One of the curious things that happens when I tell people I study Buddhism, is the apparent need to compare my beliefs to their own. I usually get asked the same batch of questions:
“So, do you believe in God?” (Yes, indeed I do!)
“Do you believe in life after death?” (I do, in fact. This is not discounting the concept of reincarnation that most Buddhists subscribe to)
“Oh, you’re one of those meditating people, right? Do you meditate?” (Yes, in fact I’m meditating right now to get through this conversation!)
All jokes aside, I never shy away from answering questions when someone is curious about a subject I have some knowledge on. But the aspect I want to discuss today is the concept of life after death. Let’s be honest, we have all wondered what happens when we die. At some point, we have wondered and/or hoped about the concept of heaven. Some people completely discount the possibility. Atheist, Humanists and Secularists especially, will have a reasonably firm opinion that there are no pearly gates waiting once we pass away.
However, science has been able to provide some insight, even for those who don’t follow a faith-driven lifestyle. The best explanation I could muster came out of me back in 2013, while speaking with my aunt.
Growing up, I only had one aunt on my father’s side. Although her name was Iris, the whole family always called her Cookie. She lived in the southern part of New Brunswick until her divorce, after which she moved to Alberta. It would be almost twenty years before I would see her again.
Before that came to happen, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It wasn’t until my work brought me out to the Prairies that I was in a position to go visit her. I traveled from South-Central Saskatchewan to Edmonton, Alberta where I spent three wonderful days with Aunt Cookie. Despite her waning health, she was so full of life and smiles. She was the perfect example of a person making the best of the living moment, instead of contemplating what was to come.
On the third day, before I got on the road to travel back to Saskatchewan, we enjoyed a light lunch at a local eatery, where we had the opportunity to discuss life and what Aunt Cookie may or may not believe would be coming. As we discussed, I remembered describing something to her that I would be repeating to others for the years that would follow:
“Most people fall under two categories. Those who believe we go to heaven when we die, and those who don’t! If you live a faith-driven existence, then you should be confident in what your faith has taught you. If you’re right, then you’ll be headed to heaven. Even if you don’t have faith, science has proven that living beings are energy-based. At our very cores, we are composed of energy at the very atomic levels. And science has proven that energy can never be destroyed or cease to exist; it simply transforms. So even if you lead your life without a religious faith, science has proven that once we pass away, our energy will transform or move on to some other level. So, no matter what you believe, you should trust that this is not the end…”
Make of that what you will, but it makes sense, right? And it did make my Aunt Cookie feel better and potentially gave her some peace.
My aunt passed away about six months later, but not before getting to meet the woman who would become my wife.
The bottom line is that we have no way of knowing what comes next. At least, not without going there to see for ourselves. And I don’t know about you but I don’t plan on finding out anytime soon. I have WAY too many things I want to get done first. Live life to the fullest and take the time to appreciate the now. Make every minute count.