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We all die.
But death, the Baha’i teachings say, should not cause us fear or trepidation. Death, for Baha’is, signifies the exact same kind of joyous transition as birth – we leave one state of existence and move through that experience to the next:
O Son of the Supreme! I have made death a messenger of joy to thee. Wherefore dost thou grieve? I made the light to shed on thee its splendor. Why dost thou veil thyself therefrom? – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 11.
Baha’is believe strongly in an afterlife, a spiritual world where all human beings progress through the next stages of their eternal spiritual existence. For Baha’is, who also believe in the agreement of science and religion, near-death experiences can have a particularly confirming effect, in both religious and scientific ways.
No matter what their beliefs, those who have near-death experiences (NDEs) undergo many common elements − traveling through a long tunnel; witnessing an all-encompassing light and/or seeing a Being of Light; becoming merged into the light; crossing a river; meeting loved ones who have previously passed away; feeling complete happiness. Also, nearly everyone who has an NDE and then returns to life on this plane and planet wish they could have remained in that spiritual world.
Renee Pasarow was a teenager when she had her first NDE, caused by an extreme allergic reaction. An excellent student, pretty and popular in school, and renowned for her scholarship, she also had a deep spiritual hunger.
Renee died at her parent’s home in Southern California in 1966, and was clinically dead for 45 minutes before a doctor could finally revive her. Propelled to new heights after passing out of her body, Renee first witnessed and began to feel the connectedness and unity of all things. She heard the world singing in harmony, even at a cellular level. She felt immersed in a sea of light and aware of a Sun in its center. Then she felt that her consciousness was “gathered as sands on the shore in some form” and she experienced her day of judgment, recalling the deeds of her short life and accounting for her choices.
In that experience, Renee learned the importance of her motivation for these choices, their intent, and the state of her heart in performing those deeds. She observed how every action, if loving, touches one person and has a ripple effect, touching another, and then another. She saw that actions done with love possessed more importance than any earthly riches or intellectual attainments. She also learned the contrary: any selfish or cruel act spread out and affected all, causing great turmoil and pain.
A few years before Renee had been a volunteer at a summer camp for special-needs children, spending eight hours daily there. She remembered encountering one child who nobody seemed to like, and she remembered wanting him to feel loved. She gave him a cool glass of water to drink, and tried to calm his agitated nature.
No one noticed or rewarded Renee’s action that day. But in her NDE, this one simple, selfless action born of love and of love for God, which she had since completely forgotten, counted as the most meritorious of her young life’s deeds. Renee said, “Love had brought me into existence and had guided me in my whole life and had accompanied me through my life. I could not have done anything to have been worthy of that love, immeasurable love that I was receiving and that all individuals receive.” (You can see and hear Renee Pasarow speak about her NDE here: www.lightafterlife.com)
But Renee’s time on earth had not ended. After returning from her clinical death, the beautiful visions she saw in her NDE led her to the Baha’i Faith. They affirmed the meaning of the statement attributed to Abdul’l-Baha: “Whatever is done in love is never any trouble, and – there is always time.” – Daily Lessons Received at Akka, January 1908 by Helens S. Goodall and Ella Goodall Cooper, p. 42. And they reinforced, again, the lessons this life attempts to teach us all before the next step on our journey – kindness, selflessness and true service to others:
Today the confirmations of the Kingdom of Glory are with those who renounce themselves, forget their own opinions, cast aside personalities and are thinking of the welfare of others. Whosoever has lost himself has found the universe and the inhabitants thereof. Whosoever is occupied with himself is wandering in the desert of heedlessness and regret. The “master-key” to self-mastery is self-forgetting. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 548.