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Life After Life Experience

Life after life experience, or the near-death experience has been a subject of numerous articles and books. Many who have experienced life after life talk of meeting a “light.” The effect of such a meeting can bring about cataclysmic change. In the beginning,  life can be difficult. An internal shift to a new life pattern requires deep changes in oneself. 

One common transformation is a visceral stirring that prompts a search for a spirituality that makes sense, one that you can apply in your own life, one that is a direct experience of your spiritual self. One that ultimately makes you much happier. That search often runs counter to ego-centric consciousness. The ego fights spiritual growth. Ego is often supported by the ambient culture and entrenched tradition. The spiritual path involves unraveling the entanglements of ego. That is what this novel describes.

The Near Death Experience (from the author)

Much has been written on the near-death experience. Many who’ve lived it talk of meeting a “Light.” The effect of such a meeting can cause cataclysmic change.  Life can be difficult. Real change is never easy. One such documented change is a visceral stirring that prompts a search for a spirituality that makes sense. That search often runs counter to ego, built by the cultures and traditions we live within.

The idea for this novel was triggered in part by KennethRing, Ph.D.’s Lessons from the Light, published in 1998, based on thirty-plus years of his research into the phenomenon.

That led into a Zen perspective.

The Great Heart of Perfect Wisdom Sutra, from Zen, starts:

Avalokiteshvara Bodhissatva, when deeply practicing prajna paramita, clearly saw that all five aggregates are empty and thus relieved all suffering.  Shariputra, form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form.  Form itself is emptiness, emptiness itself form…

life after life AA imageBefore we begin to explain this, some clarification is in order.  The first word, Avalokiteshvara, is the name of a bodhissatva, someone who, upon realizing Nirvana, looks back to see the suffering world, and instead, turns back to help the world, taking a vow not to enter Nirvana until all beings are realized.  prajna paramita is translated as “wisdom beyond wisdom”.  The “five aggregates” are the realms of the five senses  Shariputra  is the name of the Buddha’s assistant in Nirvana.

What this sutra is describing is the “two truths”, the heart of much of Zen mysticism.  It is a concept that cannot easily, if at all, be grasped by the discursive mind.

It is said that one day ShunryuSuzuki said to a student: “You’re perfect as you are, but you could stand a little improvement.”  That was a perfect expression of the two truths.  Bringing it down to words based on duality, the first phrase is rooted in the Universal, the second phrase in the particular, manifested world.  Duality is the state of this particular world: good/bad, beautiful/ugly.  Even one of mankind’s most magnificent machines, the computer, is designed to run on the ultimate duality: Boolean algebra’s zeros and ones.

Another way of describing this is that the Universe, all humans included, is One.  At the same time, I can’t eat your breakfast for you, and you can’t eat my dinner for me.  Zen says: “not one, not two.”

What I’m proposing is that people who’ve had a near-death experience attain a new expansive view of reality which includes the divide between one and two.  Then they emerge from that close to a fully enlightened person.  One of the clues that leads me to that conclusion is that they describe their experience as inexpressible, indescribable. They are always struggling  to find the words that describe it—this is a state that mystics are very familiar with.

Consequently, early in my novel, Jack tells Steve that the reason he’s so interested in the near-death experience and especially in Steve’s incident is that he’s convinced that someone trying to adapt to a near-death experience is wrestling with the same issues as a student of Zen who is trying to take his experience of enlightenment off his meditation cushion into the rest of his life.