ones spread a stain of misery across the spectrum. What we do impacts the universe, she concluded.
The experiencers return charged with a divine mission. ‘We think that God is outside us but we can experience God even in ourselves if we wish,’ says Merra. And this is what she teaches in her meditation classes, which started after her NDEs.
Similarly for Kothari, post-NDE, death lost its terror and a spiritual quest started. Though still a globetrotting businessman, he gives religious discourses every evening and conducts spiritual awakening programs. Based on the knowledge passed on to him by the deities, Kothari has written Samkaleen Geeta, that was given to him by the cosmic voice when he asked for a simple path to salvation in the modern age. His other books include Krishna Leela, Agna Gnan, Prana Veda, and Bhakta Bhagwat. When taken over by the cosmic voice, Kothari speaks in various Indian languages like Marathi, Gujarati, Urdu, Sanskrit, some of which he doesn’t otherwise know. Is death painful? ‘No,’ says Kothari, ‘It is absolutely painless. God is the best surgeon and anesthesiologist who takes out life without pain.’
One may add here that all experiences are subjective. During NDEs, Christians see Christ, Hindus see deities from the Hindu pantheon, and so on. Even their experiences are self-generated. Some see paradise, others a nightmare. Obviously, we create our own heaven and hell.
Atwater says: ‘The biggest surprise for most people in dying is to realize that dying does not end life. Whether darkness or light comes next, the biggest surprise of all is to realize you are still you. You can still think, remember, see, hear, move, reason, wonder, feel, question and tell jokes, if you wish.’
Many in the medical community consider NDE to be a manifestation of the subconscious mind or the effect of anesthesia. Says DR Ramesh Dang, head of the Balkrishna Hypnotherapy Centre, Mumbai: ‘NDE is nothing but a projection of the subconscious mind, particularly common among people with a religious attitude.’ Dang’s viewpoint does not explain Merra who was an atheist before her NDEs. She had never read any books on religion or meditation. ‘This is why seeing Lord Krishna during an NDE was such a surprise,’ she says.
DR Shubhangi Parkar, head of the department of psychological medicine at Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, two of whose patients have undergone NDEs, says: ‘Whether one believes in NDEs or not, one should respect the feelings of the experiencers or else it could have a damaging effect on their minds.’ Both her patients benefited positively from the NDEs and were able to resolve their psychological problems.
That perhaps is the bottom line. The medical community may baulk at the idea, but if NDEs enlighten us about the purpose of life, rid us of the fear of death and charge us with a sense of mission, we ought to embrace them with open arms!
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