When you die, it might be like changing channels. Imagination will continue to do what it has always been doing–popping new images upon the screen. Some traditions believe that there’s a complex process of reliving karma when you die so that as person can learn what this lifetime was about and prepare to make a new soul bargain for the next lifetime.
The moment of death is described as having your life flash before you, not at lightening speed as experienced by people when they’re drowning, but slowly and with full understanding of every choice one has made since birth.
If you are conditioned to think in terms of heaven and hell, going to one or the other will be your experience. The creative machinery of consciousness will produce the experience of that other place, while to someone who has led the same life under no such belief system, these images might appear to be a blissful dream or a reliving of collective fantasies (life a fairy tale), or the unspooling of themes from childhood.
But if you go to another world after death, that world will be in you as much as this one is. Does that mean heaven and hell are not real? Look out the window at a tree. It has no reality except as a specific space-time event being actualized out of the infinite potential of the field. Therefore, it’s only fair to say that heaven and hell are just as real as that tree, and just as unreal.
The absolute break between life and death is an illusion.
What bothers people about losing the body is that it seems like a terrible break or interruption. This interruption is imagined as going into the void; it is total personal extinction. Yet that perspective, which arouses huge fears, is limited to the ego.
Adapted from The Book of Secrets, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2004).