When people wonder if the personality survives death, the answer is that the personality doesn’t even survive while we are alive. We are not the same person we were five, ten, or fifteen years ago and it would be a sorry state if we were. Our personalities are constantly evolving, transforming, growing.
If the question becomes, Does the individual survive death?, the answer is, What’s an individual? In reality what we call “me” is different from day to day, week to week, year to year. Which individual are you talking about, the young person who was in love and full of romance and desire, or the child who was full of innocence and wonder? Perhaps we must wait for the one who is senescent and dying. Which one would you survive as?
Perhaps none. Vedanta tells us that the afterlife brings the opportunity for a creative leap. As our choices continue to expand, we will experience a new reality that is far richer than the conventional notion of heaven.
Heaven is an end point, whereby definitions, all transformation, stops. Souls lounge around in a blessed state that sounds, frankly, like eternal assisted living. Why should consciousness become inert? In the afterlife survival would be meaningless unless we continued to respond.
Ghosts and spirits have much to teach. Every former self you have left behind is a ghost. Your body is no longer the body of a child. Your thoughts, desires, fears, and hopes have changed. It would be terrible to walk around with all your dead selves holding on. Let them go.
Even the self you had today is a ghost. What they have to teach you is that death has been with you every moment of your life. You have survived thousands of deaths every day as your old thoughts, your old cells, your old emotions, and even your old identity passed away. Everyone is living in the afterlife right now. What is there to fear or doubt?
Ghosts are as real as dreams. But you are in the here and now, not in the past. Seeing yourself in this way will give you new courage.
Adapted from Life After Death: The Burden of Proof, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2006).