20 February, 2020


What Happens To Me At Death?

By Shyamon Jayasinghe

Shyamon Jayasinghe

“The real question of life after death isn’t whether or not it exists, but even if it does what problem this really solves.”  ― Ludwig Wittgenstein

Nothing, I say. Nothing of my ego will survive. My body will dissolve itself into elements aided either by a consuming fire in the case of cremation or by the action of maggots in the event of burial. There is nothing that survives the material body. With the death of the brain my consciousness also goes and so I wouldn’t know what occurs post mortem. There is no evidence for duality of body and mind as believed by many particularly after Descartes. No soul to go anywhere. No flicker of the dying flame that trots on to another womb.

For good or for bad the old man is done with.  Let’s celebrate his life, the goodness with which he spent  it and the joy he had, hopefully, brought to others. Even if he had been a nasty fellow let’s farewell him with: ”Goodbye old friend!” Our brief and vulnerable lives do not justify vindictiveness or the arrogant judgment of others.

I admit death is one of the most difficult situations for a nonbeliever to face. To stick by the belief that all is gone for good is hard. To most persons this is not a comfortable belief.  Death haunts our lives and we dread it. For survivors to realize that their dear beloved is now nowhere and that all communication with him/her is disconnected is not a good feeling at all. On the other hand, a belief in an after- life can certainly give the latter a better coping strategy.  All this cannot simply end like this way? Surely we must have some sort of postmortem life? Somewhere in a spiritual realm? Or be reborn in another life even as a snail or frog or python; if not as a king?

One task of religion whether theistic or nontheistic is to give most of us a more comfortable and “meaningful” avenue with which to cope with death. There is archeological evidence unearthed in France and Spain that shows that Upper Paleolithic people 45,000 to 10,000 years did believe in a supernatural realm.  “People seemed always to have believed in two domains: the material world in which they conduct their daily lives and a spirit realm that they try to contact,” states cognitive archaeologist David Lewis Williams.

It beats rational understanding to believe that even an afterlife would bring consolation to me, Shyamon Jayasinghe. Even if I enter a post mortal celestial realm it wouldn’t be Shyamon Jayasinghe or anything that would resemble Shyamon Jayasinghe over there. My current conscious identity will not continue over there. Obviously my body will not physically move over there. So what? Isn’t It the same with rebirth? Hence what is the point in taking cognizance in this life of an after- life at all? Do you, reader, know what your former incarnation had been? Were you a deity, or a snake; or given you were unfortunate to have lived in a country like Sri Lanka were you a poor peasant being eternally deceived by politicians, a member of a ruling family that got away robbing the treasury, a member of the clergy of any given religion who had sexually abused kids, or a simple joker who hadn’t two cents in his pocket? So why bother?

To believe in any claim for after life in a spiritual realm one must find evidence for it in the world we live in. Only a scientific investigation can do that. One cannot assert that science is not the only source of knowledge and that religion is another valid source and leave it at that. There cannot be two independent ways of knowing about the world. If no investigation has unveiled such a world why believe in it?

Religionists will scream that it is all there in the revealed word of God as reflected in the Holy Book or sacred scriptures. But then which ‘revealed word’ or which Holy Book are we to rely on? That of Islam? Hinduism? Christianity? Jewish? Zoroastrism? Even the Sutta or Abhidamma Pitaka of Buddhism? As noted in my previous article, Buddhism as philosophy has a respectful proximity to science; but not Buddhism as a religion that believes in Bodhi Pooja, the transference of merit to after life, the existence of deities floating in the air around us, or in the kind of Apaaya we saw at the Berwick temple at Wesak.

Furthermore, interpretations of the Holy Book have been so acrimonious that they have led to blood battles and wars that have and are destroying human lives and property. The many years of the Crusades between believers of the Koran and the Bible, the many years of the Protestant Reformation  that led to religious persecution. The current slaughter between adherents of the Sunni and Shiya versions of Islam are ample testimony. To the man of common sense this all makes nonsense, isn’t it? If religionists cannot have agreement about the Holy Word how do they expect non-religionists like me to receive any of their warring versions?

Looking around for evidence science will tell that in all probability there isn’t any evidence for heaven or hell, God or angels anywhere. Yuri Gagarin went right into space and jokingly asserted that he hadn’t found evidence of God, hell or heaven. If he were interested in the Hindu tradition he would have said in extension that he didn’t find evidence of any atman floating towards absorption in a mighty Brahma. Had he found any evidence of this ‘other realm,’ this spiritual issue would have been resolved long ago.

Historically religion has always stepped in to explain gaps in human knowledge. At each instance, when the gaps are explained by science religion takes a retreat. Science grew out of the cocoon of religion and is taking away the sacred explanations found in scripture one by one replacing them with natural explanations. Although secularism is growing most people find the afterlife question a gap in their understanding.

Who else can fill it but religionists?  With its multifarious, complicated and elaborate rituals relating to the Dead, religion is doing a great job. These rituals have imposed uncomfortable costs on the living and priests, Mullahs and Kovils thrive on them. At the nearby Taiwanese Buddhist temple one has to pocket out valuable dollars to buy merit-transferring tokens for the dear departed.

The belief in an afterlife that religion extolls has helped make populations docile. Don’t worry, they say, about injustice for the good are rewarded in Paradise. Slave for your fattening master and don’t think of revolt. It is your Kamma; so bear it until you wear it away in this unfortunate life (‘Karumaya gewenna oney’).  Karl Marx was dead right here. Religion justifies useless slaughter in the name of some vengeful God. The murderous martyrs of 9/11 were infamously promised an eternity with numerous virgins as a reward.

Aren’t such ridiculous beliefs cheapening the notion of human life and elevating the cult of death? Yes, they are.

Religion’s hold in the area of death will continue as long as we humans are not strong enough to cope with available natural explanations about death and what happens thereafter.  There is no doubt that the consolations that religions do offer in this regard are superior to any that a nonbeliever can offer at this stage. The consolation that faith-based communities receive in facing death is irreplaceable. The belief in after life is one ingredient of this. Attention to the bereaved is another. There is nothing to rival Mozart’s Requiem in the Christian tradition or the prayer for a dead woman from the Songs of Solomon in the Jewish service or the almsgivings (Dhane) at periodic intervals to Buddhist monks who attend in saffron- clad robes and chant the great wisdom of the Buddha. All such ritualistic functions are attended by relatives and friends who gather around the memory of the dead and around the terrible grief of the bereaved.

To the rational mind the Buddhist version can be appeasing provided one is not enjoined to accept any notions of a life hereafter. (sjturaus@optusnet.com.au)

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  • 1

    Dear Shyamon Jayasinghe.

    What Happens To YOU At Death?

    This is what happens.

    1. You are a collection of Organisms. The individual organisms that you are the composite, stop functioning. Then you are kaput. Period. Then you are oxidized if cremated, or decomposed slowly, and your elements recycled.

    However, for the believer, there is relief, he/she know where he/she goes, based on the belief. The believer who believes that he/she will end up in Heaven or Nirvana will be happy to die than the non-believer. Heaven or Nirvana is an illusion is immaterial. After all, how many people lived believing that the Sun goes around the Earth?

    2.”If religionists cannot have agreement about the Holy Word how do they expect non-religionists like me to receive any of their warring versions?”

    This is what happens with Myths. Which version of the Myth do they need to follow. There is no support for any of the Maths.

    Myths are maintained to perpetuated. See how Martin Luther Exposed the Catholic Theology, the Church’s Imperialism.

    We have in Sri Lanka, the Buddhist Monk Myths. At other places we see other Myths. All are kind of “selling” indulgences to the people, and taking a “commission”.

    In the case of Monks,and Priests and Mullahs they do not even work. The Monks, Priests and Mullahs are the Modern Lords, and the people the Serfs.

    Religion is the Opium of the masses, said Karl Marx.

    Yes, Religion will help your to die in peace, and rest in peace with the elements.

    • 0

      Well said Buddy..!

    • 0

      So its nirvana for all then??

  • 0

    We live in the present which is ever changing with every second. The present becomes the past and the future becomes the present. We have a spritual and physical existence. The human body is composed of elements but these alone do not give rise to life. Inside this body is a soul. When the soul departs the body loses all its power and begins to decay.

    When we speak of death we also need to consider our begining. From where did we come and where do we end. Are we the result of statistical probability or divine will. Is there more to this world and existence than what we comprehend using our limited senses and intellect? Does this world have a begining and an end? Is there a supernatural divine power?

    Folowing is the Islamic persspective from the Quran

    They say, ‘The only life is this worldly life and here we shall live and die. It is only time which annihilates us’. They have no knowledge about this. It is only their speculations. (Surah al-Jathiyah, 45:24)

    He has said, ‘Who will give life to the bones which have become ashes’. (Muhammad), tell him, ‘He who gave them life in the first place will bring them back to life again. He has the best knowledge of all creatures ‘. (Surah Ya Sin, 36:78, 79)

    And He it is Who originates the creation, then reproduces it, and it is easy to Him, and His are the most exalted attributes in the heavens and the earth, and He is the Mighty, the Wise. (Surah ar-Rum, 30:27)

    Does not man remember that before We created him he was nothing?(Surah Maryam, 19:67)

  • 0

    It is important to maintain the integrity of mind during the last stages of life. That would be the best blessing.

    Quoting a ‘pop philosopher’ like Ludwig Wittgenstein (who ironically coached our highest quality Buddhist philosopher Prof K.N.Jayatilleke) in the context of life and death shows that Mr Jayasinghe is going after the wrong ‘Gurus’ at the sunset of his life.

    His best bet would be to find a copy of Prof Sarachchandra’s PhD thesis and spend all remaining minutes in gaining an understanding of the ‘consiousness’ which he currently seems to believe is located in the brain and vanishes in to thin air at death.

    Suffice it to say that common sense, and belatedly ‘sciene’, shows that NOTHING comes out of thin air and disappears to NOTHING. It is just that certain minds are not trained to see the other dimension.

    May you be blessed with good health and ‘samma dhitti’.

    • 0

      Wittgenstein never ‘coached’ anyone least of all KN. KN claimed that he was ‘admitted’ to W’s classes. Looking at the use made of quotes from W in the latter’s book, it would seem there was not much more.
      If there is any evidence that there was any greater contact or influence, that would be very interesting.

      Calling Wittgenstein a ‘pop philosopher’ is of course very original.

  • 1

    Atheism does not explain how the sun came to at the correct distance to earth so that life on earth could exist.A little more away and all living things would have frozen up,a little closer they would have fried up.When atheists say, prove to us that god exists,I give this example(i can give many more)and ask them to prove that god does not exist.

    So,it is a stalemate here.Neither can prove or disprove,but can use circumstantial evidence to justify their theories.It will depend ultimately on which side of the coin the over whelming evidence is.

    If there indeed is a god,then obviously when we die it does not become the end of it all.There could be another chapter in the book.Hope springs eternal in the human breast they say and i agree with the author that natural tendency is to believe in god so that we can have some hope that after all death is not the end of it all.However we should not believe this blindly and look around us for the scientific evidence such as the example of the sun i gave and also the fact that if the earth was formed with two thirds land and one third ocean instead of the current one third land and two third ocean,then would we have had sufficient clouds forming to give us the life giving rain.

    I can go on and on giving examples on how perfectly the planet was created to allow us to live on it,but what is the point.It is upto us to look around us and use our brains and form our own conclusions.

    After all did not god give us the brains to use them.Do we expect to be spoon fed instead the truth.

    • 0

      Shankar, you are placing the Cart before the Horse. Life appeared because the conditions were right for Life to appear when it did. When conditions changed, Life forms changed to adapt to those changed conditions. As in the Future, Life forms will change to adapt to changing conditions. Maybe Life as we know it will disappear from our Earth, if we continue to exploit the conditions that made Life possible in the first place. If there was a God he would have made us perfect in the first instance!

      • 1

        “Life appeared because the conditions were right for Life to appear when it did.”

        sanjay,so who made the conditions right, for life to appear?

        Did those conditions appear by accident or by design?That is the million dollar question.my answer is design.What is yours?

        • 0

          Shankar there is no ‘WHO’
          Conditions do happen by Accident, and Nature makes use of them. As I said earlier, an All Powerful God would not make the mistakes he appears to be continuously Making! Did He Design Climate Change and Desertification? If you answer that your God is punishing Humans, why on Earth did he create this imperfect Being? Think about it!

          • 0

            Sanjay let us see what the conditions are for life to appear

            1.The sun.It accidently appeared.Without it no life on earth.Not only did it accidently appear in the universe it also set itself accidently at the correct distance to us.The earth is accidently rotating around the sun so that its entire surface is warmed and cooled every day for us to live.conclusion-possible accident.

            2.water.Without which we cannot live.Oceans give the clouds which give the rain and water for us.However 3% of the water is there in land too for us.So ocean was there accidently,and also in the correct proportions,two thirds of the planet as ocean.What if one third of it was ocean instead,could there have been enough rainfall to sustain life?conclusion-not an accident again like the sun surely.possibly coincidence.

            3.the atmosphere.It is a thin layer extending to about 50 miles above the earth’s surface.It consists of mostly oxygen and nitrogen gases which is the right mixture to sustain plant,animal and human life.The earths gravity holds the atmosphere.If the earth was smaller there would be no atmosphere.If it was larger it would have had free hydrogen and therefore unsustainable for life.So the right mixture of gases was created because the earths size is perfect.For example we can’t go and live on jupiter that is smaller or mercury which is larger because of the atmosphere.conclusion-if the sun was an accident and the oceans were a coincidence then the atmosphere must be deliberate action.We can’t have too many accidents and coincidences can we.

            4.the moon.perfect size and distance to keep the oceans from spilling over the continents with its gravitational pull creating the tides making the ocean levels rise up and down twice a day.also due to its gravitational effects responsible for maintaining the stability of the climate by keeping the inclination angle of the earth unchanged at 23.5 as it orbits around the sun.If this had fluctuated it would have had devastating consequences on the climate.
            Also earth rotates on its axis completely once in every 24 hours.Without the gravitational effects of the moon it would have been 8 hours,so we would have 1095,8 hour days a year instead of the current 365,24 hour days.With a rotational speed as high as that the winds would have been very powerful,much more oxygen in the atmosphere,and the magnetic field 3 times more intense.A 24 hour a day is much better than a 8 hour one because the temperature variations would not be that abrupt when transition from day to night takes place.
            conclusion-accident,coincidence again.Nope has to be deliberate action.

            5.evaporation.a system that has been designed to remove the salt from the water and distribute it over the land.If this was an accident then all the purification plants and water distribution systems we have installed all over the world need not be done by engineers,but we could have just waited patiently until they occurred accidentally for us.

            So even the finest of engineers could not have created this planet,let alone accidently.The eiffel tower pales into insignificance compared to it and can be considered an accident too.

            I can go on giving more and more points,but what is the use,because to find god you have to seek with all your heart.

            You have to ask yourself the question”do i want to know whether god exists or not”.If your answer is “no,it makes no difference to me to find out the meaning of my existence,i just live my life and when it is over i’am done”,then you won’t find god.

            To find a treasure,first of all you have to go looking for it.

            • 0

              Shankar, “Which came first, the Chicken or the Egg” If God created all of the above which you list so lengthily, He must have been created too! WHO created Him/Her? Was He the ‘Big Bang’ by another name? You are looking at Life from a ‘Homo Sapiens based’ Point of View, with an irrational belief in a Creator God! By the Way, does He/She answer all of your Prayers?

            • 0

              “By the Way, does He/She answer all of your Prayers?”

              yes,sanjay.I prayed after typing my comment that your response should be very weak.

            • 0

              Shankar, you say ‘ To find a treasure,first of all you have to go looking for it’. A treasure can not bury itself, so man has to bury it, for others to go looking for it, precisely the case with God as well.

            • 0

              By the way Shankar, this God of yours answer non believers better, while the believers are made to suffer.

            • 0

              Gamini,i did not say hidden treasure.A treasure can be there unburied and you can’t see it because you don’t want to see.You have already made up your mind that it does not exist.

              That is why i said to find god,you have to seek with all your heart.I did not say feet.You can go and pray everyday even in the temples but you may not find god.It is the condition of your mind and your behaviour that is most important, not the number of times you pray.That is why as you mention some believers suffer while some unbelievers do not.Also there is the karma,we have to suffer for our past sins whether we now believe in god or not.Furthermore there are those who pray and pray and still continue to commit sins.They think prayers are like water that washes off sins.

              Just because you believe in god does not mean you have found too.You have to go onto a higher plane for that.I have yet to do that but have to start the process of conditioning my mind and doing away with all the worldly things one by one.It is worth it because i can die peacefully one day without fearing the unknown because when you find the truth the unknown becomes the known.

            • 0

              We are reading your commnts because in this universe the conditions were right for the sun,water, life etc. In other solar systems where the conditions were not right,there is no life to speculate on divine creation.

    • 0

      Atheism does not explain how the sun came to at the correct distance to earth so that life on earth could exist

      Oh Shankar it does. Between modern physics and random events you can fully explain why Earth and Sun are where they are and why they are moving the way they do. The key point is, Earth/Sun system is not a unique system with a particular distance between them but one of many many such systems with all sorts of distance values separating them. That’s where the randomness comes in.

      If random placement is not convincing, pick a grain of sand from the ground and ask why it has that particular shape? Is the shape unique? It is not; there are countless sand grains with countless shapes. Same for Earth/Sun and the distance between them.

      Now moving on to rebirth, everything that we are can be explained in terms of biology, biochemistry, molecular biology and so forth. There is no need to bring in a creator to explain life. The chemical reactions that make up living beings are not any different from inorganic chemistry. You may bring in a creator/god to explain other things but not life for modern science is now sufficiently advanced to explain it fully. The reason why we are here today is because the chemistry that makes up our bodies is very good at making copies of itself and is doing that continuously.

      Now Buddhist women believe good karma makes you beautiful in the next life. So some go on to accumulate good Karma. Others look around and seen that there are women with varying degree of beauty take that as proof for existence of Karma. Now I ask you say, at some point in time and space there are X number of “beings” with sufficiently good Karma to be born as beautiful women. Say we do the following experiment. We let them all be born and take one and clone that woman X times. Now we have 2X beautiful women. I ask you, where did the balance get their Karma to be beautiful?

      I would like to know more about examples where you believe god had to help the world around us. Now I’m a Buddhist. I would very much like to believe in rebirth because it gives hope at the time of death. However, there is no evidence to support there is anything more inside of me other than plain chemistry that we see outside.

      That said, you must have seen Shamini arguing that Buddhists culture/practices are dumb and philosophy is the real deal. I would actually argue that Buddhist philosophy (aside from what it says about daily life which is common sense anyway), all this rebirth, karma, nirwana, hethupalawadaya etc. etc is a lot of bull and it’s the cultural element that is of any use for it binds people together and helps them face the challenges of their lives.

  • 0

    Shaym, you are partly correct and partly wrong. Correct because the age-old debate on the mind and matter has not yet been solved either for mind-fans or for the matter-fans. Wrong because it is too early to jump to a conclusion because we do not know yet conclusively whether there is life after death or there was life even before death. If someone comes up with a proof one day, then, we may honestly repent that we had just made conclusions without proper facts. Hence, that part may still be kept open for revision later.
    Several years back, I met an old school principal at a funeral in Mawathagama. The conversation invariably got into rebirth and this principal had a fine theory about it. He told me in Sinhala, because he was not versed in the language of the Suddas, that rebirth is nothing but one passing his genes to his children. There is nothing called a soul or atman passing from one life to another. He said many years before Richard Dawkins and Carl Sagan telling us that genes are hi-bred (a mixture of both mother’s and father’s),eternally changing and evolving into new genes by making a natural selection at all times, having borrowed a term from Darwin. It appears that the wild speculation of this old principal is now vindicated.
    You being a student of philosophy should know this better. But even before the Buddha during the period of Vedas (some 2000 to 3000 years before the Buddha), there was a live debate about this atman; Vedantha philosophy believed that Atman was equivalent to Brahman which is a state of eternal peace and in my view it is similar to Nirvana of the Buddha. Then, there was this popular belief about the soul which according to Vedas will transmigrate from one body to another without a change in its composition or information set. But the Buddha differed from the Vedas coming up with a new theory called Anaathma Vaadaya, Law of Impermanent Soul, saying that the soul evolves eternally and it is not the same soul which one may have got at his birth which he has at the time of death but some evolved one with the characteristic that it is neither the previous one but not completely different from the previous one. Rahula in his What the Buddha taught has amplified this. I recall Rev Kotagama Vaachisssara who taught us Buddhist Civilisation in the old Vidyodaya Uni in mid 1960s telling us that the Buddha had only one original contribution that deserved him to gain a PhD and that was nothing but his Anaathma Vaadaya, the migration of the evolving soul from a person to his offspring.
    Today, this evolving soul is nothing but the evolving gene as posited by Richard Dawkins. In that sense, you can put a stop to rebirth by not producing offspring. Can’t you?
    Would like to pick your philosophical brain on this.

  • 0

    The safe path is to follow Buddha’s advise in Kalama Sutra where he explains the consolation of leading a life devoid Raga, Dosha and Moha.

    ‘Suppose there is a hereafter and there is a fruit, a result, of deeds done well or ill, then it is possible that at the dissolution of the body after death, I shall be reborn in the heavenly world, which is possessed of the state of bliss’. This is his first consolation.
    ‘Suppose there is no hereafter and there is no fruit, no result of deeds done well or ill then in this world, here and now, free from hatred, free from malice, safe and sound and happy, I keep myself’. This is his second consolation.

  • 0

    Just Garbage in garbage out.

    What do you think about theoretical physics. It is all theoretical. So, it is non sense ?

    Mathematics is all about probabilities and not the reality. So, it is all crap ?

    Only rational things are correct ?

    I think, some human beings do not want to accept that things that we can not understand rationally means we don’t know about it. Even in science, we did not observe something does not mean that it is not there.

    You have quoted some one. Do you think that he knew every thing ?

    • 0

      Well said

  • 0

    Congratulations to SJ for once again bravely attempting to explain the thruth about life to the weak minded who are lost in the jungle of religion. If he can make one person see the facts and help him/her to take life on to his/her own hand(and head)and transform his/her life into a happy and fulfilling one, SJ has done his job

    I have seen the Abraham Kovoors, Carlo Fonsekas and my own religion teacher R A Marthas and more who spent a great deal of time trying to “prove” that re-birth occurs. All they ended up was gathering some evidence. Some fifty years later, today a different mob is engaged in repeating the same experiments and going round delivering lectures and writing books trying to prove the same thing. whether it is true or not, what have they achieved?
    Isn’t living the present life you already have fulfilling enough as long as what you do is NOT illegal, immoral or bad for your health?
    Coincidently, RMIT researches today released the results of their findings into “What a person wants to lead a happy life” The answer? an intimate partner to share emotions with, $100 000 per annum income and a passion to wake up to every morning.
    How true? Who cares about next birth?

  • 0

    [ Nothing of my ego will survive. ]

    This is also wrong argument.

    Just take your present life as example. Your childhood and moment there after you remember only as a thought. In other words, what you say EGO is a just a chain of events that you remember in your thoughts. Can you find any thing else other than what I said.

    You think that you are permanent and you exist. but what does exist. Your dead body decays and and disappears. Your consciousness is limited to a chain of thoughts connected to each event while you are aging.

    Can you find anything else ?

  • 0

    Good reading. Long before the subject of Religion was discovered the study of Astronomy and Astrology was found. First it was Astronomy where man with his intuitive mind was able to study the Planets and their movements. Calculations of orbiting was perfect. Mind you this was thousands of years before the Hubble’s telescope was invented. Then grew the subject of Astrology, where it was found the effects of planetary movement on the living beings on earth. This gave rise to various beliefs that man sought divine guidance for relief and the Religions were born. All Religions in practice today are less than three thousand years, whereas mankind had lived much much before. Religion would have brought solace to mankind then, long before man traveled, but not anymore for the conflict and mayhem seen in today’s mixed societies. If only man can understand that faith can not move mountains although the Religious believe so.

    Religions have been successful in the past in bringing people together of the same faith to be Orderly and Obedient. Thus Rulers have made use of the Clergy of all Religions and the backscratching has continued todate. History is not replete with instances where the Clergy has taken over from the Rulers. There has been conflict as well resulting in mass murder and destruction. The only consolation is that DEATH brings an end to all villainy and suffering, where all are made equal without exception.

  • 0

    Strange article and stranger arguments for and against. What does it matter what people believe, as long as they live according to the moral precepts of the code they follow. All philosophies and religions recognise the power of love, generosity and kindness. That’s all that matters.

  • 0

    ” Only a scientific investigation can do that. One cannot assert that science is not the only source of knowledge and that religion is another valid source and leave it at that.”

    Albert Einstein was not a Scientist. He was a mathematician. There are many very intelligent people who are not scientists at all but they contribute to Science a lot.

    For the last 150 years or so, Scientific method has been useful only in very basic things. Theoretical Physics, quantum mechanics like subjects can not be handled with scientific method.

    You just hang onto a concept and refuse to investigate other things. Because of that, you can not find whether you are intelligent or dumb.

    The worst thing that a human being can do to itself is that when the person does not know that he is dumb.

  • 0

    Buddhist View on Death and Rebirth

    …Ven. Thich Nguyen Tang…

    — o0o —

    As a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, working as a Buddhist chaplain at several of Melbourne’s hospitals and as well as Melbourne assessment prison, I have witnessed many personal tragedies faced by the living and of course the very process of dying and that of death and many of these poor people faced their death with fear, with misery and pain before departing this world. With the images of all these in my mind, on this occasion, I wish to share my view from the perspective of a Buddhist and we hope that people would feel far more relaxed in facing this inevitable end since it is really not the end of life, according to our belief.

    Death and the impermanence of life

    In the teaching of the Buddha, all of us will pass away eventually as a part in the natural process of birth, old-age and death and that we should always keep in mind the impermanence of life. The life that we all cherish and wish to hold on.

    To Buddhism, however, death is not the end of life, it is merely the end of the body we inhabit in this life, but our spirit will still remain and seek out through the need of attachment, attachment to a new body and new life. Where they will be born is a result of the past and the accumulation of positive and negative action, and the resultant karma (cause and effect) is a result of ones past actions.

    This would lead to the person to be reborn in one of 6 realms which are; heaven, human beings, Asura, hungry ghost, animal and hell. Realms, according to the severity of ones karmic actions, Buddhists believe however, none of these places are permanent and one does not remain in any place indefinitely. So we can say that in Buddhism, life does not end, merely goes on in other forms that are the result of accumulated karma. Buddhism is a belief that emphasizes the impermanence of lives, including all those beyond the present life. With this in mind we should not fear death as it will lead to rebirth.

    The fear of death stemmed from the fear of cease to be existent and losing ones identity and foothold in the world. We see our death coming long before its arrival, we notice impermanence in the changes we see around us and to us in the arrival of aging and the suffering due to losing our youth. Once we were strong and beautiful and as we age, as we approach our final moments of life we realize how fleeting such a comfortable place actually was.


    It is natural to grieve the loss of family members and others we knew, as we adjust to living without their presence and missing them as part of our lives. The death of a loved one, or even someone we were not close to, is terribly painful event, as time goes on and the people we know pass away along the journey of life, we are reminded of our own inevitable ends in waiting and everything is a blip of transience and impermanent.

    At a certain moment, the world seems suddenly so empty and the sense of desperation appears to be eternity. The greater the element of grief and personal loss one tends to feel sorry for oneself.

    Some of us may have heard the story of the women who came to the Buddha in great anguish, carrying her dead child pleading him to bring the child back to life. The Buddha said Bring to me a mustard seed from any household where no-one had ever died and I will fulfill your wish. The woman’s attempt to search for such seed from houses were in vain and of course she could not find any household in which no-one had ever died and suddenly she realized the universality of death.


    According to Buddhism, our lives and all that occurs in our lives is a result of Karma. Every action creates a new karma, this karma or action is created with our body, our speech or our mind and this action leaves a subtle imprint on our mind which has the potential to ripen as future happiness or future suffering, depending on whether the action was positive or negative.

    If we bring happiness to people, we will be happy. If we create suffering, we will experience suffering either in this life or in a future one.

    This is called the Law of Karma, or the Law of Cause and Effect. Karmic law will lead the spirit of the dead to be reborn, in realms which are suitable appropriate to their karmic accumulations.

    According to His Holiness, the 14 th Dali Lama of Tibet, that to cultivate the good karma, our good actions are an excellent way prepare for our death. Not performing evil deeds, keeping our heart and mind pure, doing no harm, no killing, sexual misconduct or lying, not using drugs or alcohol has very positive merit which enable us to die as we have lived.

    The way we pass reflects the way we lived our lives, a good death putting a good stamp on a good life. As Leonardo Da Vinci once wrote in his notebook; Just as a well spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings a happy death. If we have lived a life of emotional turmoil, of conflict selfish desire unconcerned for others, our dying will be full of regrets, troubles and pain. It is far better to care for the lives for all around us rather than spending a fortune in prolonging life or seeking ways to extend it for those who can afford it, at the expense of relieving suffering in more practical ways. Improving the moral and spiritual quality of life improves its quality for us all rather than the selfish individualism that benefits the elite few who draw most resources.

    Preparing for death and Buddhist rituals associated with dying

    Buddhist clergy often remind their followers about closeness of death, emphasize the importance in getting to know death and take time to prepare for their own demise.

    How do we prepare for death?. It is really simple, just behave in a manner which you believe is responsible, good and positive for yourself and towards others. This leads to calmness, happiness and an outlook which contributes to a calm and controlled mind at the time of death.

    Through this positive and compassionate outlook of life, always being aware of the impermanence of life and having a loving attitude towards all living things in this transient existence we will be free of fear in opposite to grasping selfishly to life due to not having experienced happiness in life.

    Having lead a responsible and compassionate life and have no regrets when death approaches enables us to surrender without a struggle to the inevitable and in a state of grace which need not be as uncomfortable as we are led to believe. A dying Buddhist person is likely to request the service of a monk or nun in their particular tradition to assist in this process further, making the transitional experience of death as peaceful and free of fear as can be possibly achieved.

    Before and at the moment of death and for a period after death, the monk, nun or spiritual friends will read prayers and chants from the Buddhist Scriptures. In Buddhist traditions, this death bed chanting is regarded as very important and is ideally the last thing the Buddhist hears. Buddhists believe that we can actively assist and bring relief to the dying members through assisting the dying through the process of dying.

    Through Buddhist doctrine we are told by Buddhist masters that the final moment of our consciousness is paramount, the most important moment of all. If the ill person is in hospital and the diagnosis is grim that the person cannot possibly survived, the family should call in the Buddhist priest to pray for the loved one so that at the final moment, the right state of mind has been generated within the person and they can find their way into a higher state of rebirth as they leave the present lives.

    The nurses and family members are not supposed to touch the corpse, having to wait 3-8 hours after breathing ceases before touching the body for any preparation after the death. We Buddhists believe that the spirit of a person will linger on for sometime and can be affected by what happened to the corpse. It is important that the body is treated gently and with respect and that the priest can help the spirit continues its journey calmly to higher states, not causing the spirit to becoming angry and confused and may be more likely to be reborn into the lower realms.

    In the Mahayana Buddhism, especially, Vietnamese tradition we pray for the dead for 49 days after passing away, 49 being the estimated time it takes for the spirit to be reborn again into a new life. Some spirits are reborn 3 days, 21 days, 49 days or 100 days after death, and in some cases even 7 years.


    The concept of rebirth or reincarnation has become more popular in the west in recent years due to the influence of Tibetan Buddhism, especially, the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (by Sogyal Rinpoche, 1992) became a best seller in the USA and has been widely read throughout the developed countries by new generations who are concerned with alternative thinking and eastern cultural perspectives. Naturally people concern with life beyond death was stimulated by the ideas contained in such philosophies and beliefs.


    The supreme aim of Buddhism is to obtain nirvana or enlightenment. This translated means a state of liberation or illumination from the limitations of existence. It is the liberation from the cycle of rebirth through countless lives up and down the 6 states of existence. It is obtained through the extinction of desire.

    Nirvana is a state that is obtainable in this life through the right aspiration, purity of life, and the elimination of egotism. This cessation of existence as we know it, the attainment of being, as distinct from becoming. [1] The Buddha speaks of it as unborn, un-originated, uncreated, unformed, contrasting it with the born, originated, created, and formed phenomenal world. Those who have obtained the state of Nirvana are called Buddhas. Gautama Siddhartha had obtained this state and had become a Buddha at 35. However it is now believed that it was only after he had passed away that he reached such a place of perfect tranquility, because some residue of human defilement would continue to exist as long as his physical body existed.

    According to Buddhism if a human does not obtain nirvana or enlightenment, as it is known, the person cannot escape the cycle of death and rebirth and are inevitably be reborn into the 6 possible states beyond this our present life, these being in order from the highest to lowest;

    Heaven. In Buddhism there are 37 different levels of heaven where beings experience peace and long lasting happiness without suffering in the heavenly environment.

    Human life. In Buddhism we can be reborn into human life over and over, either wealthy or poor, beautiful or not so, and every state between and both as it it is served up to us. Anything can happen, as is found in human life and society all around us as we are familiar with in the day to day human world in is myriad of possibilities. What we get is a result of our Karma of what we have dragged with us from previous existences and how it manifests in our temporary present lives.

    Asura. A spiritual state of Demi-Gods but not the happy state experienced by the gods in the heavens above this state. The Demi-Gods are consumed with jealousy, because unlike humans, they can clearly see the superior situation of the gods in the heavens above them. They constantly compete and struggle with the gods due to their dissatisfaction with their desires from the others.

    Hungry Ghost. This spiritual realm of those who committed excessive amounts of evil deeds and who are obsessed with finding food and drink which they cannot experience and thus remain unsatisfied and tortured by the experience. They exhaust themselves in the constant fruitless searching.

    Animals. This realm is visible to humans and it is where spirits of humans are reborn if they have killed animals or have committed a lot of other evil acts. Animals do not have the freedom that humans would experience due to being a subject constantly hunted by humans, farmed and used in farming, also as beasts for entertainment.

    Hell. This realm is not visible to humans. It is a place where beings born there experience a constant state of searing pain and the various types of hell realms reads like a variety of horrific torture chambers. Those with a great deal of negative Karma can remain in such places for eons of time.

    To conclude, as already mentioned, none of us can avoid death and if we are not free from the vicious cycle of death and rebirth, we are doomed to the endless cycles of life and death and its paradoxical nature of suffering, of happiness and sadness, youth and ageing, healthiness and sickness, pain and death, all because we are so attached to the existence in the first place.

    The Buddha urged us to prepare for death, to prepare for that journey by cleansing the mind and not being so attached to things, to be able to let go and release ourselves for needing to be, from needing to have. Through this we will not suffer so much as we pass through the final stage of the present life, we can let go, be grateful for what we had but not clutch to it, not try to ensure permanency and cause ourselves to suffer more than we need to. This way we can end the cycle and leave forever, obtaining nirvana and release from the cycle of death and rebirth.

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    “With the death of the brain my consciousness also goes”


    It has to go some where dont you think,with all the good and the bad one has done during the life time.

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      Where does the flame go when the candle dies??

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    I am much more aligned with rational non-believers because non-believers are the people who can protect the freedom of religion in any country. I think this has happened in advanced Christian nations, and similar thing must happen in Islamic and Buddhist countries. I like your article, it inspires us to think about the inevitable “death.”

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    Sound article, Shyamon Jayasinghe, well argued and meticulous.

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    Sound article, Shyamon Jayasinghe, well argued and meticulous. As science advances relgion recedes. You are quite right stating that sciences were “born out of the cocoon of relgion.” In the beginning all knowledge was the preserve of priests and monks. With the growth of rational thought and empiricism the religous explantions of natural events like thunder etc were replaced by scientific explanations that are verifiable.

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    There is a TIBETAN BOOK – BOOK OF THE DEAD. All about this topic.

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      There is also another book by the present Dalai Lama, which deals very rationally with this subject. It is called “Beyond Religion” – ‘Ethics for a Whole World’. It is a very Worthwhile read.

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    Mr Jayasinghe, Sir. I congratulate you on telling people sense.How many fear to write like this?

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    “What Happens To Me At Death?”

    Simple answer: The undertaker will make a quick buck.

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    Many thanks Shamen. I can remember in 1960’s we read and argued about these concepts continuously at schools and at libraries. We were proud to be rational thinkers.
    After 1975 after university, we joined the public service enjoyed the perks got duty free cars, drivers and quarters which no other public servant in West gets. . Barely read a book or involved in any logical discussion other than small politics.
    Now looking back we can see a young generation followed by us, who believes next birth without any argument, accepts the religion by birth and with rope size thread (pirith nool) wrapped around their neck and wrist and worshiping trees and statue just like “Kondanja Thapasa”.

    I felt that we have not fulfilled our duty and not empowered them to be independent and rational. I just returned to the country a month back. I thought that its time to find the books published by Kour and rationalist association and introduce them to new generation. Its very hard to find them.

    What you have done can be a starting point for the revival of truth..

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    Michael Weaver, Staff, Biology/Microbiology, Merck & Co., Inc.

    First of all let’s look at what happens to the human body at the time of death and soon after. At the very moment of death the heart stops
    beating and the lungs stop breathing. This means that the cells in the body will no longer receive blood and oxygen. Since the blood is no longer being pumped through the body it will drain from the blood vessels at the top of the body and collect in the blood vessels on the lower part of the body. The upper part of the body will become pale and the lower part of the body will become dark. If the person is lying on their back, the front of their body and face will be very pale or even grey while their back will be much darker and look almost like it is bruised. This is called lividity or liver mortis and is one of the first things that a scientist will look at to try to determine when someone died and if they were moved after death.

    At this point most of the cells in the body are still not dead. While
    the brain cells die in the first few minutes after the heart stops,
    muscle cells can live for several hours and skin and bone cells can stay alive for days! How is this possible? Well, the cells use a different type of respiration than when the heart and lungs were working. While the person was alive the cells used aerobic respiration (with oxygen),but after death the cells continue to survive using what is called anaerobic respiration (without oxygen). However, one of the by-products of anaerobic respiration is lactic acid. Lactic acid eventually builds up and causes the muscles to stiffen. This is the same thing that happens to a person’s legs when they run a long distance. The heart and lungs can’t keep up with the demand so the leg muscles start to use anaerobic respiration. In a living person this lactic acid will eventually be cleared out by the circulatory system, but in a dead body this isn’t possible so the entire body stiffens. This is called rigor mortis. Rigor mortis usually starts about 3 hours after death and lasts 36 hours. Eventually all of the cells die and the body can no longer
    fight of bacteria. The cells’ own enzymes and the enzymes of bacteria
    begin to cause the body to decompose and the muscles lose their
    stiffness. Like liver mortis, rigor mortis is another tool that
    scientists can use to determine the time of death.

    OK. Now comes the actual process of decomposition, or breakdown and
    decay of the body. Decomposition can be broken down into 5 steps:

    1.Initial decay
    3.Black putrefaction
    4.Butyric putrefaction
    5. Dry decay

    Let’s look at each of these steps in more detail.

    Step 1: Initial decay

    Initial decay occurs from 0 to 3 days after death. Although the body
    appears fresh from the outside, many things are going on inside the body to contribute to the process of decomposition. The bacteria that are normally inside the intestines of a living person begin to feed on the contents of the intestine and the intestine itself. Eventually these bacteria break out into the body cavity and start to digest other organs. Since the intestine is no longer intact, the body’s digestive enzymes, which were kept safely inside the intestine and stomach, leak out and spread through the body helping to break down more organs and tissues. At the same time, enzymes inside individual cells leak out and digest the cell and its connections with other cells.

    Let’s not forget about the insects! From the moment of death flies are attracted to the smell of the decomposing body. Without the normal defenses of a living body, these flies are able to lay their eggs around wounds and other body openings (mouth, nose, eyes. etc.). Within 24 hours most of these eggs hatch and the larvae, or maggots, move into the body to feed on the dead tissue.

    Step 2: Putrefaction

    Putrefaction occurs from 4 to 10 days after death. As the bacteria are breaking down the tissues and cells they are also producing a lot of gas. These gases include hydrogen sulfide, methane, cadaverine, and putrescine. All of these gases really stink, but insects love the
    smell. More and more flies start to show up along with beetles and
    mites. The gases also cause the body to inflate forcing more fluids out of the cells and blood vessels and into the body cavity. This provides even more food for the bacteria and a nice warm living space for the maggots.

    Step 3: Black putrefaction

    This stage occurs from 10 to 20 days after death. The bloated body
    eventually collapses and the flesh has gotten creamy (like cottage
    cheese). The exposed parts of the body have turned black and the body
    really begins to stink. A lot of the fluids have now leaked out of the body into the soil attracting more insects and mites. These insects and mites will eventually consume most of the flesh on the body. Bacteria are still at work also, and will consume the flesh if there are no insects around. The temperature of the body also increases due to all of the insect activity.

    Step 4: Butyric fermentation

    Butyric fermentation occurs from 20 to 50 days after death. All of the remaining flesh on the body is removed during this time and the body starts to dry out. It has a “cheesy” smell caused by butyric acid. This smell attracts a bunch of new organisms to the body. Mold starts to grow on the part of the body that is touching the ground and a lot of beetles show up. Since the body is beginning to dry out maggots are no longer able to eat the tough flesh. Beetles, however, are able to chew through this tough material such as skin and ligaments.

    Step 5: Dry decay

    This stage occurs from 50 to 365 days after death. The body is now dry and decays very slowly. Tineid moths and bacteria eventually eat the person’s hair, leaving nothing but bones. As long as there are no large animals around to carry them away, the bones can remain almost

    That brings us to the end of the decomposition process. Most of these
    steps depend a lot on the climate. Temperature and moisture and the
    presence of insects will affect how long this whole process takes.
    Decomposition will occur much faster in the summer than in the winter and also will take longer in a body that is buried than a body that is left exposed on the ground.

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      Very good to know it in such entertaining detail. I see how much fun I will miss by being burnt.
      thank u in any case.

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    When conditiones are right,the neccesary elements comes together, things apear.
    When thay are no more, things disapear.

    To make a bowl, you need earth,water,fire,wind, a pair of hands to put them together.
    Take one element out and what would you see…?

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    This man thinks that he knows every thing but he is like Pharaoh who said that” I’m a Lord”. He is a ” modern idiot”. He does not know it his limitation. Man can not penetrate with his mind into certain unseen in this universe such that of world of angle, what happens after life, the reality of human soul, nature of devils and so on. This man and his cohorts of so called rationalists believe that every thing should come under human experiment and empirical examination? Whatever does not come or can not be felt beyond human senses are not acceptable to these so called modern idiots. He thinks and He and creator of this universe is equal in status that is why he is dared to question God? There has been arrogant people like him in human history. Read the history of all prophets mentioned the holy Texts you will see friends of devils in each age and time.
    When he dies he will realise what happens to him and he would not have second change to come and tell us. If speaks as if he control the world after his death. What a ignorant stupid is this. CT waste time and energy of people by publishing rubbish like this.

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    “Number one talk” should not abuse like this. Let him meet argument by argument and fact by fact. If he cannot do that he must not enter this forum. We all know the figurative meaning of “Number one.” It relates to the toilet. He is one of the many who beleive in an unseen reality. As Sharmon says to accept such a belief there must be evidence in the world we live in.Where is that Number One? Why not give the evidence instead of abusing those who differ from you? You had better keep tying threads round your wrist and worshipping trees and statues.We are in the 21st century

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    Your interpretations on social injustice is acceptable. What is not convincing is the black & white, flat theory explaining the causes. It seems that you are still bogged down with the five senses, deductive or inductive methods and positivism. All these concepts are conclusively challenged and new paradigms are emerging.

    The problem lies here; “Only a scientific investigation can do that. One cannot assert that science is not the only source of knowledge…”

    You say “Who else can fill it but religionists?” So you believe in only two methodologies “science” and religion. This is what we call dogma; a belief or set of beliefs that a political, philosophical, or moral group holds to be true (Encarta Dictionary).

    Mr SJ is adamant on believing a single absolute “truth” based on “scientific” investigation-a quantitative research methodology. There are other “realistic” qualitative methodologies which suggest multiple truths. They claim that truth is subjective,it depends on the observer.

    How about the “double-slit experiment”? Watch this 5 minute clip;
    The observer doing nothing but the observant affected, HOW?

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    Thank you for the write up. I share the same views though I don’t get the time to write about it.

    “The belief in an afterlife that religion extolls has helped make populations docile. Don’t worry, they say, about injustice for the good are rewarded in Paradise.”

    When I bring up war crimes and other outrages by the Rajapaksa regime, some people, e.g., Rajasingham Narendran, bring up the same ‘Karmic’ arguments to imply that investigations of such crimes is not that important. I find such arguments infuriating.

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    “To Die Is Gain”. Philippians 1:21-23. “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain…having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better” …
    Here or there Chrst is the beloved of a Christian.

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      Yes, Religion will help your to die in peace, and rest in peace with the elements.

      What are the elements? Hydrogen, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Phosphorus, Sulfur, Selenium, Iron, Zinc, Magnesium and a host of other Elements.

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    Tell you what enlightenment is?

    For people like Jim Softly, it is when they work out it is time to shut the f*** up!

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    Dear. P. Watawala. With all respect to you. I think that this man hurts religious feelings of 6 billion people on earth and more than 20 millions in SL. He understands only that type of language so to speak. He only understand the languages of logics and rationalism. He does not understand the language of spiritualism and unseen: He never tasted it in his life. He needs some lessons on religious life. He understands only everything that comes under his Norse or under his senses. He can not accept any thing beyond that his sense.yet, evidence for designer/ maker of this universe are abundance on him and on this world: assume a car came into being with a producer or pen came into existence without maker will you believe it? What about this huge universe? Will it come into existence with a maker? Only lunatic like him will say this universe is accidentally came into being; Darwin is dead? He follows path of those already dead Darwinism and rationalism, rationalism has its own weakness like him: He is feeble man when he dies he will regret that he misguided people on earth? He will feel that he made mistakes with his evil thought: when he is on his deathbed he will know that there is another unseen world to come? Each one of us will go through that stage: once you come to that stage in your life you do not return to earth to tell people, wait and see who are right people who follow divine guidance or who follow rationalists like this man: when you die he would not come to help you: it is you yourself will need to deal will that situation and you will be accountable and resposnblity to your life: This lunatic will not come to help you on your death bed: he speaks as if he tested death in his life.
    In this world there are two types of choice: one is your own choice: like that of your action and your thought: you have control over it . You will be accountable to such action and thought : second one is beyond your control: for instance you are driving your car suddenly a tree falls on you and people in your car die? Actions of natural disasters like that of tsunamni/ floods or Earth quakes, you do not have control over it. All these actions that you do not have control over you are coming from someone superior to human beings and beyond the control man. Why can not these lunatics feel and think that these phenomena are coming from some one superior to man? All these come from the Creator of this universe not from any one else. Thus, God/ Creator of this universe has control over us in each and every minutes and he gave us freedom to live as we like and we will be accountable to Him for all actions. Otherwise what is the difference between animals and us:
    This person is misguided by his devil thought. Please do not fellow him and he will misguide humanity, theses are devils among human beings in the form of just human beings but they think and act like devils: be aware of this? He wants spoil minds and thought of innocent Srilankans who are God fearing people; Srilankans have hisotriy of thousands of years of religious life and practice this devil in form of human being wants to spoil people and misguide them.

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