Analysis of Life, Death and the After-Life in Religion
Do not stand at my grave and weep;
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I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there, I did not die.
In today’s society, our perception of death is generally very negative, not to mention our haunting associations with death. The human beings that we are, have the inclination to fear even the slightest thought of death and or loss. Yes, of course, it is a natural act to feel this way. In fact, it is usually expected, and most of the time anticipated that one would be afraid of what is to come of him in the next world. As we approach death one of the tantalizing feelings that we have is that of being afraid. For those of us that believe in eternal life, the above poem creates the perfect image of how death will be in the afterlife. The author of this poem states, “I am not there, I did not die.”
He or she is saying that after you die you are not necessarily dead, but you can make the most of your afterlife, it is what you do before you die that prepares you for the afterlife. The above poem allows our insight into death and we are now able to come to terms with death. Christians and certain Non-Christians both believe in an afterlife, so one must understand that only the afterlife can occur after death.
It is of common interest for both people of the Christian faith and those of other beliefs to be concerned with the status of the soul after one’s death. For this reason, it is important that all people of the world continually face the ultimate question of death and the rebirth of the soul, Christians and Non-Christians alike both belief in hope for the soul after death.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, as we come to find that life here on Earth is only a journey through the darkness that will eventually lead us to the light of eternal life. “When he had gone one league the darkness became thick around him, for there was no light…After eleven leagues the dawn light appeared. At the end of twelve leagues the sun streamed out” (The Epic of Gilgamesh, pg. 99). This passage represents the journey that a Non-Christian can take in his life.
Here we see how the journey through life can lead to the resurrection or the light. This passage clearly adds justification to the fact that life on earth has a direct effect on the life after death for Non-Christians. This directly states that the soul shall achieve eternal life through the soul that has to lead many individuals to examine their personal lives to the best of their ability. All people can find comfort in death by understanding the positive characteristics of the afterlife.
The upcoming characters along with Gilgamesh are perfect examples of people, who are Non-Christians, who cast away the fear of death in the belief that the soul is immortal. The Trial and Death of Socrates presents a quick overview of how individual’s different religious status can come to the terms with the fear of dying:
This is the reason why a man should be of good cheer about his own should, if during life he has ignored the pleasures of the body and its ornamentation….but has seriously concerned himself with the pleasures of learning, and adorned his soul not with aliens but with its own ornaments, namely moderation, righteousness, courage, freedom, and truth, and in that state awaits his journey to the underworld (Plato pg. 55).
It is a strong belief of Socrates that by living a good life here on earth one can require life after death. This idea may not be as compelling as that of the Christian belief, but it serves a purpose. Here, without religion, one can concentrate on his life on earth, which can then lead to eternal happiness. Still, the understanding of the afterlife must surface and be examined. “I have been saying for some time and at some length that after I have drunk the poison I shall no longer be with you but will leave you and go and enjoy some good fortunes of the blessed” (Plato pg. 56). Socrates is clearly saying that he should not fear death due to the blessings that are to come in the afterworld. This notion of the after-life or rebirth of one’s life once the mortal body has perished acts as the buffer for Socrates and many others who have fulfilled their earthly duties.
The Christian faith gives humans beings the hope they may be looking for after the death of the body. “Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” (1st Corinthians 15:51). It is definitely not any mystery to those of the Christian belief that once the body has died, the soul will live on. Rudyard Kipling said, “If any question why we lived, Tell them because our father died” (http://startpage.com/html/quotations.html).
Eternal life has been the foundation for many Christians who believe in God. Yet, many people of faith are still afraid of death. For these individuals, the understanding of the afterlife must come into play. “So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable…It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1st Corinthians 15:42-44). It is only with the death of the body can the soul experience life after death. Henry Ward Beecher said, “Living is death; dying is life. We are not what we appear to be. On this side of the grave we are exiles, on that citizens; on this side orphans, on that children” (http://www.borrowedtyme.com/quotes.html).
Here we see the side of the afterlife where dying is life. Beecher is getting to a point where we live our lives as two different people. It is the faith in God and his magnificent ability to raise living souls and grant human beings everlasting peace that has continually drawn people to the Christian religion for two thousand years.
Christ gives everyone that believes in him and has faith the full ability to escape the fear of death. He says in Mark 16:16, “The one who believes and is baptized will be saved.” This verse is one that Christians always have in the back of their minds that help stand strong against the fear that death presents. Jesus Christ is saying he guarantees anyone who believes in him will be saved from sin, but Christ has a place for our everlasting soul.
When the soul is guaranteed to last forever you can look past death. In the novel, Silence, by Sushaku Endo, Mokichi, the Japanese peasant, is being persecuted by the Samurai for his Christian beliefs. The authorities allow Mokichi to denounce his faith, yet he stays strong in his belief that the next world will bring everlasting life. Mokichi knew that after death his soul would be resurrected, which in turn allowed him to withstand the ultimate fear of death. Mokichi was able to sing a hymn, “We’re on our way, we’re on our way…..to the temple of paradise” (Silence, pg. 60). As he sings this song it has a sense of dark sadness to it. Life was too painful for these Japanese peasants. Relying on “the temple of paradise” they have been able to go on living and accepting death.
“Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). This is what Jesus Christ wants people to do, the good news that is proclaimed here is the exact recipe that is prescribed to allow us the ability to experience good life after death. This “Good News” can eliminate the fear of dying, allowing the positive notions of death to become real. This “Good News” is that the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and that he promises to grant eternal life to all those that believe and are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Bhagavad-Gita, which represents the notion of the afterlife from the Hindu perspective: “Our bodies are known to end, but the embodied self is enduring, indestructible, and immeasurable…” “Death is certain for anyone born, and birth is certain for the dead” (Bhagavad-Gita Gita, pg. 33). This birth is the exact action that occurs for those that die and have to lead a good life. The Hindu religion goes further in its explanation of eternal life: “Never have I not existed, nor you, nor these kings; and never in the future shall we cease to exist” (Bhagavad-Gita, pg. 31).
This shows the notion of the Hindu belief of comfort in the assurance that life after death will truly bring happiness. The Hindu-based belief that we will never cease to exist only adds clarity to the idea that the body is only a physical state in which an eternal soul emerges.
Regardless of what religion tells us individuals will continue to fear death. The problem with this is we see and hear the body leaving the earth and never returning which is what we as human beings have a hard time grasping. Until one becomes aware of the positive characteristics of death, resurrection, and rebirth one will continue to fear our mortal fate of death. Even though Christians have the opportunity to find hope in their soul after death due to their faith in God, others differ in their religion and beliefs, in which they cannot find the same Christian comfort in their religion.
Dag Hammarskjold said, “Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment” (http://www.borrowed-tyme.com/quotes/death.html). Seek the road on which death is fulfillment is something that many Christians and Non-Christians try to do to have that guaranteed spot for their afterlife.
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