Near Death Experiences
I have thought about exploring this topic for some time. Now one of my friends has requested me to so as she also had one.
I haven't kept current on my near death readings, but there a number of books I have read in the last 10 years that I found fascinating, and good for sharing with people who may not accept the Vedas or any scripture as authority.
Some people accept the personal testimony of fellow human beings living at this time as meaningful. The fact that most NDEers have similar experiences is compelling to them, whereas they think religious people can be dogmatic.
I am not suggesting that you should buy every book on the subject. Never the less, it is useful to know about these experiences, which do share some things talked about in Vedic texts. And some people like me, read so many books outside our tradition which they feel have benefited them. Not everyone has to, or should necessarily.
Now, for starters, not everyone's experiences of near death could be corroborated from Vedic texts, nor do all these people come back with full knowledge of what we as Krishna devotees would like them to have, like the importance of a vegetarian diet, and belief in reincarnation etc. For some, that is the end of it.
However, I don't feel we should just throw out these experiences wholesale, without thinking over the matter carefully.
While the Vedas describe what is essential for us to know to perfect our life, they don't say everything about all possible experiences. Also it is important to acknowledge that there are many valid perspectives or windows of any experience. Even the material world, though considered only 1/4 of existence, is still INFINITE, and our understanding of it is FINITE, as is our understanding of the scriptures.
This hopefully will be humbling for us. We can give authoritative statements from the Vedas, yet we should not do so dogmatically, thinking we know everything about anything. Though the Gita says in chapter 15 vs. 19 that one who knows Krishna as the Supreme Lord without doubting knows everything, this means we have understood the purport of all knowledge, not that we are authorities on every subject. Only Krishna knows everything [Gita 7.26, 15.15 etc].
According to my Gaudiya lens, under the guidance of Shri Guru, Krishna, and the Vaishnava devotees we can, with an open mind, endeavor to understand truth in many forms, or how we an use people's experiences for our benefit and inspiration. I invite you to read my blog on "Swanning" to understand how I think we can take useful information from practically anywhere.
Dr. Raymond Moody in his ground braking book, "Life After Life" was the first person to categorize all the many experiences of a near death experience, such as 1) being aware of being beyond the earths three dimensions and not having words for it, 2) understanding they are "dead", 3) feeling peace and quite, 4) hearing intense or sometime peaceful, though profound sounds, 5) experiencing the presence of a dark tunnel they are being pulled into, 6) experiencing themselves floating outside their body, 7) meeting others such as "deceased" relatives, 8) coming in touch with the "Being of Light", and 9) the review of their entire life from a beyond physical perspective.
Most people don't have all these experiences, some only one. The most profound and influential book I have read is "Saved by the Light", by Dannion Brinkley, who is now active in hospice work as a result of his experiences. He experienced all the classic symptoms and then some. I have met him personally several times and he is a very far out person, and quite funny.
Before Mr. Brinkley's, not one, but I think 3 or so NDEs, he was not what we would call a pious person. He was a tough character who was a bit of a punk (rabble rouser, or fighter) type growing up. Then he joined the military and became a "special forces" person, who basically was a trained assassin of enemy commanders, as well as deliver of arms etc. So the point is he beat up or killed, or deliver arms that killed many people.
The useful perspective for me, and I think all of us, comes from his life review. During the life review we relieve all the experiences of our life, especially those particularly noteworthy and intense, either good or bad. Most of his were bad. So he re-experienced his fighting or killing of a person, but he not only saw it from his experience, but he felt WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO BE ON THE RECEIVING END OF WHATEVER HE DID TO ANOTHER PERSON. This is called the "ripple effect" of our actions, and should make perfect sense in terms of karma. That is why the Christian saying, "Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you". This means whatever we give out, we receive back.
So when he killed some person he saw himself kill that person, and then he experienced what it was like for the person being killed, and how that death was experienced by the person's friends and family etc. When he delivered guns in Central American, he saw himself delivering the guns, and then went with the guns, and experienced the death caused by those guns, and how it affected the people involved. And so it went, and O, how he lamented his actions from his new higher perspective.
He did experience a few good things he did, and as he gave out love and kindness, he felt what it was like to be on the receiving end of that act. So one of Dannion's saying is that at every moment in your dealings with others, think that you are having a life review and will be on the receiving end of whatever you give out, whether love, hate or what have you. I have found that a very useful meditation.....what goes around comes around. Krishna devotees should understand this, yet somehow his experiences have made the law of karma more concrete for me, and you might find them helpful as well.
This is already very long so I will rap up here. Some other useful books I have found are "Closer to the Light" (about the NDEs of children), and "Transformed by the Light", by Melvin Morse MD, and the books by Betty J. Eadie, "Embraced by the Light", and her next one where she is more broadminded, "The Awakening Heart". There are so many others that have come out since.
Now again, these books are not Vedic evidence, but they can help some of us have faith in our identity as an eternal soul, and as I mentioned, can demonstrate a very practical application of the law of karma. In addition for some people we meet these experiences are evidence of the soul, which we can use to our advantage.
Another perspective of these experiences (and why they may not always agree with the Vedic version) is that these people didn't actually die. The "higher authorities" the Devas (demigods or archangels) under the supervision of God, were giving certain souls a new lease on life, much as Ajamila was given in the 6th Canto of the Shrimad Bhagavatam (Bhagavat Purana). Some people do experience the Yamadutas or the fierce, frightening messengers of death, and live to speak of it, though many keep quite about it, and their stories are not as inspiring for the masses. One of the points of the stories about the messengers of Light and Death, is that there are consequences to our activities, and we should live in the most ideal way we can according to our understanding of the Truth. Reading about near death experiences I have found very inspiring and useful in sharing with others and so I have shared some with you.