“Life is eternal. There is no death. If people correctly understood death, they would no longer have any fear of the unknown”. . . . “What we think of as life and death are merely transitions, changes in the rate of vibration in a continual process of growth and unfoldment.”
~ Betty Bethards – “There is No Death” pp. 90-91
“Overcoming the fear of death changes our whole perspective on life. Everything we do and think and feel takes on new meaning. When we realize that we are not limited by the physical, we begin to get the idea that we are really master of our own destinies and we more fully align ourselves with the eternal nature of our beings.”
~ Betty Bethards – “There is No Death” p.83
“As we lose our fear of leaving life,
we gain the art of living life.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“To be afraid of dying is like being afraid of discarding an old worn-out garment.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
“In order to know through experience what happens beyond death,
you must go deep within yourself.
In meditation, the truth will come to you.”
~ Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas
Soon after my spiritual opening, I met Betty Bethards who then was a prominent San Francisco Area author, meditation teacher, healer and psychic/mystic counselor. For many years I had a harmonious rapport and an important friendship with Betty. And I continue to honor her because her teachings, readings and friendship were significant and helpful in furthering my spiritual evolution, and because her readings helped many friends who I referred to Betty.
So I now share this tribute to honor Betty and to acquaint you with some of her spiritual teachings, which live on and continue helping many people – fifteen years since her July 2002 transition.
Because I always appreciated Betty’s down to earth, pithy yet clear and simple language, understandable to most ordinary people, I have recommended her books and audio recordings which are still available at her foundation here.
At age 32 Betty was a middle class mother of four boys, and a professional bowler, when she experienced a transformative classic near death experience long before the term NDE was coined and widely publicized by Dr. Raymond Moody, Jr.. She described her NDE experience in her first published book, “There is No Death”, written about death and dying to comfort the bereaved and ailing.
That book was especially powerful because it came from Betty’s dramatic experience of surviving apparent physical “death” and her continuing communications with supposedly deceased souls, including her two eldest sons who later died in Viet Nam and in a California motorcycle accident. Also it recounts inspiring true stories about how people who consulted Betty transcended their fear of death. [She autographed my copy of “There is No Death” with the insightful comment: “Death is but a bridge to life!” ]
Before we met, Betty had formed the Inner Light Foundation [ILF], promoting development of individual spirituality. For many years, she spoke monthly at local SF area church venues and gave psychic readings with mystic counseling at her North Bay foundation office. Raised as fundamentalist Baptist she ultimately gave universal spiritual teachings encompassed by most enduring religious paths, and she became an exemplar and channel for the path of Love.
Rather than promoting herself as a leader, Betty tried to teach others to develop their own spiritual potentials. Thus one of her nine books was titled: “Be Your Own Guru”. Others included: “”Techniques for Health and Wholeness,” “Seven Steps to Developing Your Intuitive Powers,” and “The Dream Book,” interpreting over 1,600 dream symbols, and helping readers to remember and find guidance and inspiration from their dreams.
Once when I was invited by Betty for a private New Years Eve dinner at her home in Petaluma, I learned that she had received as a gift – apparently from the Dalai Lama of Tibet, whom she’d never met – a beautiful Tibetan hand crafted mandala scroll or thangka. Thereafter, though many people regarded Betty a teacher of ‘meditation for the middle class’, I called her a ‘Baptist Bodhisattva’, who humbly and without self-aggrandizement was lovingly dedicated to helping all sentient beings develop their spiritual potentials.
Her energy field was so palpably powerful that many people often felt uplifted just being in her presence. Often when I was talking in person or by phone with Betty (and certain other ‘high energy’ friends with whom I felt special rapport) I experienced elevated energy, as if our subtle energy fields had synergistically expanded.
Since Betty’s July 2002 transition, her teachings still bless this world. And her transformative work may be continuing ‘from the other side’.
Betty’s NDE Story and Teachings Excerpted from “There is No Death”.
1. Near-Death Experience.
My first experience with death challenged all my old beliefs about the nature of reality and why we are here in the first place. I learned that if we are ever to come to terms with the meaning of our lives here on Earth, we must understand the meaning of death. Only then can we see it with a total perspective, fitting all the pieces of the puzzle together. Otherwise, nothing makes much sense.
I returned home one night from a bridge game with a burning sensation in my chest and went right to bed. An hour later I awoke to find myself hovering over the bed about two feet above my body. A voice said to me, “You’re going to be very sick with pneumonia. Get to a doctor”. [After two doctor visits which did not help her, she ran a temperature of 103 to 105 degrees and was on the road to death.]
Suddenly I was twenty feet across the room. Everything I considered “Betty” to be -memory, personality, senses -was looking back at that shell on the couch. I thought, “Gee, she’s sick. I don’t want to go back.”
Then a very gentle voice said from behind me, “You don’t have to go back, but this is death if you choose to stay.”
I had a body which appeared the same, was wearing the same clothes, and was raised about two feet off the floor. I wasn’t frightened at all, but felt wonderfully enveloped in peace. I knew then how Jerry had appeared to me ten years earlier. It was as if I could see things clearly, and knew that there was no such thing as death. I realized then that one never dies, but changes vibrations, and goes on living and learning on other levels.
I really didn’t want to go back. But then I started seeing pictures of my four children flash before me. It was a tricky way to get me to make up my mind to return to the Earth plane and finish what I was supposed to do. I was fine with seeing each child, knowing they could take care of themselves without me, until I saw my eighteen month old son. I knew he still needed me, and at that point I made my decision. I had to go back.
As soon as I thought this, the voice said to me again, “Unless you take an antibiotic within the next twenty-four hours, you will no longer have a choice of whether you wish to remain on the Earth plane.”
It was after this experience that I knew there was no death and that it wasn’t the way I had been taught to believe. I didn’t know how it was, but I was determined to find out. I had to wait two years before the teachings began coming to me.
[Within this period of time, Betty became more and more psychic until she was able to communicate with her spirit guides.]
2. Not the Same For Everyone.
When the soul has been exposed to the opportunities it chose for a particular lifetime, it is allowed a release from the physical body. The soul knows when the time for release has come. Death is easy – life is hard work.
Death is not the same for everyone. It depends upon how you have prepared yourself during that incarnation, how old a soul you are, how evolved your awareness, and what lessons you chose to learn through the death experience. You may have chosen to learn courage and to build strength through a physical death with suffering. People who die slow deaths from such things as cancer or strokes are often givers who have never learned how to receive. Their souls may choose a slow death in order to allow others to give to them. But you can learn your lesson and move beyond the need for pain and suffering in dying. You may, in fact, have chosen a fast and easy death. Either way it is not a punishment, but a process of growth for both you and those around you. It allows you and others to work through difficult situations with kindness and compassion.
3. Seeing the Invisible.
When you approach the time of death, often you’re able to see relatives who have crossed over standing around you. The etheric body slips easily in and out of the physical, and many times a person near-death talks to beings who are invisible to others. Doctors for the most part think you are hallucinating, but you’re not. Whether death comes rapidly or slowly, your loved ones know ahead of time when you are coming, and are there, prepared and waiting, happy that you have been released.
4. The Tunnel and the Light.
First, you may experience your whole life flashing in front of you much as a drowning person reports this experience. Next, you will go through what appears to be a dark tunnel or dark tube which has a very bright light at the end. Most entities are just drawn to the light without anyone saying, “Go to the light.” It’s a past soul memory of having left the body many times, and knowing what to do.
This light is from higher astral levels, and you follow it to the one you have earned. However you have lived your life on the Earth side determines how high you can go into the light on the other side.
There is nothing to fear. You leave your body every night as you enter the sleep state. There is no difference. You cannot be harmed.
Fears are within, and this is why you must work to release yourself from fears on the Earth plane, because you will carry these same fears over to the next dimension. As above, so below!
5. Hanging Around the Living.
Some people may want to hang around their old surroundings on Earth rather than go on to discover for themselves the beauty and wisdom which is offered to them on the other side. This may take a long time, but they are coaxed along slowly. Nothing is forced on a soul, neither attitudes nor understandings. This is why we are always counseled here on Earth never to force our beliefs on another person until one is ready to hear them. The free choice of every individual should be acknowledged.
6. Seeing Loved Ones and Teachers.
When you die you are greeted by loved ones first so that you may understand what has happened. There is a big celebration, like a birthday party, heralding your arrival. Family and friends who have gone on before you are there to celebrate your arrival.
There is always good at the time of your cross-over. Even people who have lived lives of selfishness will know and understand the rejoicing. Whatever you have sown you are going to reap in terms of structuring your experiences and lessons which continue on the other side. But the first few days of cross-over (as you know time on the Earth plane) you are allowed to be with your teachers, and those who have loved you in the past. You are able to see those you left behind and to hear their thoughts and words. The first six weeks we stay very close to our loved ones on the Earth plane.
You are given glimpses of things you expected to see in order to bring you comfort. You may briefly see a teacher you worshipped in your lifetime: Jesus, Buddha, or another guru, according to your expectations. After the first seventy-two hours, however, you are gently brought out of many of your illusions and shown that you have not landed in an ultimate paradise with gold paved streets. Of course you could choose to create these for yourself on this plane, but once you truly understand you would most likely choose to be around that with which you felt most comfortable.
If you don’t believe in God or an afterlife, you will probably be kept in a sleep state for the first two to three day period. You will wake up in a beautiful meadow or some other calm and peaceful place where you can reconcile the transition from the death state to the continuous life. You are given teachings in the hope that you do not refuse to believe that you are dead.
On the other side you see things with a clearer, more objective nature, but you are not given total knowledge because you would not understand it or be ready to use it, any more than while you are here on Earth. We are given knowledge only as we are ready to receive it, whether we are in or out of the body.
7. After the Homecoming.
After the first six weeks the soul meets with what may be called a loving board of directors. It is composed of teachers and other higher beings who have walked with you. These beings help you review your past life, to begin to look at what was learned and not learned, and what you wish to work on or do from this point. No one judges you, and this is important to keep in mind. You are the one that judges yourself and decides what is best for continued growth.
You will be given teachings, training, and anything you need to help you prepare yourself for your next incarnation. But this is not given immediately. You can choose your own pace and need not be hurried through the realms of the next realms. It may take centuries for your soul to know what is best for your development once you return again to a physical body. It may take a great deal of reflection before you determine a purpose and direction for your next sojourn on Earth. Since we reincarnate in groups we usually wait 80 to 120 years before we come back.
Also, as part of your training, you are allowed to watch people on the Earth plane to see how they handle situations when they reincarnate. Very few people in a physical body realize that their behavior is a teaching ground for those who are out of the body.
8. Reviewing Past Lives.
As you are ready, and as you choose, you will be shown your past lives. If you do not believe in reincarnation it may take a long time before you are able to deal with this. Eventually, you must learn to understand yourself in a continuity of growth over many lifetimes. You must recognize all the strengths you have built and all the karmic ties you have created which must be dissolved.
By the time you are given the privilege of reviewing all past lives and integrating the knowledge learned, you will have reached a state of total objectivity. You will feel no remorse or condemnation, but will see it as merely a review of why situations occurred and had to be worked through.
The record of your life is very private. Only those who have walked with you as teachers are allowed to see what is called your akashic (or life) record. If during your lifetime you ask that a psychic tune into this record, he or she will only be given a minimal amount of information from it which is particularly relevant to your immediate problems or concerns.
You, too, can tune into this record through meditation and get insight and clarity on the problems you are dealing with. Your own attunement is much more accurate than asking a psychic or someone else to tell you about yourself. This builds up a dependency. We may need clarity or help at times, but should never develop a dependency on others. Our whole purpose is to gain strength and learn how to make our own decisions.
9. Religious Beliefs.
Your religious beliefs have little to do with what you experience in the transition from one realm to another, except that you would be allowed to see briefly the teacher or guru that you followed. Regardless of cultural or religious beliefs, you will have the same basic experience at death (just as mystics of all great traditions attune to the same universal energy). What counts is what comes from the heart, not what one professes to believe. It means nothing whether or not one was baptized, for example, or whether one has various other rites administered. How ridiculous to rely on meaningless words!
The true meaning of baptism is an initiation of the spirit, an opening awareness to the God consciousness. People receive this inner baptism when they are spiritually prepared.
You will not suddenly be sitting at the feet of a man with a long white beard called God. God is within, whether you are in or out of the body. Your awareness of the God force will not be greater on the other side. If you insist upon searching for God, you will do this for awhile until you get the idea that you are following an illusion. We must go through at least four more realms beyond the astral before we could even begin to understand the energy of the God force. God is love in all religions, so the more we live love the closer we are to God.
10. The Idea of Purgatory.
Catholics understand purgatory as a place or level of consciousness one goes for further understanding. It is an intermediary state that gives one the opportunity to develop further clarity. At first it is like being in fog, just as many people walk around on the Earth plane in a fog. They don’t have the clarity to understand how they are setting their lives.
If there has been much negativity during an incarnation, or a suicide, one must spend some time contemplating what has happened.
It is a holding place where souls who are confused, who do not want to let go of their earthly attachments, or who choose not to grow will remain until such time as they allow themselves to be released to flow once more into the light.
Purgatory is a place of your own making. We see souls who are punishing themselves here on the Earth plane. This continues after death just the same as it would if they were still in the physical body. Many people must suffer in order to feel worth. When they finally learn this is a negative number they are running, they can move on.
11. The Meaning of Hell.
What about the reality of a place called hell? Hell is a level of consciousness which can be experienced in or out of the body. It is a lonely place where one is not allowed to be in communication with anything other than one’s own negativity.
Souls do not enter this level unless they need to experience it for their growth. Many people who commit suicide will have to go through this hell of their own making in order to become aware that this is not what they are striving for. The soul must learn that it does not have the right to take its own life, that it cannot kill, it cannot hurt other people; nor can it judge others for we have no knowledge of what they came back to do and learn.
Many people at one time or another have experienced this plane. Alcoholics going through the DTs and people on drugs, may also see it. It is a plane of total darkness where we must confront the fears we have built within our own minds. Understand that fears have no reality unless we choose to give them reality. As soon as we are able to meet them directly, to face them, they dissipate. This lower level is not for one’s punishment, but rather to provide the opportunity to confront and move beyond the negativity created by oneself.
The hell fire mentioned in many traditions is symbolic of the “kundalini” energy (Holy Spirit, God energy, or Creative energy) that dwells within the seven energy centers or chakras within man. Fire is symbolic of the cleansing and purification of the soul.
The struggle between higher and lower self or what some call God and the Devil causes growth, until finally the negativity or the destructive elements are completely overcome.
12. Laws More Protective.
Through questions and answers I have received information about what it is actually like to be on the other side. First, my channel has pointed out that the laws are much more protective. We need no longer be exposed to both good and evil, for we have already experienced that. We see the bad only if we choose to. Those who are living in harmony will not be imposed upon by the ignorant, but can visit the lower planes to help another if they choose to do so.
For example, if you loved someone who is on a lower vibration than you are, you are allowed to visit anytime you choose by simply lowering your rate of vibration. This may help the entity greatly by encouraging self-love and growth. However, the entity will need to incarnate again on the Earth plane to test out these new lessons, because it is the Earth experience that determines your stage of evolution.
13. Marriage and Unions.
There are unions of souls on the other side, and marriage as such is optional. If couples prefer to remain together they may do so, as long as their interests and growth are taking them in the same direction. If they choose to go in different directions, there are no hurt feelings. There is no possessiveness or demands. You are free to go your own way, in your own time, at your own choosing.
Married couples will be reunited after death, and may choose to stay together if they want to, provided they are on the same level of vibration. This is free will. If you have been married three or four times, you will find that you will want to be with the one whom you truly love. It could even be someone from another incarnation. You will be with those you love, and there is a total merger which is a much higher experience and a deeper love bond than anything you can know on the Earth plane.
This total merger is like stepping inside one another’s auras, a total blending of energies. It’s a way of expressing love and sharing. What you know on Earth as a sexual relationship takes the form of a higher merger of souls. There is no need for sexual organs on the other side unless you choose to have them. For this merger of energies is far superior to the physical mechanics of the sexual experience. This merger is not limited to husbands and wives, but may be experienced by any two souls who are loving and caring.
“There is No Death”, by Betty Bethards
Inner Light Foundation [ILF] http://www.innerlight.org/page4.html
PO Box 750265 · Petaluma, CA 94975 · 707-765-2200
Kevin R. Williams, Near-Death Experiences and the Afterlife
“There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
~ Albert Einstein
“Birth and death are virtual, but Life is perpetual.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
Nowadays, I am often greeted by others with “Hello, how are you?” Almost always, at age eighty four, I spontaneously and enthusiastically respond: “Grateful to be alive!”
I cannot recall when I began so exclaiming this attitude of gratitude. But mostly it has happened since June 29, 2014, when suddenly I was run down by a taxicab and critically injured while crossing a busy San Francisco street.
Here is a memoirs story about that incident which I share with you hoping to inspire for you a similar attitude of gratitude, which has proven for me, and perennially for all who experience it, to be a great blessing. For
“It is not joy that makes us grateful;
it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”
~ Brother David Steindl-Rast
My First ‘Near Death’ Experience [NDE]*
In 1979 I experienced and have written about an extraordinary and unforgettable out of body event [OOB] which in a prior memoir I called a ‘Near Death’ Experience’ [NDE]*. [See https://sillysutras.com/my-near-death-experience/ and *footnote about NDE’s.]
During that experience, I mistakenly believed that I had suffered a stroke and was dying. But I later was told (by my Guruji) that I had not experienced illness but a sudden infusion of Divine shakti energy. So it is unlikely that I suffered from diminished vital signs which are usually associated with NDE’s. Nonetheless, that extraordinary and unforgettable OOB event significantly advanced the spiritual transformation process which had begun with my 1976 realization and rebirth experience.
That transformation process has blessed me with ever increasing self-identification as eternal spirit rather than as mere mortal body/mind. Ultimately, it has led to my realization that Life is perpetual while physical birth and death are virtual; that what most humans call death is merely a vacation – eternal Life-force vacating an inevitably mortal physical vehicle.
This crucial realization has resulted in ever decreasing fear of death and ever expanding openness, empathy, gratitude and happiness.
Still, I recognize that human bodies are extraordinarily precious life-forms, enabling us to develop and to lovingly advance spiritually. So the longer we are able to skillfully inhabit a functioning physical body, beyond fear of death or disability, the greater our opportunity to learn and to evolve.
Past as Prelude; Another NDE?.
In my first NDE* narrative I told how I hadn’t feared presumed peaceful death by a supposed stroke; but, how soon thereafter I experienced an instinctively fearful ‘fight or flight’ reaction when almost run over while crossing a street. (I’ve come to believe that such normal instinctive protection of a precious mortal body is distinguishable from ego’s ever fearful separate self-identification with a body rather than with universal awareness.)
Paradoxically, my 1979 ‘fight or flight’ fear of being run down as a pedestrian ultimately materialized thirty five years later when I was suddenly run down by a taxicab and critically injured while crossing a busy San Francisco street. Today at age eighty four, I have miraculously survived and largely healed from that incident, after perhaps another ‘near death’ experience.
The shock and trauma of my injuries have left me with continuing retrograde amnesia, so I am unable to recall what happened immediately before and after the taxicab incident. Thus for such details I must rely on paramedic and hospital records, and on a cam video showing the taxi hitting me.
The following bodily injuries and symptoms, among others, were radiologically and clinically diagnosed:
Traumatic bleeding brain contusion and concussion, with extended loss of consciousness; large 2” chronic subdural hematoma pushing brain .6” out of normal alignment; massive soft tissue tears and other traumatic shoulder injuries, temporarily rendering both shoulders largely non-functional, with prosthesis recommended for left shoulder; multiple facial fractures, bruises and swelling, with broken nose, fractured sinus areas, etc.; facial lacerations requiring sutures; lacerated and bleeding liver; cracked ribs; slight spinal fracture; excessive external bleeding, with anemia requiring prompt two unit blood transfusion; tibial plateau (“bumper”) fracture and extreme swelling of right knee and leg, with large knee wound, open and seeping for over two months; continuing post-traumatic stress syndrome [PTSD]; retrograde amnesia; mental confusion, headaches, dizziness, and dyslexia.
Considering my advanced octogenarian age and the multiplicity and severity of my injuries and symptoms, my survival, recovery and healing so far have been miraculous. Moreover, I have amazingly survived without any brain or shoulder surgical interventions recommended by various doctors, and have been able to resume a largely independent pre-injury life style with frequent walks, after extended convalescence and physical therapy.
Guruji, Rama mantra, and hints of heavenly help.
Unlike some NDE* survivors I have no memory of what happened while I was comatose, or of any contact with heavenly beings or departed loved ones. However I gratefully intuit that my survival and healing are attributable to blessings from my Guruji, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandasji, from other divine or celestial beings or emanations, and from prayers, acts of kindness and good wishes of many friends, health providers and others.
Previously I have explained the importance of the Rama mantra in my transformational process; how spontaneously I began reciting Rama before receiving shaktipat initiation by Guruji, who synchronistically gave me a Ram mantra. I believe that the power of my Ram mantra helped my survival and recovery.
Also I have told how recitation of the name Rama was the principle spiritual practice of Mahatma Gandhi – my first inner spiritual guide – who recited it from childhood until his assassination; how even as Gandhi fell to an assassin’s pistol fired point-blank into his heart, in forgiveness he uttered nothing but “Rama, Rama …” his last words from the eternal depths of his heart.
Referring to his repetition of “Rama” Gandhi said: “that the Word is in my heart, if not actually on my lips, all the twenty-four hours. It has been my saviour and I am ever stayed on it.” “The mantram becomes one’s staff of life and carries one through every ordeal….” “Each repetition … has a new meaning, each repetition carries you nearer and nearer to God.”
During weeks before my taxi injury incident, I noticed that I was constantly reciting my Ram mantra; and that it was in my heart when not on my lips. So, I may have been reciting the mantra when hit by the taxicab.
On my arrival at San Francisco General Hospital trauma center, according to hospital records, I was “pleasantly confused and repetitive”, and was ‘repeating phrases’. And more than one doctor noted my positive attitude despite critical injuries.
Intuitively I believe that my repetitive utterances were Ram mantra recitations which helped invoke the subtle presence and assistance of my Guruji, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandasji.
Amongst my first hospital visitors were my long-time spiritual friends Carolyn and Monte, who are also Guruji devotees. Very soon after my admission to the ICU they synchronistically learned of my injuries, and immediately came to the hospital, where they were admitted after regular visiting hours. On observing my completely bruised, discolored and swollen head and face they became very concerned and did hands on healing, with repetitions of the Ram mantra. Shortly after returning home, Carolyn prayed to Guruji for my health and recovery. Whereupon Guruji responded telepathically that he was already helping me.
Similarly another spiritual friend, Michael, a long-time devotee of Guruji’s successor Shri Anandi Ma, reported to me his intuitive flash of insight that I could not and would not have survived the taxicab injuries but for Guruji’s intervention.
And soon after the accident I received an email assurance from my friend Pravinji Jani, Anandi Ma’s father and Vedic pundit and astrologer, assuring me that “Guruji is always with you showering his blessings” for healing and for “return to your normal activities with inspiring sutras”.
These encouraging communications from Guruji devotees supported my intuitive insights of Guruji’s subtle presence and help.
Prayers, good wishes, and other acts of kindness and compassion.
The prayers and good wishes of family, friends, health care providers and many others who cared for and about me, and wanted me to get well, also helped my miraculous survival and healing. Many staff people at the hospital and rehab facility were kind and compassionate, and did their very best to help me. Acts of loving-kindness and compassion by those attending me were too numerous for me to recall or recount. But they all helped me get well.
Prayers can be powerful, and have been integral to all enduring religious and spiritual traditions from time immemorial. Throughout recorded human history prayers have been offered by countless saints and sages and ordinary people of every religious or spiritual denomination.
Moreover, persuasive scientific evidence now confirms healing efficacy of prayer. So I am gratefully convinced that heartfelt prayers and good wishes of many people who cared about me helped my miraculous survival and healing.
Why was my life was endangered, and why have I miraculously survived?
I don’t know. Presumably this incident arose from mysterious karmic causes and conditions. And presumably I have survived because my predestined assignments for this lifetime have not yet been fulfilled.
Before the taxicab incident, I already was happier, more grateful and less fearful than ever before. And I already had abiding faith in the Divine which more than ever before enabled me to accept inevitable and inescapable life difficulties and uncertainties, and yet to live openly, spontaneously and authentically, without worry, fear or doubt. (See: I’ve Found A Faith-Based Life.)
But now I am even more grateful for this precious human lifetime, and for the opportunity to continue learning to live with ever expanding loving-kindness and compassion.
Now I feel that every day is a bonus; that every breath is a blessing. And I am convinced that I have been permitted to remain in this body only because I have not yet fully accomplished the purposes for which my soul incarnated; that the miraculous survival and healing have been a Divine blessing bestowing an evolutionary opportunity for karmic ‘purification’ and enhanced incentive to spiritually make the most of what remains of this precious human life-time.
One of the greatest joys of living a long earth-life is that there is always something new to learn, and that through synchronicities we are led to ever new opportunities for learning to become more loving – our purpose here. So I feel blessed to have been allowed to keep learning appropriate evolutionary lessons – and also to have been afforded an opportunity to finish honoring Guruji’s request that I write and publish spiritual memoirs so as to inspire others.
Moral of the story?
I share this story with you hoping to encourage our fearless faith in that Mysterious Power which guides our lives through inevitable and inescapable difficulties and uncertainties, and enables us to live with loving-kindness and compassion, without worry, fear or doubt. And I hope to help inspire in you an ‘attitude of gratitude’ like that which has so blessed my life.
*NDE’s. The term ‘Near Death Experience’ [NDE] was coined in 1975 by Raymond A. Moody, Jr., PhD, MD, in his book Life After Life which sold over thirteen million copies worldwide. Since then numerous NDE accounts have been published and discussed in mainstream media, on the internet, in films and videos and in magazines and books – including NY Times best sellers. Many spiritually inspiring NDE stories have been published and researched by the International Association For Near-Death Studies [IANDS] and others. So NDE’s have become widely considered, especially by those who claim to have experienced them. And some leading-edge non-materialist scientists cite NDE’s as evidence that consciousness survives physical death. For millions of people NDE’s, and other extraordinary mystical experiences, have proven to be spiritually inspirational, and transformative events, diminishing or ending fear of death and encouraging a newly open, sensitive, trusting and loving lifestyle. (see e.g. Atlantic Monthly: The Science of Near-Death Experiences.)
**The Perennial Wisdom Foundation (PWF) plans to publish ebooks containing these memoirs and other on-line writings. Also, PWF has arranged to keep SillySutras.com on line for at least another ten years, whether or not I am able to continue writing.
At my death do not lament our separation
… as the sun and moon but seem to set,
in reality this is a rebirth.
“Death is truly part of life … ‘what we called death is merely a concept’.”
“This happens at the gross level of the mind.
But neither death nor birth exist at the subtle level of consciousness that we call ‘clear light.’”
~ Dalai Lama
“Birth and death are virtual,
but Life is perpetual.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
On observing noteworthy phenomena which we can’t yet explain by known natural or scientific laws, we sometimes call them “miracles” and may attribute them to a Divine power.
Like other rare saints and mystics my beloved Guru, Shri Dhyanyogi, (“Guruji”) occasionally demonstrated “miracles” to foster faith in the Divine. In his writings and lectures, Guruji explained that yogic powers (siddhis) might be attained via control of life-force energies, but that they were seldom displayed; that such powers are used “sparingly and on occasion for humanitarian and other discretionary ends,” but not “for self-aggrandizement.”
Previously, I told you my belief that Guruji has helped me from subtle planes, like a ‘guardian angel’, ever since I met him when he was approximately one hundred years old, and even after he died in India sixteen years later.
I believe that Guruji left his body consciously and intentionally, using his yogic powers; that his mental body survived the death of the physical body; and, that from subtle planes he continues to help humanity.
I’d like to explain to you my reasons for this belief.
In the Hindu tradition, when a yogi who has previously experienced the highest state of samadhi intentionally leaves his body, this is not the same as death of an ordinary person who has not attained self-realization. Such a passing is called a Mahasamādhi (great and final samādhi) and is the act of consciously and intentionally leaving one’s body at the time of physical death.
When I received shaktipat initiation from Guruji in 1978, I had already witnessed his yogic power to influence this level of reality from subtle planes. He had clearly appeared in my subtle inner vision when we were physically distant. Thereafter, I had other experiences of Guruji’s subtle powers, which I elsewhere share with you.
In 1980 just before Guruji returned to India from four years in the USA, he stayed in my apartment for several weeks. At that time Guruji’s American attendant and driver, Lackshman, recounted to me a brief conversation with Guruji following a sparsely attended public meditation program. Driving home, Lackshman had remarked to Guruji that it was too bad so few people had attended this event. Whereupon Guruji replied, “It’s not important. Most of my work is on other planes.”
And, once when we were alone in his room, Guruji told me that he came and went from his physical body as he pleased. [See Human Body – A Precious “Prison”? ]
Also, at Guruji’s meditation programs, I heard amazing stories from others who had experienced his extraordinary yogic powers. Perhaps the most memorable of these stories was that of Rudy, a Chicago teacher who decided to travel on his motorcycle to spend time with Guruji in California. But before reaching California, and while he was in Colorado, Rudy had an unexpected and “miraculous meeting” with Guruji.
On a curvy mountain highway in Colorado, Rudy’s motorcycle skidded off the road and careened three hundred feet down a steep incline. Just before hitting bottom, Rudy called out Guruji’s name, remembering Guruji’s assurance that “I’m always with you.”
Gravely injured, Rudy became comatose. In that comatose state he had a “near death experience” (NDE), which miraculously he survived, and later recounted in detail.
There on ‘the other side’ to greet and guide Rudy, and to save his life was Dhyanyogi. Thereafter, at a California retreat Guruji explained to Rudy that he had saved his life because Rudy still had much more work to do in this world.
Rudy’s vividly credible description of this amazing incident compellingly impressed me with Guruji’s power to manifest at will on subtle planes of “reality” and to thus influence what happens in this “reality”.
Besides my own extraordinary experiences with Guruji, and hearing of Rudy’s experience, I learned about numerous other “miraculous” experiences of Guruji’s devotees. (See eg “This House is on Fire, The Life of Shri Dyanyogi”, as told by Shri Anandi Ma.)
My Experience on Guruji’s Mahasamadhi
One of my most memorable mystical experiences of Guruji happened just after he left his physical body. At the end of August 1994, when Guruji was in India and I was in San Francisco, I was home asleep when I was suddenly awakened in the middle of the night.
With eyes open, I beheld in amazement an extraordinary and unprecedented vision – an otherworldly, multi-colored bird, translucent with a peacock-like tail and human-like eyes. Nothing about the bird appeared like any ‘real-life’ bird I had ever before seen, or might have imagined.
As I gazed in awe at this ethereal apparition, I was enveloped and transformed by a supernal aura of supreme Peace, which emanated from the bird’s radiant dark human-like eyes. I awakened in the morning puzzled, and wondered about that extraordinary apparition which had enveloped me with ‘peace that passeth understanding.’
The next day, still wondering about the vision, I was sitting at my dining room table when an ‘inner voice’ dictated to me a poem about death, a subject I hadn’t then been thinking about.
Listening to my muse, I quickly and spontaneously “channeled” this poem about death:
When we come to Earth
They call it a birth
When we leave,
They say we die.
But we really don’t come,
And we really don’t go.
We just dream our lives
To awaken as Bliss
From all of this,
Joyous that all is
Thereafter, within a day or two, I received a rare call from one of Guruji’s early US disciples, Elyse (Indu) of Sacramento. She informed me of Guruji’s death – his Mahasamādhi – on August 29. Only then did I understand why I had been given this profound poem about death. And I immediately recognized it as a parting gift and message from Guruji.
So I recited the poem for Elyse. Then I told her about my puzzling otherworldly bird vision. She promptly and aptly interpreted that vision as a mythical Phoenix bird, symbol of immortality, resurrection, and life after death.
Thereupon, I realized that the bird’s human-like eyes emanating supernal Peace were Guruji’s eyes; and, that this unforgettable vision with experience of celestial peace was another parting gift and message from Guruji.
Many years have passed since that miraculous experience of Guruji’s Mahasamādhi, but I still continue to feel his subtle presence and often shed tears of devotion and joy, when I think of him or gaze at his photographic image.
Recently, almost twenty years after Guruji’s transition, I had a home visit from my friend Michael O’Rourke, a talented spiritual cinematographer who helped me launch SillySutras.com. I was chatting with Michael about Guruji and feeling his subtle presence, while seated in a reclining chair. After a while I had to excuse myself for a bathroom visit. When I returned several minutes later Michael reported to me his extraordinary experience of Guruji’s appearance.
As Michael was gazing at me while I talked about Guruji, he went into an altered state of consciousness. He then perceived another face morphing into mine – a face without glasses and with a longer white beard. It was Guruji!
Michael said that amazingly after I got up to go to the bathroom he still perceived the image of Guruji seated in the chair, until after I returned and sat down again.
Guruji once said: “All those who came to me for Shaktipat …. are my spiritual heirs. For my energy works through them.”
With utmost gratitude, I deeply feel that my continuing experience of Guruji validates his statement and supports my faith that he continues to help humanity, including Ron, even after his Mahasamādhi.
“Birth and death are virtual, but Life is perpetual.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“Birth and death are virtual, but Life is perpetual.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
My ‘Near Death’ Experience
A few years after the death of his father, the famous 20th century Indian sage Ramana Maharshi was suddenly overcome with a powerful premonition that he too was about to die. Though he was then only sixteen years old and in good health, he became so fearful of his imagined imminent death that he felt impelled to investigate the bodily death experience. So he pretended that he was dying and introspectively contemplated his own death experience. Long afterwards in response to a devotee’s question about his “enlightenment” he so recounted this experience:
“The shock of the fear of death made me at once introspective or ‘introverted’. I said to myself mentally, ‘Now that death is come, what does it mean? Who is it that is dying? This body dies’. ….The material body dies, but the Spirit transcending it cannot be touched by death. I am therefore the deathless Spirit. … Fear of death vanished at once and for ever. The absorption in the Self has continued from that moment right up to now”.
In 1979 I too had an extraordinary presumed near death experience. Unlike Ramana Maharshi’s pretended death experience, I really believed I was dying of a stroke and decided to observe the death process without resistance. Unlike Maharshi’s experience, my supposed death experience didn’t result in my instant “enlightenment” or permanent absorption in the Self. But, it was an extraordinary and unforgettable event, and it spurred my gradual transformative process of more and more identifying with spirit rather than body/mind, which had begun in 1976 with my post-divorce realization and rebirth experience.
After I received shaktipat initiation from Dhyanyogi in 1978, I began following his practices. But, also, I continued to explore spiritual mysteries by attending various other programs and lectures, with Dhyanyogi’s approval. When asked about our seeking information from other teachers, Guruji would say it was OK but unnecessary.
My near death experience happened in late 1978 or 1979, the morning after I had attended an inspiring lecture and experiential program given by Sufi master Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan. At the program I whole heartedly participated in a Sufi remembrance of God ritual called Zikr, featuring repetition of names of Allah. Fervently repeating in unison with other participants: “La Ilaha Illallah” , “La Ilaha Illallah”, I vigorously rotated my body, head and neck, and became quite ‘high’ and rapturous.
The next morning I awakened feeling fine, and prepared to attend an important Federal Appeals Court hearing. I had put on my grey pinstriped suit trousers, shirt and tie, and was in the bathroom, when suddenly I collapsed and fell onto the tiled floor and into a supine position. On the floor I was unable to move my head or body up or over. Then I discovered that I could inch along on my back like a caterpillar. In that manner with tremendous difficulty, I managed to move out of the bathroom and into my carpeted living room floor, still in a supine position.
I was not then near a phone and couldn’t call for help. Lying on my back, without pain, I said to myself mentally, “I must have suffered a stroke and am about to die. Now I will see what happens when I die.”
I closed my eyes and went into a deep state of relaxed awareness.
Suddenly it seemed as if I was astrally projected into the cosmos, where I was surrounded by magnificent luminescent silver, blue and gold heavenly bodies like in pictures taken by the Hubble telescope. Next, my inner vision shifted from outer space to appearances of beautiful, luminescent and intricate mandalas – like those associated with Vajrayana Buddhism, only more ethereal. As silently I was sensing these celestial scenes, thought returned. First I thought that dying was quite an interesting experience. Then, suddenly, I thought: “I never took Naomi off my life insurance policies. I can’t die now.” The ethereal visions immediately ended and consciousness returned to my supine body on the carpeted floor.
I don’t remember how much time had passed before I so returned to body consciousness. But when that happened I found that I could move easier and managed to slither to a telephone when it rang. Synchronistically, it was a call from my friend Kusuma, who had been one of Guruji’s translators and cooks. I told her what happened, and she dispatched Stan, a disciple of Dhyanyogi then living in San Francisco, to come help me. By the time Stan arrived, I was able to crawl with difficulty to the front door to let him in. He called my doctor who said my symptoms sounded like extreme vertigo from an inner ear problem, not a stroke. Later, Kusuma asked Guruji about my symptoms. He told her that they came from “shakti”, intense spiritual energy activated in my head.
Following my ‘near death’ experience, the vertigo gradually abated. I developed a curiosity about Tibetan Buddhism, and the meaning of their mandalas, which lead to my receiving refuge, empowerments, and teachings from Kalu Rinpoche, a venerable Tibetan Buddhist master, and then from other Tibetan lamas, including H.H. the Dalai Lama – who became a living hero for me. Most importantly my conviction about immortality of the soul and my identification with spirit were immeasurably enhanced, while psychological fear of bodily death diminished.
But I didn’t become “enlightened” enough to transcend the lingering psychological trauma of my contentious divorce. So, long before my dizziness had disappeared, my former wife’s name was removed as a beneficiary on my life insurance policies. And I haven’t yet died – again.
After my near death experience I was quite surprised at how peaceful I felt when then facing supposed death, and began wondering whether I had transcended fear of death. That question was soon answered when a deranged young driver raced his car right at me as I was walking across Broadway, the busy four lane street where I live. Instinctively and reflexively I very loudly screamed “Jesus!” as I fearfully jumped out of the way. I shouted so loudly that I probably could have been heard for a block or two up the street. Thereafter for several hours, I experienced a “fight or flight” adrenaline rush. Moreover, since then I have had several similar though less intense precarious experiences while crossing San Francisco streets.
So, despite my serenity during the near death experience, some instinctive fear of bodily death remains for me. But I now distinguish such normal physical ‘fight or flight’ instinct for bodily self-preservation, from fear arising from ego’s illusionary self-identification with the body/mind and its story, rather than with universal spirit, its eternal Essence. And I accept inevitable – and perhaps imminent – physical death as a crucial condition of phenomenal life on this precious planet.
While yogis in other times and places could attain and maintain elevated states of awareness by taking refuge in the forests, on a mountain, or in a cave – or like Ramani Maharshi, in caves on a mountain, such stress free environments are hard to find for those living in present day US society. For me attempting to live authentically and sanely in our crazy culture has at times been quite challenging. I’ve found that in San Francisco courtrooms and environs midst societal insanity, without some ego I’d would have been metaphorically and actually run over while traversing my spiritual path as well as while crossing the streets. ….
Suzuki Shunryū, Roshi, who popularized Zen Buddhism in the United States, was once asked by a student: “How much “ego” do you need?” He replied: “Just enough so that you don’t step in front of a bus.”
So I wonder what past spiritual masters would have done when suddenly confronted with immediate bodily threat? Certainly they wouldn’t have shouted “Jesus”, with an adrenaline rush. Maybe, like Gandhi, they would have uttered “Ram” while stepping quietly out of harms way. What do you think?
© Ron Rattner – “From Secular Hebrew, to Born-Again Hindu, to Uncertain Undo – An ex-lawyer’s spiritual metamorphosis from Litigation to Meditation – and Beyond.”
“The brain does not create consciousness,
but consciousness created the brain,
the most complex physical form on earth, for its expression.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
I regard consciousness as fundamental.
I regard matter as derivative from consciousness.
We cannot get behind consciousness.
Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing,
~ Max Planck, Nobel laureate physicist, as quoted in The Observer (25 January 1931)
“The very study of the physical world leads to the conclusion that
consciousness is an ultimate reality and,
all the possible knowledge, concerning objects
can be given as its wave function”
~ Eugene Wigner, Nobel laureate physicist and co-founder of quantum mechanics
For millennia mystics and seers have realized experientially that our space/time/causality reality is but a play of consciousness; that all impermanent appearances, all apparent forms and phenomena – including human brains – are but holographic projections of timeless Universal Awareness.
But very few scientists have shared this revelatory mystical world view. Most scientists do not regard as “real” that which is beyond perception and conception.
Rather than recognizing consciousness as the ultimate and eternal Source of our reality, reductionistic and materialistic mainstream science says that brains generate consciousness, and that we see via our brains.
However, there have been innumerable published reports of near death and out of body experiences and other mystical experiences which contradict this mainstream brain hypothesis. (*See footnote re Near Death Experiences [NDE’s].) Nonetheless, until now most brain scientists have dismissed these reports as untrustworthy “anecdotal” evidence. Rarely have mainstream brain scientists transcended their mistaken materialistic paradigm. But there have been noteworthy exceptions. (see e.g. Atlantic Monthly: The Science of Near-Death Experiences.)
Dr. Eben Alexander
Thus, in October 2012 Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who has taught at Harvard Medical School, went public with an autobiographical account of a life changing dramatic and vivid near death experience (NDE) of what he called “heaven” while he was in a week-long comatose state with a non-functional brain neocortex. (His best-selling first book, ”Proof of Heaven”, was published by Simon and Schuster on October 23, 2012.)
Dr. Alexander reported being told in “heaven”:
“‘You have nothing to fear. There is nothing you can do wrong.’ The message flooded me with a vast and crazy sensation of relief.”
He has written that prior to his NDE he did not believe in such experiences, and ‘scientifically’ dismissed them.
“As a neurosurgeon, I did not believe in the phenomenon of near-death experiences. I grew up in a scientific world, the son of a neurosurgeon. I followed my father’s path and became an academic neurosurgeon, teaching at Harvard Medical School and other universities. I understand what happens to the brain when people are near death, and I had always believed there were good scientific explanations for the heavenly out-of-body journeys described by those who narrowly escaped death.”
“According to current medical understanding of the brain and mind, there is absolutely no way that I could have experienced even a dim and limited consciousness during my time in the coma, much less the hyper-vivid and completely coherent odyssey I underwent.”
“There is no scientific explanation for the fact that while my body lay in coma, my mind—my conscious, inner self—was alive and well. While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: a dimension I’d never dreamed existed and which the old, pre-coma me would have been more than happy to explain was a simple impossibility.”
Raised as a Christian, Dr. Alexander used the religious concepts of “God” and “heaven”, to describe his extraordinary experience.
“Communicating with God is the most extraordinary experience imaginable, yet at the same time it’s the most natural one of all, because God is present in us at all times. Omniscient, omnipotent, personal-and loving us without conditions. We are connected as One through our divine link with God.”
Apart from referring to God, he also identified unconditional Love as the the ultimate Reality and “basis of everything” that exists.
“Love is, without a doubt, the basis of everything. Not some abstract, hard-to-fathom kind of love but the day-to-day kind that everyone knows-the kind of love we feel when we look at our spouse and our children, or even our animals. In its purest and most powerful form, this love is not jealous or selfish, but unconditional. This is the reality of realities, the incomprehensibly glorious truth of truths that lives and breathes at the core of everything that exists or will ever exist, and no remotely accurate understanding of who and what we are can be achieved by anyone who does not know it, and embody it in all of their actions.”
With newfound openness to “anecdotal” evidence, Dr. Alexander now expresses optimism that as science and mysticism ever more agree, humankind will evolve to wonderful new states of being.
And so may it be!
*Near Death Experiences [NDE’s].
The term ‘Near Death Experience’ [NDE] was coined in 1975 by Raymond A. Moody, Jr., PhD, MD, in his book Life After Life which sold over thirteen million copies worldwide. Since then numerous NDE accounts have been published and discussed in mainstream media, on the internet, in films and videos, and in magazines and books. Many spiritually inspiring NDE stories have been published and researched by the International Association For Near-Death Studies [IANDS] and others. So NDE’s have become widely considered, especially by those who claim to have experienced them. And some non-materialist scientists cite NDE’s as evidence that consciousness survives physical death. For millions of people NDE’s, and other extraordinary mystical experiences, have proven to be spiritually inspirational, and transformative events, diminishing or ending fear of death and encouraging a newly open, trusting and loving lifestyle. (see e.g. Atlantic Monthly: The Science of Near-Death Experiences.)