Exploring the Afterlife
Q: Describe the Afterlife for Taoism
A simple answer: A Person is eternal in their own life.
Death illustrated from the Chuang-Tzu:
“Since life and death are each other’s companions,
why worry about them? All beings are one.”
Diving Deeper into the Afterlife
In Taoism, death is neither feared nor desired instead a person enjoys living.
A few basic concepts which define the nature of Afterlife for Taoism:
- In one sense: afterlife doesn’t exist regarding a Taoist belief system. It’s in life that we are eternal in Taoism. The afterlife is within life itself. We are of the Tao when living and upon death are the Tao again. We are always, eternally, within our essence. Death, on the other hand, is when you are outside of your story. Understand the expression of a life is within life.
- We touch upon echoes of existence. So for example:
- When you die, you still live, in the memories of others.
- When you die, your essence reincarnates into a new form and story.
- When you die, you bounce back into your own life and have the opportunity to experience another variation of your life.
- When you die, you rejoin the universe and are one with God if you believe in God.
- When you die, you discover so many truths exist
One way some people think of this is as: Afterlife in Taoism becomes what you hold as being true. If you keep only a single truth, then this statement is acceptable within Taoism. If you embrace only a single truth, you just see one color and have only one option amidst the rainbow of possibilities.
- Many variations exist within Taoism. Taoism is quite open on this question, and as Taoists, we like it that way. In some of the religious branches of Taoism, we have immortal deities. Many stories exist where some Taoist is chasing after various forms of immortality. Chasing immortality isn’t an afterlife as much as a pastime.
- Many Taoists don’t even worry about the afterlife; it’s a non-issue. I love my friend Donna’s answer from Changing Places when she said to me:
“The Tao is simply logical. There’s no mysticism or need for invisible sky gods or some weird belief that you’re important enough to be reincarnated – you simply return to the Tao when you die. And you’re already there anyway, so what’s the big deal?”
And that’s a perfect Taoist answer about Afterlife.
To quote from the Chuang-Tzu:
“The true men of old did not know what it was to love life or to hate death. They did not rejoice in birth, nor strive to put off dissolution. Unconcerned they came and unconcerned they went. That was all. They did not forget whence it was they had sprung, neither did they seek to inquire their return thither. Cheerfully they accepted life, waiting patiently for their restoration (the end). This is what is called not to lead the heart astray from Tao, and not to supplement the natural by human means. Such a one may be called a true man. Such men are free in mind and calm in demeanor.”
Or more simply: Live and be yourself. Afterlife is not even a concern to a true Taoist in the Chuang-Tzu.
To me, this is so very simple as it just is. I did die once and as a result, embrace all those answers as truth from my experience. To explain isn’t as easy since it’s not a concept based on the fire of life. All our references in language are based on life experiences. So, as a result, you get all these contradictory statements trying to explain afterlife, which is just a reflection of life itself.
So the best answer for a Taoist is:
- To make life what you want it to be now. The rest will follow.