The questions of what happens to us after we die, whether we are reborn, and if so, in what form or manner have occupied human beings from time immemorial. What is the purpose of life and what are we, as conscious individuals, supposed to do with the life we are living?

The Tibetan Book of the Dead describes a process that reveals the systematic disintegration of the body, the vital energy and the mental being over a period of time after a person dies. Death is what we call the process whereby the vital-force leaves the body and thus, the physical body disintegrates with the departure of the vital force. The mental force withdraws and the body returns to the earth in some form or another.

The Taittiriya Upanishad states “The Spirit who is here in a man and the Spirit who is there in the Sun, it is one Spirit and there is no other. He who knoweth this, when he hath gone away from this world, passeth to this Self which is of food; he passeth to this Self which is of Prana; he passeth to this Self which is of Mind; he passeth to this Self which is of Knowledge; he passeth to this Self which is of Bliss.”

Others describe a somewhat similar process, but remove the individuality element from it entirely and simply speak of the general ‘river’ of consciousness that continues to flow and the individual streams simply enhancing that river.

Still others believe that there is a conscious soul-individuality that reconstitutes its relations with others in future lifetimes. Of course, some people discount this entire line of thought entirely and simply believe that everything is encompassed within one span of life and that there is nothing before and nothing after, and no real meaning to our lives. They do not try to solve the riddle of existence.

Yet, we mostly believe that something persists beyond death. We believe, for the most part, that life has a meaning that transcends the specific existence we experience in a particular lifetime. How we interpret this inherent understanding or ‘knowing’ varies from our particular religious or philosophical background, or based on experiences we may have that show us a deeper reality that goes beyond religious dogma or philosophical tenet arrived at through the use of Reason or logic.

Sri Aurobindo clarifies that the true soul in man is actually a spark of the Divine which enters into the individual life-forms and takes from each life the essence of the experience, as it grows and evolves the individual psychic being, and participates in the general evolution of consciousness in the universal manifestation. This does not imply a strict continuity of experience, memory, or specific life-impressions or relationships; rather, such a growth of consciousness would imply that new experiences, new relationships, new levels of growth and understanding must necessarily develop in successive lives to bring about this development at both the individual soul, and the universal manifestation levels.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The soul or spark is there before the development of an organised vital and mind. The soul is something of the Divine that descends into the evolution as a divine Principle within it to support the evolution of the individual out of the Ignorance into the Light. It develops in the course of the evolution a psychic individual or soul individuality which grows from life to life, using the evolving mind, vital and body as its instruments. It is the soul that is immortal while the rest disintegrates; it passes from life to life carrying its experience in essence and the continuity of the evolution of the individual.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 2, Planes and Parts of the Being, pg. 88

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 17 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.