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Afterlife

Afterlife. The condition awaiting humans and the cosmos after death or at the end of time. Beliefs vary greatly between religions, though in origin the major continuing religious traditions, both East and West, had no belief that there would be a worthwhile existence after death. They could not deny that in some sense there is a trace of the dead, in memory and dreams, or in the resemblance of offspring to ancestors; but whatever state the dead may be in, it is a condition of extreme weakness, in which all connection with God and with the living is cut off, and certainly to be avoided or postponed as long as possible: it is, in Sophocles' words, ton apotropon Haidan, Hades to be shunned. The most militant reaction to this occurred in China, in the quest for immortality; and gradually both traditions came to realize that there may be about us that which does endure through the process of time and therefore perhaps through the event of death.

The Jewish tradition has come to believe that the life of human beings continues through death, and that there will be a consummation of the purposes of God in the messianic age. Today, Orthodox Jews still maintain a belief in bodily resurrection, but most Reform Jews are only concerned with spiritual survival. The Jewish equivalent of hell is derived from the mundane ‘valley of Hinnom’, Gehinnom, Gk., Gehenna.

Christian beliefs were formed in the context of acute Jewish debates, in the period of the second Temple, about the likelihood and nature of the afterlife, and are controlled by the astonished and grateful acceptance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus himself had affirmed belief in life after death, arguing against the Sadducees, but not going into detail. Early Christianity put together the two Jewish forms of speculation, thereby talking of the resurrection of the body, but also of the continuing life of the soul in the interval before the resurrection body is restored to it—a ‘gap’ which eventually allowed the doctrine of purgatory.

The afterlife in Islam is known as al-akhira. The Muslim understanding of the afterlife is based on vivid and literal pictures in the Qurʾān.

The early understandings in India of human nature and its destiny much resemble in attitude those of the Jewish Bible. The Vedic imagination could conceive only of this life as a place of guaranteed worth. Neither samsāra nor ātman as immortal soul are present in the Vedas. The advance to ātman was made in the Brāhmaṇas and Āraṇyakas via prāṇa, breath—the recognition that prāṇa is the support of life. Prāṇa is like the logos in the W., since it not only supports life, but is the creator of sound (vāc, see e.g. Jaiminīya Upaniṣad Brāhmaṇa 8. 2. 6), and becomes equated with Brahman as creator. Thus the life-principle in humans (and other manifestations) is eventually believed to be not other than the undying Brahman—so that ātman is Brahman. Rebirth carries the soul through many appearances, so that rebirth has become an evil to be brought to an end. The many hells belong firmly within the process of rebirth, not to any eternal destiny—an understanding which is true of Eastern religions in general.

For Jains, the afterlife is mapped onto a cosmography in which the Middle World includes the part inhabited by humans. Below are a series of hells of increasing unpleasantness; above are a series of heavens of increasing brightness, including the abode of the gods. But those heavens are not the desirable state: this is the Isatpragbhara, the slightly curved (shaped somewhat like curved space in a parabola), where the jīvas which have ceased to be encumbered by bodies abide.

Buddhists pressed further in resisting the Hindu move toward an eternal ātman. While there is continuity of consequence through samsāra, there is no eternal and undying subject of this process (anātman). The process may move through heavens and hells, but these are no ‘abiding city’. The afterlife may involve being reborn as an animal or attaining the condition of arhat: between the two, many Theravādin Buddhists aim for a better outcome in the next birth without aiming too far. In Mahāyāna, the realization of the ultimate goal was brought closer within reach, particularly through devotion to bodhisattvas, whose role it is to save all sentient beings. While sharing Hindus' presuppositions about rebirth, Sikh teaching emphasizes the possibility of attaining mukti during one's present life.

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"Afterlife." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 28 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Afterlife." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved April 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/afterlife

afterlife

af·ter·life / ˈaftərˌlīf/ • n. [usu. in sing.] 1. (in some religions) life after death. 2. later life: they spent much of their afterlife trying to forget the fire.

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"afterlife." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 28 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"afterlife." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved April 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/afterlife-0

Afterlife

Afterlife

see life after death

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afterlife

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"afterlife." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved April 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/afterlife