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What Happens When We Die?

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Q: If I feel oneness, will I still feel that sense of oneness after my death? Do Buddha, Ramana, or Jesus still feel the oneness as they would have felt it when they were alive?

A: This is a good question, although no one can really answer it until they die. There are some mysteries that are meant to be mysteries. When it comes to something like death, what we don’t know will always be more than what we do know. Not knowing something can actually be very rich and exciting.

So far, based on my experience with living, my guess is that there is no formula for what happens when we die. Just as everyone’s experience of life is unique, it seems likely that everyone’s experience of death would also be unique. Some people might dissolve back into the oneness without any trace of individuality remaining. Others might have an expanded sense of their true nature but with a sense of identity as someone who is experiencing the vastness of Being. And others might retain a strong sense of individual existence, which might suggest that they would reincarnate again to satisfy their remaining karma or individual desires.

We all eventually get to find out what happens when we die. In the meantime, we have the mystery of what is going to happen before we die! Will I fall in love today? Will I be happy or sad today? Will I realize my true nature today? There are endless small mysteries to be discovered every day and even some big mysteries. Your question is a good one because it shows curiosity. Since life and death are so unpredictable and unknowable, your curiosity can serve you much better than any answer to your questions. It can be very surprising to discover that questions are almost always more satisfying than answers.

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Experience versus Knowing

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Someone used the contact form on here to send me the following question:

I can't begin to thank you for your free ebooks and writings.  Your message just sings so beautifully to me.  It answers the questions in the perfect order even before I can ask the questions.  Last week while reading your latest ebook, it was seen with incredible ease that the thoughts in my head were not who I am and now, I know as fact that only presence exists.  I can't even go to my mind without something coming up and keeping me in the moment.  Thoughts still arise, but very few "I" thoughts, and those dissipate in a split second.  I do have a question regarding "who I am".  I have of course investigated this and read about this.  I know as fact now that I am not my thoughts or body.  I know "intellectually" that I am Presence Awareness.  I say intellectually because I don't yet sense it as fact.  I wonder if part of me still sees it (Awareness) as an object of some sort?  I have felt/experinced glimpses of it in past - a complete feeling that everything was One and connected (air, people, trees, birds, etc), but that only felt like a passing experience.

Do you have any additional pointers I could read?

And here is my response:

This is a very good question, as many people have grasped the Oneness and their true nature as Awareness intellectually, but are concerned that it is not a common or ongoing experience for them, and so the sense of knowing still seems tenuous or vague. It also seems that there is often a gap between an intellectual knowing and a more grounded, whole being kind of knowing. And the bridge between these two is very simply repeated experiences of the bigger truth. We tend to only really know something that we have experienced a lot.

Everyone has different amounts of experience that is required for that knowing to be felt in an ongoing way. A simple example is asking how many times doing something it would take for you to really know that you now know how to perform some new skill like flying an airplane. If you piloted an airplane once for 2 minutes, would you feel that you know how to fly an airplane? Hopefully not! But if you had flown solo many times, then you would probably start to have an ongoing sense that you know how to fly an airplane.

So it does boil down to having lots of experiences of Oneness and Presence. That is what finally shifts someone's inner sense of knowing. At a certain point the sense of knowing shifts from being an intellectual knowing to a deeper knowing "in your bones". In the case of the knowing of Presence or Oneness, this shift can happen from several repeated experiences of Presence or very occasionally it can happen from one very strong or long lasting experience of the Oneness of Being. And of course everyone wants to have a single big experience that does the trick, but from my many conversations with people undergoing the shift, I have observed that it more often happens gradually or in a series of experiences.

There is one more point I would share with you. The important thing is the shift to a deep sense of inner knowing of the truth. The experiences of Oneness are wonderful and are of great service to this shift, but the experiences are not really that important in and of themselves. Like every other experience, the experience of Presence comes and goes. And any effort to get or keep these experiences will cause you to suffer pretty much in the same way as efforting to get or keep any other ordinary experience...

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Is the Brain the Source of Consciousness?

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Q: Am I not just the brain? Is the brain not the source of consciousness and awareness? If not, how can we know this? But if we are the brain, then we are mortal, we will die, and we are not an Eternal Self. Is the experience of awareness simply another state of brain activity?

A: These are very thoughtful questions, and yet they are based on a faulty assumption that is also at the core of most scientific reasoning. Once that faulty assumption is accepted, the logic that proceeds from it is faulty. It’s like leaving on a trip and believing you are starting in Kansas when you really are in Montana. When the initial assumption is so mistaken, there’s little chance you will arrive at your intended destination even if your navigation skills are very good.

The mistaken assumption is the idea that things are separate. If things are separate from one another, then your questions about the brain are very relevant. The brain is a truly amazing expression of this thing called awareness, or consciousness. So it is natural we’ve come to assume that the brain is the source of the consciousness that we observe operating through the brain and, really, through the whole body, since the nervous and endocrine systems actually use the entire organism to think and perceive. But what if this assumption of separateness is mistaken? What would that mean about the body/brain organism and its functioning if it isn’t separate from anything else? What if there is really just one thing here? Then what would be the source of the awareness?

Just as scientists can no longer think about the brain and its functioning as separate from the body because thoughts are actually happening in the entire body, we can’t accurately consider thought as something that happens in one body. Every movement of consciousness that we recognize as thought or awareness is happening in the entire field of awareness that our bodies and brains appear in.

I read recently about an experiment based on the unique brain wave patterns one observes when a bright light is directed into just one eye. Scientists chose two complete strangers and introduced them to each other for a short conversation, then separated them into two rooms that were electrically shielded from each other. Scientists found that if they directed a bright light into one person’s eye, the person in the other room would exhibit the same brain wave activity as the one whose eye was being illuminated.

While this seems impossible if we believe that the brain is a separate object, existing apart from all other objects, this result becomes quite possible (although no less amazing) if we assume that the two brains in this experiment are part of one thing called consciousness and if this miracle we call awareness is actually arising in the space, or field, where the two brains are both appearing.

The idea that objects (including brains) are separate and unconnected explains much of what we observe, but it doesn’t explain the results of that experiment or many other aspects of our experience, including insights, intuitions, psychic abilities, and mystical experiences.

In contrast, the idea that one consciousness is expressing through every brain and every thing doesn’t contradict any of our experiences, including those that seem to suggest that we are separate beings. For example, your left hand can be scratching your ear while your right hand is writing a letter without contradicting the underlying reality that your hands are both part of one being. And so, your brain can be discussing something with or even arguing with my brain, even if we are ultimately one thing.

So the idea that everything is one thing fits with and explains more of our experience than the idea that we are separate entities. This suggests that the idea that everything is one is a truer idea than the idea that everything is separate.

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Nothing Personal: Seeing Beyond the Illusion of a Separate Self by Nirmala.

Nothing Personal leads you to the experience of your true nature and helps you explore its depth. Through exposition, questions and dialogues, it brings you to a place of realization of the Truth: you are the spacious Awareness in which everything appears.

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