After death and before birth

In the context of what Sri Aurobindo and the Mother say on the subject of death and recycling of human physical body, his vital body of desires and mind’s structure, and the rebirth of psychic being, we find an interesting account of the process in the book called Anugita, a part of Mahabharata, where Arjuna much after the great war was over requests Lord Krishna to explain him once again the lessons of Gita, which were taught at the battle ground and which he could not properly assimilate with his feeble understanding on account of the heat of the moment. Lord Krishna told him that it was not possible to reproduce Gita since it was the product of particular time and circumstances. However, he told him a story where a learned Brahmana, in answer to his queries, was taught the secret by a Siddha and assured him (Arjuna) that it also contained the same lessons which were taught to him at the battle ground. Anugita says thus:

  “The Siddha said: Nowhere is there everlasting happiness; nowhere eternal residence. Over and over again is there a downfall from a high position attained with difficulty.”

  “The Siddha said: When those actions, productive of long life and fame, which a man performs here, are entirely exhausted, after his assumption of another body, he performs (actions of) an opposite character, his self being overcome at the exhaustion of life. And his ruin being impending, his understanding goes astray. .. Such a man himself aggravates the disorders (in the body) when the time comes. By aggravating the disorders (in) his (own) body, he contracts a disease which ends in death, or he even engages in unreasonable (acts), such as hanging (oneself). From these causes, the living body of that creature then perishes. Learn about that correctly as I am about to state it.

 “Heat being kindled in the body, and being urged by a sharp wind, pervades the whole frame, and, verily, checks, the (movements of all the) life winds. Know this truly, that excessively powerful heat, if kindled in the body, bursts open the vital parts-the seats of the soul. Then the soul, full of torments, forthwith falls away from the perishable (body). Know … that (every) creature leaves the body, when the vital parts are burst open, its self being overcome with torments. All beings are constantly distracted with birth and death; and … are seen abandoning (their) bodies, or entering the womb on the exhaustion of (their previous) actions. Again, a man suffers similar torments, having his joints broken and suffering from cold, in consequence of water. As the compact association of the five elements is broken up, the wind in the body, distributed within the five elements between the upward and downward life-winds, being aggravated by cold, and urged by a sharp wind, goes upwards abandoning the embodied (self) in consequence of pain. Thus it leaves the body, which appears devoid of breath. Then devoid of warmth, devoid of breath, devoid of beauty, and with consciousness destroyed, the man, being abandoned by the Brahman, is said to be dead. (Then) he ceases to perceive (anything) with those very currents with which the supporter of the body perceives objects of sense. In the same way, it is the eternal soul which preserves in the body the life-winds which are produced from food. Whatever (part of the body) is employed in the collection of that, know. that to be a vital part, for thus it is seen (laid down) in the Scriptures. Those vital parts being wounded, that (wind) directly comes out there from, and entering the bosom of a creature obstructs the heart. Then the possessor of consciousness knows nothing. Having his knowledge enveloped by darkness, while the vitals are still enveloped, the soul, being without a fixed seat, is shaken about by the wind. And then he heaves a very deep and alarming gasp, and makes the unconscious body quiver as he goes out (of it). That soul dropping out of the body is surrounded on both sides by his own actions, his own pure and meritorious, as also his sinful (ones).  Brahmans, possessed of knowledge, whose convictions are correctly (formed) from sacred learning, know him by (his) marks as one who has performed meritorious actions or the reverse. As those who have eyes see a glow-worm disappear here and there in darkness, so likewise do those who have eyes of knowledge. Such a soul, the Siddhas see with a divine eye, departing (from the body), or coming to the birth, or entering into a womb.”

  “And now further, hear how a man overwhelmed with action, and enveloped in desire and anger, enters a womb. Within the womb of a woman, (he) obtains as the result of action a body good or else bad, made up of virile semen and blood. .. That soul, entering all the limbs of the fetus, part by part, and dwelling in the seat of the life-wind, supports (them) with the mind. Then the fetus, becoming possessed of consciousness, moves about its limbs. As liquefied iron being poured out assumes the form of the image, such you must know is the entrance of the soul into the fetus. As fire entering a ball of iron, heats it, such too, you must understand, is the manifestation of the soul in the fetus. And as a blazing lamp shines in a house, even so does consciousness light up bodies. And whatever action he performs, whether good or bad, everything done in a former body must necessarily be enjoyed (or suffered). … Thus a creature always meets with (the effects of) the action performed (in a) previous (life). And that is the sole cause by which he comes here (in a) degraded (form).”

  “One who does no action, and who has no desire, looks on this universe as transient, like an Asvattha tree, always full of birth, death, and old age. Having his understanding always (fixed) upon indifference to worldly objects, searching for his own faults, he procures the release of his self from bonds in no long time. Vasudeva said: Having spoken to me… these good words relating to the piety (required) for final emancipation, that best of Brahmanas (that is, the Siddha) disappeared then and there. .. The world of the gods… is filled by those who perform actions. And the gods are not pleased with a cessation of the mortal form.”

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