Near-Death Experiences of Hindus

By Kevin Williams

In 1986, researchers Satwant Pasricha and Ian Stevenson, documented 16 cases of Indian near-death experiences in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research (77,1 15-135). Their small sample shows, Indian and American near-death experiences resemble each other in some respects but differ in others. Subjects of Indian near-death experiences do not report seeing their own physical body during the near-death experience, although American subjects usually do. Subjects of Indian near-death experiences frequently report being taken to the after-death realm by functionaries who then discover that a mistake has been made and send the person back, whereupon he or she revives. In contrast, American subjects, if they say anything at all about why they revived, mention meeting deceased family members who told them to go back, or say they came back because of ties of love and duty with living persons or say they were told it was not their time to die.
 
Many people have asked me (the webmaster) why experiences, such as Hindu near-death experiences, are so different than western ones. The reason is because everyone has their own cultural and religious background by which they see their experience. Jody Long, a near-death researcher with NDERF, put it best:

"One of the near-death experience truths is that each person integrates their near-death experience into their own pre-existing belief system." - Jody Long, NDERF.org

This important truth must be kept in the back of one's mind when reading these different reports.
 
The following Hindu near-death experiences come from Pasricha's and Stevenson's research as well as other sources on near-death experiences in India.


 Table of Contents 
1. Vasudev Pandey's Near-Death Experience
2. Durga Jatav's Near-Death Experience
3. Chhajju Bania's Near-Death Experience
4. Mangal Singh's Near-Death Experience
5. An Analysis of Hindu Near-Death Experiences
6. Hindu Afterlife Beliefs
Return to Top   
 1. Vasudev Pandey's Near-Death Experience
 

Vasudev Pandey was interviewed in 1975 and again in 1976. He was born in 1921 and had nearly died in his home of what he described as "paratyphoid disease" when he was about 10 years old. Vasudev had been considered dead and his body had actually been taken to the cremation ground. However, some indications of life aroused attention, and Vasudev was removed to the hospital where doctors tried to revive him, using "injections," with eventual success. He remained unconscious for 3 days and then became able to describe the following experience (as narrated to us in 1975):

Two persons caught me and took me with them. I felt tired after walking some distance; they started to drag me. My feet became useless. There was a man sitting up. He looked dreadful and was all black. He was not wearing any clothes. He said in a rage to the attendants [who brought Vasudev there]:

"I had asked you to bring Vasudev the gardener. Our garden is drying up. You have brought Vasudev the student."

When I regained consciousness, Vasudev the gardener was standing in front of me [apparently in the crowd of family and servants who had gathered around the bed of the ostensibly dead Vasudev]. He was hale and hearty. People started teasing him saying, "Now it is your turn." He seemed to sleep well in the night, but the next morning he was dead."

In reply to questions about details, Vasudev said that the "black man" had a club and used foul language. Vasudev identified him as Yamraj, the Hindu god of the dead. He said that he was "brought back" by the same two men who had taken him to Yamraj in the first place. Vasudev's mother, who died before the time of the interview, was a pious woman who read scriptures which included descriptions of Yamraj. Vasudev, even as a boy before his near-death experience, was quite familiar with Yamraj.

Return to Top  
 2. Durga Jatav's Near-Death Experience
 

Durga Jatav, a man approximately 50 years old, was interviewed in November, 1979, and again 3 months later. About 30 years before, he had been ill for several weeks, suffering from what had been diagnosed as typhoid. When his body "became cold" for a couple of hours, his family thought he had died. He revived, however, and on the third day following this he told his family he had been taken to another place by 10 people. He tried to escape, but they cut off his legs at the knees to prevent his escape. He was taken to a place where there were tables and chairs and 40 or 50 people sitting. He recognized no one. They looked at his "papers," saw that his name was not on their list, and said, "Why have you brought him here? Take him back." To this Durga had replied, "How can I go back? I don't have feet." He was then shown several pairs of legs, he recognized his own, and they were somehow reattached. He was then sent back with the instructions not to "stretch" (bend?) his knees so that they could mend. Durga's older sister, who was also interviewed, corroborated his account of his apparent death and revival.

A few days after Durga revived, his sister and a neighbor noticed marks on Durga's knees which had not been there before. These folds - or deep fissures - which appeared on his skin in front of his knees were still visible in 1979. There was no bleeding or pain in his knees other than the discomfort engendered by Durga following the "instructions" to keep his knees in a fixed position. X-ray photographs we took in 1981 showed no abnormality below the surface of the skin.
 
Durga had not heard of such experiences until his own near-death experience. He did not see his physical body from some other position in space. He said afterward the experience seemed like a dream; nevertheless, he claimed it strengthened his faith in God.

One informant for this case was the headman of the village where Durga lived who said at the time of Durga's experience, another person by the same name had died in Agra about 30 km away; however, neither Durga nor his older sister were able to confirm this statement.

Return to Top 
 3. Chhajju Bania's Near-Death Experience
 

Chhajju Bania was interviewed in 1981, at which time he was about 40 years old. His near-death experience occurred some 6 years earlier. He became ill with a fever and his condition deteriorated until he was thought to have died, at which time his relatives began preparing his body for cremation. However, he revived, and he gave the following account of his experience as he remembered it afterward: 

Four black messengers came and held me.

 

I asked, "Where are you taking me?"

They took me and seated me near the god. My body had become small. There was an old lady sitting there. She had a pen in her hand, and the clerks had a heap of books in front of them.

I was summoned ...

One of the clerks said, "We don't need Chhajju Bania [the trader]. We had asked for Chhajju Kumhar [the potter]. Push him back and bring the other man. He [meaning Chhajju Bania] has some life remaining."

I asked the clerks to give me some work to do, but not to send me back. Yamraj was there sitting on a high chair with a white beard and wearing yellow clothes. He asked me, "What do you want?"

I told him that I wanted to stay there.

He asked me to extend my hand. I don't remember whether he gave me something or not.

Then I was pushed down [and revived].

Chhajju mentioned that he later learned a person named Chhajju Kumhar had died at about the same time that he (Chhajju Bania) revived. He said his behavior changed following his near-death experience, particularly in the direction of his becoming more honest.

Chhajju's wife, Saroj, remembered her husband's experience, but her account of what he told her about the near-death experience differed in some details from his statement. For example, she said he told her (about reviving) at the place to where the four men had taken him,  there "was a man with a beard with lots of papers in front of him" (not an old lady). The bearded man said, "It is not his turn. Bring Chhajju Kori (a weaver)" (Not Chhajju Kumhar). Other discrepancies between the two accounts concerned unimportant details. Saroj remembered her husband telling her that he had not wanted to leave "there" and that he had been "pushed down" before he revived.

Return to Top 
 4. Mangal Singh's Near-Death Experience
 

Mangal Singh was interviewed in March, 1983, when he was 79 years old. He described his near-death experience, which occurred approximately 5 or 6 years earlier. Unlike most subjects who have near-death experiences, he was not ill at the time, or did not consider himself to be so. He gave the following description of his experience:

I was lying down on a cot when two people came, lifted me up, and took me along.

I heard a hissing sound, but I couldn't see anything. Then I came to a gate. There was grass, and the ground seemed to be sloping.

A man was there, and he reprimanded the men who had brought me, "Why have you brought the wrong person? Why have you not brought the man you had been sent for?"

The two men [who had brought Mangal] ran away, and the senior man said, "You go back."

Suddenly I saw two big pots of boiling water, although there was no fire, no firewood, and no fireplace.

Then the man pushed me with his hand and said, "You had better hurry up and go back."

When he touched me, I suddenly became aware of how hot his hand was. Then I realized why the pots were boiling. The heat was coming from his hands.

Suddenly I regained consciousness, and I had a severe burning sensation in my left arm.

The area developed the appearance of a boil. Mangal showed it to a doctor who applied some ointment. The area healed within 3 days but left a residual mark on the left arm, which was examined.
 
In response to questions, Mangal said he thought he might have been sleeping at the time of the experience, but he was not sure of this. He was unable to describe the appearance of the persons figuring in the experience. It seemed to be less visual than auditory and tactile. He did remember the senior "official" picking up a lathi (a heavy Indian staff) with which he intended to beat the lesser "employees" before they ran away. Another person had died in the locality at or about the time he revived, but Mangal and his family made no inquires about the suddenness of this person's death and did not even learn his name.

Return to Top 
 5. An Analysis of Hindu Near-Death Experiences
 

The Hindu near-death experiences profiled here are typical of the cases studied in India by researchers Satwant Pasricha and Ian Stevenson. The subject does not view his or her physical body, as do many subjects of western near-death experience cases. Instead the subject is taken in hand by "messengers" and brought before a man or woman who is often described as having a book or papers that he or she consults. A mistake is discovered. The wrong person has been "sent for," and this person is then brought back by the messengers to his or her terrestrial life; or the subject is "pushed down" and revives. The error supposedly made is often a slight one, as a person of the same given name but a different caste, or someone living in a different but nearby village, should have died and been brought instead of the subject of the near-death experience. In six of their cases, the informants said that another "correct" person (corresponding to the subject's information from the "next world") did, in fact, die at about the time the subject revived; but the researchers did not verify those deaths./span>/span>

In contrast, subjects of western near-death experiences usually give no reason (in psychological terms) for their recovery; if they do give one they may say that they revived because they decided to return of their own accord, often because of love for living members of their family. Sometimes they are "sent back" by deceased persons who tell them their "time has not yet come." Indian subjects sometimes report meeting relatives and friends in the "other realm" in which they find themselves, but these persons have nothing to do or say about the prematurity of the subject's death and a need for him or her to continue living. The idea of prematurity of death, or "your time has not yet come," occurs in the cases of both cultures; but the persons involved in sending the NDEr "back to life" differ.

All in all, researchers Pasricha and Stevenson uncovered 16 accounts of near-death experiences in India. Later research by Pasricha documented another 29 near-death experiences by people living in India.

A comparison of Hindu near-death experiences with western accounts reveals the following:

(1)  In 45 Hindu near-death accounts, Pasrich and Stevenson found no evidence of a tunnel experience which is frequently found in western accounts of the near-death experience. However, another near-death researcher, Susan Blackmore, reported accounts of a tunnel experience in her research of 8 Hindu near-death experiencers.

(2)  Only one account contained an out-of-body experience, which is another aspect that is frequently found in western accounts. Osis and Haraldsson did find several accounts of out-of-body experience in the Indian near-death experiences they researched.

(3) Consistent with western accounts, some Hindu near-death accounts included a life review. However, whereas in western accounts the life review often consists of seeing a panoramic view of a person's entire life, Hindu accounts consists of having someone read the record of the dying person's life called the "akashic record." In Christian circles, this is equivalent to reading from the "Book of Life" as known from the Christian doctrine of the resurrection. In Hindu circles, it is a traditional belief that the reading of a person's akashic record occurs immediately after death. This concept is widely believed by Hindus all over India. However, the panoramic life review, which is commonly mentioned in western accounts, does not appear in accounts from India.

(4)  As in western accounts, Hindu near-death accounts sometimes describe the meeting of religious deities and deceased loved ones.

Near-death researchers, Karlis Osis and Erlendur Haraldsson, documented the first major accounts of near-death experiences in India. In their interviews with 704 people living in India about their near-death experiences, 64 accounts of near-death experiences came to the surface. The remaining accounts had to do with death-bed visions. They published their findings in their book entitled At the Hour of Death: A New Look at Evidence for Life After Death.

Return to Top  
 6. Hindu Afterlife Beliefs
 

The Upanishads, the ancient set of Hindu religious texts, postulated an eternal, changeless core of the self called as the Atman. This soul or "deep self" was viewed as being identical with the unchanging godhead, referred to as Brahma (the unitary ground of being that transcends particular gods and goddesses). Untouched by the variations of time and circumstance, the Atman was nevertheless entrapped in the world of samsara (the cycle of death and rebirth). Unlike Western treatments of reincarnation, which tend to make the idea of coming back into body after body seem exotic, desirable, and even romantic, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other southern Asian religions portray the samsaric process as unhappy. Life in this world means suffering.

What keeps us trapped in the samsaric cycle is the law of karma. In its simplest form, this law operates impersonally like a natural law, ensuring that every good or bad deed eventually returns to the individual in the form of reward or punishment commensurate with the original deed. It is the necessity of "reaping one's karma" that compels human beings to take rebirth (to reincarnate) in successive lifetimes. In other words, if one dies before reaping the effects of one's actions (as most people do), the karmic process demands that one come back in a future life. Coming back in another lifetime also allows karmic forces to reward or punish one through the circumstances to which one is born. Hence, for example, an individual who was generous in one lifetime might be reborn as a wealthy person in the next incarnation.

Moksha is the traditional Sanskrit term for release or liberation from the endless chain of deaths and rebirths. In the southern Asian religious tradition, it represents the supreme goal of human strivings. Reflecting the diversity of Hinduism, liberation can be attained in a variety of ways, from the proper performance of certain rituals to highly disciplined forms of yoga. In the Upanishads, it is proper knowledge, in the sense of insight into the nature of reality, that enables the aspiring seeker to achieve liberation from the wheel of rebirth.

What happens to the individual after reaching moksha? In Upanishadic Hinduism, the individual Atman is believed to merge into the cosmic Brahma. A traditional image is that of a drop of water that, when dropped into the ocean, loses its individuality and becomes one with the sea. Although widespread, this metaphor does not quite capture the significance of this merger. Rather than losing one's individuality, the Upanishadic understanding is that the Atman is never separate from Brahma; hence, individuality is illusory, and moksha is simply waking up from the dream of separateness.

The most that the classical texts of Hinduism say about the state of one who has merged with the godhead is that the person has become one with pure "beingness," consciousness, and bliss. From the perspective of world-affirming Western society, such a static afterlife appears distinctly undesirable.

Beginning at least several centuries B.C., devotionalism rejected the impersonalism of both the ritual strategy of Vedism and the intellectual emphasis of the Upanishads. Instead, God was approached as a personal, supremely loving deity who would respond to devotional worship. The afterlife in devotional theism is not the static, abstract bliss of merging into the ocean of Brahma. Rather, the devotional tradition views the liberated soul as participating in a blissful round of devotional activities in a heaven world that is comparable, in certain respects, to the heaven of Western religions.

Along with heaven realms, Hinduism also developed notions of hell worlds in which exceptionally sinful individuals were punished. Many of the torments of Hindu hell worlds, such as being tortured by demons, resemble the torments of more familiar Western hells. Unlike Western hells, however, Hindu hell worlds are not final dwelling places. They are more like purgatories in which sinful souls experience suffering for a limited term. After the term is over, even the most evil person is turned out of hell to once again participate in the cycle of reincarnation.

 
Painting © The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International.
www.harekrishna.com. Used with permission.
Return to Top

"Never the spirit was born, the spirit shall cease to be never. Never was time it was not, end and beginning are dreams." - the Bhagavad Gita

Tell A Friend.

| Return to Home Page |

Copyright © 2014 Near-Death Experiences and the Afterlife
 
Books on
Hinduism Afterlife

Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing

by Anita Moorjani

In this truly inspirational memoir, Anita Moorjani relates how she lost her four-year battle with cancer resulting in an extraordinary NDE where she realized her inherent worth and the actual cause of her disease. Upon regaining consciousness, Anita's condition had improved so rapidly, she was released from the hospital within weeks without a trace of cancer in her body! As a little girl in a traditional Hindu family residing in a largely Chinese and British society, she was pushed and pulled by cultural and religious customs. After years of struggling to forge her own path, she had an epiphany from her NDE: she had the power to heal herself and that there miracles in the Universe never even imagined. In "Dying to Be Me", Anita freely shares all she learned about illness, healing, fear, "being love", and the true magnificence of each and every human being! This is a book that definitely makes the case that we are spiritual beings having a human experience ...and that we are all One.

Physics of the Soul: The Quantum Book of Living, Dying, Reincarnation and Immortality

by Amit Goswami

At last, science and the soul shake hands. Writing in a style that is both lucid and charming, mischievous and profound, Dr. Amit Goswami uses the language and concepts of quantum physics to explore and scientifically prove metaphysical theories of reincarnation and immortality. In Physics of the Soul, Dr. Goswami helps you understand the perplexities of the quantum physics model of reality and the perennial beliefs of spiritual and religious traditions.

Jesus in India: A Reexamination of Jesus' Asian Traditions in the Light of Evidence Supporting Reincarnation

by James W. Deardorff

With impetus provided by the accumulated historical and textual evidence supporting reincarnation, this book first examines Gospel evidence that Jesus actually taught reincarnation and karma rather than resurrection. Deardorff's compelling analysis bolsters other studies indicating that the concept of resurrection displaced reincarnation in earliest Christianity due to its pre-belief by certain Pharisee converts, and specifies how the Gospels came to reflect this belief. Jesus in India reexamines the evidence that the "lost years" of Jesus' youth were spent in the India.

Life After Death:
The Burden of Proof

by Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra has touched millions of readers by demystifying our deepest spiritual concerns. Now he turns to the most profound mystery: What happens after we die? Is this one question we were not meant to answer, a riddle whose solution the universe keeps to itself? Chopra tells us there is abundant evidence that “the world beyond” is not separated from this world by an impassable wall; in fact, a single reality embraces all worlds, all times and places. In Life After Death, Chopra draws on cutting-edge scientific discoveries and the great wisdom traditions to provide a map of the afterlife - a fascinating journey into many levels of consciousness. But far more important is his urgent message: Who you meet in the afterlife and what you experience there reflect your present beliefs, expectations, and level of awareness. In the here and now, you can shape what happens after you die.

Children Who Remember Previous Lives [Kindle]

by Ian Stevenson

This is the revised edition of Dr. Stevenson's 1987 book, summarizing for general readers almost forty years of experience in the study of children who claim to remember previous lives. For many Westerners the idea of reincarnation seems remote and bizarre; it is the author's intent to correct some common misconceptions. New material relating to birthmarks and birth defects, independent replication studies with a critique of criticisms, and recent developments in genetic study are included. The work gives an overview of the history of the belief in and evidence for reincarnation. Representative cases of children, research methods used, analyses of the cases and of variations due to different cultures, and the explanatory value of the idea of reincarnation for some unsolved problems in psychology and medicine are reviewed.

At the Hour of Death: A New Look at Evidence for Life After Death

by Erlendur Haraldsson and Karlis Osis

In this classic book, veteran psychical researchers Karlis Osis, Ph.D and Erlendur Haraldsson, Ph.D collated compelling evidence suggesting that we, as conscious beings, do survive physical death. This book is the product of extensive interviews of over 1,000 doctors and nurses who have been present when cases of "post-mortem existence" have occurred. Extensive computer analyses of their observations have been made. The results are reported in this first truly scientific investigation of the experiences of the dying at the hour of death. What these doctors and nurses have witnessed cannot be explained away by medical, psychological, cultural, or other conditioning. Yet it may answer the fundamental question of human existence.

Hindu Hell: Visions, Tours and Descriptions of the Infernal Otherworld

by Eileen Gardiner

In the long tradition of Hindu literature there was a significant development in the concept of hell from the period of the Vedas (c. 1500-1000 BCE) through the period of the Puranas (c. 300-1500 CE). The earliest descriptions are vague, particularly in terms of topography, alluding only to an underground, dark, putrid place for punishing sinners. Later descriptions calculate the huge dimensions, and designate almost innumerable subdivisions, of hell. Hell descriptions have been collected here from eight Hindu texts: The Rig-Veda, Atharva-Veda [Veda of the Wise and the Old], The Mahabharata, The Ramayana, The Markandeya Purana, The Vamana Purana, The Padma Purana, The Agni Purana. Includes notes, glossary, web resources.

A Second Chance: The Story of a Near-Death Experience

by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

The law of karma reveals how we’re all responsible for our actions. When we do unto others, the same will be done unto us. Death is the crucial moment when this mysterious force acting behind the scenes determines our destiny. At a time when reincarnation, OBEs and NDEs are quickly gaining acceptance, “A Second Chance” is an amazing narrative is based on an ancient book of Eastern wisdom called Srimad-Bhagavatam. It shows us how we can employ the techniques of meditation and bhakti-yoga to overcome the obstacles of materialism, meet the challenge of death, and ultimately attain spiritual perfection.

Life After Death: A Study of the Afterlife in World Religions

by Farnaz Masumian

What happens to us when we die? What is the soul? Where are heaven and hell? Is there a reckoning with the Creator? Questions such as these about death and dying have frightened and fascinated humanity since the beginning of time. This book explores these questions in detail by providing a general overview of answers from the scriptures of seven world religions: Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and the Bahá'í Faith. The book examines the viability of reincarnation and transmigration theories, as well as various ideas that attempt to explain near-death experiences. Theological scholarship combined with insight and sensitivity make this book thoroughly readable, a simple introduction to profound and complicated subjects.

Ancient Near Eastern Hell: Visions, Tours and Descriptions of the Infernal Otherworld

by Eileen Gardiner

Surviving texts from the Ancient Near East reveal a cosmology that included a dark underworld realm, principally associated with fertility cycles and describing fertility gods and goddesses who are captured and imprisoned in this realm. In this underworld contrary gods live permanently in a world without joy where there is only dust to eat and drink. This land also served as a great warehouse for dead mortals. It was not conspicuously a place of punishment, but hints of judgment and retribution are already evident, and these elements became significant elements in other cultures as the idea of hell developed.