PREPARE NOW FOR ETERNITY
Generally, religions do not expound on the reality of a future life merely as a comfort to the bereaved or as an opiate for those oppressed in this life. Rather, the fact of a future life enhances the purpose and meaning of this life. How a person lives in the world will do much to determine his or her ultimate destiny. Indeed, it is often taught that life in the world is the only chance to prepare for life in eternity. The link between deed and retribution is not severed by death; often it is only in the next life that what has been sown through actions while on earth is completely reaped. Likewise, a person's qualities of character survive death: as a person was good or evil in this life, so he will continue to enjoy goodness or be pained by evil in the next. Therefore, the wise person lives with an eye to eternity by accumulating merit, repenting for misdeeds, and seeking to clear up all accounts before the day of his death. Generally, the proper preparation for the life in the hereafter is seen as extending throughout one's life, even from one's youth. For one who prepares for death, death is not something to be feared. But to those who are heedless of this principle death comes suddenly, leaving them eternally full of regret. See also Repentance, pp. 901-09.
Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!
1. Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Amos 4.12
Every breath you take is a step towards death.
2. Islam (Shiite). Nahjul Balagha, Saying 72
Amos 4.12: Cf. Bhagavad Gita 8.5-7, p. 344.
This world is like a vestibule before the World to Come; prepare yourself in the vestibule that you may enter the hall.
3. Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 4.21
As the fallow leaf of the tree falls to the ground, when its days are gone, even so is the life of men; Gautama, be careful all the while!
As the dew-drop dangling on the top of a blade of grass lasts but a short time, even so the life of men; Gautama, be careful all the while!
A life so fleet, and existence so precarious, wipe off the sins you ever committed; Gautama, be careful all the while!
A rare chance, in the long course of time, is human birth for a living being; hard are the consequences of actions; Gautama, be careful all the while!
4. Jainism. Uttaradhyayana Sutra 10.1-4
And we see that death comes upon mankind... nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead.
5. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Book of Mormon, Alma 12.24
Better is one hour of repentance and good works in this world than all the life in the world to come, and better is one hour of calmness of spirit in the world to come than all the life of this world.
6. Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 4.22
If any do wish for the transitory things of life, We readily grant them such things as We will, to such persons as We will. But in the end We have provided hell for them; they will burn therein, disgraced and rejected. But those who wish for the things of the hereafter, and strive for them with all due striving, and have faith--they are the ones whose striving is acceptable to God.
7. Islam. Qur'an 17.18-19
To prepare for heaven, we should live our daily lives with sacrifice and service.
8. Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 2-6-77
Tzu-lu asked how one should serve ghosts and spirits. The Master said, "Till you have learnt to serve men, how can you serve ghosts?" Tzu-lu then ventured upon a question about the dead. The Master said, "Till you know about the living, how are you to know about the dead?"
9. Confucianism. Analects 11.11
Book of Mormon, Alma 12.24: Cf. Alma 34.33-35, p. 907. Qur'an 17.18-19: Cf. Qur'an 39.53-58, p. 906.
When the Master was very ill, Tzu-lu asked leave to perform the Rite of Expiation. The Master said, "Is there such a thing?" Tzu-lu answered saying, "There is. In one of the Dirges it says, 'We performed rites of expiation for you, calling upon the sky-spirits above and the earth-spirits below.'" The Master said, "My expiation began long ago!"
10. Confucianism. Analects 7.34
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
11. Christianity. Bible, Matthew 6.19-21
Men who have not led a religious life and have not laid up treasure in their youth, perish like old herons in a lake without fish.
Men who have not lived a religious life and have not laid up treasure in their youth lie like worn-out bows, sighing after the past.
12. Buddhism. Dhammapada 155-56
Wealth and sons are the adornment of the present world; but the abiding things, the deeds of righteousness, are better with God in reward, and better in hope.
13. Islam. Qur'an 18.46
O shrewd businessman, do only profitable business:
Deal only in that commodity which shall accompany you after death.
14. Sikhism. Adi Granth, Sri Raga, M.1, p. 22
We are on a market trip to earth:
Whether we fill our baskets or not,
Once the time is up, we go home.
15. African Traditional Religions. Igbo Song (Nigeria)
[The soul] cannot be taken from its place of deposit; it does not perish anywhere by fire; if kings of surpassing grandeur are angry they cannot take it away; and therefore what any man should provide for his children as a legacy is learning. Other things are not real wealth.
16. Jainism. Naladiyar 134
Matthew 6.19-21: Cf. Luke 12.16-21, p. 939; also Matthew 25.14-30, p. 1015 and Uttaradhyayana Sutra 7.14-21, pp. 1015f: Parable of the Talents in Christian and Jain versions. Dhammapada 155-56: Cf. Majjhima Nikaya ii.72-73, p. 940; also Khuddaka Patha 8. Sri Raga, M.1: See Uttaradhyayana Sutra 7.14-21, pp. 1015f.
Relatives and friends and well-wishers rejoice at the arrival of a man who had been long absent and has returned home safely from afar. Likewise, meritorious deeds will receive the good person upon his arrival in the next world, as relatives welcome a dear one on his return.
17. Buddhism. Dhammapada 219-20
Giving no pain to any creature, a person should slowly accumulate spiritual merit for the sake of acquiring a companion in the next world....
For in the next world neither father, nor mother, nor wife, nor sons, nor relations stay to be his companions; spiritual merit alone remains with him.
18. Hinduism. Laws of Manu 4.238-39
Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob says, "He who carries out one good deed acquires one advocate in his own behalf, and he who commits one transgression acquires one accuser against himself. Repentance and good works are like a shield against calamity."
19. Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 4.13
O people! Fear God, and whatever you do, do it anticipating death. Try to attain everlasting blessing in return for transitory and perishable wealth, power and pleasures of this world.
Be prepared for a fast passage because here you are destined for a short stay. Always be ready for death, for you are living under its shadow. Be wise like people who have heard the message of God and have taken a warning from it.
Beware that this world is not made for you to live forever, you will have to change it for hereafter. God, glory be to Him, has not created you without a purpose and has not left you without duties, obligations, and responsibilities....
You must remember to gather from this life such harvest as will be of use and help to you hereafter.
20. Islam (Shiite). Nahjul Balagha, Khutba 67
Now man is made of determination (kratu); according to what his determination is in this world so will he be when he has departed this life.
21. Hinduism. Shankara, Vedanta Sutra 1.2.1
Laws of Manu 4.238-239: The thought continues in verses 4.241-243, p. 345. Cf. Srimad Bhagavatam 6.1, p. 909. Abot 4.13: Cf. Tanhuma Numbers 19, p. 368; Tract of the Quiet Way, p. 1009. Nahjul Balagha, Khutba 67: Cf. Qur'an 39.53-58, p. 906. Vedanta Sutra 1.2.1: Cf. Brihadaranyaka Upanishand 4.4.5-6, pp. 187f; 4.4.6-7, p. 927; Svetasvatara Upanishad 5.11-12, p. 696; Laws of Manu 12.3-9, p. 188; Bhagavad Gita 4.31, p. 868.
Both life and death of such as are firm in their penance and rules are good. When alive they earn merit and when dead they attain beatitude.
Both life and death of such as indulge in sins are bad. When alive they add to malice and when dead they are hurled into darkness.
22. Jainism. Dharmadasaganin, Upadesamala 443-44
Here he grieves, hereafter he grieves. In both states the evil-doer grieves. He grieves, he is afflicted, perceiving the impurity of his own deeds.
Here he rejoices, hereafter he rejoices. In both states the well-doer rejoices. He rejoices, exceedingly rejoices, perceiving the purity of his own deeds.
Here he suffers, hereafter he suffers. In both states the evil-doer suffers. "Evil have I done"--thinking thus, he suffers. Having gone to a woeful state, he suffers even more.
Here he is happy, hereafter he is happy. In both states the well-doer is happy. "Good have I done"--thinking thus, he is happy. Upon going to a blissful state, he rejoices even more.
23. Buddhism. Dhammapada 15-18
Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
24. Christianity. Bible, Matthew 18.18
As for that abode of the Hereafter, We assign it to those who seek not oppression in the earth, nor corruption. The sequel is for those who ward off evil. Whoever brings a good deed, he will have better than the same; while as for him who brings an ill deed, those who do ill deeds will be requited only what they did.
25. Islam. Qur'an 28.83-84
Upadesamala 443-44: see following note. Dhammapada 15-18: Cf. Anguttara Nikaya i.279, p. 355; Basavanna, Vacana 239, p. 355; Sun Myung Moon, 4-18-77, p. 355. Matthew 18.18: Jesus gives the authority to bind and loose to his disciples, and hence to the church; compare Matthew 16.19, p. 286, where that authority is given only to Peter. For Catholics, this passage refers mainly to the discipline and grace dispensed by the church, which, when determined on earth, endures in heaven. But for Protestants, who reject the mediation of a priesthood, the blessings of Christ are freely available to every believer as he avails himself of them through the sacraments, prayer, and good deeds. Hence ultimately it is the individual's own binding or loosing, while on earth, that will bind or liberate in heaven. Qur'an 28.83-84: Cf. Majjhima Nikaya i.389-90, p. 345.
You can climb up the mountain and down again; you can stroll around the valley and return; but you cannot go to God and return.
26. African Traditional Religions. Nupe Proverb (Nigeria)
Sooner, do I declare, would a one-eyed turtle, if he were to pop up to the surface of the sea only once at the end of every hundred years, chance to push his neck though a yoke with one hole than would a fool, who has once gone to the Downfall, be reborn as a man.
27. Buddhism. Samyutta Nikaya v.455
Death carries away the man who gathers flowers, whose mind is attached to sensuality, even as a great flood sweeps away a slumbering village.
28. Buddhism. Dhammapada 47
Rivalry in worldly increase distracts you
Until you visit the graves.
Nay, but you will come to know!
Again, you will come to know!
Would that you knew now with certainty of mind!
For you will behold hell-fire;
Indeed, you will behold it with sure vision.
Then, on that day, you will be asked concerning pleasure.
29. Islam. Qur'an 102
The untrustworthy lord of death
Waits not for things to be done or undone;
Whether I am sick or healthy,
This fleeting life span is unstable.
Leaving all I must depart alone.
But through not having understood this
I committed various kinds of evil
For the sake of my friends and foes.
Yet my foes will become nothing.
My friends will become nothing.
I too will become nothing.
Likewise all will become nothing.
Just like a dream experience,
Whatever things I enjoy
Will become a memory.
Whatever has passed will not be seen again.
Even within this brief life
Many friends and foes have passed,
But whatever unbearable evil I committed for them
Remains ahead of me....
While I am lying in bed,
Although surrounded by my friends and relatives,
The feeling of life being severed
Will be experienced by me alone.
When seized by the messengers of death,
What benefit will friends and relatives afford?
My merit alone shall protect me then,
But upon that I have never relied.
30. Buddhism. Shantideva, Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life 2.33-41
Samyutta Nikaya v.455: The Buddha cautions those who rely on the doctrine of reincarnation against mistakenly thinking that they will soon get a second chance at this life.