Free Essay About What Lies Beyond Death?

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Religion, Life, Belief, Death, Muslim, Islam, Afterlife, Tradition

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/12/21

Death and afterlife are important concepts in many of the world’s religion and have an important bearing on the psychological and behavioral profile of individuals. Philosophers and scientists have linked beliefs in afterlife as being associated with psychological wellbeing, morality and world view. The differences in beliefs can be generalized in to two categories. One could either believe that body is the actual existing entity. When we die our existence ends and there is nothing beyond the grave. On the other hand there is the belief that there is a soul or some greater consciousness that outlives the body and we continue to exist even after we die. Most of the religions propagate the latter belief but what exactly is beyond death is different for most religions. Islam and Buddhism are two religions where depictions of life after death do exist but in which the views regarding afterlife are significantly contrasting. A comparison of these two religious systems gives a view of how diverse beliefs regarding afterlife can be in human populations.
In the Islamic tradition the soul is an immortal entity and it will continue to exist after death. Death is considered an event that terminates the life of the individual in the society but be continues to live for other paranormal worlds. As soon as the individual is buried his consciousness returns and he is subjected to preliminary questioning regarding his religious beliefs and performance of obligations. The deceased will then be subjected to treatment according to the answers. It is claimed that there are constituents of the body that continue to exist even after the body has decayed and these constituents continue to feel the treatment accorded to them. In Islamic tradition there is also the concept of Barzakh which is an intermediary rest spot for souls where they will wait till the Day of Judgment. On the Day of Judgment all living beings will first be vanquished and then resurrected to be judged. The infidels will be condemned to eternal damnation in jahannam (Hell). Muslims who had sent ahead offenses and disobedience of religious tenets will also suffer for their transgressions in Hell but will be ultimately moved to jannah (Heaven) for having believed in One God and the finality of Prophet Muhammad.
The Buddhist tradition advocates reincarnation where there is a transformative self or soul that takes on a new body in each incarnation. The new soul is neither identical to the previous one nor entirely different. There are various levels of incarnation into which the new organism will be born. The level and form assumed upon rebirth depends on the deeds and mindset of the past life and this forms the basis of the Buddhist concept of Karma. What keeps the cycle of reincarnation going is the ignorance of the individual and as long as consciousness is not achieved the cycle goes on. Once the individual breaks out of ignorance and achieves consciousness he or she moves on to Nirvana. Nirvana signifies a state where suffering has been eliminated by eliminating its causes; greed, delusion and ignorance. The exact imagery and depictions of Nirvana are not available because of Buddha’s aversion to speculation and hence the Nirvana we know is an absence of certain traits and not what it is.
The differences in Islamic and Buddhist traditions are evident. Islam professes a unitary soul and the person endowed with that soul is responsible for his actions and the consequences in this life and the hereafter. There is a clear demarcation between the two lives divided by the Day of Judgment. The life in this world is a test and based on its result the person will suffer consequences in the hereafter. The believers and virtuous will ultimately reside in heaven and the infidels and sinners will end up in hell and these lives will go on till forever. In the Buddhist tradition there is no Day of Judgment as such and the deeds of the person determine what form he or she assumes in reincarnation. Ignorance drives the cycle of rebirth and freedom from ignorance leads one to Nirvana which is the absence of suffering and its depictions as a place or state are not known. In Islam, Muslims are required to perform religious obligations outlined in detail in the Holy book Quran and in the sayings of the Prophet. Another important component of their virtuous existence in this life is their conduct with other human beings so performing social responsibilities in the best possible way is also a necessary requirement for entrance to heaven. In the Buddhist tradition purging oneself of evils and suffering is the prime requirement and the striving is for breaking out of the cycle of rebirth. In the Islamic religious book there are extensive and elaborate imagery of heaven where it is presented as a place flowing with rivers of milk and honey, with fruit laden trees, absence of negative emotions and sickness, and virgin companions. Hell is also graphically represented with its fires and thorn bushes and the tortures awaiting infidels and sinners. This is in contrast to the Buddhist tradition where the ultimate state, Nirvana is only depicted as a freedom from ignorance, greed and delusion. The permanence of the Muslim’s soul and the transitory nature of the Buddhist core is also an important difference. The Muslim tradition represents an unchanging identity where a person has a specific and limited life. In the Buddhist tradition on the other hand represents a metamorphosing existence and identity and a person is judged and dealt with right upon death and rebirth.
Given the inherent tendencies of humans to prefer ease and personal gain, the teachings of religions are hard to observe in the general populations but the individuals and groups who do adhere to religious doctrines provide demonstration of how beliefs shape conduct and dealings. Practicing Muslims are likely to exhibit regularity in the performance of their religious obligations and have courteous and deferring relations with those around them. Their salvation depends upon their conduct in this life and given the transitory nature of this life they will not invest too much in material possessions and gains. Buddhists on the other hand will exhibit significant disinterest in worldly affairs and purging themselves of vices and causes of suffering are likely to be their prime objectives. Their identity and this life will hold little importance for them as they are not a constant but a variable caught in a cycle. Breaking out of the cycle will demand immense mental exercise in the form of introspection and rumination observing their thoughts and ridding themselves of whatever will impede their freedom from the cycle of rebirth. With regards to their dead Muslims treat them with respect and continue to pray for their deliverance and their forgiveness. Elaborate ceremonies including bathing of the body, reciting of chants, feeding the poor and special communal prayers are performed before the burial. Muslim religious teachings also state that death is a blessing for an individual as with death his or her test is cut short in this world. In Buddhist tradition as well death marks a significant event as on this occasion all the karmic forces become active and determine the form the deceased will assume in the next life.
Islam and Buddhism both propose different forms of life after death as in resurrection and reincarnation respectively. Their beliefs and practices are quite different but it is apparent that the purpose of religions is to induce morality and virtuosity. This aim is likely to be common in all religions making them an important aspect of human existence in this world.

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Emanuel, S. M. (2013). A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy. Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell.
J. Flannelly, K., Ellison, C. G., Galek, K., & Silton, N. R. (2009). Belief in Life-After-Death, Beliefs About the World, and Psychiatric Symptoms. Journal of Religion and Health, 1-14.

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