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The Soul World as I Understand It
Do soul worlds exist? If you believe in an afterlife, i.e. life after death, then you obviously must believe in its existence. However, if you do not believe in an afterlife, then trying to convince you would be a topic in itself and is therefore beyond the scope of this discussion.
Yet, even if we all do agree that soul worlds exist, our idea of what they are like is very likely to differ. This is because different religions have different views as to what the soul world is.
I must admit that my belief in a soul world came rather late in life, i.e. in the early 2000s, when I was around age 50. Earlier on, I had been searching for the meaning of life and in the process, entered the domain of religion, when I studied Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism. My interest in the soul world only happened when I began to actively study Buddhism after my early retirement in 2002. I stayed at various Theravada Buddhist monasteries to practise meditation, but it was only after I read a Mahayana Buddhist text about the afterlife that I was finally convinced as to what shape the soul world is like.
An Inclusive Model of the Soul World
This model of the soul world, largely based on the Mahayana Buddhist model, claims that there are 3 realms in the soul world:
- The Desire (Form and Sense) World;
- The Form World (without senses); and
- The Formless World.
Each of these worlds comprises many sub-levels and as such, we should view the 3 worlds as a continuous spectrum, merging into one another, rather than as an abrupt change from one world to the next.
The Formless World is at the top of the hierarchy and therefore, all formless gods are among the highest souls. There is not just one formless god but many. Souls (gods) in this world live for aeons (a very, very long time), such that as Buddha said, they tend to forget that they are mortal beings that would also eventually die. The God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam belongs to this realm. So also is the Su God of Mahikari.
The Form World (without senses) is an intermediate realm between the Formless World and the Desire (Form and Sense) World. Souls in this world have form but do not have the 5 senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. This is why, when devotees pray to this type of gods, they have a statue but do not offer food. Many Hindu gods fall into this category.
The Desire (Form and Sense) World is the lowest realm in the soul world hierarchy, and is further divided into 6 sub-realms, according to Buddhism:
- Devas (gods or deities): Practically all Chinese gods fall into this category, as can be seen from how the Chinese offer food to their deities;
- Asuras (demons): These are souls that suffer from the poison of hate;
- Hungry ghosts: These are souls that are full of greed; and
Buddhism believes in instantaneous reincarnation. However, based on what I learned from attending seances that attempt to contact the deceased, there is another sub-realm where the deceased go to. It is sometimes called "Hades". Hades differ from Hell in that Hades is very much like our world, while Hell is the prison. Not surprisingly, the Desire World is the most populated of the 3 Worlds, with the last 4 sub-realms of the Desire World in the above list being the most populated.
Scientific Evidence of Rebirth by Dr Jim Tucker
Where each soul belongs to depends solely on the purity of their heart, irrespective of religion. What is a pure heart? WikiAnswers puts its as "a heart free of possessiveness, a heart able to feel the sorrow of others, a heart that thirsts for what is right, a heart that is not vengeful. We see a pure heart in the face of any saintly person."
In Buddhism, a pure heart is defined as a heart that is free from the 3 poisons of attachment, aversion, and ignorance, sometimes translated in simpler terms, albeit less accurately, as greed, hate, and delusion. Attachment, however, is more than just greed. If you think of having a hotdog for breakfast, it's said that you have an attachment to hotdogs, an earthly object, and thus disqualify you from entering the Form World without senses. Sounds tough, right? That's why it is so hard to reach the higher levels of the soul world. And if your idea of heaven is a land full of honey and wine, then you would, by now, know which of the 3 worlds you would belong to, in the Hereafter, for what is the point of having honey and wine, if you have no sense of taste to enjoy them.
The Six Realms of the Desire World
My understanding of what religion is all about
I find this all-inclusive view of the spiritual or soul world very appealing because there is room to accommodate all religions, including atheists. The only criterion for elevation in the spiritual world is a pure heart: the purer the heart, the higher a soul will be elevated in the spiritual world.
This view of the soul world also implies that all religions are mere vehicles to spirituality. It admits of the fact that all of us are at various stages in our spiritual development and that there is no such thing as "My religion is better than yours". Many people cannot, for example, visualize a formless god and require something in front of them to focus their attention in order to seek spiritual guidance. Hence, for such people, a god from the lower Form World, that they can mentally associate with, will suit them better. A corollary would be if you want to study a new subject or a new language. If you have zero knowledge to begin with, you start at the lowest level. You don't try to apply to a university, do you? For those who have some knowledge, they can commence at an intermediate level. So let us respect each other's religion because religions are not an end in itself but merely vehicles to spirituality.
Imagine two persons bickering over whose religion is the only one true religion and ending up with hatred. What is their spiritual level? It doesn't require rocket science to know that if elevation in the spiritual world means having a pure heart that is full of love and compassion, and devoid of hatred, those who bicker over religion will sink to the bottom of the soul-world pyramid and will have a lowly existence in the Hereafter. A religious person should be a kind-hearted and harmless person, not an ugly bigot. If he is full of hatred, even if his hatred is only to protect his own religion, then one of the lowest realms is where he rightly belongs. That's it! This concept of the soul world makes more sense to me than those so-called religious followers killing innocent lives in the name of their religion.
Do we need a religion?
Gods and prophets are here to guide us, that's all. Unlike kings, they cannot pardon us because all karmic debts have to be repaid, one way or another. If anyone kills another, he or she goes to Hell. That's it. If it were not the case, it would be unfair to the victim and to others, whether they also kill or otherwise. What one can only do is to do more good deeds to offset their negative deeds. On that note, war can NEVER be sanctioned and cannot be justified, except in self-defense.
That being so, why would we then need a religion? Well, followers of a religion usually form a community where they help one another. The immediate benefit is apparent. Similarly, souls, spiritual guides, and gods from the other world can also help you. Just like friends and strangers, they sometimes help you without your asking. Usually, however, you have to ask because you have the right to live your life the way you see fit... the Christians call it "free-will". As Jesus said, "Ask and it shall be given to you," meaning if you do not ask, God is not going to interfere with your life.
One can also seek help from the dark forces of the other world. This is what black magic is all about. It is my understanding that whether you are a black magician or merely a 'patron', you will have to suffer Hell in the Hereafter for entangling yourself with it. I came to this conclusion after hearing about a friend who contacted her deceased mother through a séance. Her mother told her that she was undergoing great suffering in Hell for using black magic to stop her husband (my friend's father) from philandering.