[You can ask your own question here.]
I saw Swami Kriyananda’s video "What Happens After Death" and now I am worried about my mother’s “afterlife”. She doesn't believe in God and became a very bitter and difficult person. I can feel her unhappiness but can’t get through to her. I love her and I know that she has a kind heart underneath. I always believed that angels and passed "loved ones" will be there to guide us into the spiritual world. Will my mom experience this also? I can’t stand the thought of her not experiencing love and relief.
God is no tyrant. His law is impersonal and always fair.
God lives within us and is not fooled. If your mother has, as you feel, a kind heart, be certain: God knows and will respond. “God reads the heart,” is how Paramhansa Yogananda explained it.
Justice after death is not subject to human whim. Your mother will perceive the highest reality of which she is capable. The soul longs to reunite with God. It seeks the Light the way a river seeks the sea.
Be assured, angels and other divine beings will help your mother in the astral world. But she can’t rise beyond her actual state of consciousness. I suspect during her lifetime you, and perhaps other friends, tried to coax her out of her bitterness. But if she was determined to hold onto it, probably nothing you said or did could change her.
Dying does not in itself liberate us from self-induced limitations. To the extent that we define ourselves by those limitations, to that extent — even in the astral world — we are still limited.
If her bitterness is more than personality, but extends also to a rejection of divine realities, there is no way that even God Himself can force her to open to a Light she doesn’t want to receive.
We learn through the satisfaction of Bliss to seek more Bliss. We also learn through the absence of Bliss — that is, through suffering — to question ourselves and, eventually, open to realities we may have formerly rejected.
Think about your own years growing up with your mother. Perhaps now you are a mother yourself. Certainly there are times when a child rebels against necessary — but in the perception of the child, unpleasant — requirements. Going to school, for example, or learning to share with his siblings, or doing his homework — or not eating the whole cake in one sitting!
The child may be angry, rebellious, or grief-stricken at what is being imposed upon him, but a good mother will not yield to the whim of her child. She knows the future and the child does not.
It would not be love on her part but mere cowardice to cave into his emotions when the child’s future is at stake.
So it is with our Divine Mother. She knows that all souls must learn what appear to the ego to be hard lessons. She knows the future and we don’t. Only through transcending the ego and embracing the Infinite will we find the satisfaction our heart longs to receive.
You and your mother played the part in this life of parent and child, but that is merely a garment you wore for this one incarnation. Now that she has discarded that “garment” — the body that carried you in its womb — your relationship has gone back to its underlying truth: friendship in God.
If you want to be a true friend to your mother you must now help her in the way Divine Mother would help her. To pray merely that she be happy is like giving the child the whole cake so he will stop crying. You must show the same courage and faith in God that you want your mother to have.
What you must pray for now is that your mother learn whatever it is that Divine Mother is trying to teach her. That she find within herself the courage, devotion, humility, and wisdom to move forward in her divine understanding, not merely in her ego-based feelings.
Your mother has very good karma: she raised a devotee who can now pray for her, not merely for her temporary comfort, but for her eternal well-being.
It is natural to feel sympathy for your mother’s suffering. It is a good thing to have a tender heart. But that heart must also be guided by wisdom. Too much sympathy may not be helpful to her at this time.
To become bitter is not helpful to the soul. When your mother made that choice she dug for herself an unpleasant pit of wrong understanding. Now she is living in that pit and has to decide whether to stay there or climb out.
Be assured, your mother got herself into this difficulty and she can also extricate herself from it. You need to respect your mother the way a mother needs to respect her child.
Yes, she is having a hard time now, but she has the power within her to overcome. And she will. A good mother doesn’t panic merely because her child is struggling. She stands by with calm faith.
Your prayers can help her. Especially if you pray in the right way: with gratitude for what she gave you, with tender concern for her feelings, but also with courage and faith that she can and will awaken to higher realities.
I answered another similar question on May 27, 2011, called “When a Loved One Digs Themselves into a Pit, Do What Works.” That is posted here, too, and you might find it helpful.
[Questions and answers from other Ananda ministers worldwide can be found on the Ask the Experts page of Ananda.org.]