What Happens When You Die (v2.0)
Headless Life -
I’d like to continue with my thoughts of what happens on the other side of life. To the untrained eye, it might look like I may be a little preoccupied with death or something. After all, this is the second time I’ve written about what I think happens when you die. You might roll your eyes, and be thinking “And here he is with the death-thing again”…
But I’ve always found it to be a fascinating concept.
I always was kind-of a weird kid…
It’s like this — there seems to be two modes of existence — your personal consciousness which include your concept of “I-ness” (the thing you point to when thinking about yourself), and the rest of the universe.
But when your “I-ness” is missing — ie when you are either unconscious or dead, the rest of the universe doesn’t stop, right? Zen thought seems to define this as the Born verses the Unborn (which is an excellent way to think about it as it immediately illuminates what we’re talking about here).
Upon your death, your central awareness disappears along with all your memory, which holds your lifetime of experiences. You’re points of view, your personality, self-image, etc. Your brain no longer functions, and you are no longer aware of yourself or your surroundings.
But here’s the weirdest thing:
You do not go away…
You’re still here…
You’re “headless” existence is still here…
This mode of existence is the same as you experience when you’re sleeping, but not dreaming. Anything can happen to you when you’re in this state, and you are not aware of it unless you are aroused, whereupon your “I Locus” reboots and gathers it’s awareness again. Since it derives its very awareness by being self-reflective and self-aware, it cannot conceive of existence outside of itself. Hence, it is cut off from anything existing before (or after) itself.
This is why its so hard to conceive of what happens after death. The “you” involved here is totally a product of your functioning brain.
Your self-centered awareness is part and parcel of what you consider to be you. But it is only a product of your “mentation” if you will.
When you are unconscious (either when sleeping, or dead), you are still here. This is the state of being outside of your functioning brain. It makes up everything in the body, the brain, and in fact, every particle in the entire universe. It has always existed. This is in fact, who you really are.
If that’s not weird enough — saying “its who you really are” does not really get it either. The problem is with the word “you”.
There is no you!
This concept of you is simply a model constructed by your brain to explain things. “You” is a concept straight out of your personal perception.
It is a trick of the eye.
The same holds true for our perception of time with it’s Past, Present, and Future. These are only constructs operating in the brain.
There is only one time — Now.
And there is only one individual in unborn existence — it is a single consciousness that is composed of every atom in the universe. The surprising thing is that it is actually conscious! It’s as alive and alert as any present consciousnesses running in our brains!
When your brain goes away and the “I-Locus” goes away, so does your concepts of self and others. Your little bubble of self-identity simply stops. It’s not even “you return to your headless existence” — for you never really left it. You had just been identifying with parallel a model of reality running in your brain. A really convincing one.
It’s not that this self-conscious scenario wasn’t real — it was just some serial processing going on in your super modeling brain that millions of years of evolution have given you.
Brains that can model the absolute snot out of anything in existence.
Brains that have put us on the absolute top of the food chain on this island. Brains that allow us to reach out and walk on the moon and to touch other planets. And gaze out at the stars.
In reality, you are of course an animal. Just as much as that group of deer having a deer party, standing around staring at you from the edge of the woods. You just have this super-developed self-reflective, processing organ between your ears, quaffing a full 20% of your energy resources, looking back at them.
So, when you die, (your name here) does not exist any longer. But Headless existence (which is the real you) is still here — it does not go anywhere. You are this single universal consciousness, born out of everything in the universe.
It would be a source of such surprising amusement — discovering that you are conscious after you die!
Except, you already knew this…
And you were not even surprised…
You’ve always been here.
Death is an illusion.
But, be careful! Saying that is dangerous!
Because, if you are prepared to say that, then you must also be prepared to say it’s corollary:
Life is an illusion!
These two illusions are intimately related!
But please… One illusion at a time…
Now in Zen, there apparently is a state of being whereby your individual mentation realizes what’s going on here while you’re still alive. And “the jig is up”. You realize this is a trick of the eye, and your personal identity suddenly transfers itself to this Unborn Mind whereupon you lose your sense of separate identity. The Unborn Mind stands there, looking out through your very eyes!
You write this like you know what you’re talking about, but it is at this critical junction that you now stand.
You understand all of the above with your mind. But the heart is timid and fearful!
And, this is after all, a matter of the Heart.