What Happens to Me After I Die?

From Krishnamurti’s Book MIND WITHOUT MEASURE

We never inquire deeply what happens long before death, what happens to our life. Very few people ask that. They are all concerned with what happens after death – whether you will live, whether you will meet your brother, and so on, but not with the long period of thirty, forty, fifty years which is far more important than what happens after. So, we are going to examine, observe, what our life is. Because, if we don’t understand that profoundly, when you meet death, then you are frightened, then you are totally blind to everything. We ought to investigate our life which we live daily, whether it has any significance at all, whether it has any value, depth, beauty.

Perhaps you go to the office from nine to five for the rest of your life. Have you ever thought about what a tragedy it is? And what are you working for? You will say, ‘My responsibility, my duty to my family, I must earn money, therefore I go to the office from nine to five for the next 60 years; then I retire, and then die. That is one of the factors of our daily existence. There, in the office or in the factory, you are struggling, you are competing, you want to become the manager, the clerk wants to become the executive, the priest wants to become the bishop, and so on. You come home, weary, insulted, bored. What do you call home – just the roof, half a dozen rooms, or one room? What is a home? Have you ever thought about all this? What does that word ‘home’ mean to you? Is it just to live there, eat, sex, children, quarrelling, arguing, discussing, bullying each other or withdrawing from it all, becoming a monk, a sannyasi? You can’t withdraw from life; you may put on different robes, but life is where you are, what you are, and during these 40/50 years, there is constant struggle, constant conflict, pain, little joy, the pursuit of pleasure and facing the inevitable death. That is our life, put in a nutshell. You can’t deny it; it is so. Now this is the life of every human being on earth, whether he lives in an affluent society or under a dictatorship or in a totalitarian state, whether he is Marxist, Leninist or democrat. This is his life – pain, struggle, conflict, working from morning till night. Do you know what happens to such a human being, his capacity to think? This is the state of every human being, that is his consciousness.

You are actually the rest of mankind. This is not a logical conclusion, this is a fact. You must understand this fact; otherwise, as we talk about death furthermore, you won’t understand the significance of it, which is your consciousness with its content. The content is the belief, the dogma, the name, the form, the pain, anxiety, loneliness, depression, desire; all that is you. All that is what you are actually. This consciousness is the consciousness of all human beings. If you feel the depth of it, the extraordinary beauty of it, the strength of it, that you are the rest of mankind, that it is a fact, and when you feel it in your blood, in your heart, in your mind, then you are no longer an individual. I know it is difficult for you to swallow this or even to think about it because you are conditioned to be an individual, but you are not. You may be tall, you may be short or clever, and so on, but inside you are like the rest of mankind.

If you are the rest of mankind, you are mankind. Then what is your responsibility to man? What is your responsibility to what is happening in the world? Probably, you have never asked this question of yourself. You say my responsibility is to my family, to my country. But the idea of your country is just another invention of thought. When you ask the question what is my responsibility to the rest of mankind, you have to find out for yourself what is your responsibility, what is right action. You can’t escape from it. You may limit yourself to certain immediate responsibilities, but you as a human being who is the rest of mankind, you are also responsible for mankind. So your consciousness is not yours. It is shared by all human beings living on this earth. They all go through every kind of misery, every kind of suffering – pain, anxiety, despair and the feeling of utter loneliness. If you are at all aware of what is happening in the world, then you will have to ask yourself what is your responsibility, what is your action.

Now, you think you are an individual, you think you are separate from the rest of mankind, and then you ask, ‘What happens to me after I die, do I not incarnate?’ Let us examine that very closely. What are you? When you say, I want to be born next life, I believe in reincarnation, and so on, what is it that is going to be reborn? What are you? Let us examine it together dispassionately. You are the name, the form, the body. You are what you think, you are the result of your education, if you have had one. And the education is so rotten, it only conditions you to become some engineer, clerk, or this or that. You are not educated to understand the beauty, the wholeness of life. You are given a lot of knowledge so that you can act either skilfully or not, in the world. That is not education. That is one very small part of education. Education is the cultivation of the whole human being, the unfoldment, the flowering of a human mind, not crippling by specialization. So what are you? Are you a series of words, a series of ideas, a repetitive memory, a continuity of conviction? That is all. It is so. This is a verbal structure. But you will say that is not all, there is something much deeper. When you say there is something much deeper, god or atman or whatever you like to call it – the soul as the Christians do, and you call it by another name – when you say I am not all that, I am much more, there is a fragment of light in me; when you say there is something more than mere physical attributes, more than mere conclusions, concepts, beliefs and words, there is something beyond; when you say you are more than that, it is also the invention of thought, obviously. You are put together by thought. You call yourself a Hindu, and another calls himself a Muslim, and so on. All that division is the result of thought. You are actually a series of memories, a series of reactions and responses based on your knowledge, your experience, your quality of mind. That is what you are, which is essentially death. You are living in the past and the past is death. All knowledge is in the past, and therefore, when you live with knowledge which is the past, and as the past is over, what are you? Look at yourself as you would look in a mirror. That is what you are. And you say, ‘If I die, I incarnate in another’, which is to carry the same thing over to the next life. If you do believe in future life, that is, next life, then what you do now matters more because next life you will pay for it. This is your conviction. This is what you cling to, a lot of memories which are dead ideas, which are also finished. So the content of your life is that. That is why this country which believes in so many things, so many beliefs, so many superstitions, believes in reincarnation. That is why here there is a slow dying.

Now, the question then is, what is death? Please ask this question: Are you just the vast reservoir of memory, words, pictures, symbols? Is your consciousness the rest of mankind, that you are not an individual? That what you think, other people think, your thinking, is not individual and that there is only thinking? When you realize you are not an individual though you may have a different form, different shape of head, different jobs, and so on, but that inwardly you are like the rest of mankind, what does death mean then? Look, sir. Suppose I am all that – name, thought, education, physical responses, psychological reactions, all the inherited racial memories and personal memories, which is all in the past, I am all that and all human beings are that, all human consciousness is that, then what does it mean to die? Ask this question, sirs. Now we are living, repetitively active, mechanically active, as most people are; but you are active, you have got life, you have got feelings, you have got responses, sensations, and when death comes, all that is wiped out. That is what we call death, which is to end all the things you have held, your joys, your house, your bank account, your wife, your children; all that you end; you and your attachment, that is death. But you want to carry it over to the next life which is just an idea, vision, fulfilment. Please listen: While living, can you end attachment? Because, when you die, all attachment ends. But can you invite the ending of attachment? Do you understand this? That is ending. Ending is death. So, can you, while living, vigorous, active, end your attachment, end a particular habit voluntarily, easily, quietly? Because then, where there is an ending, there is a totally different beginning. When you end something like attachment, there is a different activity going on: to incarnate in the present now. That is creativity.