Question: Some time ago, there was a plane crash. The pilot was depressed and wanted to kill himself and all the other people on the plane as well. All these people died together and lost their gross material bodies. Can the jivas in subtle bodies see each other? Do they have rational faculties to understand the situation of how they got killed? Can they experience emotions like hatred or vengeance for the pilot, and will this cause them to get even with him in some future life?
Answer: First of all, when you die, you are not free to think and do whatever you want. You come under the control of the Lord of death, Yamarāja. By the laws of karma, it will be decided where you will go next. It is not that you can sit down and brood over how you died and how this guy did this or that. Before you died, if you knew that he was going to do this and you were angry as a result, you will then carry that anger with you and that will become instrumental in your next birth, and in that way, your consciousness will manifest in that birth. When you die, you are not conscious of the external world, just like when you go to sleep, you forget everything and go into a different state of mind. These people died suddenly, not knowing why the crash happened. Therefore, there is no question of having feelings of vengeance towards the pilot. However, if he had announced that he was going to kill them all, they would have felt angry and fearful and would have carried that emotion into their next life. Otherwise, the only thing they know is that they are dying because of a plane crash and they may carry that fear of fire and crash into their next lives. They may have a phobia of flying, of fire, or have claustrophobia in their next lives.
Question: Can they see each other when they are in the subtle body?
Answer: The jivas in subtle bodies don’t see each other. They cannot see unless they get another form, such as that of a ghost. The subtle body by itself cannot see unless it inhabits another type of body. There are various types of bodies that are subtle in comparison with the gross body. The subtle body refers to the psychic body which consists of the mind, intelligence, ego, citta (sometimes translated as heart or unconscious mind), the senses and the five vital energies. The subtle body, however, needs another body with sense organs, through which the internal and external senses can function.
Question: But a ghost does not have a gross body, and so has no sense organs. How does the subtle body function in it?
Answer: The subtle body is like the basic template which is covered by another body. There are various types of bodies, such as deva, yakṣa, rākṣasa, gandharva, kinnara etc.
Question: Does it mean that after death, either the Yamadūtas or Viṣṇudūtas, take the template to another body?
Answer: Yes, one is given another body. If one is transported to the spiritual world, one is given a spiritual body. If one has to suffer in hell, one is given a yātanā śarīra, a body for suffering, and if one goes to heaven, one is given a heavenly body according to their good karma. The yātanā śarīras and heavenly bodies are of various types, just like here on earth, there are various types of bodies.
Question: If one has to take birth again, does one have to wait for a special period of time?
Answer: Sooner or later everyone has to take birth on earth, which is called the planet of death, martya loka. One has to return to human birth because it is only in human life that one can acquire new karma. This may take some time and can vary from person to person. One can remain even inside a seed, such as grain, and lie there for a long time.
Question: During that time, is the jīva practically unconscious?
Answer: Yes, you remain in that unconscious state without a gross body.
Question: How is that unconscious state different from the liberated stage?
Answer: This unconscious state is under the influence of tamas or ignorance. The ātmā is not aware of its state. It is complete ignorance, like in deep sleep.
Question: How long does this last?
Answer: It can take yugas! That is why this human form is so rare and if we realize its importance, we will not waste our time in useless activities, such as endeavouring for material pleasures, being envious of others, making plans to take revenge, sitting and gossiping and criticizing others, reading mundane literature or watching mundane shows and movies. Most people fritter away their precious human life, and do not get anything substantial.
Stories are the most interesting for everybody. The best way to teach, to transfer knowledge, is through story. Our sages already knew this. Jiva Gosvami wants you to put your faith in the Puranas. Don’t think the Puranas are just stories – they contain the truth.
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