Consciousnes continues after death. It is a form of consciousness that does not receive input from the body. This is what Ramana Maharshi experienced as a young man when he lay down and entered into his death. Death had no power overhim, nor fear. Everyone’s mind is different. So the experience of death is different for everyone, as Sage Vasishtha explains herein.
Atma the Self, the soul, the life principle, the divine core of personality, man’s individual indwelling reality (jivatma)
jñan, Hin. m. jñana San. n. (from jña – to know) true intuited understanding; spiritual wisdom; higher knowledge. gyani, one with wisdom
atma-gyan: direct knowledge of the Atma; self-realisation; knowledge of the Atmic state.
vasana: tendencies or desires; ideations generated by tendencies or desires;
prana-apana: breath that is inhaled and exhaled; vital force, life-breath;
Question 98: Sir, how does a jiva die and then take a rebirth?
Answer: Ramji, the body functions on account of prana and apana (life force, breath). At the time of death, prana is gradually withdrwawn and finally the body becomes inert and then pure consciousness only remains.
It neither dies not takes a rebirth. It pervades the akash (the Universe).
Vasana (ideations, the residue of the mind) are embedded in the movement of prana. To every jiva (individual soul, person) the Universe is created in due course as per his or her vasana. On account of this ideation, he or she experiences time, places and objects and assuming a gross body, according to his or her thoughts, he or she experiences joy or sorrow.
When a person passes through the transition state of consciousness called death there are several options. If you are in a spiritual tradition the central figure of which is a guru, avatar or saviour, you can follow the path of this being into the vibratory realm of his/her consciousness. In some religions this is known as heaven.
As with the other two transition states of consciousness, the death realm has a void point, and its dominant features are stillness (silence) and darkness. All possibilities exist within the Void, but no actuality is in existence. It is like the acorn of an oak tree. The oak, the giant tree itself, is potentially within the acorn, but it does not yet exist.
So when you find yourself in the Void, which you will recognize by the fact that you are utterly alone in darkness and utter stillness, know that you are in the central nexus of your creative powers.
Many persons frightened by the darkness move to the light quickly. And what they do not realize is that in their yearning they create the light. A portal opens before them, like a tunnel, and they can move into this tunnel of light, encountering those they have known before, thereby entering back into embodiment or other vibratory realms of existence.
Sri Ramana Maharshi
The shock of the fear of death drove my mind inwards and I said to myself mentally, without actually framing the words: ‘Now death has come; what does it mean? What is it that is dying? This body dies.’ And I at once dramatized the occurrence of death. I lay with my limbs stretched out stiff as though rigor mortis had set in and imitated a corpse so as to give greater reality to the enquiry. I held my breath and kept my lips tightly closed so that no sound could escape, so that neither the word ‘I’ or any other word could be uttered, ‘Well then,’ I said to myself, ‘this body is dead. It will be carried stiff to the burning ground and there burnt and reduced to ashes. But with the death of this body am I dead? Is the body ‘I’? It is silent and inert but I feel the full force of my personality and even the voice of the ‘I’ within me, apart from it. So I am Spirit transcending the body. The body dies but the Spirit that transcends it cannot be touched by death. This means I am the deathless Spirit.’ All this was not dull thought; it flashed through me vividly as living truth which I perceived directly, almost without thought-process. ‘I’ was something very real, the only real thing about my present state, and all the conscious activity connected with my body was centred on that ‘I’. From that moment onwards the ‘I’ or Self focused attention on itself by a powerful fascination. Fear of death had vanished once and for all. Absorption in the Self continued unbroken from that time on. Other thoughts might come and go like the various notes of music, but the ‘I’ continued like the fundamental sruti note that underlies and blends with all the other notes. Whether the body was engaged in talking, reading, or anything else, I was still centred on ‘I’. Previous to that crisis I had no clear perception of my Self and was not consciously attracted to it. I felt no perceptible or direct interest in it, much less any inclination to dwell permanently in it.