Paramahansa Yogananda
Quotes on Death

DEATH

flower

Death is not as terrible as you think. It comes to you as a healer. Sleep is nothing but a counterfeit death. What happens in death we can picture in sleep. All our sufferings vanish in sleep. When death comes, all our mortal tortures cease; they cannot go beyond the portals of death. (sm)

SRF AUM

From joy people are born; for joy they live; in joy they melt at death. Death is an ecstasy, for it removes the burden of the body and frees the soul of all pain springing from body identification. It is the cessation of pain and sorrow. (bg)

SRF AUM

At physical death man loses his consciousness of the flesh and becomes conscious of his astral body in the astral world. Thus physical death is astral birth. Later, he passes from the consciousness of luminous astral birth to the consciousness of dark astral death and awakens in a new physical body. Thus astral death is physical birth. These recurrent cycles of physical and astral encasements are the ineluctable destiny of all unenlightened men. (bg)

SRF AUM

Births and deaths are inevitable for man only during the state of ignorance in which he thinks he is the body and cannot exist without it. Only the man who will not seek the awakening of wisdom must suffer the nightmares and delusive dreams of births and deaths and the fanciful miseries and limitations attending them. (bg)

SRF AUM

Death is not a blotting-out of existence, a final escape from life; nor is death the door to immortality. He who has fled his Self in earthly joys will not recapture It amidst the gossamer charms of an astral world. There he merely accumulates finer perceptions and more sensitive responses to the beautiful and the good, which are one. It is on the anvil of this gross earth that struggling man must hammer out the imperishable gold of spiritual identity.

SRF AUM

Take life as it comes and death as it comes. Death is really beautiful; if it were a bad thing, God would not let it happen to us. It is really freedom, an entry into another, higher life. We must utilize this life in order to realize the life beyond this one. Beyond this earth garden is the infinite land wherein we meet those whom we have thought lost. Although we must not seek death, when it comes we should know that it is the final examination for a great reward. (os)

SRF AUM

To the last day of your life, be positive; try to be cheerful. Even at the very end, don't think, "I am finished." Instead of pitying yourself, you should be thinking, "O ye who are left on this desolate shore still to mourn and deplore, it is I who pity you." Death will not give you any trouble if you have a clear conscience; and if you go with this thought: "Lord, I am in Thy hands." (dr)

SRF AUM

Dismiss this phantasma of disease and health, sorrow and joy. Rise above it. Become the Self. Watch the show of the universe, but do not become absorbed in it. Many times I have seen my body gone from this world.

I laugh at death.
I am ready anytime.
There is nothing to it.
Eternal life is mine.

I am the ocean of consciousness. Sometimes I become the little wave of the body, but I am never just the wave without the Ocean of God. (jt)

SRF AUM

When you reflect that this world is filled with death, and that your body, too, has to be relinquished, God's plan seems very cruel. You can't imagine that He is merciful. But when you look at the process of death with the eye of wisdom, you see that after all it is merely a thought of God passing through a nightmare of change into blissful freedom in Him again. Saint and sinner alike are given freedom at death, to a greater or lesser degree according to merit. In the Lord's dream astral world"*— the land to which souls go at death—they enjoy a freedom such as they never knew during their earthly life. So don't pity the person who is passing through the delusion of death, for in a little while he will be free. Once he gets out of that delusion, he sees that death was not so bad after all. He realizes his mortality was only a dream and rejoices that now no fire can burn him, no water can drown him; he is free and safe.**

* The astral world is the subtle sphere or "heaven" behind the gross physical world.

** "No weapon can pierce the soul; no fire can burn it; no water can moisten it; nor can any wind wither it....The soul is immutable, all-permeating, ever calm, and immovable — eternally the same. The soul is said to be imponderable, unmanifested, and unchangeable. Therefore, knowing it to be such, thou shouldst not lament" (Bhagavad Gita II:23-25).

But such is the delusion of desire for material things that, after a time of freedom from the body, he wants to come back to earth. Even though the soul knows that the body is subject to disease and troubles, these delusive desires for earthly experience veil that knowledge and deceive his consciousness. So after a karmically predetermined time in the astral world, he is reborn on earth. When death comes, he goes forth once more from the gross dream of this earth experience to the finer dream of the astral plane, only to be drawn back to this world. And again and again he returns, until he is no longer desirous of an earthly life. (dr)

SRF AUM

When a dear one dies, instead of grieving unreasonably, realize that he has gone on to a higher plane at the will of God, and that God knows what is best for him. Rejoice that he is free. Pray that your love and goodwill be messengers of encouragement to him on his forward path. This attitude is much more helpful. Of course, we would not be human if we did not miss loved ones; but in feeling lonesome for them we don't want selfish attachment to be the cause of keeping them earthbound. Extreme sorrow prevents a departed soul from going ahead toward greater peace and freedom.

Most of the people living on earth today were not here a hundred years ago. Others were here before us. And we who are now walking the streets of the world will not be here a hundred years hence. It will be all over for us, and the new generation will not give us a thought. They will feel, as we do now, that this world belongs to them; but one by one they too will all be taken away. Death must be good, otherwise God would not have ordained that it happen to everyone. Why live in fear of it?

Those who are afraid of death cannot know their true soul nature. "Cowards die many times before their death; the valiant never taste of death but once."* [*Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act II, Scene 2] The coward lives over and over again a mental picture of pain and death. The valiant experience only the final death, quickly and without pain. If one dies of natural causes or is spiritually advanced, the body of sensations simply drops off, and when the consciousness reawakens on another plane it has all the sensations of the body without any physical form. Awareness is all mind, just as it is in dreams. This is not difficult to picture. In death one merely sloughs off his gross physical body, which is only a lower form of mind and the cause of all manner of troubles for the soul. (me)

SRF AUM

Death is not a punishment; it is an awakening; it is a release. We cry for a loved one, saying, "How terrible. He is gone." Still, we are the ones to be pitied. One great swami in India said: "Insult not my death with your pity, ye who are left on this desolate shore still to mourn and deplore; it is I who pity you." (os)

SRF AUM

There is in India a story of a dying youth who, hearing the sobs of grief around him, cried:

Insult me not with your cries of sympathy.
When I soar to the land of eternal light and love;
it is I who should feel for you.
For me, disease, shattering of bones, sorrow, excruciating heartaches no more.
I dream joy, I glide in joy, I breathe in joy evermore.

You don't know what is going to come to you in this world; you have to go on living and worrying. Those who die are pitying us; they are blessing us. Why should you grieve for them? (me)

SRF AUM

Natural death — that is, in old age, or whenever the soul is ready to change its mortal form — is just like the falling of ripe fruit from the tree, of its own accord, without the resistance that green fruit exhibits when being pulled down by a storm or other great force. But in premature death—through disease, accident, or other causes — the soul puts up strong resistance; hence acute agony is witnessed in the body.* In this tumult and struggle of consciousness, there is a great sorrow, a sense of helplessness; and the soul's deluded nature finally becomes unconscious as death occurs, like the onset of deep sleep.** This helplessness during death is mistakenly supposed by some to be a punishment from God. As a matter of fact, it is just a working out of the soul's persistent, self-created bad habit of being identified with change, instead of regarding bodily changes as a means of expressing itself. (dr)

*The external symptoms are minimized today by modern drugs not available when these notes were written in 1923.

** After death, the soul, in an astral body of light, gradually awakens to a new existence in the astral world, or heaven—on a high or low plane corresponding to the merit of its actions on earth. The soul remains in the astral world for a karmically predetermined time; then it returns to earth in a new physical incarnation. These life-death cycles continue until the soul breaks all mortal bonds, becomes liberated, and returns to God.

SRF AUM

If death were the end, then there is no God, and there are no realised masters - it is all a pack of lies. The great ones wouldn't urge you to became better, for what would be the use if, good or bad, we are all junked at the end of life? What would be the value of the scriptures? There would be no justice whatsoever if this present existence is all there is to each individual life. What of those souls who lived only a few years, or lived in blind or crippled bodies? (dr)

SRF AUM

Don't depend on death to liberate you from your imperfections. You are exactly the same after death as you were before. Nothing changes; you only give up the body. If you are a thief or a liar or a cheater before death, you don't become an angel merely by dying. If such were possible, then let us all go and jump in the ocean now and become angels at once! Whatever you have made of yourself thus far, so will you be hereafter. And when you reincarnate, you will bring that same nature with you. To change, you have to make the effort. This world is the place to do it. (dr)

SRF AUM

We fear death because of pain, and because of the thought that we may become obliterated. This idea is erroneous. Jesus showed himself in a physical form to his disciples after his death. Lahiri Mahasaya returned in the flesh the next day after he had entered mahasamadhi. They proved that they were not destroyed. ...

People also fear death because they have been in this cage of flesh so long that they feel timid about leaving its security. But it is foolish to be afraid. Just think, no more repaired tires on the body vehicle, no more patchwork living. Since it is the Lord's desire that we should have this old model until death comes, we have to keep it and take care of it. (me)

SRF AUM

We don't become angels merely by the instrument of death. If we are angels now, we will be angels in the hereafter. If we are dark, negative personalities now, we will be the same after death. (me)

SRF AUM

To face death itself should not daunt you. Fear of death is ridiculous, because as long as you are not dead you are alive, and when you are dead there is noting more to worry about! (jt)

SRF AUM

Those who look at the surface of the sea must behold the birth and death of the waves, but those who seek the depths of the ocean behold one indivisible mass of water. Similarly, those who acknowledge "life" and "death" are tossed by sorrow, while those who live in the illimitable superconsciousness behold and feel the One Ineffable Bliss.

SRF AUM

An adept of Kriya Yoga conquers death by taking the soul beyond identification with the physical body, consciously and at will; and then returning to the consciousness of the mortal form again. By this process, he experiences the body as merely the material dwelling place of the soul. He can remain therein as long as he wants; and after that body has fulfilled its usefulness, he can quit it at will without suffering physical pain or mental pain due to attachment, and enter his omnipresent home in God. (sc)

SRF AUM

The greatest dread of ordinary man is death, with its rude imposition interrupting fortuitous plans and fondest attachments with an unknown and unwelcome change. The yogi is a conqueror of the grief associated with death. By control of mind and life force and the development of wisdom, he makes friends with the change of consciousness called death—he becomes familiar with the state of inner calmness and aloofness from identification with the mortal body. (bg)

SRF AUM

Life and death are but a passing from dream to dream. They are only thoughts: you are dreaming you are alive, and you are dreaming you are dead. When you get into the great Christ Consciousness, you see that life and death are dreams of God. (me)

SRF AUM

Death is the means by which dream matter changes back into the consciousness of God, releasing the soul within it for the next step in its progressive return journey to God. Thus death is a part of the process of salvation. The upward cycle of evolving intelligence in potentially more efficient instruments of expression continues until it reaches the ultimate form in man. Only a human being has the ability to express his innate divinity and to consciously realize God and transcend His maya dream. (dr)

SRF AUM

Birth and death are doors through which you pass from one dream to another. All you are doing is going back and forth between this gross dream world and the finer astral dream world; between these two chambers of dream nightmares and dream pleasures.

Thus reincarnation is a series of dreams within a dream: man's individual dreams within the greater dream of God. (dr)

SRF AUM

At the time of death a yogi reaches the Supreme Effulgent Lord if, with love and by the power of yoga, he fully penetrates his life force between the eyebrows (the seat of the spiritual eye), and if he fixes his mind unwaveringly on the Being who, beyond all delusions of darkness, shines like the sun—the One whose form is unimaginable, subtler than the finest atom, the Supporter of all, the Great Ruler, eternal and omniscient.
—The Bhagavad GitaVIII:9-10

Pointed out in these verses are the three qualifications by which a great yogi passes from his physical body into the Divine Essence.

First, love of God.

Second, mastery of that kingly science, Kriya Yoga, by which he can usher his consciousness into the Infinite through the agency of the "single eye" in the forehead.

Third, perfect control of the mind, made possible through constancy in yoga, that enables him to place his thought undeviatingly on the Lord at the time of death—an hour whose finality is always known in advance by a true yogi. (bg)

SRF AUM

We have passed through death and rebirth so many times, why be afraid of death? It comes to free us. You shouldn't wish for death, but be comforted in the realization that it is our escape from so many troubles; it is a pension after the hard work of life. (me)

SRF AUM

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References:
(aoy) — Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
(bg) — God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita by Paramahansa Yogananda
(dr) — The Divine Romance by Paramahansa Yogananda
(jt) — Journey to Self-Realization by Paramahansa Yogananda
(me) — Man's Eternal Quest by Paramahansa Yogananda
(os) — Other Sources... Talks, Booklets
(sc) — The Second Coming of Christ by Paramahansa Yogananda
(sm) — Self-Realization Magazines