Deepak Chopra

 This article, the fifth in a 12-part series, is reprinted with permission from IntentBlog.

Note: While writing a new book on the afterlife, (Life After Death: The Burden of Proof) I kept being drawn back to stories that I'd heard in India as a child. In these stories the abstract issues of death, immortality, and eternity acquire a human face as ordinary people confronted the mystery of death. I hoped that reader will be intrigued by a world where heroes battle darkness in order to emerge into the light.

In this case the hero is a woman named Savitri, and the enemy she must defeat is Yama, the lord of death. Yama shows up in her front yard one day, waiting to take away her husband the moment he returns from his work as a woodcutter. Will she succeed? What strategy can possibly turn Death away from his inexorable mission?

Part 5 (Begin at part 1 by clicking here.)

''I wonder if Yama fools himself?" Ramana mused. ''He certainly fools everyone else."

''You talk as if he's pulling some kind of trick," Savitri said. It was wearing on her to be in the forest this long. She knew that very soon time would run out.

''Yama is pulling a trick," Ramana agreed. ''You wouldn't have run away from him if you'd known." Ramana stopped, as if he had pronounced something obvious.

''Show me how the trick works," Saivtri said.

''All right. I'll tell you another story. There was a monkey who was shut inside a small room in a castle tower. Nothing was happening in the room, but the monkey wasn't content to sit there.

''The monkey could only divert himself by going to the window and looking out at the world. This distracted him for a while, but then he started to think about his situation. How did he get in this tower? Who captured him and put him there? The monkey's mood began to darken. There was nothing to do, no one to talk to. These thoughts made him more and more depressed. The room seemed to close in; the monkey started to sweat anxiously. No, he suddenly realized, I'm not in a room, I'm in hell. Quickly his depression grew into anguish and anguish into torment. The monkey saw demons all around inflicting every imaginable pain.

''This is it, the monkey thought. I am in eternal hell. And so the torment continued, getting worse and worse. The monkey saw no way out. But gradually it actually got used to torment, and then a bit bored. How much time had elapsed? Years, ages–the monkey couldn't remember. But in his mind he saw images of the nice room he used to live in. It wasn't such a bad room, not really. In fact, it was rather pleasant to be by oneself looking out the window at all the fascinating things going on outside.

''Bit by bit the demons stopped torturing the monkey and withdraw. He began to feel better, and soon the day came when he found himself back in the room as before, only now he was feeling optimistic. Life was free of pain, which is enjoyable in itself. The monkey grew more cheerful, and then…."

Ramana broke off. ''You no doubt know where this parable is headed."

Savitri nodded. ''The monkey is going to heaven."

''Exactly. He starts to feel better and better, until he imagines himself in Paradise, and instead of being punished by demons he is being soothed by angels. Ah, the monkey thinks, I am in eternal bliss."

"Until he gets bored again," Savitri remarked.

Ramana nodded. ''The monkey is the mind, sitting alone in the tower of the head. As the mind expands with pleasure and contracts with pain, it creates every possible world, constantly falling for its own creations. The monkey will believe in heaven for a while, but then boredom will set in, and being the seed of discontent, boredom will pull him out of heaven and back down to hell."

Savitri felt despondent. ''So we're all trapped. That's horrible."

''Only if you agree to be trapped. I didn't say the tower was locked," said Ramana. ''There is an infinite domain outside the castle walls. Take your mind outside the walls. There is freedom outside, and having achieved it, you will never be forced to go to heaven or hell again." 

Continue on to part 6 of this 12-part story.

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