श्लोक 13 (Part#2): Transition At Death

As we saw in part#1 of 2.13, the Consciousness/चेतना is the primary element of this universe and is shining everywhere and on everything.

Consciousness was there before the universe came into existence, it is there now, and it will be there even after this universe is gone.

Due to the reflection of this consciousness inside our body/mind, we feel life inside the body. This reflection also gives our bodies the ability to think, understand and respond, and a sense of I/Ego.

In other words, the life force and sense of I/Ego in the body are just the reflections, while we are none other than the universal Consciousness/चेतना itself.

But, instead of understanding Consciousness/चेतना as our true identity, we identify ourselves with body, mind, I/Ego. With that, we take ownership of all the activities done by this body.

And what happens when we take ownership of something this is not ours?

Yes, we need to give it back. That’s how the cycle of Karma starts and has been going on for eternity.

Each life, we are born to repay part of Karma called Prarabdha Karma. While repaying the Prarabdha Karma, we end up creating new Karma. And to repay that newly created Karma, we need to take additional births. This is how the cycle of life and death has been going on for eternity.

But, we may ask, how and what carries this Karma from one life to another? What dies with the body, and what goes to the new life?

The easiest way to answer those questions would be using the concept of Pancha Koshas (पञ्च कोश) or five layers, described in Taittiriya Upanishad.

Pancha Koshas divide ourselves into these five layers.

1. Annamaya Kosha: our physical body
2. Pranamaya Kosha: the breath that keeps the physical body alive.
3. Manomaya Kosha: the layer of mind, which controls the physical body.
4. Vijnanmaya Kosha: Layer of Intelligence, which learns and analyzes things and helps us decide how to behave in various situations.
5. Anandamaya Kosha: Layer that stores life’s experiences, impressions, desires, learnings.

We can further classify these koshas into three groups:

1. Sthula Sharir: Made of Annamaya and Pranamaya Kosha representing our physical body in this life.
2. Suksham Sharir made of Manomay, and Vijnanmaya kosha. This is the controlling engine for the Sthula Sharir and decides how we act/behave.
3. Karan-Sharir, made of Anandamaya Kosha carries the karma/Vasana/gunas across various birth-and-death cycles.

Sthula and Suksham Sharir get assigned to us only for one particular life. Only the Karan-Sharir, which is a collection of all karmas, understanding, experiences, Vasanas and Gunas, travels forward and takes up a new life based on the Prarabdha Karma for the next life.

So, in summary, to answer the questions we had asked earlier:

1. What dies with the death of the body –> Sthula Sharir, Suksham Sharir
2. What goes on to new life –> Karan-Sharir
3. What is unchanged by death or birth –> Consciousness/चेतना, i.e. our true self.

But, how does this transition happen at death?

Like Shri Krishna explained in 2.13, as we went from Childhood to Adulthood to old age, we will go to a new life after death.

As we didn’t need to do anything to go from Childhood to Adulthood, it was automatic, done by nature. In the same way, the transition from one life to other will be automatic and seamless too.